So they talked instead, and they sat in the conference room floor discussing things of little importance and of the greatest importance. They talked of baseball scores and of Olympic coverage lost and of prayers in other languages and of a list on the wall of a video store.
"Casablanca," Dana said, and Casey laughed aloud.
"Yeah, and I'll tell you why: because that's exactly the image I want to spring to mind when people see my picture on the wall of a public place."
"It's a public video store, Casey, it's not exactly Grand Central," Dan laughed.
"What's wrong with Casablanca?" Dana asked.
"How about something starring Jackie Chan?" Jeremy suggested.
"You watch Jackie Chan movies?"
"Natalie made me."
Casey turned to Natalie. "You watch Jackie Chan movies?"
"Only with Jeremy."
"How -- exactly did that get started?"
"They would make you look cool!"
"It's going to take more than Jackie Chan on number 9 to make Casey look cool when numbers 6, 7, and 8 are Star Wars films."
"Hey, now," Dan said. "Star Wars is cool."
"Star Wars is cool unless you quote Yoda in your daily life, which, he does," Dana explained.
"He quotes Yoda in his daily life?" Isaac repeated.
"You could really hear it in that racing coverage on yesterday's show," Dan smiled.
"Well, what do I know about Thoroughbreds?"
"Less than some of our viewers."
"At least I was brave enough to try."
"No, at least you were gullible enough to try."
"I noticed it was you who took that ice dancing story, my own little puppet friend on strings."
"Aah, you win some, you lose some."
"Speaking of that," Jeremy said. "Didn't you really think the Phillies were going to win?"
"I really didn't," Natalie said. "And speaking of that --"
"I actually don't have it on me, do you believe that?"
"You think I would lie to you on Passover?"
Isaac laughed. "Jeremy, you've got to stop losing your money to this woman."
"It's become a habit. See, she used to spend it on me when I did that."
Dan leaned over and tapped Jeremy on the shoulder. "Hey, Jeremy."
"Look me in the eye, and remember this: That isn't going to happen anymore. So, you know, stop betting."
"Fine," Jeremy laughed. "You know, I used to lose money to Louise over baseball."
"You gave your money to your sister?"
"Actually, no. I never did pay up. At this point I owe her like seven thousand dollars."
"Want to play some poker for it?" Natalie teased.
"Speaking of Louise, that was a beautiful adaptation of your prayer," Casey said. "You're catching up to me, too, being trilingual."
"That just .. made it feel very much like home," Jeremy said. "Also, I speak a little Akkadian. Catch you yet?"
"Not unless Akkadian is the second most used language in the country."
"In which country?"
"In this country."
"Well, it isn't exactly. Although, ASL is the third."
"It's the third?" Dana asked.
"It's the third."
"American Sign Language?"
"Huh. I never knew that."
"You know what else she never knew?"
"Shut up, Casey," Dana laughed. "At least I know what my favorite movies are."
"What's your favorite sport?"
Dana's face slowly creased into a frown. "Hmm," she said. "I honestly never knew that, either."
"Point taken. But, honestly, isn't that a difficult thing to decide?"
"Well, when you work in sports ..."
"But I mean before that. When I was 10 years old I used to argue this out. Kyle and I fought for hours over which sport was the best."
"What did you choose?" Dan asked, and Casey's grin widened.
"Honestly?" Dana asked.
"Keep in mind that I was 10 years old."
"I'm keeping that well in mind."
"Heh!" It was Isaac's amusement that started the course of laughter that chimed in behind it. Casey's eyes never left Dana's face. He was sitting beside her on the carpet, and for a moment he resisted the urge to reach out and take her hand.
"I used to hoola hoop," Kim admitted. "I was pretty good at it, too. We used to have these contests at recess."
"Did you win?"
"Of course I did."
"As far as you know."
"I was a big fan of hopscotch," Elliot said. "At least, I was until the day I threw the rock too hard and had to sit in the classroom for the rest of recess for nearly putting out Kelly Reardon's eye."
"Yeah, Elliot's got an arm on him," Kim said. "He almost put my eye out with the score on the Michigan game."
"I did not."
"You did so."
"I didn't! I may have been clumsy as a boy, but those days are over."
"Elliot," Dan siad. "I had to step in and catch the damn thing to keep you from hospitalizing Kim. You -- might want to work on honing your skills just a bit."
"Aah," Casey said. "That brings back a few frightening memories of freshman year."
Dana burst into a flurry of giggles. "Don't even get started on that story," she pleaded.
"Dana was two rows away from me in mass comm," Casey ignored her. "I barely knew her, but, what the hell, she was smarter than me and I had missed the class previous."
"So he," Dana cut in, "decided to get my attention by launching --"
"--by gently tossing a pencil Dana's way."
"A pencil?" Isaac laughed. "I'll bet that went well."
"It went beautifully," Dana giggled. "Dr. Horner didn't realize where the pencil came from when it blindsided her."
"It did not blindside her," Casey corrected. "It ... bounced of Dana's head before it got to her." By now the rest of the team were gasping with laughter.
"Aah, Casey," Dana laughed. "Shut up and get to work."
"Doing your list. You should drop that thing off at the video store on your way home."
"The store's going to be closed on my way home."
"It isn't a 24-hour store?"
"I guess people who aren't you don't have a sudden midnight desperation to watch Casablanca."
"Dana has a sudden midnight desperation to watch Casablanca?" Natalie asked.
"I can think of twice, specifically," he said.
"The first one doesn't count," Dana said softly.
"Why doesn't it count?"
"Because it wasn't my idea."
"...Who's idea was it?"
Even softer: "Lisa's."
"..Ah." There was a soft silence for just a moment, which Casey finally broke. "You know, I got a call from her this morning."
"It seems Charlie wants a horse."
"Heh," Isaac laughed. "Boy, do I remember that phase."
"Your kids went through that phase?" Casey asked.
"To hell with my kids. I went through that phase."
"Well, how long did it last?"
Casey's eyes widened. "Wow."
"Well, I was a very persistant child."
Dana laughed. "So is Charlie, so good luck there, Casey. What are you going to do? And anyway what did Lisa expect you to do?"
"She just wanted to let me know .." Casey laughed. "Apparently he called Keenland to ask if they had any good ones for sale."
Everyone joined Casey's laughter. "He called Keenland?" Dan asked. "The thoroughbred auction place?"
"He called Keeneland."
"How did he get the number?"
"Well, here's the irony."
"Oh, boy," Dana laughed. "I love it when Casey tries to define irony."
"He got the number from a commercial that aired on CSC last week."
"Well, at least he was watching the network," Isaac said.
The laughter lingered and then slowly faded into silence. "He watches the show sometimes, too," Casey said at last.
"Do his friends?" Dana asked.
"Watch the show? Do his friends ... watch .. the show?"
"I imagine it's on too late for his friends, most of the time," Casey said gently.
"Dana," Isaac said.
"It's no way to run a network," she told them, and everyone was silent.
"Hey," said Dave at last. "We'll be fine."
"See?" Jeremy said. "Dave says we'll be fine, and Dave's God."
Precious laughter again. It was a long time before Dana spoke.
"Isaac, I want to tell them ..."
"It's just that it seems they ought to know ..."
Dana cleared her throat. "We've lost a lot of our Olympic coverage," she stated. "...A lot. A monumental amount."
"I thought so," Dan said almost to himself.
"What do we have?" Casey asked.
"Your'e kidding," Jeremy said.
"Wrap-around?" Will asked.
"We're pretty much just a token at this point?" Chris asked.
"And if they wanted, they could replace us with the musical monkeys from Tarzan?" Dave clarified.
"Ah, but the musical monkeys lack one thing," Casey said.
"What?" Natalie asked. "The luxury of a senior associate?"
"Well, I would imagine, but the point I was making was that they lack the two most handsome sports anchors in the business."
"Who?" Dana innocently asked. Casey grinned at her, genuinely pleased with the banter taking place between them of late.
"Hey," Isaac said. "God's right. Both of 'em. We're going to be just fine."
"How do you know?"
"Because I said so."
"How do you know?" Dana persisted.
Isaac sat back for a moment, sizing up each member of his team. When he spoke, he spoke so softly that by the time the words sunk in they had already sent chills down the backs of the necks of all the people in the room. "Because we have an absolute right to live free," he told them. And in the five a.m. of an office that felt very much like home, his friends believed him.
28 March 2000