The Mighty Hawks
"The spot with the St. Joe's mascot was fantastic, Dana."
"You paid someone to put weights in his wings. They have to flap their arms for the entire game. The kid almost had a heart attack at the end of the first half."
"It was funny as hell. We got almost two thousand letters for that spot."
"Whatever. Tell Casey not to screw this up."
"Casey, you had better not be calling me because you’re canceling." Because Casey was going to cancel on him---he could feel it. Cradling the receiver between cheek and shoulder, Dan heard short laughter from the other end; and if he didn't know better, he wouldn’t have heard the strain in Casey’s voice at all.
"Some things are unavoidable, Danny."
Dan frowned at the miniature hill of coffee grounds in the filter cup---he’d lost track of the number of scoops he'd already added. What the hell. He wasn’t going to be able to tell the difference this early in the morning.
"Weather is unavoidable. And it’s looking rather sunny out there." Crossing into the living room, he raised the blinds, wincing from the glare of morning sun revealed. Damned sunny. "I hope you’re calling me to say that Cincinnati’s going to the Superbowl, or that Tanya Harding’s back in skating. That had better be---"
"I think Tanya Harding’s working the strip joints in Vegas."
"---calling me, because I don’t think you want to face the fury that is Dan if you’re canceling on me." He paused. "Really?"
"I need to take Charlie into school this morning."
Dan walked back to the kitchen. "I thought you were going to get a nanny." He paused, thinking, the rich brown smell of percolating coffee ushering in yet another crucial step in the wake-up routine. "Do they really still call them nannies?"
He didn’t really care about Casey canceling, he just wanted to keep him on the phone. It was times like this, when the strain in Casey’s voice was there even when he couldn’t hear it, that Dan just wanted to keep him talking. Maybe there was a better way, but there wasn’t any other way that he was this good at.
"What time are you going in?" he asked. He opened the cabinet beside the sink, sifting through the admittedly sparse expanse of packaged food. He knew he’d stashed some pop-tarts in there last week.
There was a brief pause on the other end. "The usual. Before the noon rundown."
"So you’re cool about the canceling?"
Danny grinned. "Yeah, I’m cool. If you want to use your own son as an excuse to keep yourself from being embarassed on the basketball court, then that’s cool with me." He pushed the peanut butter aside and frowned at a stack of untouched granola bars behind it. "Casey, do you know where I put the pop-tarts?"
If pressed, he would have said that Casey was the quintessential boy next door, and Lisa was the kind of girl everyone's parents wanted their sons to marry. But Casey wasn't that at all---he was just slightly out of step with everyone else, the kind of person that still believed that human beings were essentially good. He probably knew the name of his grocer where he grew up. Local star athlete, class president. Casey was made for gentler things.
And Lisa, Dan thought, was a bitch. And she thought he was a flake---at least according to a three-a.m., drunken Casey. It didn't bother him, and there were few things that he was surer about than that Lisa had just as little regard for his opinion of her. It made for a kind of ground-in, side-stepping truce of mutual politeness.
All of which was moot, considering that he was currently faced with a harried executive producer with alarm bells going off above her head---the kind that warned against any inkling of dissension, less-than-immediate promptness, or bringing to her attention any problems he might have encountered in the last twenty minutes.
"How’s that prep for the Jamison interview going?" She halted in front of him, looking at the same time disheveled, unimpressive, and vastly formidable. Now Dana could take Lisa on. He had a few brief, pleasant seconds of imagining the two of them going at it, blonde hair flying, fingernails scratching in just the right places. No contest. Casey had once timed Dana's ability to make someone cry at less than a minute and a half.
Dan gave her a smile. "Good morning, Dana.”
"Don’t make me hurt you, Danny." Then she paused, took a breath, and attempted a smile of her own. Dan flinched. She said, a touch more calmly, "So what do you have so far? I want you to give me your notes---I need to pass them on to Peter Heyrman."
"Who is Peter Heyrman?"
"You know, that guy."
"You have no idea who I'm talking about."
"No, wait---hang on. Heyrman. Yeah, yeah. That's the guy…?"
Dana waited, arching an eyebrow. Sadistic woman.
"…I know nothing about."
"He did the World Series special for us last year," Dana said impatiently. "Casey knows who he is."
"So give him a cookie. I still don't know who you're talking about."
"You know what? In the grand scheme of things, it makes absolutely no difference."
"I'm beginning to realize that. Since when am I that expendable? Since when do you give out vital inside information to strangers?"
"Danny." Her smile lost all pretense of warmth. It was simply there like a steel blade, waiting for him to stumble onto it. "Peter Heyrman is doing the interview."
Casey walked up. "Who is Peter Heyrman?"
Dana closed her eyes, and Dan cautiously stepped out of range and glared at Casey, who shrugged. Then, tentatively, Dan said to Dana, "I thought, you know, the point of having me prep for this interview was to actually give the interview."
Dana took a deep breath and opened her eyes. She looked calmer now. "That was the point. But not anymore."
"You want to clue me in as to the real point, then?"
"You’re going to Charlotte next weekend."
"You are. And so is Casey."
"Should I be asking why, or is this the cue to just nod obediently?"
Dana cocked her head at him. "I’d like that."
"Dana, I respect you and everything---I know how hard it is for you, a woman, to get ahead in this kind of business---"
"Shut up, Danny."
"But don’t you think that you should clue us in? We are your anchors, you know. It helps if we know what’s going on."
"Danny, if you really were my anchors, you’d know that the NBA Draft is this weekend in Charlotte. Why do I bother paying you? Do you guys really know anything about sports?"
"Now that’s unfair, Dana,” Casey said. "My dad took me to a ball game once."
"Yeah," said Danny. "I think mine did, too. In between ballet lessons and oboe practice."
They both looked at Danny.
"Jesus, I was kidding."
Happy Shrift Day! Hope you enjoyed.