Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Small Town Boys - Chapter 20

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
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19

The Big Day -- 1992

On Thursday, October 1, 1992, Donny woke up at five a.m. even though he’d only gotten about four hours of sleep. In the last four days he and Eric had gotten a total of twenty hours sleep each, and Bryce and Greg not much more. The day before, three large boxes had arrived from the contractor handling the packaging. Everyone in the office gathered around as Greg opened the first box and handed out copies. They examined the shiny blue shrink-wrapped packages containing the floppy discs and manual each with the stylized Pelican logo and the embossed McKay-Gemini on the cover as if they had just discovered an archaeological treasure. Eric pulled out his pocket knife and slit open the first box. He ceremoniously popped the floppy into the brand-new IBM they had bought for just this occasion. Everyone held their breath, and after a flawless installation, they hugged each other, sure now that it was ready. Irene pulled out a bottle of champagne and passed around paper cups. Greg and Eric took turns thanking everyone for their time and effort, singling out Donny and Bryce for their long hours. “And Bank of America for the line of credit,” Irene added, which got a laugh. Greg looked around the room. “To quote George Harrison,” he said, “this bird has flown.”

Abbey Road?” said Eric.

Rubber Soul. ‘Norwegian Wood.’ Side two, band one.”

Eric was in the kitchen making coffee. He was wearing only boxers, and Donny idly wondered why a guy like Eric – attractive, well-built, and intelligent – didn’t date or even hint at any kind of interest in a social life. But he seemed to be happy, and that was good enough, he supposed.

It was still dark when they arrived at the office, but the lights were already on. Bryce was talking on the phone to someone on the east coast and Greg was printing the list of stores that had committed to putting Pelican on their shelves.

“Great, you’re here,” said Greg.

“Your powers of observation never fail to amaze me, Gruggie.”

“Take a box and run it down to Federal Express. Bryce just got an order for twenty copies from the California Republican Party. He’s got the address in Sacramento.”

Eric gaped. “We’re selling to the Republicans?”

Greg winced. “I know. But they’ve promised him C.O.D. and their money’s green like everyone else’s. I’ll have him work out a deal with the Clinton campaign if it’ll make you happy.”

“Not me. Irene. She’ll kill you.”

“Not when she deposits a check for five grand.”

“He sold them at straight retail?”


“Well, I’ll say this much for Bryce,” Eric admitted. “He’s a true Republican. He’ll screw his own friends to make a buck. Not that I’m complaining.”

By the end of the day they had stocked five stores with twenty copies each and taken enquiries from three more, delivered final versions to the companies that were still using the beta version, received a call from the tech reporter of the Los Angeles Times who scheduled a visit the next morning, and spent a harrowing hour on the phone with the cable company when their printer wouldn’t work with the new version. Eric talked them through the installation twice and was about to throw the phone across the room when he asked, in a moment of desperation, if they had checked the printer for any problems. A moment later they sheepishly admitted that the ink cartridge was empty and the printer had shut down. Eric mimed shooting himself and hung up.

Donny had spent most of the day dropping off boxes at the stores. It wasn’t until nearly six that he came back and found three messages on his desk; one from Mike (I’m home!), one from Danny (Good luck), and one with just a number. Irene was still at her desk, so Donny asked her who the last message was from.

“He didn’t give me his name,” she said as she picked up Ethan’s toys and began to pack him up to go home. “He just asked you to give him a call in the morning.”

Donny shrugged and called Mike. “When did you get back?” he asked.

“About an hour ago.”

“So how was the grand tour? Where’d you end up going?”

“Phoenix Denver Dallas Miami and Minneapolis.”

“Wow, that must have been fun.”

“Yeah, it was a real trip.” He chuckled wryly at the pun. “So, today was the big day? How’d it go?”

“So far so good.”

“Great. So, you free for dinner?”


“The Great Wall in an hour?”


“Love you.”

“You too.”

Mike had already ordered a drink by the time Donny got to the restaurant. He was wearing a green polo shirt and Levi’s and he looked like he’d just gotten out of the shower; his hair was still a little damp. He looked a little tired, but he grinned when he saw Donny and gave him a hug. “Good to be home and even better to see you,” he said.

“So how was it?”

Mike launched into a travelogue of the trip and what it was like to be treated like visiting royalty at every stop; free food, limos, eager station assistants, even some autograph seekers. The hotels were all high-class, the flights were first class, and everyone was really nice. “I got hit on a couple of times, too,” he added, grinning over his Scotch glass. “But they were mostly women.”


Mike shrugged. “The usual cruising, too, but...” he touched Donny’s hand briefly, “nothing to leave home about.”

The echo of Stuart’s overheard comment – get a few drinks in him and he’ll drop his pants like any other hungry hottie out there – came back for a moment. The waitress came by and Donny ordered a beer.

“Speaking of home,” said Mike, “I dropped Idyllwild on Marty before I left.”

“Oh, yeah? What did he say?”

“Typical Marty bullshit, but underneath it all I think he’ll go for it. I think he was a little bit pissed because he didn’t think of it first.”

“My name didn’t come up, then.”

Mike shook his head. “No. Marty did suggest, though, that he buy it and pay the mortgage out of my income so that if, knock wood,” and Mike rapped his knuckles on the table for effect, “my career takes off, the place is basically paid for. And if it doesn’t, then I’m not stuck with a piece of property a hundred miles up in the fuckin’ mountains.”

Donny thought for a second. “So how is that any different than what we have now? It was Marty, remember, who tossed me out of your place the last time because the lease is in his name. And I wouldn’t have any stake in it – it’d be all yours. Or his, actually. I thought the idea was for us to have something together.”

Mike was about to reply when the waitress came back with the beer, and they ordered. When she left Mike sighed, “Look, that’s not the only way we can do it. We can buy it outright, you and me. Marty wouldn’t have anything to do with it. We call that Brucie chick and make an offer. We low-ball her at five hundred thousand and see if Mr. Second Banana from the 1970’s will go for it.”

“We’d have to qualify for the mortgage first,” replied Donny, remembering his business math class and the paperwork Eric and Greg went through to get the line of credit. “We can’t just call her up and say here’s an offer. We’d need to put something down on it, too, like twenty percent. That’s a hundred grand. You got that much lying around? I sure don’t. I don’t even have ten grand.”

Mike scowled. “It sounds like you don’t want to do it.”

“It’s not that. But unless we can swing a deal both of us can afford, I don’t see how it’s gonna happen.”

“Why is it that every time we go out to eat we have this same argument?” Mike grunted.

“You brought it up,” said Donny. “I’d be happy to talk about anything you want.”

Mike shook his head and sipped his drink. After a moment, he said, “The show’s gonna be a hit. I can feel it. I’m gonna be making a ton of money on it. Buying that place will be like ordering a steak. You can chip in what you can. Hell, if your computer gig works out, you might be makin’ more money than me.” Mike laughed softly. “You might be the rich one in this outfit.”

“We’re barely off the ground,” replied Donny. “We’d have to sell a thousand copies just to make enough to pay back the line of credit. I think we’ve got orders for fifty.”

“It’s a start.” Mike looked off into the distance for a moment. A child at a table on the other side of the restaurant started banging a spoon and the parent loudly shushed it. “Y’know what I was thinking about this whole time I was away on this dog and pony show? Y’know what kept me smiling back at all the vapid little Susy Creamcheeses on Get The Hell Outta Bed, Miami? Y’know what kept me going?”


“Sitting here with you in this restaurant, just you and me having a nice quiet...” he glanced in the direction of the noisy child, “well, semi-quiet dinner together, with no assistant producer or stage hen or studio hack keeping me occupied or asking for the millionth time what Rory Donovan is really like. I just wanted to get back here and be with you. I thought about the house because I knew we could just go there and not have anything to think about but whether or not I wanted to make out with you in the hot tub or just throw you down on a bearskin rug in the middle of that great room and do you right there.”

Donny blushed and chuckled.

“What about you?” Mike continued. “Did you miss me, or were you too busy with the roll-out?”

“I thought about you,” Donny admitted. “I wondered how it was going.”

“Miss me?”


“Didn’t call the beach boy?”


“Bet he could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch.”

“Not gonna find out.”

Their food arrived and they ate quietly until Mike said off-handedly, “Marty says he’s this close to getting me something in writing on Silver Star. He says we should know in a week or so, but right now it’s just back and forth with contracts and bullshit like that. He says I might even get single billing.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s where they show my name on the screen all by itself instead of being just bunched together with other people.” More silence, then, “Say, I thought about Dan when I was in Denver. What do you hear from him?”

“He’s busy as hell. Senior year and all that.”

“When’d you talk to him last?”

“Couple of weeks ago. On our birthday.”

Mike put down his chopsticks and stared. “When was your birthday?”

“The sixteenth.”

“Well, fuck me,” said Mike.

Donny grinned. “If you insist.”

“No, I’m serious. How did I miss it?”

“Probably because I never told you when it was.”

“Well, what were you doing? Where was I?”

“It was a Wednesday. You were probably shooting. I was definitely working because Danny called me at the office when he couldn’t get me at home.”

“Did the guys do anything for you?”

“Not that I remember, but I don’t think I told them. C’mon, Mike, it’s no big deal. I got over birthdays a long time ago. Mom and Dad sent me a check like they always do and my aunt sent me a card. That’s all.” Donny went back to his Mongolian Beef.

“Well, happy belated birthday,” Mike said. “I’ll pick up the check here, and I’ll think of some way of making it up to you.” Under the table he patted Donny’s thigh. “We’ll talk about the house later."



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