Thursday, July 28, 2005

Small Town Boys - Chapter 15

Chapter 1
Chapter 2, Part 1
Chapter 2, Part 2
Chapter 2, Part 3
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14

Summer – 1992

It didn’t take long for Donny and Mike to return to the way things had been. Donny would go over to Mike’s after work two or three nights a week and on weekends Donny would spend Saturday night and Sunday morning with him. As the summer progressed and the shooting got more hectic, the evening visits were cut back and they’d spend time talking on the phone, sometimes Mike talking in whispers from a phone in the soundstage where the show was filmed. They rarely went out, and when they did, it was always in a group that included women from the show, and in a restaurant they never sat next to each other. This was to keep up appearances. The women were friends of Marty or production assistants, and Donny at first didn’t say much to them, but after a couple of nights out with them he found out that they were fun to talk to and one of them, Audrey, the production secretary, was from Sidney, Ohio. Donny enjoyed the time out, and since he never had to pay, it was fun, and the best part was that he got to go home with Mike.

By the middle of July Donny was feeling comfortable at work. He’d settling into the purchasing job and had established good relations with the vendors, and they liked him because he wasn’t always all business and he didn’t beat them up over mistakes in shipping or billing. He got to know the reps on a personal basis, sometimes talking to them after the business was concluded about nothing that had anything to do with business. It wasn’t something he planned; it just happened that way, and he didn’t even think of it until Greg mentioned in passing that he heard Donny on the phone with Bettie from the cable company asking her about her dog’s operation. Donny guiltily apologized and said he’d keep it all business from now on.

“Why?” said Greg, “it’s great. They like it when you do it. Besides, you never know when you might need a favor from them and you’re building up a lot of ‘fer-me’s’ when you do that.”

“A lot of what?”

“Fer-me’s. Y’know, like, ‘please send that order overnight. Do it ‘fer-me.’ Brownie points. Oh, and Bettie thinks you’re a stud.”

“She does?”

“Yeah. She asked their sales rep what you look like, and he described you, and he said she’s got the hots for you.”

“Whoops,” Donny chuckled.

“Yeah, I think she’s in her forties, and I don’t think she’s your type.”

“Yeah, probably not.”

Eric stuck his head in Donny’s cubicle. “Got a sec?”

They went back to Eric’s office. “How much software writing did you pick up in that class at B.G?”

“None. I just learned my way around Windows and how to hit control-alt-delete when it crashes.”

“Great. Here, sit at my computer.”

Eric’s computer screen was showing what looked like the standard McKay-Gemini purchase order. He sat next to Donny and with a few clicks of the mouse showed him how to fill it in from a variety of drop-down boxes and fields, and then he went through a series of screens showing the inventory control, an invoice, a vendor tally sheet, and finally a database listing every open account and every vendor, including names, addresses, and phone numbers. Eric talked quickly and softly, sometimes so fast that all Donny could do was nod and say “yeah” every so often. Finally Eric sat back and grinned. “So, whaddaya think?”

“It’s great.” As it was they wrote everything down on standard business forms then typed them up for the books. Donny could see that typing into a computer would make it go a lot faster.

“Well, it’s still in the smoke-test stage,” Eric said, “but see how everyone could use it? You, Cathy, Greg, Irene, even the guys out back. The computer assigns every job a number, and all you gotta do is call it up by that and you can print out an order form, an invoice, an inventory sheet, whatever. We network it here to my computer.”

“So this is what you’ve been cooking up in your room late at night?”

“Yeah, but this is just a start. I’m working on making it so that we can get a website launched and have people order stuff through that. I’m still working out the bugs on that, but give me some time and pretty soon we’ll be able to do it.”

Greg came in. “So,” he said to Eric, “can he work it?”

“Yeah,” Eric replied.

“Pretty straightforward,” Donny said.

Greg played with it for a few minutes, Eric prompting him every so often. When he was satisfied, he turned to his twin. “Okay. I like it. When can we start using it?”

Eric shrugged. “It’ll take me a few days to link all the computers, but once that’s done and I’ve made sure there’s nothing that will make it crater...what?” He was looking at his brother and grinning as if he had picked up on what he was thinking.

Greg grinned back. “You know what we can do with this.”

Eric nodded.

Donny looked a little puzzled. “What?”

Greg turned to Donny. “Sell it.”

Mike had three days off over the last weekend in July. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” he said to Donny on Tuesday night. They were lying in Mike’s bed in the dark.

“Where to?”

“Idyllwild. I’ll bet we can find a nice little motel or something and just go. Can you get off work?”

“I’ll ask.”

The next morning Eric said, “Sure, have a great time.”

“How much vacation time do I have?”

“Oh, hell, forget about that. With all the stuff we’ve been doing on the database you’ve earned a couple of days off, even if we had some kind of hard-ass vacation plan. Just make sure everything’s caught up and then get the hell out of town. I’d tag along if I didn’t think I’d be a third wheel.”

For a second Donny wondered what it’d be like spending the weekend with Eric. “Could be fun,” Donny said with a bit of a leer.

“Don’t I know it. But...I’m gonna see if I can get the network interface bulletproof, so you kids go ahead and have a great time.”

“We will.”

They left Thursday around noon and got to Idyllwild around five after taking a circuitous route through some small towns along the foothills of the San Jacintos. The motel was small but neat and their room had a balcony that looked out over the valley. They found a nice place for dinner then wandered through the town enjoying the cool evening air and ended up back at the motel sitting on the balcony in the dark, listening to the breeze in the trees.

Mike had been silent most of the afternoon, and at dinner he hadn’t said much, and nothing about work. Donny was getting used to this side of him, and actually he liked him better for it. Not that he minded listening, but he was more comfortable when he didn’t feel like he had to carry on the burden of a conversation.

Mike lit a cigarette and looked across the hills. “This is perfect,” he said softly. He nudged Donny’s thigh with his knee. Donny agreed and nudged back.

“How’s that project coming?” Mike said suddenly.


“That thing you’re working on with Eric.”

“Oh, the database. It’s good. We’ve got it working pretty well.”

“He knows all about that stuff?”

“Yeah, he can pretty much write it any way he wants it.”

Mike’s cigarette glowed. “That must be something.”

They went to sleep with the balcony door open, letting the cool air fill the room and woke up to the clatter and jeers of a jay outside on the balcony. They had breakfast at a coffee shop and then drove up to the edge of the town, parked at a trailhead, and hiked up through the pines and the manzanitas to the top of a ridge. The going was slow because neither of them was in a hurry, and the mile-high air was thin and dry.

After a half-hour, Mike stopped and sat on a boulder next to the trail. He looked back down over the small town, the roofs barely visible through the trees.

“God damn, this is beautiful. You’d never think you were in southern California.” He pulled a bottle of water out of his daypack and they shared some of it before going on.

After another half-hour or so the trail flattened out and suddenly they were looking down the other side over a steep drop-off. To the northeast was the flat desert floor of Palm Springs, and to the south were the rest of the mountains. Heat shimmered off the distant desert, but up there it was still cool.

“Hell of a drop,” said Donny.

“Yeah, you go from a mile high to below sea level in about twenty miles. In the winter in can be snowing up here and seventy-five degrees down there. Probably a hundred and ten down there today.”

They found a shady spot and rested. It was very quiet; not even the wind made much noise.

“So you really like it there,” Mike said. “At McKay-whatever.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Think that’s what you’ll do for the rest of your life.”

Donny shrugged. “I don’t know. So far it’s fun and the pay’s decent.”

“And you’re learning something. Skills that will be useful in later life.”

Donny glanced at Mike, who grinned a little. “That’s good,” Mike added. “Always nice to have something to fall back on.”


A few minutes went by before Mike said absently, “Unlike me...all I know is...” He drifted off, staring off to nowhere in particular.

“All you know is what?” Donny said.

Mike picked up a pebble. “This stupid business. It’s dumb. All I do is stand around and say things I don’t know and look good for the camera. It’s not art. It’s posing. All those classes I took at MSU on theatre – they’re useless here. I mean, what’s the point?”

“Isn’t it what you wanted?”

“What, to be a TV star? Jesus, I guess I did...but now it’s all.... I mean, it’s not an art form, really. It’s just.... They pay me a lot of money and I get all this attention and all these people want to write to me and get my autograph, but it doesn’t mean anything.”

“You’re a celebrity.”

Mike snorted. “I’m not really. I’ve had a couple of good parts and I’ve gotten mentioned in some reviews, and that stupid movie of the week where I played the cheating boyfriend of Gail Edwards got me a nice ‘also starring’ mention in People. But if the series tanks and the western goes south...” he chuckled at the little pun, “then it’s back to commercials and local stuff and Lance Michaels is just another guy who’s gonna show up ten years from now in a ‘Where Are They Now?’ edition of TV Guide, if I’m lucky. I’ll be a cherry farmer in Maple City with a beer gut and a thirty-ought-six in the gunrack of my pick-up.”

Donny picked up a twig and scratched the dirt. “The series doesn’t go on the air for a couple of months yet. What if it’s a huge hit?”

Mike smiled a little. “Then everything I just said is all bullshit, this is the greatest business in the world, and you’re sleeping with a star.” He tousled Donny’s hair.

Late that night in bed, Mike said, “There’s a real estate office down the road. You want to stop in there in the morning?”

“What for?”

“Just look around. See what’s for sale.”


“Doesn’t mean I’m gonna buy something.”


“Good investment, though. Buy a place, rent it out.”

“You don’t want to be a landlord, though.”

“Have some management company run it. Or just buy some land, hang on to it for a while, then sell it and make a profit. People are building up here; now’s the time. Something to think about.” He rolled over and nuzzled Donny’s neck, which got the desired result.

The realtor was named Brucie Anthony. She was in her early forties, perky with a Dorothy Hamil haircut and a contemporary ensemble, but after the polite introductions and offers of coffee, she was all business. She made some suggestions of some properties that were on the market and also some vacant land that was available, and then took them to see some of them. She drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee with fake wood grain on the sides and a Realtor logo in the back window.

“Now this,” she said as they pulled up to a log home on a half-acre of land with a For Sale sign out front, “is a darling place. Four bedrooms, three baths, a great kitchen, hot tub out back, and a view – well, let’s take a look.”

The house was vacant and the rooms were empty. The main room had a cathedral ceiling with a large stone fireplace at the end. Large windows overlooked the deck and the land dropped off quickly so that the basement below opened out onto a covered patio beneath. The kitchen was fully equipped with a large stove and full prep area including an open pantry, and a hall led to two bedrooms in the back, both of them large enough for a king bed and furniture. A carved log staircase led to the upstairs with guest suite in front and a large master bedroom and dressing area overlooking the back with a small balcony. Brucie kept talking as she led them through the house and out to the attached two-car garage, pointing out features and amenities, including the hot tub, which was drained and covered with a tarp. “And,” she added, “it even has its own well and septic system, plus a generator.”

Mike had said nothing during the tour, but he had grinned at Donny when he saw the master bedroom. Donny went out and looked over the deck railing. The land below the house quickly turned into pine woods with a narrow view down a canyon to the distant valley below. Some birds were making a racket in the trees, but otherwise it was quiet. The air smelled of pine and warm earth.

“So,” Mike said when they were standing in the great room at the end of the tour, “how much?”

“They’re asking a million two,” said Brucie as if she was quoting the price of a sandwich, “but I’m sure they’ll look at any reasonable offer.”

“How long has it been on the market?”

“A little over a month,” she replied.

Donny didn’t say anything, but he wondered what Brucie’s definition of “a little over a month” was. The floors and countertops were dusty, the windows needed cleaning inside and out, there were some cobwebs in the corners, and a newspaper spread under a can of Raid in the pantry was dated the previous November.

As they walked down the driveway and got in the Jeep, Brucie told them a little about the owner. He was an actor whose name Donny remembered from sitcoms and some commercials in the late ‘70’s. He’d built the house in the early ‘80’s as a weekend getaway from L.A. but she said that now he was concentrating more on a theatre career, was spending more time in New York, and didn’t have time for it. She thought it would be perfect for a young up-and-coming actor to have a place like this where he could spend time enjoying his time off, or set it up as a rental property which she would be happy to manage for him. And she repeated her speech about being sure that the owner would consider any reasonable offer.

Donny, sitting in the back seat, looked sharply at the back of Brucie’s head. When they had walked into the real estate office that morning, Mike had not introduced himself as “Lance Michaels,” nor had he said what business he was in. It had been simply, “Hi, I’m interested in looking at some property for sale,” and Brucie had launched the pitch. But Mike said nothing and didn’t acknowledge this discrepancy. Donny sat back and stared out the window.

They looked at three more places and four empty lots. The prices for the other houses were lower, but they were also not as nice as the log house, and one didn’t have a garage or even a carport. The lots were both about the same size – what Brucie called a “builder’s half-acre,” but to Donny, who knew something about property sizes, they looked about half that. The cheapest lot was basically a hillside with a flat section at the bottom that was rutted by run-off streams.

Back at the office Brucie gave them spec sheets about all the properties plus several others on places further out of town. They thanked her and walked down the street to a little sandwich shop in a shopping strip.

Donny ordered sliced turkey and a Coke. “So,” he said casually, “who’s idea was it to buy a place up here anyway?”

Mike looked at him for a moment, apparently struggling to maintain a straight face, but he finally smirked and said “Shit. How’d you figure it out?”

“Brucie and her ‘up-and-coming actor’ bit.”

“I was hoping you didn’t hear that.”

“Doesn’t matter. So what’s with all the secrecy?”

“It’s Marty’s idea. He thinks I should buy a place up here.”

“What’s wrong with buying a house in the same place you live and work?”

“Strictly for investment.”

“What about stocks or bonds or something like that? You really want to sink a million bucks into a log cabin a hundred miles away from where you live? Not that it’s any of my business.”

“It could be.”


“You’re investing in your company. Why not invest in a little piece of property with me?”

“They’re just giving me stock options. Pieces of paper. Could be worthless.”

“You’re making, what, thirty grand a year? That’s pretty damn good for someone just starting out. You oughta be putting it away for when you get tired of working and just want to kick back for a while.”

“I sure can’t afford to go halfsies on a million-dollar house, Mike.”

“Well, for one thing, it won’t be a million. We both know that place hasn’t been on the market for ‘about a month.’ I’m guessing a year at the least and I’ll bet the guy is so desperate to unload it he’ll take half that just to get the hell out from under it. The taxes alone must be killing him.”

“Which means whoever buys it will be paying them. And how hard would it be to get out from it if...?”

“If what?”

“If the computer business goes down the crapper?”

Mike nodded. “I thought you were gonna say if my career follows this guy’s path.”

“Well, yeah, there’s that.”

Mike leaned back and tapped his fingers on the table. “Well, I’m sure Marty can figure out a way to shield it. He’s a fuckin’ CPA as well as an agent. This is his idea.”

“Does he know you’re asking me to be a part of it?”

“No. Strictly my idea. Tell you the truth, I just thought of it.”

“Well, I gotta think about it.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

They were walking back to the car when a white Jaguar pulled up next to them. “Well, hello there!” said the driver. It was Ben.

“Oh, hi,” said Mike absently, obviously not remembering, but Donny smiled. “Hey, how are you?”

“Very well! So, just up for the day?”

“Nah, we’re down at the Bluebird. Just takin’ some time off.”

“Let me pull over.” Ben pulled the car to the curb as Donny said to Mike, “At the Villa. We had dinner with him and his boyfriend.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Ben got out of the car and they shook hands. “Well, this is a pleasant surprise! Got any plans for dinner?”

Mike shrugged and glanced at Donny. “Not really.”

“How about the Chart House?”

“Sure, that’d be great.”



“Perfect! See you then. I have to run – the dog’s at the groomers and they hate it when I don’t pick him up on time.” He got back in the car and waved as he drove off. As they walked on, Donny said, “You okay with that?”

“Sure. The Chart House is nice.”

“You’re kidding!” said Ben. “That’s great! It would be so nice to know some other people up here.”

They were at a small table in a corner. The restaurant was fairly busy for an off-season evening, but the maitre d’ had been able to get them seated without too long a wait. The waiter brought their drinks. Ben had asked them what had brought them up to Idyllwild. After a moment’s hesitation and a shrug at Donny, Mike told them how they’d spent their morning. Julian, ever the silent one, nodded his approval and said, “Brucie knows her stuff” before burying his nose in the menu.

“Well, I’m just thinking about it. Strictly for investment. I wouldn’t live here full-time. Not now, anyway.”

“Oh, well, still,” Ben said, “this is a great place to visit. Did you see anything that struck your fancy?”

Mike told them about the log house, and Ben nodded. “I know the place. Nice property. Isn’t that... oh, who owns it?” He looked at Julian who filled in the actor’s name. “Oh yes. Very nice. I met him once at some chamber of commerce event a while back. His wife is a dear. But I’m afraid he’s had a run of bad luck recently.”

“Really?” said Mike.

“Nothing but guest shots and bit parts. I heard he’s doing a lot of dinner theatre and small town summer stock. He was very big in the sixties, you know, but, well, times change.” He looked at Julian. “What do think of the salmon?”

The conversation turned to other things, but Donny noticed that Mike sat quietly through the rest of the dinner and drank a lot of wine. He offered to pick up the check, but Julian waved him off. Ben said, “It was my idea,” and that was the end of it. They said goodnight in the parking lot, Ben extracting from them a promise to keep in touch if they bought the place or not. Julian got behind the wheel of the Jag and drove off. Mike handed Donny the keys to his car. “I’m really beat. You drive.”

They were getting ready for bed – Donny was in the bathroom brushing his teeth – when Mike said, “Hey look at this.”

The TV was on, and Donny heard, “...takes you behind the scenes to the most powerful place on earth: Capitol Hill.” This was followed by a swift montage of shots of the cast moving quickly through the halls of what looked like the capitol to the drumbeat of patriotic music and a zoom-in shot of Rory Donovan standing on the floor of the Senate making an impassioned speech. “The men and the women who make the rules on Capitol Hill! Coming this fall to CBS.” The end shot was the cast clustered around Rory all staring at the camera with a quick dissolve to the Capitol dome and the title.

Mike grinned slightly. “First I’ve seen of the promos. I’d heard they were gonna start running this week.” He got in bed while Donny went to spit out his toothpaste.

“So what do you think?” Mike said when Donny had gotten in bed and turned out the light.


“The house.”

“It’s nice.”

“But you don’t think I should buy it.”

“Didn’t say that.”

“Didn’t say I should, either.”

“It’s your money, Mike. I’m just...”

“Along for the ride?”

“C’mon. You know better than that.”

“Hmph.” Mike was silent for a few moments, then he rolled over and faced away from Donny. Donny began to drift off. He’d had one drink and one glass of wine – half of what Mike had had – and he was fading fast. Mike muttered, “We’ll talk about it in the morning,” but Donny was asleep.

He woke up a little after six. Mike was not in the bed. Donny sat up and saw him sitting out on the balcony smoking. He was wearing just his boxers.

Donny went to the door. “You okay?”

Mike flicked an ash. “Yeah, I got up to take a piss around five and couldn’t get back to sleep.”

Donny yawned. “You want some coffee?”

“Not yet.”

Donny went to the bathroom and came back out onto the balcony. It was already getting light, the sunshine hitting the top of the hills off to the south. “You still pissed about the house?”

Mike looked at him with a puzzled look. “I’m not pissed. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t want to do it. I understand.”

“Yeah, but why would it matter whether or not I want to do it? You know I don’t make that much money. Paying a mortgage on a place like that would kill me, especially when it’s a hundred miles from where I work.”

Mike put out the cigarette. “The money’s not the issue, Donny. Marty’s a smart guy. He’s a prick, but a smart one. He’ll figure out a way to finance it so that there’s no upfront cost, and he’ll shelter it so that it could even end up making money. But that’s not the point.”

“Well, what is it then?”

“It’s about you and me.”

“It is?”

“Yeah. It’s about you and me having something together. As partners. Something that we share other than just...” he jerked his head in the direction of the bed. “It’s me wanting to have something I can hold on to with you. We can’t live together. I can’t take you out to the publicity shit. I can’t tell the freelancer from TV Guide that my love interest is a guy. I can’t even have you come to the studio’s premiere party. But having a place where we can be together and just.... be together, even if it’s just on weekends during the off-season and the place is rented out for the rest of the year, well, shit, that’s a start.” The nylon ribbing of the chair was beginning to dig into Donny’s legs – he was wearing only his briefs – and he shifted in the chair. Mike looked at him for a second then chuckled softly. “You get it now?”

“Yeah, I think I do.”

“About fucking time.”

“Marty doesn’t know about the house.”

“No idea.”

Eric let out a low whistle. “Whoa,” he said.

It was Sunday night. Mike had dropped Donny off around four and gone home to do his laundry and study his lines for the next morning. Eric had spent the day with his parents and got home around ten o’clock. Donny was in his room folding socks.

“Have a good time?”

“Yeah, it was fun,” Donny said.

“Where’d you go?”


“Oh, that’s nice up there.”

Donny nodded, pulled out a t-shirt from the laundry basket and folded it before he said, “Yeah. Mike wants us to buy a house up there.” That was when Eric whistled. “Yeah,” Donny said. “Strictly for investment.”

“You together”


Eric leaned against the door jamb. “I had no clue you guys were that serious.”

Donny looked at Eric. “Neither did I.”

Eric examined the door jamb for a moment. “Oh, yeah, I wanted to tell you. Tomorrow we’ve got a guy coming in to consult about marketing the database. Bryce Ferguson. Guy I knew in college. Whiz at that sorta stuff.”

“Great. Anything you need from me?”

Eric shook his head. “Nah, just be ready to talk to him about what works and what doesn’t on it.”

“How soon you think you’re gonna hit the streets with it?”

“That’s what we’re gonna find out.”

Bryce Ferguson was tall and thin with crew-cut red hair, a prominent Adam’s apple and long thin limbs. He wore a tan summer business suit with a small “Re-elect Bush” button on the lapel and loafers without socks. He had a slight stammer, but Donny couldn’t tell if it was a speech defect or just on account of the fact that he was borderline hyperactive. He was high energy all over, never sitting still even when he was in Eric’s office looking over his shoulder as Eric ran through the fundamentals of the program. He asked some questions about the design, launching into computer-speak that sounded to Donny more like a recitation of The Jabberwocky, but Eric, replying in the same geekspeak, was able to answer without too much hesitation. Greg seemed amused by the whole show, and when Bryce rattled off a series of questions to him about marketing, margins, cost-per-unit and stand-alone supportability, Greg took them one at a time and finally said, “Bryce, the reason you’re here is to be the guy who not only asks but answers those questions.”

Eric and Bryce went in to Greg’s office and closed the door. A moment later Irene walked by and stood in Donny’s door space. She nodded in the direction of Greg’s office.

“He’s a Republican,” she said flatly.

Donny looked up from a stack of packing slips. “Yeah?” He tried to sound non-committal. He avoided politics for several reasons; he knew that a lot of people in California were passionate about it and there was no point in getting into an argument, and also because he didn’t really pay that much attention to it. If pressed he would have probably admitted that he was a Democrat strictly on the basis that he had the feeling the Republicans weren’t wild about gays.

“He’s got a ‘Re-elect Bush’ button and he lives in Orange County,” Irene said as if that was enough evidence to close the case. “Greg thinks he’s brilliant, though,” she added. “And frankly, if it takes a Republican to get things on the fast track, well... I guess I can live with it. He just better not put up any pictures of Reagan.” She spat out the name of the former president like she was hocking a loogie.

“He’s just a consultant,” Donny said absently, not wanting to poke her into one of her patented rants. But Irene shook her head.

“I think they want to hire him full-time. As in work here. In Linda’s old office.” The office that the previous purchasing manager had occupied had been quickly taken over as the default storage area. Greg had originally offered it to Donny, but it was dark and stuffy – the air conditioning vent was stuck half-closed – and Donny preferred his cubicle that at least had a view to the front windows if he stood by the corner of his desk and leaned to the left.

“Who says?”

Irene chuckled. “I can tell. They’ve thinking about it since June. They just were waiting for the right time.”

“They told you?”

“I can tell. Remember,” she said, closing her eyelids to slits, “I’m Chinese. I’m inscrutable.”

Donny laughed and Irene went back to her desk.

She was right. Bryce was introduced at a quick and casual staff meeting as the new McKay-Gemini marketing director, and the next day he took over Linda’s old office. He didn’t have much interaction with Donny for the first week except to nod at him and say “What’s doin’” when they passed in the hall. He spent most of his time on the phone or in with the sales people. Greg watched him working with the sales staff and Eric spent time with him making the software bulletproof and ready for general sales. They tried a beta version on some of their more reliable customers and it was a hit with them, so at the end of August they called everyone together, ordered in some pizza, and announced that on October 1, 1992, McKay-Gemini would launch Pelican 1.03, their version of database and project management software.

Eric held up a little stuffed pelican that he had found at Toys R Us and said, “We call it Pelican because it doesn’t look too good when it’s sitting on the pier, but when it takes off, it really soars – and it can hold a lot of stuff at once.”

“Actually,” Greg said, “we didn’t know what to call it until last week when I happened to flop open a copy of National Geographic and there was this article on shorebirds. I figured, hey, it’s better than DPMS.”

Everyone laughed and clapped, and Greg said it was all thanks to Bryce and Eric, and they hoped that it would be the start of something really big. “If not – well, you all know how to say ‘You want fries with that?’”

Donny took his pizza and Coke back to his desk. He’d known for a few days the announcement was coming, but Eric had sworn him to secrecy. He hadn’t even told Mike, but he hadn’t had much of a chance to tell him anyway. True to what Mike had said back in May, the shooting on Capitol Hill was becoming intense. He was working twelve hour days with some shooting on weekends, and since the weekend in Idyllwild he hadn’t spent the night with him, although they talked on the phone once a day, usually late at night when Mike got home. He was about to pick up the phone to call Mike’s studio phone number when Irene buzzed through a call for him.

“Hello, Donny,” said the voice on the phone. “This is Paul Jeffries.”



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