DISCLAIMER: So not mine.
NOTES: Thanks to Luna and Jess. Also to Shana. Thanks to google for the research fun!


THE VERY LONG NIGHT OF JEREMY GOODWIN

The very worst day Jeremy ever had in his entire life, he woke to the insistent ringing of the phone. It had been Natalie. Throwing up. She had food poisoning and she was sick and would he come over before going to work and telling Isaac and Dana she wouldn't be in? He went over and cleaned her bathroom and made her soup. Then he went into work with no trepidation.

He went straight to Isaac's office to tell him about Natalie.

"Jeremy, I was about to call you. Where's Natalie?"

"I was coming in to tell you. She's sick."

"Food poisoning?"

"How did you know?"

"Jeremy." Isaac looked at him for a long moment and then started to smile. "Jeremy, you're gonna have quite a day."

"I'm suddenly very, very frightened." Jeremy looked at Isaac's grin and sat down.

"Good. Natalie has food poisoning and won't be in today?"

"Yeah."

"You know where she got the food poisoning?"

"No. I guess last night, but I had the night off. I wasn't here. So I don't know where she ate. Isaac, what's going on?" Jeremy felt a chill that started at his neck and traveled down to his toes.

"She went to dinner with Dana. They decided to try that Norwegian restaurant."

"Norwegian? Norway has native cuisine? Wait."

"Yeah."

"Dana has food poisoning? Dana's not coming today?"

"Yeah. Kim's on vacation until Sunday, Dana's sick, Natalie's sick, you know what that means Jeremy?" Isaac grinned.

"Oh. Oh my. I. I need to sit down, is that okay?" Jeremy looked down. He was already sitting.

Isaac said, "Want a drink?"

"At eleven am? Isn't that kind of early?"

"Yeah. You're right." Isaac walked to the bar, poured a drink, and sipped it himself. "And since you're running the show today, you should be sober."

"Isaac. Can't we call someone? Get a sub?"

"From West Coast Update you mean?" Isaac turned slowly from behind Jeremy. He grinned at Jeremy again.

"Yeah. Let's get Sally. Sally would be great."

"Jeremy."

"Except the network has put WCU on hiatus while they retool it and they're not here either."

"You're catching on. It's you, Jeremy."

"Isaac. Maybe we just rerun last night's show. Do you think anyone would notice?"

Isaac said, "That's a good idea but we're not gonna do it. You'll be fine. Tonight may not be the best ever night Sports Night will have, but it won't be the worst. It's just one night. You just need to make it through the next 13 hours." Isaac was standing behind Jeremy, and Jeremy could smell the alcohol. He tried to put together a coherent thought.

"I. I feel the need to pray."

"That's another good idea. Why don't you find Elliot and break the news to him and you can pray together."

Jeremy backed out of the office, pale as a ghost.

***

Jeremy and Elliot scanned the LC wires and tried to decide what should be added to the rundown. The discussion consisted of Jeremy looking earnestly at Elliot and saying, "This seems important, don't you think?" and Elliot saying, "Yeah. Yeah. We should do that." They watched the staff come in. Someone would flag each new person, whisper the news, and look over at Jeremy and Elliot with fear and giggling.

The noon rundown loomed in Jeremy's head. He started humming "Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darling." High Noon, he thought. Except his Grace Kelly was puking up lutefisk or whatever they served at Norwegian restaurants that failed health inspections.

He stared at the table. Three empty seats at the main table. "Where should I sit?"

"Jeremy, it doesn't matter, just sit down."

"Isaac, I usually sit not at the table. I sit by the wall, unless it's just senior staff. Not at the table."

Casey suppressed a smile. "Jeremy, it's fine. Sit at Dana's chair."

Jeremy sat down in Dana's chair, gingerly. Elliot sat in Natalie's chair, glancing from side to side to make sure no one said anything.

"Does - does everyone have the updated rundown?"

Dan looked down at his Sports Illustrated. He looked up and said, "I should get a tattoo."

"No, you shouldn't," Dave said.

Casey nodded his head in agreement.

"No goatee, can't shave my head, now you want to dictate whether I get a tattoo?"

"Yes, that's exactly what we're gonna do, Danny, you should not get a tattoo."

"Hmmph. Et tu, Casey?"

"Dan, you can't get a tattoo. You're too old," Chris said calmly.

"I'm too old? I'm 31!"

"Chris is right. You can't get a tattoo at 31. It's too old," Will said, nodding in agreement.

"People get tattoos at 31," Dan said.

"People who already have tattoos." Dave said sagely.

"Or people in prison." Elliot noted.

"So if I'm in prison, it's okay, but otherwise, I'm too old to have a tattoo. I don't believe that. And how do you know I don't already have a tattoo?" Dan looked around at the assembled crew.

"But you don't already have a tattoo." Casey said.

"How do you know? It could be somewhere, you know, usually covered," Dan insisted.

"Cause you change in front of me six nights a week, Danny. You don't have any tattoos," Casey said.

"What kind of tattoo do you want?" Chris asked.

"I don't know. Something important to me."

"You can't get someone's name." Dave said.

"Exactly. Like girlfriends? Don't do that." Elliot said.

"But getting, like, Casey, say, tattooed on me would be okay?" Dan asked with a grin.

"No. You can not have my name tattooed on your ass," Casey said firmly.

"Why not? You're important to me. It's not like we're gonna break up or something."

"Cause everyone will think we're dating!" Casey said and his voice rose on the last word.

"Why are you so offended? There's lots of people who would be happy if people thought they were dating me," Dan said, trying to suppress a smirk.

"Casey's a homophobe," Dave said.

"I am not homophobic! How did this become taunt Casey hour instead of taunt Danny's new stupid idea hour?" Casey looked around befuddled at the table and the room.

"They've done studies, you know, that show the most homophobic people have all these suppressed homosexual urges," Elliott said, nodding his head.

"And I didn't say anything about getting the tattoo on my ass, Casey, you added that part," Dan said.

Casey started sputtering. Jeremy thought that someone should shut them all up. Isaac looked at him and raised an eyebrow. Damn, Jeremy thought.

"Uh, guys? Rundown. We, uh, we need to get to this."

They ran through the baseball games, John Rocker's return to the majors, Lions cornerback Bryant Westbrook's second arrest for a DUI, and Dr. J's appeal for his missing son. The rest of the staff gently tossed out some of the other stories Jeremy and Elliott had added in haste. "Since we're only about 20 minutes long, it's probably okay to not deal with these lacrosse stories, right?"

"People like lacrosse, Dan."

"Right. But more people like hockey, baseball, football, and basketball and we have stories about all those things," Dan said.

"Okay. We are still 5 minutes long," Jeremy said with surprise in his voice.

***

After the 6 o'clock rundown, Jeremy wandered by the door. Dan flagged him down and made him sit on the couch. "Have you eaten anything today?" Dan sounded like Jeremy's mother.

"I had soup at Natalie's. I made her soup. But the upchucked lutefisk put me off my food a little. And I've had a few Mountain Dews, which should count as food. Maybe more than a few. Maybe I've had six or seven." Jeremy wrung his hands and looked around Dan and Casey's office.

"Yak piss does not equal food. Talk to Casey, I'll be right back." Dan walked out of the office.

Jeremy looked at Casey. Casey sighed.

"So," Jeremy said.

"I called Dana. She wished you well. And then she threw up," Casey said.

"Isn't she mad at you?"

"She is, but less so than before."

"That's good."

Casey glanced up at the monitor in the corner. Jeremy twiddled his thumbs, and thought he had never literally twiddled his thumbs before.

Dan came back in and dropped a sandwich on Casey's desk and one in Jeremy's lap.

"Is it okay to eat this here?" Jeremy asked, looking at both men.

"On our couch? Shit, yeah. Just eat, Jeremy," Dan said and started in on his sandwich.

"I miss the table," Jeremy said. He leaned forward on the couch.

"We all do," Casey said.

Jeremy started eating. "Dan, this is just wonderful. This is the most wonderful sandwich I've ever had."

"Jeremy, it's cheese and turkey. It's not like he baked the bread for you," Casey said with a frown.

Jeremy paused between bites, and said, "But somehow, there's just something amazing about this sandwich." Casey made a face, while Dan kept eating.

"Plus I got you chips. And a donut - jam filled," Dan after swallowing.

"Wow. This is a great sandwich. There's something special going on here, Dan, I swear. Have you ever noticed that men make better sandwiches than women? Women think one slice of cheese; one slice of turkey is just fine. But men know that you need more. At least two slices, I say." Jeremy paused. He wasn't sure if he was right about the women and men thing, but he knew this sandwich was the best he'd ever had in his life.

"There's nothing special going on with that sandwich. Unless Dan, for once, decided that two pounds of mayonnaise is not essential." Casey grimaced as he squeezed his sandwich and watched the mayonnaise ooze out over the edges. "Some people know that mayonnaise is not one of the four main food groups."

Dan grinned. "Some people are wrong."

Jeremy started in on his chips. The two of them, he thought, they were really just freakishly tall ten year olds, pushing each other to prove they were friends. He worked with overgrown children. He was surprised Dana hadn't killed them both after all these years. The chips, also, seemed incredibly fresh and tangy.

"How ya doing, Jeremy?" Dan asked, rubbing his hands on his jeans, his sandwich finished.

"I'm fine. Perfectly fine."

"Good. We'll be fine tonight," Dan said, sounding confident.

"I think we will be. Maybe. Isaac said everything should be okay as long as I freak out before we go on air, and not while we're on air. Actually he said that he would fire me if I freaked out during the show." He paused. "Thanks for not saying I had already freaked out."

"Isaac's right, though. You should freak out beforehand," Casey said with a serious look.

Jeremy smoothed his tie and grabbed his donut. "Maybe I won't freak out at all. Maybe it'll all be perfectly fine." He paused on his way out the door. "I'm taking your silence as agreement."

***

Jeremy took a deep breath, smoothed his tie again and entered the control room. "Let's look at those graphics, shall we?"

Chris looked back at him. "Well, you're not Dana, so we can probably let you talk to them. Let's start."

"Okay. Right. I want to see that thing," Jeremy said, staring at the screens.

"Which thing?" Will asked.

"Honestly, I don't recall. Show me something," Jeremy said. He stared at the screens and wondered how the Tennessee Rhythm would do in their match that night against the Dallas Burn. He also thought that Rhythm and Burn were bad names for teams, even for minor league soccer teams.

Chris pulled something up.

"Well, that blows."

Will turned around and looked at him. "You sounded just like Dana there."

"Well. I'm taking that as a compliment. I've always had the utmost respect for Dana, but after today, I'm planning on opening a shrine to her skills and ability. Maybe even a really big temple where people could come and bow down."

Dave nodded his head. "Good producer. A little weird, but a very good producer."

"Very tall six year olds. You know? I never realized how much of the staff is made up of very tall six year olds. Except for everyone in the room now, of course."

"Do we have that SOT on the college world series game, Will?"

"No." Chris said.

"Yes, we do." Will said.

"No, we don't."

"Yes, we in fact do." Will said testily. Dave rolled his eyes at both of them. He sighed, and said, "No way Dan Rydell is getting a tattoo. Soon as he sat down, he'd see the needle and start crying."

Chris looked over at Dave. "I thought you said it was more like a gun."

"You have a tattoo, Dave?" Will asked.

"I have two. And it is more like a gun, in fact. All the more reason why Dan would never last through it." Dave crossed his arms and looked at the squabbling techs and Jeremy.

"Can I see your tattoos?" Chris asked.

"I'm not taking off my shirt right now, okay? Want to see more graphics?" Dave turned to look at Jeremy.

"Yeah. Yes. Let's keep going." Jeremy looked at the graphics.

***

Ten minutes into the show, Jeremy reminded himself to breathe. They had made it this far without anything going wrong. Dan and Casey had over-rode his plan to put the UL Lafayette - Clemson College World Series game in the teaser, pointing out with suppressed giggles that there were bigger stories. Jeremy had honestly felt that Steven Feehan's steal of home had been the most amazing video he'd seen all day. He also couldn't escape the niggling feeling that he'd forgotten something very important about today that he had meant to tell Dan and Casey. He shook his head and told Kelly Kirkpatrick to come in for landing, as they needed to go back to Casey for the feature on John Rocker.

Casey started in; Jeremy remembered. He scanned the script in front of him and said, loudly, into his headset and to Dan and Casey and the studio, "OH MY GOD. I forgot!" On the screen, he didn't quite register the way Casey started, stuttered at Jeremy's exclamation and then moved smoothly back into his copy. Jeremy started talking very, very fast, saying "It's FLAG DAY. We didn't mention it once tonight. It's Flag Day. Casey, Casey, you have to say something about it. Flag Day was believed to have started around 1885 - a Wisconsin schoolteacher named BJ Cigrand wanted to celebrate the birthday of the flag -"

Jeremy watched on the monitor as Casey's hands twitched outside the camera angle. Casey continued talking in his fine anchor voice about John Rocker and when Jeremy mentioned Wisconsin, Casey removed his earpiece in one smooth motion. Sitting next to him, not on camera but visible in the monitor to the left of Casey's in front of Jeremy, Dan had dissolved into giggles. He had his head down on the desk. Jeremy couldn't shut up. He continued talking into the headset. He said, "Flag Day was officially established by Proclamation on May 30th, 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress in 1949 making June 14th - TODAY! - National Flag Day -"

Elliott stood up and took the headset off of Jeremy's head. Jeremy inhaled. He exhaled and couldn't speak. He stared in shock at the monitors. Dave shouted into his headset, "Dan. Dan! Sit up now. We're on you in 10 seconds! Stop laughing, you overpaid - in 5 seconds! Dan!" Dan sat up and tried to discipline his face. Jeremy watched all of this in the monitors but couldn't find his voice. Elliott looked at Jeremy's headset. He said into his "Dan, you need to fill for 20 seconds. I have no idea what we're supposed to be doing now." Elliott sat down quickly. He looked at Jeremy and handed the headset back to him. Jeremy stared at the headset in his hand. All he could think was that he was so about to be fired by Isaac Jaffee.

On the monitors, he saw Dan trying to keep a straight face. Dan's hair was sticking up slightly from when he had collapsed on the desk. Dan's grin suggested incipient hysteria, but he said, with a small giggle, "Thanks, Casey. Our acting producer, Jeremy Goodwin, would like me to remind you that today is Flag Day. Casey, did you know Flag Day was officially established by a Proclamation in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson?"

Casey inhaled deeply, and said, "No, Dan, I did not. That's info that's sure to come in handy." Dan bit his lip to keep from laughing again.

Dan said, "Flag Day. Gotta love the flag, don't you?" Dave mercifully called time for a commercial break.

Everyone in the control room turned to look at Jeremy. He gingerly placed the headset back on his head. He said, "Sorry about that." The control room went back to their tasks, except for Elliott, who took off his headset, mumbled something about a bathroom and walked out into the hallway and threw up in a trashcan. On the monitors, he saw Dan trying to convince Casey to put his earpiece back in.

"I am only putting this back on if Jeremy promises to never again scream 'Oh my God' into my ear while I'm on camera and never, ever mention Flag Day again. Or Woodrow Wilson," Casey said. Jeremy promised, through Dan. They managed to finish the show with a minimum of screw-ups, thanks to Dave and the anchors. Jeremy couldn't bring himself to say "Good show" as they wrapped up. He removed his headset; dully signed the forms put in front of him.

He walked to his desk and began emptying the drawers. Dan and Casey walked up behind him. Dan clapped him on the shoulder.

"Jeremy," Dan said, still laughing a little, "I've decided on what to get for my tattoo. A proud American flag."

Casey said, "Every day will be Flag Day when it comes to Dan's ass."

Dan turned to look at Casey. "I'm not getting the tattoo on my ass, dude. Stop talking about my ass." Dan looked at Jeremy, stacking papers methodically. "Jeremy, what are you doing?"

Jeremy sighed. "Isaac said he would fire me if I freaked out on air. I think we can safely call that freaking out. I thought I would start cleaning out my desk now." He sighed again.

Dan and Casey exchanged glances. Casey said, rubbing Jeremy's shoulder, "Jeremy. I'm sure he was kidding. He has no intention of firing you. It wasn't that bad."

Isaac had walked into the newsroom. He leaned on his cane and looked at Jeremy. "Jeremy," he said. "At what point today did you lose your ability to perceive sarcasm?"

Jeremy answered him seriously, "When you said I was in charge. Am I really not fired?"

Isaac laughed. "You are really not fired. Come into my office and have that drink. You deserve it."

Jeremy smiled for the first time since he'd walked into the office. He was going to get a drink, he was going to get royally trashed and he was going to call in sick tomorrow and nurse his hangover. He smiled and stood up and followed Isaac.

THE END.

Back to Stories

Send feedback to k. All files copyright 2001 k. Whoo!