By Melisma <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted July 1999
Summary: In this little vignette, Perry and Jimmy go fishing and talk about the past.
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COMMENTS: This isn't my best writing style, so I apologize in advance. But that's what I get for going to bed at 3 AM and having weird dreams, then waking up and scribbling it down in one sitting in a Burger King ;).
Thanks to several FoLC on IRC who helped me figure out which episodes I needed to watch in order to get several little details right — you know who you are (I hope :o))…
"Wow, Chief, this sure is a nice spot," Jimmy Olsen remarked as he adjusted the lure on his fishing rod. "Thanks for inviting me here."
Perry White leaned back against the tree trunk and looked out over the creek. "You're welcome, son. This is one of several places I've stumbled upon by accident over the years. And you and I have been working so hard the past few weeks, I figured we deserved an afternoon's break."
"Yeah, who would have thought that things would have gone crazy right when Lois and CK were on their honeymoon, and just after too, huh?" Jimmy cast his hook into the stream and carefully set his rod in the holder beside Perry's before lying back on the grass and gazing up at the brilliantly blue sky with its billowy white clouds.
"Well, sure, but that's life at a great metropolitan newspaper like the Daily Planet," its editor returned. "But things seemed to be a bit calmer today, and I know those two can handle things for a while. So let's hope the fish are biting today."
"Yeah… And this time there'd better not be any crazy Kryptonians with bombs to test Superman with, either," Jimmy shivered.
"Or a crazy scientist lady looking for the Fountain of Youth… We sure have had some interesting times with him around, haven't we?" Perry's voice trailed off and they fell silent.
"I can't believe Lois and Clark are finally married," Jimmy said after a few minutes. "Third try's a charm, huh?"
"I think I knew that they'd get together eventually almost from Day One," Perry confessed. "Oh, sure, Lois tried her best to stay Mad Dog Lane, and Kent made some mistakes along the way…"
"Yeah, Mayson Drake. But then, I got worried when that Scardino creep showed up, too."
"So did I, son, so did I. I thought it might be Norcross and Judd all over again, for a while there at least. But Lane and Kent sure proved me wrong." Just then first Perry's and then Jimmy's poles began to wobble, and both of them busied themselves with reeling in their fish, re-baiting the hooks, and finally re-casting.
"Norcross and Judd," Jimmy said thoughtfully when the poles were firmly lodged back on their stands. "That's those two reporters you told me about once, who were best friends and then fell in love, right?"
"Yep, practically a federal disaster," Perry nodded, his eyes glazing over in memory.
"You told me that she moved to Alaska and he became a cable TV evangelist," Jimmy recalled. "What happened between them to make them do such drastic things?" he wondered.
"Who really knows why such things start?" Perry countered in a slightly bitter tone. "All I know is, they nearly destroyed my newsroom while they were fighting."
"Huh?" Jimmy sat up. "You never told me about *that*."
"I didn't?" Perry put on his I've-got-a-story-to-tell-you-so-you-kids-better-listen look, and Jimmy settled in for another of the tales his boss was famous for.
"I think I told you that Billy Norcross and Serena Judd were two of my best reporters at one point — in the same league with Lois and Clark, in fact. And they were well liked by the rest of my staff, too. People looked up to them, admired their work, aspired to write as well as they did."
Jimmy nodded. It was no secret around the Planet that he had the same attitude toward Lois and Clark. "And they must have made a lot of friends, too…"
"That they did. Everyone was excited when they got nominated for or won awards, which they did with clockwork precision, it seemed. And when they fell in love, why, all of us were over the moon!" Perry rummaged in the bag beside him, dug out two soda cans, and tossed one to his protégé. He opened his, took a gulp, then continued his story. "I tell you, those were happy, productive days at the Planet. When your people are happy and feel good about themselves and their colleagues, they are willing to accept the toughest, the nastiest assignment you give them, and they will do the best for you. That's your tip for the day, son."
"So what happened?" Jimmy asked.
"Well, as I said, I don't know exactly what happened or why. Oh, Billy and Serena both tried to tell me their sides of the story, sure. But the more they tried to explain things, the more complicated it got, until I finally gave up trying to understand. And, like I said, they both finally left the Planet…"
"How did it almost destroy your newsroom?" Jimmy wanted to know.
"Well, they weren't content to simply quarrel in private. They would snipe at each other in staff meetings and on the newsfloor, no matter who was around. They would complain and gossip about each other behind the other one's back to their friends, and soon the newsroom began dividing along pro-Serena and pro-Billy lines. If you were sympathetic to Billy, the Serena sympathizers would shun you. If you innocently spoke to a Judd groupie, the Norcross camp would be suspicious about your motives. But the trouble was, you didn't really know where some people stood on the issue, so you didn't know where you stood with any of your colleagues, either. I tell you, if hell really exists, it resided in the DP newsroom then!"
"Yeah, I bet!" Jimmy's pole started wiggling again, so he ran to reel in his second fish of the afternoon. But his mind was still on the Chief's story. "I would have hated to be a new employee just starting out during that time," he remarked as he reset his equipment.
"Yep," Perry agreed. "I felt especially sorry for the new staff. They didn't know either Judd or Norcross, yet they were immediately pegged as they tried to fit themselves into the newsroom structure. But it wasn't only the newcomers who suffered. Many long-time writers and other staff members came to me, explaining that they could no longer work in this sort of atmosphere. So would I please accept their resignations?"
"Ouch!" Jimmy said sympathetically. "I bet you cringe when you look at the staff turn-over rate for that period."
"For sure. We lost a lot of talented people over the Norcross-Judd affair," Perry affirmed with a sigh. "I was nearly ready to fire the both of them so I could try to save my newsroom, when Serena resigned. The funny thing was that Billy seemed inconsolable after she left. That's when he began drinking so heavily and his writing skills began to deteriorate. I tried partnering him with someone else several times, but it never worked. I think he missed her too much. Finally he resigned, too. And the rest is history. My newsroom gradually recovered, and I'm really proud of the way everyone clicks together as a team now. Sure, we have our share of colorful people, but that's what makes it so much fun, right?"
"Right, Chief. Cat Grant and Ralph Munch come immediately to mind, for instance," Jimmy laughed.
"And Jack Overstreet. Boy, I wonder how he's doing… Didn't he get accepted to some university in the Midwest or something, Jimmy?"
"Yeah, Kansas State, I think. His little brother, Denny, is still here in Metropolis, living with a foster family while he finishes high school — I run into him from time to time…"
Just then a ringing sound emerged from Perry's bag. "Darn it! I told them not to bug me unless it was an emergency," the Chief growled as he retrieved his cell-phone. "Perry White… Yeah… Yeah… Are you sure? Oh, alright — give us ten minutes!" He hung up and started gathering his equipment together. Jimmy didn't have to be told that something urgent had come up back at the paper, so he quickly followed suit.
They easily walked the three blocks back to the Daily Planet building — for the secret fishing spot was in Centennial Park — and within minutes were embroiled in yet another challenge.