Thursday, June 22, 2006

Small Town Boys - Chapter 35

Rocky Mountain High

Donny had just gotten a cup of coffee when Greg called. It was a little after eight and the office was quiet; Lily was opening his mail and Irene was watering the plants after the long weekend.

“You got my message last night?” Greg said. He sounded tired.

“Yeah. What’s up?”

“Dad’s sending over one of his associates to go through the files. Park’em in my office.”

“Okay,” Donny said, looking at the five boxes he had hauled in from the store room as soon as he’d gotten to the office. They were stacked on his conference table. “What’s going on?”

Greg audibly sighed. “I’ll tell you when we get back tomorrow.” He didn’t sound happy, and Donny decided not to push him on it.

“So how’s the expo going?” he said.

“Good,” said Greg. “A lot of interest in us and even some celebrity spotting. Michelle won a hundred bucks at the craps table. What’d you do this weekend?”

“Not much.”

“Okay. I’ll call you back if I get the chance.”

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

“I will. See ya.”

Donny hung up and stared at the boxes. They were neatly labeled and had a fine coating of dust on the top. He wondered what was in there that was suddenly so important. He summoned Margaret and they moved the boxes to Greg’s office, clearing a space on his conference table.

Half an hour later Lily buzzed him and announced that a Mr. Lowry was here to see him. “Let him in,” he said.

Mr. Lowry turned out to be a tall young black man with a serious expression. He was dressed in typical lawyer garb – a conservative navy blue suit and grey tie. He solemnly shook Donny’s hand, shifting his black leather briefcase to his left hand. “Good morning, Mr. Hollenbeck. I’m Justin Lowry from Mr. McKay’s office.”

“Right,” Donny replied, “you’re here to...”

“That’s right.”

“Follow me, please.”

They went to Greg’s office. Justin put down his briefcase, took the lid off the first box, and ran his fingers across the row of file tabs. “Very good,” he said, almost to himself.

“Can I get you something? Cup of coffee?” Donny offered.

“No, thank you,” replied Justin, deftly taking off his jacket and hanging it carefully on the coat track. He took the lids off all of the boxes, laid them carefully on the table, and in a gesture that reminding Donny of a scene in some movie where the doctor approached an autopsy table preparing to examine a cadaver, carefully pulled the first file folder out the first box.

“Okay,” Donny said. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

For the first time the lawyer smiled a little. “Thank you. Close the door after you, please,” said Justin.

Donny went back to his office and got absorbed in his work. At noon he told Lily he was going to get a sandwich and looked at Greg’s office. The door was closed, and still was when he came back.

“Any sign of life?” he asked Lily quietly, glancing at the closed door. She shook her head, then corrected herself. “About ten minutes ago he went to the bathroom.”

A few minutes later his private line rang. He was expecting Greg, but it was Mike. “Hey,” he said over the sound of someone pounding a hammer in the background, “had a chance to type it up?”


“The treatment.”

“Oh. Uh, no, not yet.” The script idea had completely slipped his mind. “I’ll...I’ll do it now,” he said, swiveling around to his computer. “What should I do with it?”

“I’ll handle it. Just bring it home with you. Listen, I told Milo I had heard about this interesting story about four guys sharing a house and he thinks it’s a good idea.”

“You didn’t mention my name, did you?”

“Nah. Just ‘heard on the street’ kinda stuff.”

“Okay, good.”

“All right. Well, I’ll see you tonight.”


Donny looked at the stack of invoices still to be approved and the latest batch of resumes that had come in because of the Sunday article, then booted up the word processing program. In fifteen minutes he’d printed out the two pages of the treatment for Small Town Boys. He grabbed an empty plastic report binder from the supply closet, slid the papers into it and tossed it on the desk in his “go home” pile with his mail and car keys.

A few minutes before five Justin tapped on his door. “I’m leaving now, Mr. Hollenbeck. Is there some place I can put the files under lock and key?”

“Let’s bring them in here,” Donny suggested, and they did. He suppressed an urge to ask Justin what he was looking for; he had the impression that Justin wouldn’t tell him, even though Donny knew what was written on each piece of paper and had written most of them himself.

Greg had not called back, so Donny went home with no more idea of what was going on than when he arrived in the morning.

He was about to head out the door for the gym when his phone rang. It was Marc.

“Hey, I’m back.”

“Great. How was it?”

Silence for a moment then, “Okay. You, uh, free for dinner?”

“Sure. Here or there?”

More silence, then, “Here. I’ve been traveling all day and I don’t feel like fighting rush hour. I need to clean up and put stuff away. Get here about eight and we’ll go to that Mexican place down the street.”

Marc looked tired; his eyes were red and bleary, and it looked like he hadn’t slept for a couple of days. He gave Donny a perfunctory hug and a kiss on the cheek and was silent as they walked to the restaurant. It was quiet except for tinny mariachi music playing in the background. The waitress brought a basket of chips and salsa. Donny ordered a Dos Equis; Marc asked for iced tea.

Donny told him about the call from Greg, and Justin’s arrival. Marc stared at the chips basket and slowly picked out one.

“I think I know,” he said quietly.

“You’re one up on me,” said Donny. “What’s going on?”

Marc shook his head. “Just a theory. I’d rather not say.”

Donny snorted. “Look, I may not know a hell of a lot about business, but even I know that when you have a lawyer in a closed office going through boxes of files and then locking them up at night, I figure there’s something going on that’s kinda serious. I’m a partner in the company. I think I have a right to know.”

“That’s just it, Donny. I don’t know. I’m guessing, and I may be way the hell off base.”

“Right now I’d settle for that.”

The waiter brought the drinks and Marc took a long drink of his tea before he looked at Donny and nodded. “Okay. A couple of weeks ago I heard that another company was working on a product to compete with Pelican. No big deal, right? Lots of software companies offer competing products like Lotus, Oracle, Microsoft, yada yada.”

“Yeah,” said Donny. “It was only a matter of time, I guess. I mean, it’s not like we invented the wheel or something.”

“Exactly. So, my guess is that Greg saw the new product at the expo and wanted to make sure that we’re selling a better product.”

“So what do we need a lawyer for?”

Marc shrugged. “Could be a patent attorney.”

“The guy had me lock the files in my office. They’ve been sitting in the warehouse for over a year, stuck in the rafters and covered with dust and bat crap. Why the sudden security?”

“Lawyers,” said Marc as if that answered the question.

They ordered dinner and munched chips while a family with two small children settled in at the table across the way from them. Marc smirked a little. “No matter where I go in a restaurant, I always get stuck at a table next to noisy kids.” As if to prove his point, the youngest child began to wail for no discernible reason.

“So how was Colorado?” Donny asked casually.

“Okay,” replied Marc, fiddling with the straw wrapper. He rolled it up into a ball and deftly flicked it in the general direction of the family. It fell on the floor and rolled unnoticed under the table.

“You want to talk about it?” Donny ventured.

Marc licked his lips, looked away, then looked at Donny. His expression was somber, almost mournful, and Donny instantly regretted asking the question. “Look, I’m sorry. Forget it.”

“No, it’s okay. Marc took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes. “I’ve been talking about it for the last week.” He looked around the restaurant. Several more people had come in and the place was filling up. “But let’s wait until after dinner, okay?”

“Whatever you say,” said Donny.

“So... what’d you do this last weekend?” asked Marc?

Donny shrugged. “Went with Mike to see his new house up in Idyllwild. Hung out. That’s about it.”

The waiter brought their plates, cautioning them to careful; they were very hot.

They were half-way back to Marc’s apartment, waiting for the light to change before crossing the street, when Marc asked suddenly, “Do you remember the moment when you knew for certain that you were gay?”

The light changed and they started across, dodging a cab that was making a right turn on the red light. “I don’t think it was a ‘moment,’” replied Donny. “But I think that first time jerking off with Craig at Lorenzen’s quarry kinda sealed the deal, if you know what I mean.”

“But you knew before then, didn’t you?”

“I guess so.” Donny remembered that when he was eight or so he saw the movie Superman and couldn’t take his eyes off Christopher Reeve in the tight-fitting costume. When he was twelve he couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about when Stan Tasker filched a couple of Playboy magazines and went ape over the centerfolds. But he didn’t remember either of those events meaning much more than he wanted to be muscular when he grew up, and that at some point he would figure out what was so enchanting about women’s breast. Marc nodded and they continued walking in silence, Donny wondering what this was leading to and what it had to do going to Colorado for a week.

They got to his apartment building and Marc fumbled for his keys. He motioned Donny to come in and tossed his keys on the table. “You want something – water, soda?”

“No, I’m fine.”

Marc nodded and kicked off his shoes. His open suitcase was on the floor in the middle of the living room with clothes strewn half-in, half-out. Marc stepped around it, got a glass of water from the kitchen and leaned against the little counter that divided it from the living room. “Well,” he said, “it was a thunderbolt for me.”

“Beg pardon?”

“Figuring out I was gay,” Marc said, and Donny realized this was a continuation of the conversation that had started in the cross-walk. “I had no idea what being gay was. Or straight, for that matter. I mean, I knew what sex was – what kid doesn’t? But I never really thought about it when I was a kid, and when I hit puberty I figured that I’d grow up, meet a girl, fall in love, get married, have kids, yada, yada....” He drank some of the water and chuckled. “That was probably from growing up with divorced parents and wondering what life would be like in a ‘normal’ marriage. I lived with my mom who really didn’t know how to talk to a boy about growing up, and my step dad...well, the less said about him the better.” Marc scowled at the thought. “He’s a nice guy to my mom, but he and I just never.... God knows I tried, but....” Marc chuckled hollowly. “I’m sure there’s some Freudian shit mixed up in it, and the fact that he is a pretty hard-core right-winger who blames the queers and the commies for everything didn’t help.”

“Guess not.”

“Funny; my dad’s pretty conservative, too, but we get along okay. I guess when you live and ranch in Colorado and have to deal with all the government red tape you get tired of it.”

“You see your dad much growing up?”

“Summers,” said Marc. “I’d go up from June through August and work on the ranch with him and Jessica – she’s my step mom. That was cool.” Donny noticed that Marc was staring at the picture over the TV set. It was a large photo of a full moon rising over snowcapped mountains, and there were soft dots of yellow light at the base. Donny had never paid attention to it before, but he figured it must be the view from his father’s ranch or some place like it. Marc was silent for a moment, then he seemed to snap out of it. He looked at Donny. “Then all of a sudden I was in high school – boarding school – in Colorado Springs, and one day, wham.” He thumped his fist on the countertop for emphasis. “There he was, staring me right in the face. Barry Kessler.”

“Guy in your class?” asked Donny.

Marc refilled his water glass. “No. Nothing so simple. He was a teacher – my math teacher – and the assistant football coach.”

“Oh,” replied Donny softly. “I see.”

Marc glanced at Donny. “Yeah. I know it sounds like something out of a really bad made-for-TV movie with Kristy McNichol and Markie Post – except it was Robby Benson and Harry Hamlin. But it wasn’t like that. I never – we never – it was just – nothing happened at school. But we both knew there was something and we were really close. I told him everything, and he was like my older brother. When my grandmother died he drove me to the airport and picked me up when I came back. He listened to me complain about how I hated my roommate and how much I loved math and why wasn’t I getting any bigger in the weight room and how come the Broncos couldn’t find a decent backup quarterback and all the shit that I could think about just so I could be around him. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I watched him in class, I watched him on the field, I even sat at the dining room table so I could see him sitting at the other table with his wife – oh, yeah, he was married. Beth was her name. I wanted to see him. I wanted to be him. I wanted.... Well, you know what I wanted. And...” Marc faded off, staring once again at the photograph. The moon seemed to be too large for reality; maybe it was trick photography.

“You went for it?” Donny prompted, breaking his internal vow to keep quiet.

“No. I told you nothing happened then. After a while – like after the first semester – I got used to being around him and I got used to having this major crush on him. He was just there. And he was there the next year, and the next, and the next, and I just... let it be. I knew I was gay and I even knew other kids who were and we’d talk about it, and I even had other guys come on to me – never out in the open – just the usual bull sessions and jerking off in the locker room shower and crap like that. You know. You played football.”

“Yeah,” Donny said. “I remember. So what does this have to do with going to Colorado last week?”

Marc held up his hand. “I’m getting to that.”

“Okay, sorry.”

“The day that I graduated I shook his hand, said goodbye, and tried to put him behind me. Well, a week later I was at my dad’s ranch working, thinking about college, not thinking about school any more, and he called me up out of the blue. He was in town, passing through on his way to Utah, Idaho, somewhere, whatever. Would I like to meet up and have lunch? I said sure. I took the pickup, drove into town, we had lunch at the local diner, and then he said, hey, come on over to where I’m staying and let’s hang out. So I followed him over to the Holiday Inn or the Travel Lodge or whatever the hell it is, and we’re not in the room ten seconds before we have our clothes off and we are going at it like you wouldn’t believe. I swear to God, we must have done it about five times in one afternoon and the only reason we stopped was because I had to get the truck back home so Dad and Jessica could go pick up some hay. It was like something out of a porno flick.”

Donny remembered the first time he and Marc had had sex at the Villa. He remembered Marc’s passion and energy and imagined what it must have been like with someone he’d been wanting for four years. He felt himself blush in spite of himself.

“And then I drove home,” Marc continued. “My legs and cock were sore for two days. I never heard from him again until the week after this past Christmas when he was arrested on multiple counts of sexual molestation of minors, including three boys at the school last summer and two that he had met through friends of those kids.”

“Jesus,” Donny whispered.

Marc rubbed his eyes with his fists. “And to make matters even more interesting, the bastard kept a diary. He listed every guy he’d ever slept with. He wrote their names down, he wrote full descriptions of them, including their height, their weight, their hair color, the size of their dick, whether it was cut or uncut...everything. And he wrote out the details of all the sex he’d had with them – everything. It was all there.”

“Including you.”

Marc laughed softly. “Oh, no. I wasn’t just a diary entry. I was practically a whole book. He had written down everything about me from the day I walked into his classroom when I was a freshman to the day we finally got it on in his motel. It must have been a hundred pages dedicated to the life and times of Marc Griffin. There was a whole chapter on me taking a shower after we lost a game and how the tears of our loss mingled with the sweat from my body and the water from the showerhead.”

“You read it?”

“I had to.” Marc went back to the kitchen and put the water glass in the sink. “The reason I went to Colorado was to give a deposition for the defense.”

“The defense?” said Donny incredulously.

“Yep,” said Marc flatly. “I’m being called to testify that Defendant Kessler never acted inappropriately towards me or even gave the appearance of improper behavior when I was a student and that it wasn’t until after I had graduated that we had sex, that I had been a consenting participant in it, and that I was of legal age when it happened.” He paused and leaned against the counter, his shoulders sagging. “And it’s all true, Donny. He never touched me when I was at school. We were never alone together, and the closest he came to doing anything that could possibly be considered of a sexual nature was the big bear hug he gave me the day I graduated.” Marc shook his head. “Oh, he knew what he was doing, all right. He was very, very careful.”

“So how did he get busted?”

“His wife found a crumpled-up page of one of the diaries stuffed in a trash bag last summer. She started snooping around, she found the rest of the collection, she filed for divorce and subpoenaed the diaries as evidence. They arrested him over Christmas break.”

“You said he was very, very careful.”

“He was. Never went after a kid who was a student or who he thought was underage. But one of the kids who wasn’t a student had a fake ID and turned out to be seventeen instead of whatever age Kessler thought he was, and....”

“So now what happens?”

“I may be called to testify at the trial. In his defense. And if I am.... My dad....”

“He doesn’t know.”

“No. About any of it. I never told him about Kessler, I never told him about his arrest; he doesn’t know about...anything.” Marc took a deep breath. “Look, I’ll make it easy for you guys. I’ll submit my letter of resignation effective at the end of the month. That way you can get someone else in there before I go.”

“Bullshit,” said Donny firmly, reflexively. “No fucking way.”

“I knew you’d say that, but hear me out,” Marc replied just as firmly. “There’s no way I can stay on the job if I have to testify. My name would be all over the papers as the one witness who testified in the defense of a pedophile, and if I’m working for McKay-Gemini, the papers would say that. They’d come after you, too; not just as the guy who hired me but as the guy I’ve been sleeping with. Are you ready for that? I’m not going to ask you go through that. You or Eric or Greg or anybody else. This is my problem, not yours.

“Yeah, well, we’re not going to just step aside and let you go through it alone, either.”

Marc snorted. “Oh, don’t be so fucking noble, Donny. It’s not worth it.”

“Have you talked to a lawyer about it?”

“Who the hell do you think I’ve been talking to for the last two months?”

“No, I mean about leaving the company.”

“No,” Marc admitted. “That’s my own idea.”

“Well, then, we’re going to talk to Allen first. You haven’t told Eric or Greg yet, have you?”

“No. I figured I’d try it out on you first. You’re the VP of personnel.”

“Then shut up about it.” Donny went over to Marc, and silently offered him a hug. To his great surprise he felt Marc start to shake. He heard him gasp back a sob, and they held each other until Marc stopped shaking. He sniffed heavily and wiped his eyes with a piece of paper towel.

“It’s all right. It’s just that...” He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. “Y’know, the one thing I’ve always been proud of is my ability to assess a situation and figure out how to handle it before it gets out of control. It’s just the way I am. I plan things out and I work to achieve them. I don’t believe in just trying to get through life without bumping into the furniture. I knew I wanted to go to Stanford from the minute I entered high school; I knew I wanted to get a job in finance, and I knew I had to get to meet the right people to do it. Doesn’t mean I did anything outside the bounds of how they should be done because... well, what the hell is the point of doing something if you have to cheat to get it?” He gulped and looked at Donny. “And then shit like this happens.” They held each other for a while, not saying anything, then Marc wiped his eyes and laughed. “Y’know, the worst part was that I lost my virginity to that asshole. What a waste.”

“You should have waited for me,” said Donny.

“You were worth waiting for,” Marc said, cracking a smile. That broke the tension, and they laughed until they were exhausted, then they hugged and kissed. Marc sighed and kicked his suitcase gently. “I’m beat to shit. I’m gonna hit the sack. I’d love it if you stayed over, but then I’d never get any sleep.”

“Not a problem,” Donny said, heading for the door. “I’ve gotta get some myself,” “And no more of this talk about resignation. Forget it.”

Marc wedged his hands in his pockets. “We’ll talk about it when Greg gets back,” he said. He opened the door. “See ya.”

Donny drove home in a haze, not paying attention to the music on the radio, only subliminally alert to the traffic around him. He tried to imagine what Marc was going through; having to sit in a courtroom and talk about his sex life in front of strangers. He wondered what his parents would think if somehow the story got into the papers. Marc Griffin, 26, a former student of the defendant, testified that he and Kessler engaged in multiple sex acts on one afternoon in June 1987 at a motel in rural Colorado. Griffin, the former chief financial officer for McKay-Gemini, a Los Angeles-based software company, was once linked romantically to Donald Hollenbeck, the vice president for personnel at the company. Hollenbeck was in court to offer moral support to the handsome young witness. A horn honked and Donny jumped; the light had changed to green. He stomped on the gas and laid a little rubber.

Danny had his tech manuals spread across the dining room table. Mike wasn’t home yet. Donny got a beer and told Danny about Marc. When he finished, his brother shook his head. “Jesus, that’s rough. Think he’ll really do it?”

“Quit? He sounds like it.”

“You think he should?” Danny asked. Donny looked at him to see if he was playing devil’s advocate.

“I don’t know. It’s not like he’s done anything wrong.”

“That’s right.”

“It’s the other guy – Kessler – who’s in trouble. He’s just being called as a witness.”

“Right,” agreed Danny. “If it was you; what would you do? Would you quit?”

“I don’t know.”

His brother looked askance. “Oh, come on; yes, you do. You wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. It happened seven years ago, he was legal, and it had nothing whatever to do with what he’s doing now. Look at it this way, twin. Would you quit your job here because Craig’s wife found out you and he used to jerk off together? Think I’d resign my commission ‘cause of my little one-time shot in the dark with him? No way.” Danny flipped one of the notebooks closed. “Don’t let Marc screw up his career with you guys ‘cause of it.”

“Yeah, but Craig’s not going on trial for sex with a minor,” Donny said.

Danny snorted. “Only a matter of time, twin. Let me ask you something. Do you feel anything for Marc?”

“You mean, like...?”


Donny nodded, “Yeah, I do. But that shouldn’t have....”

“Sure it should,” Danny countered. “He’s a friend. This isn’t just business, Donny. The guy needs friends right now. For a moment stop thinking like a corporate drone and think about what he’s going through.” Danny smiled wistfully. “You and me have been pretty fuckin’ lucky, you know that? We’ve got each other – always there, even when we weren’t together. Marc needs someone like that now.” He picked up the binder with the treatment that Donny had left on the table. “Hey, I read this. Looks good.”

“Oh, shit, I meant to leave that for Mike.”

“What’s he gonna do with it?”

“I dunno, show it to some people. I don’t expect anything, actually. I think he was just blowing smoke up my ass.”

Donny put the binder on Mike’s bed. He went to bed after the late news and forgot all about it.

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