Leader of the Band

Mike was strumming on his guitar, trying to make up a song. Jerry was reading a movie script. It was a very boring day at the Screen Gems studio. The Writer didn't have a new movie for them to do, and the script Jerry was reading was a complete disaster. He threw it over his shoulder.

"The Writer needs to work a little more," he said.

"She hasn't found the right inspiration yet," Mike replied. "Give her some time. And speakin' of inspiration, I'm at a loss for it myself!"

"Well, songwriting isn't as easy as one thinks, my pal."

"I know. Well, I'll think of somethin'. I'll see you later. Bob wanted me to meet this friend of his family's who happens to be a guitarist."

Jerry nodded. He had to get to the radio station, anyway. Mike walked across the studio with his guitar. Bob was talking to an older man, probably in his early to mid fifties, who also carried a guitar.

"Hey, Bob," Mike said, coming over. "Who is it that you wanted me to meet?"

"Mike, I'm glad you're here," Bob said. "This is Dan Harrisberg. Dan, this is Mike Nesmith."

"Hi," Mike said, shaking Dan's hand.

"Hi," Dan replied. "Now, tell me Bobby, this is the young man who's the guitarist of both the Monkees and the Mallards?"

"Yep," Bob said.

"I thought you hated to be called Bobby," Mike said. "Who is this guy anyway?"

"Like I told you," Bob said. "He's a guitarist. He was real big in the Michigan area back when I was a kid. He was a friend of my father's. They went to college together."

"Cool," Mike replied, nodding.

"Yeah, now I'm down in LA to see what Bobby's been up to," Dan said. "Been getting anywhere on that guitar, Mike?"

"To tell you the truth, I'm actually a little out of practice," Mike admitted. "I've been busy with my new group, the Discophonics, and we don't do instruments. We're a dance group, and we've been too busy with publicity and stuff like that to even start a Monkees tour or a Mallards tour. I've been sort of out of it with the Double M as we like to call us."

"Too bad," Dan commented. "Because you have what it takes to be a great guitarist. You needed a little work when you were with the Monkees, but I'll be happy to help you out a little."

"I'll tell you what, I'll think about it."

Mike didn't like to be told that his guitar playing "needed work." True, he was too busy with the Discophonics to stay in practice on his guitar, but that didn't mean he truly forgot how to play one! He was just a little out of practice. He played a couple of his old songs from before he was a Monkee. Davy and Quacky were watching him as he did.

"Hey, Mike?" Quacky asked. "When was the last time we were on tour? Monkees and Mallards, I mean."

"I'm drawin' a blank," Mike said, and he continued strumming.

"I think you may need to relearn to play that guitah all ovah again," Davy said. "You've been too busy with Jerry and Reggie to even think about the Double M!"

"Oh good grief, Davy," Mike groaned. "We all know you're jealous of Jerry, but the Discophonics are white hot right now, and we still need to work on my coordination if we want to do somethin' huge like the Monkees and the Mallards have done over time. So far, we're still gettin' small potato gigs and every time we tour, it's at a small arena."

"Whatevah you say, Mike," Davy said, and he walked off. Quacky shrugged.

"I think you may need some lessons," he said.

Mike gave him a dirty Look, and Quacky ran off before the Texan Monkee could shoot any magic at him. Mike shook his head and continued strumming his guitar. Later, Jerry came back to the studio. Mike had stopped his strumming for the time being.

"Hey," Jerry said. "You go get your guitar, I'll go borrow Davy's tambourine, and we'll go jam."

"Nah, I'm not in the mood," Mike said.

"Something wrong?"

"Friend of Bob's dad, Dan Harrisberg, said my guitar playin' needs a little work."

"What'd you do then? Throttle him?"

"Nah, I kept cool. For once. He offered to teach me some stuff, but I told him I'd think about it."

"Good. Your guitar playing doesn't need work! It's fine the way it is!"

"You haven't heard me lately, have you?"

"Well . . . . no, not really."

"Listen to this."

Mike picked up his guitar and began to play a Monkees song on it. Jerry jammed his tongue against his cheek and gave Mike a funny look.

"Well?" Mike asked.

"Well . . . . ." Jerry said, trying to keep it nice. "You don't have to go on tour with the Monkees and the Mallards for quite awhile, so . . . ."

"Thought so."

"Mike, I'm sorry, really, but, well . . . . you and me and Reggie have been extremely busy working on Discophonic dance moves . . . . ."

"Forget it, Jerry. Just forget it. Look, I'll talk to you tomorrow, all right?"

"Yeah, sure."

Both Mike and Jerry left the studio, feeling a little uneasy. Jerry thought he'd never see the day when Mike would think he needed to work on his own guitar playing. At any rate, Mike just hung around the house and strummed. The whole thing sounded terrible. Phyllis turned to Warren and handed him a set of ear plugs.

"I think he needs to practice more," she said.

"I agree," Warren replied. "Hey, Mike, that's enough for tonight, okay?"

"Great," Mike said, putting his guitar back into the case. "My own father thinks I'm terrible."

"Mike, I didn't say that. You need to get back into it, but that's enough practice."

"Yeah, you're killing our eardrums," Phyllis said. Mike glared at her, slammed his guitar case shut, and stormed up the stairs.

Morning rolled around. Mike brought his guitar to the studio to work on his playing. Jerry was sitting on a director's chair, drumming his fingers on the armrest. He looked deep in thought.

"Somethin' wrong, Geat?" Mike asked.

"Hmm?" Jerry asked, and he looked up at Mike. "Oh hi. No, nothing much. The radio station's thinking about changing the format."

"Another one? Man, no one wants oldies anymore!"

"I know," Jerry said. "I'm thinking of just starting up the Geator Gold Radio Network and do club gigs live, if I can find another oldies station. At any rate, since the one I'm working at now is so undecided, they laid everybody off."

"Ouch."

"Yeah, I'm probably as good as fired."

"Well, don't worry. Let me know if anythin's definite. If you're fired from the station, I'll help you find a new one, and help you with the network thing."

"Great, Mike. Thanks."

"What are best friends for?"

Jerry laughed. Mike took his guitar out of the case and began strumming. It still sounded pretty bag. Bob and Dan Harrisberg came walking by then.

"What are you trying to do?" Dan asked. "Jimi Hendrix?"

"Is that what it sounds like?" Mike asked.

"No offense, Michael, but you could be a great guitarist. You've got too many bands to work with now, and you're not even the leader of any of them. You got the Dolenz kid singing all the songs for the Monkees, the Bushroot kid for the Mallards, and you got an oldies disc jockey in that doo wop group you're part of as a leader."

"Maybe I should go," Jerry said. "Mike, I'll see you a little later, okay, pal?"

"Yeah, sure," Mike said. Jerry clicked his tongue against his teeth, and left. Mike cleared his throat.

"You seem to know about this sort of thing, Dan," he said.

"I do," Dan replied.

"He and my dad played in a folk band before I was born," Bob said. "They even had a hit record."

"It wasn't much," Dan said. "It only got around Lansing and Cannon County."

"Hit big in Michigan, but nowhere else," Bob replied. "But Dan's a great guitarist."

"Think you can re-teach me?" Mike asked.

"Re-teach," Dan said. "Believe me, Michael, you need to be taught all over again. Who taught you to play before the Monkees?"

"I taught myself."

"Well, see, there's the problem. You have to have a teacher for everything you do, or else you'll never be good at it."

"Oh I don't know," Bob said, shrugging. "Jerry taught himself to dance, and he's very good at it."

"Dance?" Dan asked. "That's dancing? It's more like having an ice cube thrown down your shirt, the way he jumps around."

"Uhh," Bob said. "I'll, uhh, just see you guys later."

Bob walked off. Mike clicked his tongue against his teeth. He didn't like the way Dan was talking about his guitar playing or Jerry's dancing.

"I don't care if you badmouth my guitar playin'," he said. "But if you start puttin' down the talents of my friends, then I'm gonna have to blast you through the wall."

"A witch with a red hot temper," Dan said. "Fair enough. Let me go get my guitar and we'll get started."

Mike nodded. In the meantime, Jerry had just reached Hank's house. He walked through the front door and saw Christine rushing around, carrying an armload of clothes.

"HANK!" she shouted. "Where's my light blue sweater?!"

"You already packed it!" Hank shouted from upstairs. Jerry walked over to Linda, who was jamming things into a canvas bag.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"Mom's trying to get packed," Linda said. "What are you doing home early?"

"Oh, the radio station's thinking about reformatting, and all the DJ's were laid off."

"Oooh. Sorry to hear that. We've got it worse. Gram's not feeling well, so Mom and I are going to New York to spend time with her."

"It's a woman thing, Jerry," Hank said, coming down the stairs, followed by Christine, who was dragging a suitcase down the steps.

"It'll give you boys a chance to bond," she said. "Goodness knows the two of you need it!"

"I don't need to bond with my son-in-law!" Hank shouted. "I already know everything about him!"

"You don't know about his tattoo," Linda said.

"What?!" Hank shouted.

"Gotcha, Daddy!" Linda laughed. "I'm just kidding."

"Very funny, Linda," Jerry said, sarcastically.

Linda laughed. Hank picked up Christine's suitcase, and Jerry did the same with Linda's. Then the boys lugged them out to the car and put them in the trunk.

"How long are you gonna be gone?" Jerry asked.

"Until Mother's feeling better," Christine said.

"Then I guess we'll never see you again," Hank said. Jerry started to crack up, but the girls gave their men a killer Look.

"Very funny, Daddy," Linda said, sarcastically.

"I'm sorry," Hank said. "Well, give my regards to the ol' battle axe."

"Hank," Christine said, somewhat exasperated.

The girls got into the car and drove off. Hank and Jerry watched them go. Once they were out of sight (and out of earshot), Jerry rested his arm on Hank's shoulder.

"You know, I don't blame you for hating your mother-in-law," he said. "She really is a battle axe!"

Hank nodded, and pushed Jerry's arm off his shoulder. Then he walked inside. Jerry followed. Things really hit a lull. Jerry didn't have anything to do at Screen Gems, and he couldn't go to the radio station, either. Hank was off from work that day, too. The problem was that the two of them didn't have too much in common, although Hank did like R&B music, as did Jerry, but they really couldn't talk about that. Who was Hank to talk to the likes of Jerry Blavat about music? He knew nearly everyone in the industry. He was practically a music encyclopedia! Jerry didn't know any of Hank's other likes, either. As a matter of fact, they knew nearly nothing about each other, except the obvious. Finally, Hank turned on the radio to kill the silence, but the boys didn't speak to each other at all.

The next day, Jerry went to Screen Gems, and found Mike sitting next to Dan, and the two of them were playing the guitar.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey Jer," Mike said. "I'd like to talk, but I'm in the middle of a guitar lesson."

"Oh," Jerry said. "Sure. See ya."

Mike nodded and went back to playing. Jerry gave Dan a Look, and kept on walking. Dan looked over his shoulder, and gave Jerry that same dirty Look.

"What do you see in that guy?" he asked Mike.

"I dunno," Mike said, shrugging. "He's cool."

"Yeah. Sure."

"Well, he is!"

"Forget what I said. Let's continue the lesson."

Mike nodded, and continued strumming his guitar. He found that Dan was an exceptionally good teacher. He had endless amounts of patients, and never put down Mike's progress. He helped him with whatever he needed. The whole "lesson" was making Jerry a bit uneasy. Finally, Mike walked over to him.

"Sorry I took so long," he said. "But you do realize that I want to keep in practice."

"I know," Jerry said. "In case the Monkees go out on tour after long last, right?"

"Yeah. So what's up?"

"Well, the girls went to New York to hang out with Christine's mother. She's not feeling well, and that leaves me and Cap at home, and I'm dying."

"Why's that?"

"You know he doesn't like me too much. I mean, we don't have anything in common. Except maybe tastes in music, but other than that . . . ."

"I think I see what you mean."

"You got any suggestions for me?"

"Not a one. Sorry. But hey, I'll tell you what, why don't you just try to talk to Cap? You may find you have more in common than you think."

"I'll try it out tomorrow. So has the Writer come up with something new?"

Mike laughed and swatted Jerry in the shoulder. Then the two of them began talking about a movie idea the Writer should write. At any rate, the day went on as usual. Mike picked up his guitar and played a couple of licks on it. Jerry banged a tambourine for awhile. Dan walked over to them, picked up a bass, and began playing that. Once they were finished, Dan began tuning the bass a little.

"Is that all you know how to do, Jerry?" he asked.

"Well," Jerry said, a feeling a bit uncomfortable. "Uhh, Micky and Reggie got me on the drums."

"Better than nothing," Dan said.

"Well, Dan, he's a disc jockey," Mike said. "You can't expect them to know how to play anythin' 'cept records."

"Well thanks a lot, Mike!" Jerry shouted, folding his arms across his chest.

"Hey, come on," Mike said. "I didn't mean it like that."

"Forget it," Jerry said, shaking his head. "You're right. I don't know how to play anything except records."

"Not that it's a bad thing," Dan said. "The world needs your rock DJ's. How else can we musicians get our stuff on the air?"

"Right," Jerry said, nodding. "Um, I think I'm just gonna go now."

"Was it something I said?" Dan asked.

"Nah, I just . . . . . well . . . . ." Jerry just shrugged, and walked away, hoping Dan wouldn't figure out he just talked himself into a corner. Mike sighed.

"You know," Dan said. "I don't think he likes me."

"Every time you see him, you insult him," Mike said, shrugging.

"I don't mean to. I think before I talk."

"I know a lot of people like that, believe me."

The next morning, Dan came over to Mike's house for their lesson. Mike introduced him to Phyllis, Warren, and Carole. They weren't quite sure of what to make of him.

"He's a friend of Bob's father," Mike explained.

"I thought Bob's father was dead," Carole said, bluntly.

"He is," Dan said. "Don't worry, I'm just teaching Mike guitar, not stealing his money. I don't get paid for this."

"Uh huh," Phyllis said, sort of folding her arms.

"Uhh, listen, Dan," Mike said. "They, uhh, sorta know your attitude towards Jerry, and they don't like you for what you say about him, considerin' he's my best friend."

"I don't mean anything," Dan said. "Jerry just rubs me the wrong way for some reason, and the feeling is mutual."

"Just 'cause he's not a folkie," Phyllis said. "Mike, I'm going out. See you later."

"I've got to go to work," Carole said, checking her watch. "Nice meeting you, Mr. Harrisberg."

"I'll give both you girls a lift," Warren said. "Mike, I'll see you later, all right?"

"Sure, Pop," Mike said, as his father, stepmother, and wife left the house.

"They're nice," Dan said. "What exactly do they do all day?"

"Well, Carole's a nurse, and Dad and Phyllis hang out here. Dad used to be in the army, but he's retired, and Phyllis is just a typical housewife . . . . . with a singin' career. But enough about that."

Mike and Dan started the lesson. Dan thought Mike was showing great improvement. Once the lesson was over, Dan gave Mike a proposition.

"I'm starting up a band," he said. "I think you're exactly what I'm looking for."

"A group, huh?" Mike asked. "What exactly do you want me to do?"

"Play lead guitar, sing lead, and write," Dan said. "I'll be your manager. You'll like the guys I have to work with."

"Well, I don't know. I'll have to think about it. And both of us are gonna have to talk it over with Bob."

"No problem. I mean, Bob has a lot to work with, what with the Monkees, the Mallards, and the Discophonics, but I've got you guys on a different record label. I think you'll like it."

Mike shrugged. He wasn't too sure. He wasn't getting bad vibes about it or anything, but it still needed some serious thought. He dropped by the Stanleys and talked it over with Jerry.

"Man, I don't know," Jerry said. "Are you sure you wanna drop Screen Gems?"

"This is my chance to be the leader," Mike said. "Dan thinks I have real potential."

"Great. And, uh, how does that exactly help you keep your job at Screen Gems?"

"If all goes well, I'll probably quit Screen Gems. The movies aren't that much fun to make anymore anyway."

"I see."

"Look, I know I promised I'd help you out with the radio station situation, and I will! Tomorrow, I promise."

"You mean it?"

"Of course I do!"

"Well . . . ."

"Come on, have I ever steered you wrong?"

"Nah, I guess not."

"Great! I'll see you tomorrow, Jer."

"Sure. Catch you on the flip, Mike."

Mike ran out the door before he could say anything more. Usually when one of them said "Catch you on the flip," the other would respond with that very same line. Once again, Jerry felt a little uneasy about the entire thing. He brought it up with Hank that night during dinner.

"You don't have anything to worry about," Hank said. "Mike's not getting into anything he doesn't know about."

"You haven't met Dan," Jerry said. "He doesn't like me, and I don't like him. Bad chemistry, I guess. I'm just getting this feeling in the pit of my stomach."

"That's because the guy across the street works at a nuclear power plant."

That didn't help Jerry's gut feeling one bit. As a matter of fact, the doorbell rang just then, and it happened to be the guy (Jake Ronald) across the street, carrying what looked like a glowing rock.

"Don't get too close, boys," he said.

"Jake, what in the world is that?" Hank asked.

"We dug it up today," Jake said. "It was in the basement in the plant."

"You could probably use it to power a flashlight," Jerry said. "It's bright enough."

"Why'd you bring that thing around here, anyway?" Hank asked.

"I thought you could send it to your mother once Chris and Linda get back from their trip," Jake, who hated his own mother-in-law more than Hank hated his, replied. Jerry rolled his eyes and went back inside.

"Let me give you some advice, Jake," Hank said. "Take that night light back to the power plant."

"Oh. Sure."

Jake left then. Hank rolled his own eyes and shut the door. Jake came back from the plant with the craziest things sometimes. At any rate, when Jake got home, he put the rock on the table. The family dog, Fido, sniffed the rock, picked it up in his mouth, and ran out to the backyard. He buried it like a bone. No one thought about it until late that night. It was about three o' clock. Fido had buried the rock right next to the gas line. Somehow or another, the pipe exploded, releasing gas around the block. Everybody heard the explosion and ran outside their homes, and surrounded the Ronalds' house.

"Fido got hold of the rock," Jake said, putting on his gas mask and rubber gloves. He went out to the backyard and began a search. He found the rock, picked it up, and then dropped it immediately. The rock split into about a hundred pieces on impact, and somehow mixed with the gas, creating a pretty foul smelling poison. Jake ran inside and grabbed a bullhorn.

"ALL RIGHT!" he shouted at his neighbors. "THE ENTIRE AREA NEEDS TO BE EVACUATED! EVERYBODY OUT! NOW! THERE'S POISON GAS IN THE AREA!"

"There goes the neighborhood," Jerry said. "Literally!"

"Just shut up and run!" Hank shouted, and he and Jerry followed their panicked neighbors to a safe spot.

Some of Jake's coworkers were called in on the spot. The entire block had to be relocated, that was about all that the officials said.

"But what about all our stuff?" one woman asked.

"Well, no one's allowed back onto the property," one of the workers said. "The whole block needs to be sealed off, the gas cleaned up, and everything rebuilt."

"Rebuilt?" Hank repeated.

"Geez, I wonder what the girls are gonna think," Jerry said.

"I'm afraid everyone will have to clear out," another worker said. "It's too dangerous to be hanging around here!"

The people grumbled, but moved away anyway. A lot of them jumped into trucks with some of the clean up crew and were driven to nearby hotels. Jerry and Hank went directly to the Nesmiths and explained the whole thing.

"I really hate to ask this, Mike," Jerry said. "But both of us kinda sorta . . . . ."

"We didn't have time to grab any cash when we split from the house," Hank said. Jerry gave him a Look. Never in his life had he heard Hank use slang words.

"Yeah," he said. "At any rate, uhh, I was wondering . . . . . do you think you could loan us some money? We'll pay you back, of course."

"No," Mike said, shaking his head. "I'm not gonna loan you any money. Whattaya need a hotel for? You two are stayin' here for the night."

"Really, Mike," Hank said. "That isn't necessary."

"Yeah, we'd be better off in a hotel," Jerry said. "I mean, we wouldn't want to inconvenience you."

"Inconvenience my eye!" Mike shouted. "I won't hear another word! You two are stayin' here tonight, and that's that! What kind of friend would I be if I let you stay in some hotel?"

There was no point in arguing. It was late, Hank had to be at Station 51 at eight, and both Mike and Jerry were expected to be at Screen Gems at six. Morning rolled around.

"I hope you didn't leave your uniform at your house, Cap," Warren replied. "I just saw the news. They're gonna have to tear down every house on that block."

"And incinerate everything inside," Carole said. "The whole block's contaminated. They don't want to take any chances."

"Great," Jerry groaned. "Now what are we gonna do?"

"Buy some new stuff, I guess," Hank said, shrugging. "And I have a spare uniform in my locker down at the station."

That didn't solve all their problems. In the quick evacuation, Jerry and Hank didn't have time to gather any of their regular clothes. All either of them had on were T-shirts, boxer shorts, and bathrobes.

"Well," Mike said. "Jerry, you and I are roughly the same size, except I'm taller. Maybe you can borrow somethin' of mine."

"Mike, Jerry's a little thinner than you are, too," Carole said. "Heck, he's small enough to wear my clothes!"

"Uhh," Jerry said, quickly. "I'll just borrow something from Mike for right now, Carole, thanks."

Mike and Jerry retreated upstairs. Both of them were pretty much red-faced. At any rate, Hank cleared his throat and asked Warren if he could borrow something as well. Within minutes, Mike and Jerry came back down the stairs, and headed in to work. Everyone had heard about the gas on Jerry's block, and weren't surprised when he came in wearing one of Mike's typical "Monkee" shirts, although it was sort of long on Jerry. The sleeves were rolled up to Jerry's elbows (and they kept unrolling), and the jeans he was wearing had to be rolled up as well, or else he would trip on them. He was also wearing an old pair of Mike's sneakers, which were way too big on him as well.

"Jer, I honestly think you would've been better off wearin' a pair of Carole's jeans," Mike said. "My clothes are way too long on you."

"I know, but I'm not showing up to work wearing your stepmother's clothes," Jerry said.

"Don't sweat it, Jer," Davy said. "You and I ah the exact same 'eight, and although you're skinniah than me, I may 'ave a thing or two you can borrow until you get a chance to buy some new clothes."

"Yeah, thanks, Dave," Jerry said, rolling up one of his sleeves. "Mike, conjure up a couple of safety pins for me, would you? If you don't, I have a feeling I'm gonna be rolling these sleeves up all day."

Mike laughed, and snapped his fingers. Four safety pins appeared in his hands. Jerry fastened them to the shirt, and to the jeans, and then he went to go find the Writer to see if she had a new script. Mike picked up his guitar and began to strum. As he was doing that, Dan walked over to him.

"Sounding good," he said. "You're getting a lot better, Mike."

"Yeah, thanks," Mike said. "Uh, listen, I haven't had a chance to talk to Bob yet. Jerry's been goin' through a couple of rough days."

"Yeah, I heard about the gas," Dan said. "But I wouldn't worry about that right now. I really want you in this band I'm putting together."

"Look, I still have to think about it."

"What if I told you Bob already gave the okay?"

"You talked to Bob?"

"Last night over the phone. He thought the idea was great. It would get you out of his hair for awhile."

"Well . . . . well, see, I still don't know."

"Mike, all you have to do is sing and play guitar. I know you already do that with the Monkees, but this could be your big break to be the leader. I mean, think about it. You won't be stuck in the shadows, singing backup for pretty faces or wild and wacky drummers. And you won't have to worry about messing up tricky choreography for a DJ who thinks he can sing."

"Uhhh," Jerry said. He had just walked behind Mike and heard the comment.

"Oh," Mike said. "Hi, Jer."

"I didn't know you were there," Dan said. "If I did, I wouldn't have said it."

"Hey," Jerry said with a shrug. "I know I'm no Davy Jones, but I don't think I'm that bad. So, you gonna do a new group, Mike?"

"Umm, well, maybe," Mike said. "I'm not quite sure yet."

"Yeah," Jerry said. "I see. Well, ahhh, I'll call you later. Maybe we can get around to finding a new radio station or something."

"Yeah, sure."

Jerry walked off. Mike clicked his tongue against his teeth and looked at Dan.

"I think you hurt his feelings," he said.

"Well, I didn't mean to," Dan replied. "I didn't know he was standing right there. So what do you think of my offer?"

"Well, you already know I'm not terribly coordinated."

"I know, but still . . . . ."

Mike thought it over for a little while, and shook his head.

"Man, I still don't know," Mike said. "I like the concept . . . . . but I'm not sure if I want to leave Screen Gems or not."

"Well, it's okay with Bobby," Dan said. "I talked to him, remember."

"Yeah, I know. Look, I'll definitely think about it, and I'll have an answer for you by tomorrow. I promise."

Dan nodded and walked off. Mike sighed, and continued playing his guitar. That evening, he was telling Phyllis, Warren, Carole, and Hank about the offer. Jerry already knew about it.

"So are you gonna accept it?" Carole asked.

"I might," Mike said. "I've always wanted to be leader of a country rock band."

"Cool," Jerry said. And that was about it. Things hit a lull then. Hank cleared his throat.

"Well, we'll be leaving soon," he said.

"Eh?" Mike and Jerry said in unison.

"Jake called," Hank said. "He had news for us about the gas."

"Oh, please tell me it was a mistake," Jerry said.

"Unfortunately no," Hank went on. "The block's still contaminated. Like I said, everything has to be torn down, incinerated, and rebuilt. Jake just found a place for you and me to live until they can rebuild. It's a small house in Cherry Hill."

"Cherry Hill?" Mike repeated. "Oh, I know the place. Camille grew up in that city."

"Kinda far from LA, though, isn't it?" Phyllis asked.

"It was the only place with houses available," Hank said with a shrug. "It's like a row house. All the houses on that block are pretty small, about one and a half stories high, and they're kind of like something out of Leave It to Beaver, or along those lines at least."

"How many rooms?" Carole asked.

"Ehh, not too many," Hank admitted. "Two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen. Jake told me all about it. He told me there's one master bedroom, and a smaller one. Unfortunately he said it was about the size of a large closet."

"Uh huh," Jerry said. "I guess I'm sleeping on an army cot until we can move back to the old neighborhood, huh? And what are we gonna tell Christine and Linda?"

"We'll tell them the truth, and for them to stay in New York until we can find a bigger place. This house you and I are moving into now can only hold two people without feeling crowded. It's the best we can do for right now, Jerry. I don't want to put Mike out any more than we already have."

"Come on, you guys haven't done that!" Mike shouted.

"Not yet anyway," Jerry said. "Mike, believe me, I appreciate staying with you, but you'd get annoyed with me very easily. I talk in my sleep."

"I've heard him," Hank said, nodding. "It's like he's doing his radio show twenty-four seven. And it's a lot worse if he ever gets sick."

"Right," Jerry said. Then he turned to Hank. "Cap, you said this house was in Cherry Hill. How long would it take to drive from Cherry Hill to LA?"

"Hard to say," Hank said. "Traffic wise, I'd say about two hours. Maybe more if there's a lot of traffic."

Jerry nodded. It was all he could think about doing at the time. At any rate, he and Hank left for Cherry Hill, California. Jerry was on his cell phone, talking to Linda in New York about the whole situation. She wasn't too thrilled.

"What are we supposed to do when we're ready to come back?" she asked.

"Look, I don't know," Jerry said. "Your dad just said to stay in New York until they rebuild the block, or they find us a bigger house."

"So how are you and Daddy getting along?"

"I hardly ever see him. He's at work most of the time, and so am I."

"Found a new station yet?"

"No, not yet. To tell you the truth, I haven't even been looking."

"Why not?"

"Well, Mike promised he'd help me, but . . . ."

"Hey, Jerry," Hank said. "Turn off that phone of yours, okay? The battery's gonna run dead if you talk on it any longer."

"Oh," Jerry said. "Gotta go, Linda. I'll see you later."

Jerry turned off his phone and stashed it in the glove compartment. Then he stared out the car window. It was in the middle of rush hour, and traffic on the highway was murder. It took them at least two and a half hours to get to the house in Cherry Hill. Jerry didn't think it looked like much. He immediately called Bob on his cell phone and told him not to expect him to show up for work the next day. Hank wasn't too thrilled himself. He wanted to take the next day off, but he knew he couldn't. Jerry didn't understand the life and shifts of firemen, anyway. At any rate, both of them looked around the house, not knowing what to make of it.

"It's . . . ." Hank said.

"It's like something out of the past," Jerry replied.

"Well, it's not that bad!"

"Yeah. It's worse."

Hank shrugged. Truth be known, the house wasn't that bad. Indeed, it was small, only about a story and a half. It was also painted a pale green color, which Jerry thought was sort of weird to begin with. The interior was pretty strange in itself. The walls were hardwood, like the floor of the hall. The living room was furnished in 1960's: orange shag carpet, orange naugahide couch, a dial phone, and a small TV with rabbit ear antennae. There wasn't even a remote control, either. You had to change the channels using a dial! The kitchen looked pretty modern. The floor had an interesting pattern of yellowish pebble-like circles intertwined, and the wallpaper featured orange and brown mushrooms. There were two separate counters, one for cooking, and one for eating. There were orange bar stools at one of them. The oven wasn't like the one at the Stanley's old house, either. It had a dial on it, too! The microwave looked like it was straight out of the seventies!

"We just entered a time warp," Jerry said.

"Well, we might as well see what the bedrooms look like," Hank said, and he and Jerry walked up a few steps.

There were two bedrooms, and they were both pretty small. Although the master bedroom was a little larger than the other one. Apparently, Jake was right. The smaller bedroom was the size of a large closet. You could barely fit anything inside of it, just what appeared to be an army cot and a dresser. The ceiling sloped as well. Jerry wasn't so sure about that. There was barely enough room to walk. The master bedroom didn't have too much walking space, either. Just a double bed and dresser as well. The bathroom was at the end of the hall. It was your basic bathroom, but it clashed with the rest of the house's color scheme. The walls were small blue and purple square mosaic-like tiles.

"Please tell me we have running water," Hank said. Jerry turned on the faucet and a stream of water shot out.

"We're in luck," he said. "I just hope we don't have a septic tank, if you know what I mean."

"Nah, I asked Jake about it when he called and told us about this house. So what do you think?"

"I think I'm gonna ask Mike to use his magic to get the old neighborhood back to normal faster than it's gonna take Jake and the rest of the clean up crew to do it."

Hank sighed. He had a feeling it was going to take Jerry awhile to adjust to this. The next morning, Hank and Jerry got up at their normal times, but ended up late into work, because of that two and a half hour drive. Also Hank had to drop Jerry off, since Christine took the other car to the airport (why she did that, they'll never know).

"I thought you weren't coming in today," Bob said.

"I changed my mind," Jerry said. "Where's Mike?"

"Mike left already."

"I'm not that late, am I?"

"No, Dan came, and Mike told him he was gonna join up with the band. I told him to go right ahead. Get him out of my hair. Our Writer doesn't have anything for us to do, anyway. You need him for something?"

"No, not really. I'll call him later."

Jerry walked off. He picked up a newspaper Micky had left laying around and began to look over the classified ads, hoping he'd be able to find a radio station that needed a DJ, just in case the station he was working at now did decide to change their format. His cell phone rang the minute he sat down.

"Yeah?" Jerry said.

"Hey Geator," the station manager said. "We just made a final decision. We're definitely changing the format."

"Oh."

"Yeah. Just calling to tell you that. It's been a real slice."

The station manager hung up. Out of sheer frustration, Jerry turned off his phone, and threw it at the wall. It missed Reggie by a hair.

"Whoa!" he shouted. "Good news?"

"I'm fired," Jerry said. "That was the station manager calling to tell me they decided to change the format."

"Oh. Sorry. Hey, I know Mike said he was gonna help you look for a new job, but it's obvious he's not here, so . . . ."

"Yeah, thanks, Reg."

Jerry and Reggie went through the classifieds, but it appeared nobody needed an oldies disc jockey. Later, Jerry called Mike's house.

"Hey Geat, what's happenin'?" he said when he picked up the phone.

"Oh not much," Jerry said. "The house Cap and me are in now looks like something out of an HG Wells novel."

"That bad, huh?"

"Let me say this. I think Elvis Presley was the last decorator."

"Hmm. So what else is new?"

"Like I said, not much. I've been fired from the radio station. What's up with you?"

"Changed their format, huh?"

"Yeah. By the way, what's all that noise in the background?"

"Oh that. Well, I decided to have my new band over for dinner, you know, give Phyllis, Pop, and Carole a chance to get to know them. I would have invited you, but I don't know your new number."

"And I suppose you couldn't recall my cell phone number?"

"Oops. I forgot about the cell phone. Hey, listen, you want to come over now?"

"I'd like to, but I'm at Cherry Hill right now, and Cap's got the car. Reggie had to give me a ride over here, and it's just gonna take about four and a half hours total to drive here to pick me up and then back to your place, and then another two and a half hours to drive me back here."

"Oh. Well, maybe next time. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Yeah, sure. I'll drop by your place tomorrow. You can help me work out the bugs for the Geator Gold thing."

"Tomorrow's not good. Me and the band are gonna go record all day. Look, I'll call you later. What's the number?"

Jerry gave Mike his new number, and then hung up. Mike hung up as well, and walked into the kitchen, where Dan, his new group, and Carole were hanging out. Warren and Phyllis were steering clear of the whole scene.

"Explain to me who these are again," Carole said.

"Sure," Mike said. "You already know Dan, and he's our manager."

"Uh huh. Go on."

"Okay, well, from left to right, there's Mac who plays bass, Tim who plays drums, and Leon who plays keyboards."

"And what was wrong with the Monkees and the Mallards, might I ask?"

"I'm not the leader. Micky and Reggie are. And the same goes with the Discophonics. Besides which, I wanted to try somethin' new."

"Mike, sometimes I wonder about you."

Carole walked off. Mike shrugged and looked at his new band mates. The group began to stuff their faces. Phyllis was leaning against the kitchen door, watching them make pigs of themselves, totally disgusted.

"I don't like them," she said. "I don't know why, but I don't like them."

"Well, Mike just dropped four dinner guests on us," Warren said. "That's probably got somethin' to do with it, but I'm not entirely too sure. I don't like 'em myself."

"Darn right," Carole said. "Well, Dan's not so bad, but the other three . . . ."

Warren and Phyllis nodded in agreement. They had good reasons not to like Mac, Tim, and Leon. Mac was loud and he smoked cigars and cigarettes, and he liked to drink. Tim used a lot of profanity, and ate like a pig. He had absolutely no manners at all. Leon thought he was God's gift to women. He never treated women with respect. Every time one walked by, he'd wolf whistle at them. Many a time he got smacked by a woman's purse, but that never stopped him.

"Where did Dan dig these guys up?" Phyllis asked, coming into the room. "The trash heap?"

"Phyllis, come on," Mike said. "They're not that bad."

"Yeah, babe," Leon said. "We're not that bad, sweetie."

"That's Phyllis to you, creep," Phyllis said, giving Leon a dirty Look. Leon just laughed. Mike gave him another Look.

"Hey, I don't care how you treat women," he said. "But around here, you don't refer to my wife as 'babe,' 'sweetie,' or anythin' else, and the same goes with my stepmother."

"Gotcha," Leon said.

"Well, it's about time we left," Mac replied. "See you in the recording session tomorrow, Nez."

"Gotcha," Mike replied. "See you guys later."

The boys left, and Dan followed. Phyllis was greatly relieved. She didn't know if she could take those three much longer. The next day, Mike and his new band went in a recording studio to do some recording. They were in the middle of a song when Jerry walked into the control booth and sat down. Mike was concentrating too hard on his playing to notice. Once the song was over, and the boys took a break, Jerry walked down to the recording area.

"Hi," he said. "You sounded pretty good."

"Hey Jer," Mike said. "Yeah, thanks. I'll admit, these three guys are no Monkees or Mallards, but they're not bad. Personally, I think the Monkees and the Mallards could do this stuff better."

"What about us Discophonics?"

"No offense, Jer, but this sorta country rock just ain't your bag, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah."

"Hey Mike!" Tim shouted, shoving Jerry out of his way. "Great tune!"

"Yeah, man, you've got what it takes!" Leon shouted, nearly stepping on Jerry.

"You're just what the doctor ordered, fella," Mac said, pushing Jerry out of his own way. That last one did it. Jerry stumbled into a microphone, lost his balance, and crashed to the floor. The mic went with him, which resulted in some nasty feedback. Mac, Tim, and Leon stared at him for a moment or so and then burst out laughing.

"Have a nice trip, Shorty!" Mac laughed.

"See you next fall, Shrimp!" Leon teased.

"How's the weather down there, Tiny?!" Tim asked, in an overdramatic shout.

Jerry was determined not to let these guys get to him. He stood up, and brushed himself off. Mike didn't think it was very funny.

"Guys, come on," he said. "Knock it off."

"Oh sure, Mike," Mac said. Then he started snickering. Jerry rolled his eyes and started to walk off. Tim smiled sneakily and stuck his foot out in Jerry's path. The Geator didn't see it, and tripped, landing flat on his face.

"Walk much?" Tim asked.

That did it. Mac and Leon were screaming with laughter. Jerry leaned up and glared at the three of them. Mike walked over and helped him up.

"Jer, really," he said. "I'm sorry. These guys just . . . ."

"I know, Mike, I know," Jerry said. "Listen, can we talk?"

"Record now, talk later!" Tim shouted, pushing Jerry out of the way again. "Break's over!"

"Yeah," Mac said. "And since you're not invited to the whole shebang, Short Stuff, I suggested you get out of here and . . . . . . well, do whatever it is you short people do."

"Forget them, Jerry," Mike said. "You can hang around if you want."

"No thanks," Jerry said, glaring at Mac, Tim, and Leon. "I'd rather be eaten alive by cannibals than hang around here."

"Cannibals wouldn't even consider this kid an appetizer," Leon said, and he and the others cracked up. Jerry rolled his eyes and left without so much as a goodbye.

"Boy what a maroon," Mac said. "I wonder where he got that outfit he was wearing?"

"Looks like he found it in the trashcan," Leon laughed.

"That happened to be some of my clothes," Mike said, angrily. "I'll appreciate it if you didn't make fun of my friends, you guys."

"Aw, it was just a little fun!" Tim shouted. "Besides, short, skinny guys are made to be teased! They like it!"

"Oh they do not!" Mike shouted. "Besides, Jerry's been goin' through some hard times, and I really shouldn't be here recordin', but I am, and I'll thank you not to make fun of him again."

Mac, Leon, and Tim grumbled something, and then got back to work. A week later, Mike's band (they called themselves the Texas Prairie Chickens) released their first album. It immediately shot to number five. Mike was over at Jerry's, and the two of them were working on getting Jerry's radio network started.

"If you're short of cash, Jer, I can finance this thing," Mike said.

"Thanks," Jerry said. "I appreciate you helping me out like this, Mike. I really need the support."

"No problem. So what do we need to do first?"

"Well, we have to find an oldies station, that's the most important thing. Maybe one or two stations, and get them interested. And then . . . ."

The phone rang just then. Mike stood up and answered it.

"Oh, hi, Dan," he said. "I'm a little surprised you knew I was here. Oh, my dad told you, okay. So what's up? Oh you're kiddin'. You are kiddin'! That's great! Yeah, I'll be right over! Well, not right over. I'm at Cherry Hill, so it may take a couple of hours. Okay, see ya!"

Mike hung up the phone, grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

"Where are you going?" Jerry asked.

"The album hit number one," Mike said. "Dan said to meet him back at the recordin' studio whenever I can. He's gonna give us the schedule for the next few weeks."

"But what about my radio gig?"

"Oh, you're a smart guy, Jer. You can figure it out on your own."

"But Mike . . . ."

Mike was long gone. He ran out the door and drove off. Jerry stood on the front stoop and watched him go.

"You promised," he said, finishing his sentence. "You promised you'd help me."

Jerry wasn't the only one with problems. In the days that went by, Hank's career was slipping, as well. He came in late to work every shift, so that told him he would have to wake up earlier. Every time he got to the station, he was dead tired. He nearly fell asleep. And every time the klaxon went off, he went completely nuts, because it seemed to go off every second. He didn't have a minute to relax, either. There was an inspection that particular day, and Chief LaRoc was like a drill sergeant. He didn't like Hank too much either. At any rate, Station 51 fell in, and LaRoc began walking down the line.

"You guys still need haircuts, and a shave," he said to Dan Jacobs, Ned, and Paul (Dan and Paul had long hair, and Ned and Paul had mustaches).

"Yes sir," the three of them said in unison. LaRoc moved on.

"Lohen, I commend you," he said. "Always at attention, always with a regulation hair cut, nice and clean. You do Fifty-one proud!"

"Thank you, sir," Lohen said. Jacobs, Paul, and Ned glared at him, growling. LaRoc kept right on going.

"Wilcox," he said.

"Sir," T.J. said.

"Well . . . . at least your uniform's clean. I don't know what to make of the rest of you."

"I try, sir."

"Yes, well . . . ."

LaRoc moved on. T.J. was a little confused. No matter how many times the chief inspected him, he never knew what to say when he was done!

"Stanley, wake up," LaRoc said.

"I am awake, sir," Hank said. "I'm just resting my eyelids."

"Rest them on your own time."

"Yes sir."

"You've been slacking, Stanley."

"I know, sir. But I can explain."

"This better be good. I don't want to hear the same excuse you used when you kept ducking out for an hour to visit your son-in-law in the hospital."

"See, one of my neighbors brought home a nuclear rock and . . . ."

Hank explained his situation, but LaRoc didn't believe him. He just shook his head, and left, telling Hank to shape up, or ship out. The minute he left, the klaxon went off, and the station had to go out on a run. Try as he might, Hank just couldn't shape up. He was stressed. LaRoc was getting on his nerves, the klaxon was getting on his nerves, everything was getting on his nerves. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. The klaxon went off, but they only needed the paramedics for that particular run.

"That's it!" Hank yelled. "I've had it! This is the end!"

"What are you gonna do, Cap?" Ned asked.

"Here's what I think of this darn alarm!" Hank yelled, and yanked the wires right out of the klaxon.

"Cap!" Paul shouted, astonished.

"What're you lookin' at, you twit?!" Hank shouted.

Ned, Paul, and Lohen beat a hasty retreat. If there was one thing they didn't want, it was to get in Hank's path when he was mad. In the meantime, Jerry was over at the recording studio with Reggie. The three of them were waiting for Mike, who had agreed to do some Discophonic recording that day. He was late.

"If he doesn't show up in fifteen minutes, I'm going home," Reggie said.

"He'll be here," Jerry replied. "Don't worry."

"I don't know why you're sticking up for him, Jer," Micky, who had accompanied Reggie to the studio, said. "He's been letting you down."

"He's busy," Jerry said, shrugging. "But he'll be here."

"Hey guys," Mike said, coming in. "Sorry I'm late."

"See?" Jerry said, and he turned to Mike. "Hey, Mike, maybe after the session, you and I can discuss the radio thing a little . . . ."

"No time, Jerry," Mike interrupted. "I just came by to tell you I can't make the recordin' session. Gotta go! Bye!"

"Mike, wait a minute!" Micky called.

"You fill in, Mick!" Mike called as he ran off. "I got somethin' to do with the Chickens!"

"Rats is more like it," Reggie said, once Mike was out of earshot. "Jerry, you want to go ahead with the session?"

"No, not really," Jerry said. "I'll see you guys later."

Jerry left. Micky and Reggie looked at each other. They weren't sure what to think about Jerry's new withdrawn attitude. They just decided to leave him alone for awhile. They figured once Mike's band folded, things would go back to normal. Reggie was giving them one week before they flopped. Micky was sure they would just be one hit wonders.

Boy, was he wrong! The Texas Prairie Chickens released another album the same day as the cancelled Discophonics recording session. It sold a million copies in two days, a new world record. Two songs from the album hit number one fairly quickly. They had the number one and number two songs on the chart.

"We are hot!" Tim shouted.

"We're bigger than the Beatles!" Leon commented.

"Yay us!" Mac said. "We're number one! We're number one! Whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo!"

"Oh grow up," Dan mumbled. "What do you think of this, Mike?"

"I think they need to grow up," Mike replied. "But this whole fame thing isn't bad."

Mike called Jerry with the news. In fact, that's all he talked about. Jerry, who was usually the talker, couldn't get a word in!

"I gotta tell you, we're bigger than the Beatles!" he shouted.

"Great, Mike," Jerry said, unenthusiastically.

"We've got a tour scheduled. We're tryin' to think of an openin' act."

"Mm hmm. Great."

"You want to do it?"

"Nah, not really."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. Positive."

"Well, I'll call you while we're on tour. Why you want to stay home, anyway?"

"I don't know. Try to get my career in order. It's kind of shot, you know?"

"Still haven't found a station yet, huh?"

"Not an oldies one. Classic rock yes, but that's not my schticklatch."

"Well, buck up, buddy. You'll find one."

"I could really use your help."

"Yeah, well . . . . I gotta split. I'll see you later."

Mike hung up before Jerry could say anything else. He walked into the kitchen and began rummaging through the fridge.

"We got anything to eat?" he asked.

"I don't know," Phyllis said. "I think those Neanderthals ate everything last time they were here."

"Hey, they're not that bad!"

"Jerry was never like them."

"Well, nobody's perfect. Not even Jerry. I don't know what's with him, anyway. He never wants to do anythin' anymore."

"He's depressed about his radio show. He can't find a station that will accept his show, and that gets him down."

"Maybe he needs to look into takin' some pills that'll help his mood."

"He doesn't need any pills, Mike. What Jerry needs right now is your support."

"Honey, I've got a coast to coast tour startin' tomorrow and the Texas Prairie Chickens need me too. I offered Jerry a job as our openin' act, but he declined. It's his loss."

Phyllis shook her head, and walked off. The next morning, Mike left for his tour real early in the morning. Tim, being the inconsiderate jerk that he was, blew the horn on the bus at least twenty times, which woke up the whole neighborhood. Of course, he, Mac, and Leon thought that was the funniest thing in the whole world. Phyllis, Warren, and Carole didn't appreciate it, especially since it was five thirty in the morning.

"Oooohhh!" Phyllis groaned.

"Those men!" Carole shouted. "Once Mike comes home, I'm giving him a serious talking to!"

Warren didn't say anything. He just led the girls downstairs for breakfast, since they were all up, anyway. Later in the day, Hank arrived at Station 51, completely out of it. The others just stared at him.

"Hey, Cap," T.J. said. "Maybe you should talk to Chief LaRoc or maybe Chief McConikee. I'm sure once they hear your case, they'll late you take some time off and get us a replacement captain."

"They don't like me," Hank said. "At least LaRoc wasn't. I kept ducking out after Jerry was bit by that disease carrying mosquito, and you know McConikee and me aren't on good terms because I burned his hat."

"Yeah, how'd you do that anyway?"

"That is none of your business!"

Hank was never going to reveal the story of how he burned Chief McConikee's hat, and everyone was dying to know about it!

"So, how's Jerry?" T.J. asked, changing the subject.

"Well, he's a bit down," Hank said. "Ever since he was fired from the radio station, he's been sort of withdrawn. He's been trying to find a radio station, but he's not having much luck. Nesmith said he was gonna help Jerry, but he hasn't."

"Well, Mike's got that new band of his."

"Yeah, but he made a promise to Jerry."

T.J. shrugged. Things went by slowly. Very slowly. 51 received no calls that day. Later, LaRoc and McConikee stormed into Station 51, completely furious.

"TEN HUT!" LaRoc screamed. The men of 51 stood at complete attention.

"Well, I'm very proud of you," he said. "You blockheads!"

"What did we do now?" Jacobs asked.

"It's not what you did do," McConikee said. "It's what you didn't do."

"Okay, what didn't we do?" T.J. asked.

"There was a fire at City Hall today," LaRoc said. "Actually, fire isn't the word for it. It was more like a blazing inferno! Every station was called in, so where were you?!"

"Every station?" Lohen asked. "We weren't called in, sir."

"Of course you were!" LaRoc said.

"Well, we didn't hear the klaxon go off," T.J. said.

"That's probably 'cause Cap unplugged it," Paul said. "Oops."

"DUNBAR!" Hank screamed.

"YOU UNPLUGGED THE KLAXON?!" LaRoc bellowed, positively furious. Hank nearly jumped a mile!

"I can explain," Hank said.

"FORGET YOUR EXCUSES, STANLEY!" LaRoc screamed. "YOU'RE FIRED!"

"Okay, Mr. Spacely," Paul mumbled. Jacobs stomped on his foot to shut him up.

"Sir, if you'll just let him explain . . . ." T.J. started.

"SHUT UP, WILCOX!" LaRoc screamed. "THIS IS UNCALLED FOR! STANLEY, YOU'VE BEEN SLACKING, YOU'VE BEEN SLEEPING ON THE JOB, AND NOW YOU UNPLUG THE KLAXON?! WHAT KIND OF FIREMAN ARE YOU?!"

"A deaf one at the way he's yelling," T.J. mumbled.

"Shhh!" Jacobs hissed.

"I know, sir," Hank said. "And I don't blame you for firing me. I'll clean out my desk right away."

"GOOD!" LaRoc shouted. "I'M GLAD . . . . . . I mean, I'm glad we understand each other."

The others looked at LaRoc, and then each other. Then they realized that whenever the chief started a screaming fit, it was hard for him to stop. Hank immediately cleaned out his desk and packed his things in his car.

"I can't believe he fired you," T.J. said. "You're a great captain!"

"Yeah," Hank said. "If I'm such a good captain, how come I unplugged the klaxon?"

"It was driving you nuts. Sometimes I wish I could unplug Paul!"

"Don't we all. But listen, Wilcox, I deserve being fired. I wasn't paying attention. Imagine if we were on a run and I fell asleep."

Hank got into his car and headed for the freeway. Jerry was standing over the TV trying to get a signal when he came home.

"What are you doing here so early?" Jerry asked, looking up.

"I unplugged the klaxon and was fired," Hank replied.

"Oh," Jerry said. "What's a klaxon?"

"The alarm, Jerry."

"Oh."

Hank sounded a little irritated. Jerry decided not to push it. He was dying to ask questions, but he kept his mouth shut. They didn't get talking about it until dinner. Hank explained why he was fired to Jerry, other than the klaxon.

"So now what are we gonna do?" Jerry asked. "You're fired, I'm fired, neither of us are working . . . ."

"Well, you're still getting your paychecks from Screen Gems," Hank said. "That should keep us going for awhile."

"What I wouldn't give to talk to Mike."

"Why don't you call him?"

"He's on tour."

"Monkees or Mallards?"

"Texas Prairie Chickens."

"Must be his new band Wilcox mentioned. Why didn't he ask you to go?"

"He did. I just didn't want to go."

"You all right?"

"Yeah, why?"

"You just seem really out of it."

"I'm fine, really. I just hate not having anything to do, that's all."

"Then why didn't you go on tour with Mike."

"Because I can't stand his band mates, now can we please stop talking about it?!"

Jerry stood up, and stormed into his room. Hank was a little taken aback. Jerry hardly ever snapped at him like that. He decided to let Jerry cool off. A week went by. Jerry spent it by the phone, waiting for Mike to call. He never did. Phyllis received plenty of phone calls, though.

"Where are you guys now?" she asked.

"Wheeling, West Virginia," Mike replied. "This tour is the greatest thing, Phyllis! We've got a huge fan followin' already!"

"Good for you."

"We just broke for dinner."

"I know. I can hear Tim eating, and I use the term as loosely as possible, his dinner and everybody else's in the background. So have you called Jerry yet?"

"Jerry?"

Phyllis couldn't believe her ears. Mike had just might as well have said "Jerry who?" That's what the tone in his voice indicated, anyway.

"Jerry Blavat, the Geator with the Heater?" Phyllis said, getting a little edgy. "Your best friend?"

"Oh, man! I forgot!" Mike shouted.

"Forgot to call him, or forgot about him completely?"

"Well, I've been preoccupied."

"Mike! Jerry's financial situation has gotten worse. Captain Stanley was fired for disconnecting the alarm."

"Ooohh. That's bad. Okay, I'll call him after I hang up with you, I promise."

"You'd better."

"I will. I swear. Hey look, I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Sure. This may not be what I'm in the mood to say, but I'll say it anyway. I love you and I miss you."

"Same here. Bye."

Phyllis heard a click. She shook her head disgustedly and hung up the phone. She stifled the urge to yank it out of the wall and throw it on the floor. At any rate, in Cherry Hill, that awful dial phone's bell jangled. Hank picked it up.

"Hello?" he asked.

"Oh, hey Cap," Mike said. "Phyllis told me you were fired. Sorry to hear about it."

"It's no big deal. Listen, Jerry's not really in the mood to . . . ."

"DON'T HANG UP!" Jerry screeched, racing into the room. He yanked the phone out of Hank's hand.

"Mike, hi!" he shouted. "I was beginning to think you'd never call!"

"How are you doin'?" Mike asked.

"Okay, really. How much longer are you gonna be on tour?"

"A couple of weeks. Look, I would've called sooner, but I was busy."

"HEY MIKE!" Mac called from the other room. "HAVEN'T YOU GOT ANYTHING BETTER THAN LIGHT BOOZE?!"

"Now what was that?" Jerry asked.

"That's Mac," Mike said. "Hold on a sec, Jer. MAC, IT'S NOT MY BOOZE! I'M HYPOGLYCEMIC AND CAN'T DRINK, REMEMBER?!

"OH YEAH, I FORGOT!" Mac screamed. "THANKS!"

Jerry sort of rolled his eyes. He couldn't believe that Mac, Tim, and Leon were in the hotel room with him.

"Mike, are you still there?" he asked.

"Uh huh," Mike said. "Sorry, Jer. They tend to get a little noisy."

"A little? It sounds like they're all smashed out of their gourds!"

"Well, you never know. I heard about Cap. So . . . . . you need any help with finances or somethin'?"

"Umm, no, we're fine. We've still got my paychecks from Screen Gems. So how are you getting along with those guys?"

"Guys? What guys? They're pigs! I enjoy the Monkees company better. But Dan's great."

"Uh huh. Great."

"Okay, Jer, I know you're jealous."

"I'm not jealous."

"Well it sure sounds like it."

"I just never see you anymore, that's all! Okay, maybe I am a little jealous, but Linda's in New York, and I don't have the same relationship with the others like I have with you!"

"What about Reggie?"

"He's not you, Mike! I'm just really lonely, that's all."

"Yeah, okay. When we're done with the tour, I'll do somethin' about it, okay? I'll help you get back on the radio, I'll spend some time with you, I promise."

"You promise?"

"Cross my heart."

"Okay."

Jerry accepted that, and hung up, but somehow, he didn't feel any better. Three weeks went by. Mike returned home, and he was driving a new car. It was a two seater, and painted silver, and there was even a red ribbon tied around the hood. It looked like it cost a fortune.

"Hey guys!" he shouted.

"Where in the world did you get that?" Carole asked.

"I bought it," Mike said. "It's an early birthday present for you, Carole."

"What?!" Carole shouted. She was driving an old, beat up Station Wagon at the time. "Mike, I don't need a car!"

"I'd say you do," Mike replied. "You're drivin' that old, clunky piece of junk. Besides, I wanted to do somethin' nice for my favorite stepmommy."

"I'm your only stepmommy, and I don't need a car!"

"Mike, honestly," Warren said. "I know you're car crazy, but . . . ."

"It's for Carole," Mike said. "I think she should trade in that Station Wagon of hers."

"My Station Wagon runs fine," Carole said. "It's not that I don't appreciate the gesture, Mike, I think it's very thoughtful of you, but I just don't need anything fancy or flashy."

"No problem," Mike replied. "I'll keep it in a garage if you change your mind."

Mike took the keys to the car, and popped open the trunk. He began pulling boxes out of it right and left.

"I've got money to burn," he replied. "I'm a shoppaholic!"

"Mike, we've had plenty of money," Phyllis said. "Honestly, don't you think you're carrying this whole thing . . . . ."

"Later, honey, later!" Mike shouted. "I've got calls to make!"

Mike ran inside and straight to the phone. Phyllis, Carole, and Warren didn't know what to make of it. Two days later, Mike dropped by Screen Gems and handed a small box to Bob. Bob opened it, and found car keys.

"Mike, I already have a car," he said, and he almost handed the keys back to Mike.

"You have a Jeep," Mike said. "A Jeep isn't a car, but a Porsche is."

"A Porsche?!"

Bob ran outside, and found, in his parking space, a fire engine red, top of the line Porsche. His jaw nearly made a dent in the pavement. When he unlocked it, he let out an ear splitting shriek.

"Oh my god!" he yelled. "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! Mike, this is the best!"

"What'd you do with his Jeep?" Quacky asked.

"I had it put in storage," Mike said. "But the Porsche is nothin', Quacky-baby. Just wait 'till you see what I have for you."

Mike handed Quacky another set of car keys and led him around the back of the studio. There was a Cadillac, a lot like Quacky's current one, except Quacky's was dated from 1957, pink, and was a clunk of a car, but it ran great. This new Cadillac was silver, and brand new. Quacky wasn't so sure if he wanted to accept it.

"Wow, Mike," he said, politely. "It's . . . . great."

"Yeah, it runs smoother than that old clod hopper you were drivin'," Mike said. " All that thing was good for was scrap metal."

Quacky immediately felt faint. He really hoped Mike hadn't taken his Caddy and sold it for scrap.

"Yours is in storage, too," Mike said, quickly, and then he went back into the studio.

Quacky followed, feeling a little uneasy. Mike had really gone overboard with the presents. He brought Davy an electronic black book, for all his girlfriend's phone numbers. He gave Peter some top of the line incense to burn while he meditated. Mike even bought Valerie a pair of diamond earrings, and told Peter to give them to her.

"Michael, really," Peter said. "You didn't have to."

"I know," Mike said. "I wanted to. I haven't seen you guys in awhile."

"Yeah, that's for sure," Reggie said, somewhat bitterly. "You've practically abandoned us!"

"Look, I'm experimenting," Mike said.

"You had better not have put my bike in storage, that's all I have to say!"

"Nah, but I did get you somethin' to go with it."

Mike handed Reggie a box. Reggie opened it, and found a black leather jacket, made from Italian leather. It was a pretty expensive jacket, too.

"Thanks, Mike," Reggie said, but not like he meant it. He already had a black leather jacket, and was very content with it. He didn't need another, more expensive one. But he didn't say so. He just up and left.

Mike didn't notice anyway. He was busy looking for Jerry. He finally spotted him, going over one of the Writer's scripts on the table.

"Hi, Jerry," he said. Then he noticed Jerry's arm was in a sling. "What happened to your arm?"

"Oh, I fell of my bike and broke it last week," Jerry said. "I was riding it the other day, I was preoccupied, a car was coming, I swerved, I crashed, I broke my arm."

"Ouch. So how long is it gonna be in that thing?"

"Couple of weeks."

"Does it hurt much?"

"Nah, it's okay, really. Except I have to sleep on my back, and that gets uncomfortable after awhile. I wake up with a stiff neck."

"Oh. Well, come on outside. I got somethin' for you."

"What is it?"

"You'll see!"

Mike led Jerry outside. Once they were in the parking lot, Mike handed the Geator a set of keys. Then he pointed to a small, green sport's car.

"You like it?" Mike asked.

"Well," Jerry said. "I appreciate the car, but . . . . . I can't drive very well with one hand. Cap dropped me off this morning."

"Oh no problem. I'll drive you back to Cherry Hill in it. But really, this is a cool car. I got a red one just like it for myself. I got a green one for you, because, you know, Linda's favorite color is green."

"Yeah."

"You're not plannin' on hangin' here all day are you?"

"Well, no, why?"

"Because I've got a recordin' session this afternoon, and I have a feelin' it's gonna go late into the night, so I figure I'd drive you back to Cherry Hill now. By the time I get back, it'll probably be time for my recordin' session."

"Sure, Mike."

Mike and Jerry climbed into the car and started off. It was a very quiet drive home. Mike did all the talking. It was mostly about Dan and the Texas Prairie Chickens. Jerry just kept nodding. Mike barely noticed. Jerry just stared at his broken arm, like it was the most fascinating thing in the world. Once they reached the house, Jerry climbed out.

"Hey, I'll have someone follow me back out here tomorrow," Mike said. "Because I need to take it back so I can get back to LA."

"Whatever you say, Mike," Jerry said.

"I'll see you later, Jer!"

"Sure."

Mike got back into the car and drove off. Jerry just sighed and sat down on the stoop. Hank walked out a few minutes later.

"Where'd he get that?" he asked.

"He bought it for me," Jerry said. "Don't know why, though."

"Well, you've got to admit, we could use a second car."

"Yeah, but I can't drive very well for a few weeks anyway. Not with my broken arm."

"Well, if you had been paying attention while riding that darn bicycle of yours . . . ."

Jerry didn't respond. He stood up, and walked into the house. The next day, Mike was talking about a house he had just bought in the woods.

"It's a great location," he said. "Far away from everythin'!"

"Great, Mike," Phyllis said.

"Yeah, I thought so, too," Mike continued. "It's nice and private. The way I see it, you and I can move in there, and we can give this place to Dad and Carole."

"Now what are we gonna do with a big place like this?" Warren asked. "Besides, I like livin' with my son and daughter-in-law."

"So do I," Carole replied.

"Well, that's cool," Mike said. "But I figured we'd give you guys some privacy. You know a chance can be alone. Besides, a guy can't live with his parents his whole life."

"Well then, you can move if you want," Phyllis said. "I'm staying here. I like it here, I like living with Carole and Warren, and I don't want to move."

"Okay, fine," Mike said, shrugging. "I'll stay. We'll use the house in the woods as a summer home, like Sarah's got."

Mike was off and running again. Phyllis sighed. The whole fame thing was going to his head. She was worried about Jerry, too. He seemed so withdrawn, and Mike wasn't doing anything about it. Usually Mike could get Jerry to talk over his problems, but he was practically ignoring the Geator. Friday rolled around. Bob was bringing the mail into Screen Gems.

"Mike's having a party tomorrow night," he said. "To celebrate his band's third gold record."

"Whoop dee doo," Reggie said, sarcastically, and waving his finger in a circle.

"Let me guess," Jerry said. "I'm not invited."

"Yeah you are," Bob said, handing the Geator an invitation. "You want one of us to pick you up at that Cherry Hill place?"

"I don't know," Jerry said. "I don't know if I want to go or not."

"Well, I'm going," Camille said. "I'm dying to meet those band mates of his."

"I met them," Jerry said. "They're not a pretty sight. We have a smoker, an eater, and a harrasser!"

"Maybe I can straighten them out," Camille said, giving Jerry a sneaky look. "Me or Sarah at least."

Jerry thought that over. Sarah really couldn't stand men like Leon. She'd be likely to pound him into the pavement. Now that would have been a sight to see. So Jerry explained the whole thing to Hank.

"Is this gonna be one of those wild parties?" he asked.

"Only if Leon gets fresh with Sarah," Jerry said. "If he does, we are talking about a blood bath that'll make professional wrestling look like a ballet lesson. Look, I just need a ride, please?"

"All right. But I don't want you driving back here. Call me, or get Reggie or someone to drive you back, all right? Because I have a feeling you're going to be drinking. In case you haven't noticed, Mike's been ignoring you, and tonight won't be an exception."

Jerry agreed. The next night, Hank drove Jerry over to Mike's house in the woods. Cars were parked all over the place and loud music was blaring. Hank was happy he wasn't invited to this! He and Jerry walked up to the door, and banged on it as loudly as they could. The music seemed louder when the door opened. Hank and Jerry expected Mike to be standing there, but they were surprised when they found T.J. had answered the door.

"T.J., what are you doing here?" Hank asked.

"Oh, hi, Cap," T.J. said. "Mike invited me, but I didn't know he invited you!"

"He didn't," Hank said. "I'm just dropping Jerry off, since he can't drive with one hand. Listen, can you get Mike for me? I want to talk to him."

"Sure. I'll see if I can find him."

T.J. walked off. He returned a few minutes later with Mike.

"Look, Mike," Hank said. "We need to talk. I want someone to drive Jerry home after this party is over. I have the feeling he's gonna be drunk."

"I'm sure he can drive," Mike said. "I drive with a broken arm. It's when you've got a broken leg that you can't drive."

"Okay," Hank said. "But if he's been drinking, I want someone to drive him home. And watch him. He's been really depressed lately."

"Will do."

Hank nodded, and left. Mike and Jerry walked inside. The minute they were inside, Jerry tried to talk to Mike, but he left before he could get a chance to say anything. He sighed, and walked over to the bar. He would probably ask Quacky to give him a lift back, since he never drank. Jerry sat at the bar and watched the other guests. Reggie was talking to Sarah about Mike's behavior when Leon stepped between them.

"Hey baby," he said, slyly. "Yeah, baby, yeah. Why don't you and I get it on, get it on, get it on, baby, baby."

"Over my dead body, punk!" Sarah shouted.

"Yeah, watch it, fella," Reggie said.

"Why?" Leon asked. "She your girl? 'Cause if she is, forget it. She's gonna be my girl."

"She's not 'my' girl," Reggie said. "She isn't anybody's girl! Girls aren't possessions, so stop treating them like they are!"

"Come on, Reggie, let's get out of here," Sarah said. "Away from this bozo."

Reggie glared at Leon and walked off. Leon gave Reggie a Look, and went on to the next girl he saw. He came across Camille and wolf whistled at her.

"Yeah baby!" he shouted. "Give it to me, baby! Yeah!"

"Sure," Camille said, and slugged him. Leon stumbled backwards and landed flat on his back on the floor. Everyone cracked up. Now that discouraged him. He laid off the women for the rest of the night. It was the first time any girl had ever slugged him. He usually got slapped, or bopped over the head with their purses.

At any rate, the party was starting to go on all night. Jerry desperately tried to talk to Mike, but he kept waving him off. Jerry just went back to the bar, until he was totally stoned drunk. It was about three o' clock in the morning when he finally was able to talk to Mike, but only to ask him if he knew where Quacky was.

"I gotta go home," he said. "I'm feeling lousy."

"Well, Quacky left already," Mike said.

"Have you been drinking?" Micky asked. Jerry nodded.

"Yeah, thought so," Reggie said. "I'll admit, I have, to. I don't think I should drive."

"Me neither," Micky said. "I'm gonna call Sammy. She'll probably be glad to give you a lift back to Cherry Hill, Geat."

"It's too far out of her way, and it's three in the morning," Jerry said.

"Well, Mike, you haven't been drinking," Reggie said. "You're sober."

"Yeah, but I can't drive for two hours," Mike said. "Jer, you'll be fine. Here, take the keys to my sports car, and just drive yourself home. You're not that drunk, anyway."

"Mike, he's smashed!" Reggie yelled.

"Oh, he is not!" Mike (who was totally and completely sober) shouted. "Just slightly tipsy."

"Isn't that the same thing?" Micky asked.

"Nah," Mike said, handing Jerry the keys. "Look, by the time I drive him to Cherry Hill, it'll be five, and then I gotta get back to LA, and it'll be seven, and I have a recordin' session at seven thirty. I'm gonna need four to six thirty for sleep."

Reggie and Micky weren't sure about it, but they left anyway, to call Samantha, who was unable to come to the party in the first place. Jerry took Mike's car keys and left. He was in no condition to drive. He climbed in, and started the car. He could only keep one hand on the steering wheel, due to his broken arm. His vision was fuzzy, and he felt like he was going to be sick. He couldn't concentrate on where he was going. Jerry was heading right for a guard rail. Of course, he smashed right through it.

CRASH!

The guard rail blocked off a cliff, and Mike's car skidded down. Amazingly, it didn't roll. The car skidded to the ground, and Jerry was thrown against the windshield, banging his head against it. The blow knocked him out cold and cracked the windshield, and the car was still skidding. It finally hit a long. Jerry was catapulted from the car into the adjacent lake. SPLASH! Since he was unconscious, he wasn't able to swim out of the lake, or come up for air. It was surprising no one heard a thing at the party, since the accident sight was nearby. The music was too loud. Mike's sixth sense started twinging a little, but he ignored it. Luckily for Jerry, there was a convent nearby. Three nuns had heard the commotion and ran out to see what all the noise was. The third nun (who was the Reverend Mother) pointed her flashlight at the lake, and saw a limp figure slowly sinking to the bottom.

"Sister Mary Joan," she said immediately. "Help me get this poor man out of the lake. Sister Mary Bernadette, call the paramedics at once!"

"Yes, Reverend Mother," Sister Mary Bernadette shouted, and ran off. The Reverend Mother and Sister Mary Joan climbed into the lake and pulled Jerry out as gently as they could.

"Gently, Sister," the Reverend Mother said. "He may have hit his head."

"Maybe we should check to see if he has any identification," Sister Mary Joan said.

The two nuns began to search Jerry's pockets until they unearthed his wallet. They found his ID, as well as a piece of paper with his new phone number on it. The Reverend Mother told Sister Mary Joan to call it immediately. The local medics arrived shortly, and called in to Rampart General.

"Rampart, this is Squad Forty-nine," one of the medics said, as her partner checked Jerry's vitals.

"Forty-nine, this is Rampart," Dixie said. "Go ahead."

"Rampart, we have a car crash victim, male, in his mid twenties," the paramedic said. "Appears to have almost drowned. Also has noticeable broken arm. Probably broken before this accident."

"Administer CPR if necessary, and oxygen. Transport immediately."

"Ten four, Rampart."

An ambulance arrived shortly afterward. The two paramedics gave Jerry CPR and then slipped an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. Then they loaded him onto a gurney and transported him to the hospital immediately. Sister Mary Joan had just gotten through to Hank, and was explaining everything.

"We heard the car crash," she said. "And then it sounded like someone jumped into the lake. Reverend Mother, Sister Mary Bernadette, and myself went outside to see what the trouble was, and we saw the wrecked car, and then your son . . . ."

"Son-in-law," Hank corrected.

"Well, we found him in the lake. We think he hit his head and lost consciousness and was unable to swim out. We called the paramedics, and they took him to the hospital. I'm sorry to disturb you so late, but . . . ."

"No, I'm glad you did. Jerry was probably drunk and he thought he could drive."

Hank hung up the phone, and called Mike right away. Of course, he was still at the party, so Phyllis ended up answering the phone.

"Is your inconsiderate husband around?" he asked.

"He's still at the party," Phyllis said. "Why, what's the matter?"

"Well, he'd better be drunk, that's all I have to say."

"Cap, what's the matter?"

"I got a call from a nun named Sister Mary Joan, who found Jerry laying unconscious in the lake outside her convent. There was a smashed red sports car by a log. Apparently, Jerry had been catapulted into the lake after hitting a log!"

"Oh no. I'll call Mike and meet you at the hospital!"

Phyllis and Hank hung up. Phyllis immediately called Mike, and screamed the situation to him (the music was too loud) and then raced to Rampart General Hospital. She and Hank reached it at the exact same time, nervous as anything. Lynn was waiting for them.

"Where's Mike?" she asked.

"Right here," Mike said, running over. "Where's Jerry?"

"We've admitted him to a room," Lynn said. "Follow me."

Lynn lead Mike, Phyllis, and Hank across the hall, and into one of the rooms. Jerry was still unconscious. There was a bandage tied around his head, an IV tube stuck in his arm, and a nasal canula in his nose. His other arm was still in the sling.

"We checked his blood alcohol level," Lynn said. "It's about twice the legal limit. He shouldn't have been driving."

"Mike, I oughta . . . ." Hank said, lunging for Mike.

"Whoa, whoa!" Lynn shouted, stepping in between them. "Cap, relax! Jerry's going to be fine!"

"But I let him drive drunk," Mike said.

"Well, maybe your blood alcohol level is off the charts," Lynn said.

"If it was, I'd be passed out on the floor," Mike replied. "I didn't have a drink all night. I'm completely sober."

"What? You were sober and you let him drive drunk?! What's the matter with you?!"

Lynn smacked Mike over the head for that one. Mike just shrugged.

"I was preoccupied," he answered feebly.

"Preoccupied or not, you shouldn't have let him drive!" Phyllis shouted.

Hank glared at Mike, and stormed into the room. He pulled up a chair and sat down. Mike turned away and started down the hall. Phyllis followed.

"You're not going to stay?" she asked.

"I don't need to," Mike said. "I've got somethin' more important on my mind."

"Like what?"

"Like who's gonna pay for the damage to my car."

"Oh Mike!"

Phyllis picked up her pace and stormed away from her husband as quickly as she could. Mike just shrugged. News of the accident leaked around Screen Gems. Everyone knew what happened by noon. Mike was with Dan and the Texas Prairie Chickens.

"Hey, it's his fault he crashed," Mac said.

"Yeah, he was the one drinking and driving," Tim said. "Whatta moron."

"If he was stupid enough to crash up, it's his fault," Leon said. "You didn't make him drink or drive."

"Yeah, but he let him drive," Dan commented. "Even though you shouldn't have."

"What's the big deal?" Mike asked. "Can we just record the song, please?"

Mike and the Chickens went to recording. Dan shook his head. Jerry was released from Rampart that evening. He and Hank were pretty quiet on the way home.

"I'm glad the crash wasn't that serious," Hank said.

"But it could've been," Jerry said. "I could've gotten killed, I could've killed someone else, I shouldn't have been driving. Mike must be pretty mad at me for wrecking his car."

"If he wants to get mad, let him. He let you drive drunk."

"Yeah, but it's partly my fault because I was driving. Mike called earlier. He talked with his insurance company. He said they said the crash was my fault because I was driving."

"But it's partly his fault for allowing you to drive drunk. And he didn't even care that you might have been killed. Phyllis told me he was worried about paying off the damages of his car! I have to tell you, Jerry, he's not being a very good friend to you."

"He's busy. He was busy last night, too. He's got a lot on his mind, Cap."

"How long are you going to stick up for him? You really needed him, Jerry. He wasn't there. He hasn't been there when you needed him. He's just abandoning you!"

"He isn't abandoning me! Mike's got a new group to handle, and . . . . ."

"No. I don't want to hear it. You're sticking up for him, and you shouldn't. You should be angry with him. He promised he'd help you work the bugs out of your radio network, and he hasn't. He told me he'd make sure you didn't drive drunk and look what happened. He let you down more than once, and I just won't stand for it anymore."

Jerry sighed. Hank had a point. Mike had been letting him down lately, and it was all for fame and glory, and money. Let's not forget the money. Jerry went to his house later, and knocked on the door. Carole answered it.

"Oh, hi, Jer," she said. "Mike's downstairs in his private recording studio. I'll go get him. How are you feeling, by the way?"

"All right," Jerry replied. "Lucky for me the accident wasn't as bad as it could have been."

"I would have been better if Mike staid with you for the night. It would've been more comforting for you to have someone you knew at the hospital when you woke up."

"Well, Cap was there, so it wasn't so bad."

Carole nodded, and walked over to the basement door. Jerry sat down on the couch in the living room and waited. Mike must have been recording something, or another because when Carole opened the door . . . . .

"CAROLE!" Mike yelled. "I TOLD YOU NEVER TO INTERRUPT ME WHEN THE RED LIGHT IS ON!"

"Mike, Jerry's here to see you," Carole said, calmly.

"Well, tell him to go home! I'm busy!"

"Michael, you've ignored Jerry long enough! You come up here this minute!"

"I'm workin'! Tell Jerry to come back later! Dan and I are workin'!"

"ROBERT MICHAEL NESMITH, YOU GET YOUR BUTT UP HERE THIS INSTANT!"

With that, Mike ran up the stairs and into the living room. He didn't want to antagonize his stepmother, especially since she was screaming at the top of her lungs, and using his full name. Mike calmly walked into the living room, looked at Jerry, and jammed his hands into the pockets of the jean jacket he was wearing.

"Heya," he said.

"Hi," Jerry replied. "Listen, Mike, we need to talk."

"What about?"

"My radio network. The Texas Prairie Chickens. Everything."

"Well, don't start harpin' on them."

"No, it's not Mac, Tim, or Leon I want to talk about, it's Dan."

"Well, what's your problem with Dan?"

"You're spending way too much time with him, don't you realize that? Phyllis must not be too happy with you."

"She's mad because I'm worried about my car. The one that you totaled."

"I didn't total . . . . . look, Mike, it's just a car! It's a replaceable car! Don't you realize I could have killed someone because you let me drive drunk?"

"Don't you start on that too. If you were thinkin' that night, you wouldn't have driven! You would've found someone to drive you back to Cherry Hill!"

"But you were the only one at the party who wasn't drunk!"

"Forget it, Jerry, just forget it. We'll talk later. I've got business downstairs to handle with Dan. I can't worry about your problems. They're not important. I've got problems of my own. A song of mine only hit number two on the charts and it only sold a million copies nationwide."

"Not important? Mike, listen to me! I've been fired, Cap's been fired, our block had to be evacuated because of poison gas, we had to move two hours away from our careers, I've suffered a broken arm, and I almost drowned! How can you worry about a song being number two on the charts or your records only selling a million copies? I'd consider those pretty good, Mike!"

"Yeah, well, Dan's tryin' to have us do better."

"It's all about Dan. Well, let me tell you something, Mike. Dan Harrisberg is just a huge jerk, and so are you! You are the biggest jerk I've ever known!"

Mike glared, pulled his fist back, and punched Jerry in the eye. Jerry stumbled backwards and landed on the couch. He put his hand over his eye, and looked at Mike, shocked.

"Get out," Mike said. "Get out of my house and out of my sight! Dan Harrisberg is not a jerk! He's the greatest! You're the one bein' the jerk! I don't ever want to see your face around here again! All you ever do is complain about your pathetic little life!"

Jerry just looked at Mike, and left. He ran out of the house and into his car as fast as he could. Mike just shook his head, and walked back down the stairs. Dan was tuning his guitar.

"What was all the yelling about?" he asked.

"Nothin'," Mike said. "Absolutely nothin'. Let's get back to work."

Dan shrugged and went back to work. He forgot about Jerry for the time being. When Jerry returned to the house, he threw the door open, ran inside, kicked the door shut, and threw himself on the couch face first. He buried his face in one of the throw pillows and just let out an extremely loud scream. If his face hadn't been buried, that scream would have broke the sound barrier. Hank walked in and stood in the doorway.

"Jerry?" he asked.

"Yeah?" Jerry asked, leaning up, and glancing over at his father-in-law.

"Something wrong?"

"Oh . . . . nothing much. Mike and I had a fight."

"What happened?"

"I'd rather not talk about it. He's real stressed. I called him a jerk, but I didn't really mean it. I was frustrated."

"Jerry, Jerry, Jerry. Mike is being a jerk. What did he do when you said that?"

"Slugged me."

"There, you see what I mean? Look, maybe . . . . maybe you and Mike just shouldn't be friends anymore. It's like he doesn't want you for a friend anymore."

"Yeah. He's got a new best friend now. He's spending all his time with Dan Harrisberg."

Jerry stood up and went to his room. Hank sighed. He was ready to kill Mike. A few days went by. The Texas Prairie Chickens were fading. Tim, Mac, and Leon quit the band once the group's latest song hit number three and stalled. So Mike was solo, and he and Dan were still hanging out, working out the bugs in their system.

"Maybe it's time you go back to Screen Gems," Dan said. "I'm sure that'll make everyone happy."

"No, I like it with Bob and them out of my hair," Mike said.

"And what about Jerry?"

"Jerry who? If you mean Jerry Blavat, I have nothin' to say about that jerk. All he ever does was complain about his problems."

"What kind of problems?"

"Well, let's see, both he and his father-in-law were fired from their jobs. No other station is interested in Jerry, Captain Stanley can't get another job, either for that matter. They had to move to Cherry Hill which is about two and a half hours from here, because their neighbor's dog buried a nuclear rock that blew up a gas pipe. Then Jerry broke his arm, and nearly killed himself while wreckin' my car."

"Well, Mike, you have to admit, those are some pretty serious problems there. And I have heard you say that you promised to help him."

"Yeah well . . . . . Jerry's just bein' a jerk."

"No, Mike. You're the one being a jerk."

Mike shook his head and walked away. Two weeks went by. Jerry's morale was falling fast. He stopped looking for jobs on the radio. He stopped looking for jobs all together. He told Bob he wasn't coming into work until he and Hank were relocated to somewhere closer to the studio, because the commute was too much for him. He was really out of it. Hank was growing a little concerned.

"Something wrong?" he asked over dinner. Jerry was just picking at it. He shook his head.

"I'm not very hungry," he replied.

"Jerry, you haven't been eating much. You've lost a lot of weight these past few weeks."

"I'm just not hungry."

"I hope you're not coming down with something."

Jerry just got up and went upstairs. Hank sighed and went back to dinner. The next day, Jerry actually went into work. He was going through a script when he saw Mike and Dan Harrisberg walk over to him.

"I want to tell you we're not friends anymore," he said. "Dan's my new best friend."

"Well, where does that leave me?" Jerry asked.

"Go back to Philadelphia where you can from," Dan said. "You'll get a better chance of finding a radio station there than here."

"Yeah, no one wants to listen to those moldy oldies you play," Mike replied.

""But Mike," Jerry said, standing up. "I really didn't mean to call you a jerk, I was just frustrated with you."

"It's too late," Mike said. "Now get outta here before I have my men throw you out."

"What men?" Jerry asked.

Mike snapped his fingers. Mac, Tim, and Leon appeared from out of nowhere. Mac grabbed one of Jerry's arms, Tim grabbed the other, and Leon took hold of Jerry's legs. The three of them carried the Geator out of Screen Gems. Mike and Dan followed. They walked to a nearby cliff.

"Okay, toss him over," Mike said.

"What?!" Jerry shouted. "Mike, wait a minute!"

"Like I said, it's too late for apologies," Mike said. "Bye bye, Jerry!"

"MIIIIIKE!" Jerry shrieked as Mac, Tim, and Leon threw him over the cliff.

Jerry then woke up with a start. The entire incident had been a dream. He glanced over at the clock. It was only eleven thirty. It felt like it should have been later. Jerry sighed and went back to sleep. It was a pretty turbulent night.

At the studio the next day, Mike had told him that they weren't friends anymore, and then used his power to create some mass destruction, including a thunderstorm. Bolts of lightning soared from the sky and were aimed right at Jerry.

"YOU'LL PAY FOR CALLIN' ME A JERK!" Mike yelled at him.

"Mike, please!" Jerry shouted, dodging a lightning bolt.

Mike just laughed evilly. He raised his hands into the air, and lightning shot out of them. He created an earthquake then. Jerry could barely stay on his feet. He was screaming in terror.

"Oh Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!" Mike shouted over and over, laughing his head off. Jerry just kept screaming.

"Jerry!" Mike shouted, but suddenly, it didn't sound like Mike. It sounded more like Hank.

"Jerry! Jerry wake up!"

It definitely was Hank. Jerry slowly opened his eyes, only to realize he was dreaming again. He groaned, and looked up at his father-in-law.

"What time is it?" he asked.

"Three forty-five in the morning," Hank said. "I heard you moaning, yelling, and screaming all the way from my room! Must've been some nightmare."

Jerry didn't answer. He felt a slight buzzing sensation in his ear. His head was aching, too. His throat felt a little sore as well.

"Are you all right, Jerry?" Hank asked. "You don't look so well."

"I don't know," Jerry said, shaking his head. "My ears are ringing, my head hurts, and my throat hurts."

Hank put his hand on Jerry's forehead for a moment, and then headed for the bathroom.

"Jerry, you go into my room," he said. "I think you'll be more comfortable in there."

"Why?" Jerry asked, standing up.

"Well, I think you've come down with something."

Jerry nodded and walked down the hall into Hank's room. He nearly collapsed on the bed. Hank returned shortly with a thermometer. He stuck it in Jerry's mouth and then picked up the phone.

"Who are you calling?" Jerry asked, taking the thermometer out his mouth for a second.

"Put that back in and leave it there," Hank said. "I'm calling any doctor on duty this late at Rampart."

Jerry nodded, and put the thermometer back in his mouth. Hank was put on hold for at least three minutes. He took the thermometer out of Jerry's mouth and looked at it. By that time, Dr. Brackett finally got to him.

"What's with the late call, Hank?" he asked.

"What are you still doing there at this time of day?" Hank asked.

"Schedule shift. What's the problem?"

"Well, in case you haven't guessed, it's Jerry."

"I guessed."

"Well, he's got a headache, a sore throat, and ringing in his ears."

"Any fever?"

"A small one. A hundred and one, actually."

"Coughing or sneezing?"

"No."

"Well, it's probably strep throat. Treated very easily with penicillin. I can recommend another doctor in Cherry Hill, so you won't have to drive all the way here, because we'd have to do a throat culture to determine whether or not it's strep. But you'd have to wait until tomorrow morning. It's very unlikely they'd be there a four in the morning."

"Will do."

Hank hung up and turned to Jerry.

"Okay, get in bed," he ordered.

"What did Dr. Brackett say?" Jerry asked, as he climbed into the bed.

"Well, he said it sounds like strep, but we can't be sure until we get you to a doctor to do a throat culture, and we'll have to wait until tomorrow for that. In the meantime, you need your rest."

Jerry nodded, and closed his eyes. He had a feeling it was going to be a very long night. He woke up about five times. At nine in the morning, he was a wreck. He and Hank drove to the local doctor in a nearby medical center. He performed a throat culture, and told Hank that he'd have the results later that afternoon. Jerry slept most of the day. Hank waited by the phone. Finally the doctor called.

"I have good news, Mr. Stanley," he said. "It's not strep throat. Jerry just has a slight variation of the common cold. The only advice I have to give you is to make sure he gets plenty of rest, increase his fluid intake, and give him some Aspirin for his headache."

"Okay, thanks, doc," Hank said, and he hung up. He was just relieved it wasn't strep!

Later that day, Mike dropped by the house. Hank was a little surprised to see him.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"Cut the gab, where's Jerry?" Mike asked.

"Not feeling well. He's got a cold, and he should be sleeping."

"A cold. Figures. Just another thing for him to complain about."

"What's the matter with you, Mike?"

"Everyone's gettin' on my case. I don't even know why you bother with Jerry in the first place."

"He's my son-in-law, that's why I bother. Linda loves him, and I don't want her to be upset with me about Jerry."

"Well, I'll have you know that he can just be a burden sometimes!"

"Yes, I know. He can be very trying, especially when he's sick. Sometimes, taking care of him is just a chore. He can really get annoying, too, especially lately. He mopes around, he doesn't talk, he doesn't eat, he keeps me awake with his nightmares, I don't know why I bother, either, Mike!"

Jerry happened to be standing in the hallway. Hank and Mike didn't even see him. He heard the entire conversation. He turned around and went back to the smaller bedroom. He changed into some clothes, walked down the stairs and snuck past Mike and Hank, who were still talking about Jerry. He walked into the kitchen, opened the back door, and left.

"I'll do Cap a favor," he said. "I won't burden him any longer."

Jerry walked down the block. He had no idea where in the world he was going to go, but he just knew if he wanted to get anywhere, he would just have to keep walking. At any rate, Mike and Hank were still talking.

"It may be trying, but it doesn't matter," Hank said. "Jerry is generally a pretty good patient."

"Yeah, he is," Mike said. "At any rate, I didn't come to put him down or anythin' like that. I just wanted to apologize for the way I've been actin'. I've really let him down and I'm sorry."

"I think he'll appreciate it. Come on. He should be awake by now."

Mike and Hank climbed up the small staircase and headed for the bedroom. To their complete shock, Jerry was gone.

"He was here right before I answered the door," Hank said.

Mike's sixth sense began to tingle then. He put his hand to the side of his head, and concentrated a moment or so.

"You don't think he heard us talkin', do you?" Mike asked. "Callin' him a nuisance and such?"

"I think you're right. We'd better find him."

"I'll round up a search party. He couldn't have gotten far. We'd better find him fast. I heard it was gonna rain today!"

Mike and Hank dashed out of the house and began searching, calling out Jerry's name. Mike called some of the others, and they agreed to help look, but it was unlikely Jerry had made it to LA in that amount of time. Mike ran into Dan.

"What's wrong?" Dan asked.

"Jerry ran off," Mike said.

"Why should you care?"

"Well, he's sick, and they're callin' for rain . . . . . as a matter of fact, it's startin' to rain now, and he could get worse if he's out in this weather. I feel terrible. All the things I've said to him . . . . what kind of a friend am I?"

"It's not your fault, Mike. It's mine. I pulled you away from Jerry. I kept you away from him. I didn't mean to, I just didn't realize the friendship you two have. If we don't find him, your friendship could be torn apart for ever. Hop in."

"You have any idea where he could be?"

"As a matter of fact, I do. Jerry's probably off someplace nice and quiet to do some thinking."

Mike climbed into Dan's car, and the two of them drove off. Mike had no idea what Dan was thinking, but he hoped they found Jerry. It had only started raining, and already it was pouring cats and dogs. They drove for about an hour and a half to the convent near the lake where Jerry had crashed Mike's sports car. Dan pulled up alongside the bell tower, and then got out of his car.

"You stay here," he said. "I'll ring the bell when you should come up."

Mike nodded. Dan slammed the car door shut, and then walked up the stairs to the top of the tower. Sure enough, there was Jerry, sitting in the corner, soaked to the bone. His knees were pulled up to his chest, and his head was resting on his arms, which were folded on his knees.

"Hi, Jerry," Dan said.

Jerry looked up for a moment or so. Dan couldn't tell if the water streamed down his face were raindrops or teardrops, although his eyes were red and swollen. Jerry looked away almost immediately.

"How'd you know I was here?" he asked.

"It's a great place to think," Dan said, walking over. "Nice and quiet. Except during a rainstorm. When it's raining, it's a great place to come and dry off."

Jerry looked down at his hands. Dan kneeled next to him and put his hand on Jerry's shoulder.

"Come on, why'd you run away?" he asked. Jerry shook his head.

"I don't know," Jerry said. "I'm just a nuisance. I'm a nuisance to Captain Stanley, I'm one to Mike . . . . . I don't even think Mike likes me much anymore. Everything's falling apart ever since you showed up!"

"I realize that, Jerry. And I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was pulling you and Mike apart until now. I was pulling Mike apart from his true friends, and that wasn't right. I'm sorry. If I had to do it all over again, I would just drop by Screen Gems, say hi to Bobby, tell him about a band I was forming, and then be on my way."

"Really?"

"Yes. I honestly didn't mean to pull you and Mike apart. I didn't know he had made promises to you during that time."

Jerry sighed. He glanced out the window for a moment or so.

"I really wish Mike was here," he said.

"That can be arranged," Dan said, standing up. "Hold your ears."

Jerry plugged his fingers in his ears, and Dan rang the large bell. Mike jumped out of the car, and ran up the stairs. When he reached the top of the tower, he was out of breath. He glared at Dan.

"You couldn't have brought him down, could you?" he asked. "You had to make me run all the way up at least twenty flights of . . . .

Dan cleared his throat, and indicated Jerry. Mike looked over, and saw how miserable he looked.

"Hi, Jer," he said after awhile. Jerry didn't answer. He didn't necessarily want to say anything to Mike.

Mike didn't say anything for awhile. He just looked at Jerry, wet, cold, sick (probably sicker now), eyes red rimmed, face flushed, just miserable looking. Mike then realized he had been wrong to ignore him. Way wrong.

"Jerry," he said. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry!"

Mike practically ran over to Jerry. He snapped his fingers, and a blanket of some kind appeared in his hands. He wrapped it around Jerry's shoulders, and pulled his friend close.

"I am so sorry!" he shouted. "I really lost my head. I didn't mean to ignore you. I broke my promises, and I shouldn't have. I shouldn't have joined that new band. You counted on me to be there for you, but I wasn't. I really let you down, and I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it, Mike," Jerry said.

"I'm just really, really sorry."

Jerry didn't say anything. He didn't need to. He and Mike climbed down the steps and into Dan's car. Dan drove them back to Mike's house in LA where they called Hank, and told him to come over. He was relieved when he found Jerry laying on the couch.

"I've been a colossal jerk, Cap," Mike said.

"You sure have," Hank replied. "I'm just glad you were able to find Jerry."

"Yeah, we're lucky his cold didn't get any worse," Carole commented. "I wouldn't worry about his condition, Cap. He'll be fine."

"You two really shouldn't be livin' out in Cherry Hill," Mike said. "It's too far. If you were closer, I probably wouldn't have ignored Jerry like I did."

"You might have," Hank said. "Knowing you, Nesmith."

"I know. And I'm sorry. I quit the whole thing. I want to go back to workin' for Screen Gems."

"I'm sure Bob will let you," Phyllis said.

"And I promise," Mike said. "I'll help Jerry get his radio network in order, and I'll help you get your job back, too, Cap."

Hank just gave Mike a strange Look. He wasn't so sure of what Mike was capable of, but he'd find out soon enough. The next day, Mike and Jerry were hanging around Screen Gems, going through some of Jerry's records.

"I couldn't get you a gig here in LA," he said. "So I called Philly."

"And?" Jerry asked.

"A couple of stations want to pick up the Geator Gold thing, but they said it was okay if you wanted to broadcast from here in LA, so you don't have to move back to Philly."

"How many strings did you have to pull?"

"Quite a few, but it was worth it."

Jerry smiled. It looked like things were back to normal. At any rate, the boys went down to Station 51. Jerry was a little surprised to see Hank there.

"Hey Cap, what are you doing here?" he asked. "I thought you were fired!"

"I got him rehired," Mike said. "I played Grim Reaper for LaRoc, and he freaked out."

"Yeah, he scared the chief silly," T.J. said, with a laugh. "We were in the middle of an inspection yesterday, and the lights go out, smoke fills the room, and then there's Mike in this Grim Reaper outfit."

"He borrowed it from Redford," Hank said. "You know he dressed as the Grim Reaper for that costume party awhile back."

"It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for," Jacobs commented.

"I told LaRoc to give Cap his job back or else," Mike said. "Of course, I didn't specify what 'or else' was, but he got the message."

"Yeah, who knew a guy could scream that loud?" Paul commented. He walked into the kitchen and opened a cabinet. Mike bit his lower lip and snapped his fingers. A fleet of water bombs clobbered Paul right in the head.

"Oh very funny!" Paul shouted.

"Looks like we've got a new phantom," T.J. laughed.

Jerry started to crack up. Things were definitely back to normal.

 

The End