money,” he said to Henry. “Pure and simple. That is why I do it. That is how it works. I am not only not proud of that, I am often ashamed of it. Now, we probably should wrap this up and move back to the other table.…”
“What kind of laptop do you travel with?” Henry asked.
“I have a Dell, but I’m thinking about getting one of those little Gateway HandBooks,” Mike Howley replied with what was probably absolute delight in having the subject changed.
Henry said: “One of the guys in our office has one. They are terrific. Two-point-nine-four pounds, two-fifty-MB hard drive, eight-MB RAM. It’s got a backlit seven-point-six double-scan VGA screen. MS-DOS is preinstalled. So is Microsoft Word software, but my friend put in his own WordPerfect six. I’m going to get one as soon as I get to be rich and famous.…”
“Enough about this,” Mike Howley said. “If everyone is about finished, what do you say we move back to the big table and get to work?”
Joan could not remember the last time she’d had such a good time. She was beginning to really love that Henry Ramirez, that radio kid from Texas.
This brown boy ain’t bad, thought Barbara. Ain’t bad at all. He’s got a set of ‘em on him, that is for sure. But Mike Howley bothered her. He shouldn’t be able to have it both ways, to play Mr. On The Other Hand in print and then go be Mr. Opinion on television.
magazine would never let me do that. But, of course, who am I? I ain’t no big-cheese white man.
Henry was loving being Henry in that room. Here he was in high cotton, as they said in the Valley, sitting here eating a big dinner—he had ordered the Grilled Black Angus Rib Eye Steak with Fresh Mashed Potatoes and Ale Battered Onion Rings—and talking shop with two of the biggest names in American journalism, Mike Howley and Joan Naylor.The black-girl-who-wasn’t-really-black was even making a contribution or two.
Back at the large table, in front of their Williamsburg Lodge pads and pencils, Mike Howley said:
“I am taking the attitude that we are all in this together. And that means that we should as far as possible work out our approach, our strategy and our questions, together. No secrets, no surprises. Do our best to act as one. Do our best not to compete with one another. Do our best not to see this as the great journalism ask-off. Do our best to cooperate, coordinate, conglomerate, coagulate, collude, conspire.”
Collude? Conspire? Joan and Henry say Howley was smiling when he said all of that. Barbara didn’t notice any smile.
Howley said: “So, in that spirit, I hereby open the nominations for an opening question. I will ask it, but I want your help in deciding what it might be, what it should be. OK?”
Henry did not like what was happening, and Howley clearly read that in Henry’s face. Howley said: “What’s the matter, Henry?”
Henry, thought Henry. Mike Howley finally called me by my name. Henry. He knows my name now. He said: “Well, Mike, you are the man of experience here and all of that, but I have spent a lot of time, I mean a
of time, working on some real zinger questions. I thought that we were each to do our own thing and let the chips fall where they may. I have absolutely no problem telling you-all what I am going to ask, but giving one of mine away for one of you to ask … well, I am not sure that is what I had in mind. But, like I say, you are the boss.”
“Nobody’s the boss here,” Howley said.
“What if we just tossed out possible subjects for a first question?” Joan said. “Would that be a problem for you, Henry?”
“Oh, no. Certainly not. In fact, I am not sure the other is. I’m just trying to do what Mike said we should at the very beginning, which is talk straight and open.”
Joan said: “Well, I don’t mind getting things started. I don’t see how you can start with anything other than the deficit. And what he—eitherhe—really plans to do about it.