21.

So, the book was a complete failure. So we were constantly filled with hope only to be crushed yet another time. Well, that wasn't going to happen anymore. We'd all grown. We'd come to expect disappointment and that was OK. It was okay to be disappointed. Big dreams just never come true, and that's that. You just live your life, and be thankful for all the little things you have, and you know...you can actually be happy if you just accept it all.

Somehow that's what our ordeal with the Names project taught us all. ASTAR Publishing would never make us stars. And that was all right. Of course, we didn't give up on it totally. The orders still trickled in, a couple here, a couple there. We left the answering machine on every time the house was empty, so we wouldn't miss that occasional order. But we didn't EXPECT anything, and so we weren't disappointed anymore.

And our lives were finally falling into place. We submerged ourselves in living out our lives and doing little things to be happy. Dad came to accept the fact that he'd never be able to head his crusade for Good Science. He decided that he was going to be in the 100 million dollar club again that year, like he had been every year except for the last. He threw himself into selling insurance. If he couldn't do what he wanted to do, at least he'd be good at what he had to do.

Mom decided she was gong to squeeze in some time for herself. She started going to a workshop for would-be science fiction writers. She knew she'd never get anything published, but at last, she was writing science fiction, and she really enjoyed it.

Mike started substitute teaching, and he was running an encounter group for the philosophically inclined.

I was getting into exploring computer graphics. It was a lot of fun. And Maggie, Elizabeth, and I were spending a lot of family time together.

Suzie went back to school, and you know, we were all delighted when she brought home her piano teacher. He was really nice, and we could tell they really cared for each other.

Davey -- Davey gave his all to dance.

Now, could we help it if our recent acceptance of life and our pursuit of happiness temporarily blinded us to the lesson we had learned through all this? The lesson of the importance of family.

We all knew Davey was hurt as we sat together at breakfast that morning.

"Sorry Davey, but Peter and I have that concert tonight, and this is Johnny Rock's last appearance, ever..." Suzie tried to convince him.

"Hey, it doesn't matter. It's just a recital," he shrugged.

"And they're having that Graphics conference tonight," I mumbled. "They've got the world's greatest computer graphics artists all under one roof. It's the biggest event of the year."

"And I've got to meet with Jack Henderson. I need that account bad," Dad sighed.

"And you know Friday's I've got my class, honey," Mom added.

"And I'm taking the group on a field trip through..." Mike started.

"Look, I said it's okay!" Davey exploded, and he stormed out of the room.

We looked at each other and shrugged. He'd get over it; we all did. It's just part of growing up.

"Got to go," we each said and hurried about our ways.

When I got to Richmond, Maggie was upset. "My mom saw Davey's name in the paper today. You didn't tell me he was having his recital tonight!" she said when she opened the door for me.

I had been expecting a good morning kiss. "I guess I forgot," I stammered.

"You forgot? Your little brother is having his first real recital and you forgot. Well, we're definitely not going to the Conference tonight. We'll go to the recital with your family."

"Uh...." I swallowed. "Can I come in, Mag?"

"Oh, sorry. Yeah, of course, come on in."

"Um...well, no one's going to the recital," I mumbled as she closed the door.

"Huh?"

"Everyone's got something going."

Maggie looked shocked. "Well, we're going! My parents will watch Lizzy."

I opened my mouth to protest, then realized Mag was right. I had to get my priorities straight. "Thanks Mag," I sighed. "I guess I really am a dip!"

"You sure are!" she said sternly, then she hugged me.

I convinced Maggie we should at least spend a few hours that afternoon at the Conference, even if we would miss all the big events. After all, we'd already paid $50 each for the tickets and it would be a shame to miss everything.

The Conference was great, utterly mind boggling. I was filled with excitement and plans and dreams. Maggie let us stay as long as we possibly could without missing Davey's big night.

Even so, by the time we got to Davey's school that evening, the place was already packed. I was getting a headache trying to find a spot to sit.

"Hey, look!" Maggie laughed, tugging my sleeve. "There's your Mom and Dad!" We waded through the aisle and bumped into Suzie and Peter and Mike.

We said hi to my parents, but we couldn't convince the people sitting next to them to move so we stood over on the side. We were glad that we'd all made the right decision.

Davey saw us while he was dancing. He smiled and gave it his all. Gosh, he was really good.

It was near the end of the performance and I was getting lock-leg. Everyone else had found a seat, except me. Oh well...I was feeling good that, although the Adams clan was spread throughout the auditorium, we were all there. As I stepped up on my toes, trying to shake the stiffness out, I discovered we were even more there than I had thought. I squinted and even though it was kind of dark, I was sure that was John sitting in the back.

I walked toward the exit nearest him, so I could make sure he didn't get away when the lights went on and every one went home. With my eye on the exit, just in case he made a dash for it, I excused myself toward his aisle.

"Psst. Johnny," I whispered.

"Shh!" people chided me.

Fortunately John saw me and his eyes lit up. He whispered to the little boy next to him, and the two of them excused themselves through the aisle.

"Ricky!" John laughed, hugging me, and we stepped out into the hallway.

After the performance, Mom and Dad and everyone else were hugging Davey backstage, and I coughed behind them and said, "Look who I found!"

"JOHN!" they gasped.

Everyone was crying and it was great. "I'd like you all to meet my son," John said as the little boy tugged on John's pant legs, wanting to be recognized. "This is your Grandma and Grandpa. Say hi, Georgie."

"You named him George?" Dad choked out.

John nodded. There were tears in his eyes. "I'm sorry Dad."

"I'm sorry, too, son. I love you, and I missed you."

We were all really crying now. People must have thought we were crazy, but who cares.

We picked up John's stuff from the motel where he was staying and drove him home. It was pretty late by the time we pulled in the driveway and everyone was really beat. Happy, but tired.

We were up bright and early the next day, though. Everyone had a million questions for our long lost brother.

Georgie and Lizzy were watching Sesame Street in the living room and we were all huddled around the kitchen table sipping coffee and listening to John.

"Well, I was on a job," John was saying, "and this friend of mine I work with said, 'Hey, John. Your Name is famous. Of course, I looked at this guy like he was strange. But he just shrugged. He said he heard on the radio about some book called, 'John, Your Name Is Famous,' and he thought of me. He wasn't too sure about any of the details, so I went to the library to look the book up. But it wasn't there. At the bookstore, they hadn't heard of it either, but they said they'd try to order it."

"Unfortunately," Mom sighed, "No one's heard of it, that's the problem."

"Well, fortunately I did," John smiled. "Anyway, meanwhile another friend had heard the show and told me that the announcer had asked the guy if there was one really special John, and the guy got all teary and said, 'yes, my son John.' And then Dad said that he was sorry, and he wished I would forgive him and come home."

We were all feeling pretty teary at this point. "Hey, how could I not go home?" John laughed. "My name was suddenly famous in Duluth, and everyone kept asking me if I was the guy they were talking about. I finally got your book from the bookstore. They had a heck of a time tracking it down, but I was persistent..."

"Yeah, it's not exactly selling that great..." I sneered.

"Well, it's good though. Real fun! I read a lot of it on the plane here."

We were all laughing and crying and having a great time when the phone rang.

"Oh, I'll get it," I sighed when I noticed everyone was just going to let the machine pick it up. "An order's an order," I muttered.

It was pretty noisy in the house, what with Sesame Street in the living room and the laughter in the kitchen. "Huh? What's that? You'd like to order 100 books?" I said, not exactly sure if that's what the woman was saying. "Well, the price has been lowered to $14.95 each. We can give you a 50% discount off that for 100. Huh? What's that? I'm sorry, can you hold on?"

I dropped the phone and ran over to turn the volume on the TV down. "Quiet you guys!" I said to the kitchen crew while I walked past. It's a pretty good-sized order."

"Order, shmorder," Suzie sneered. "Johnny's home!"

Fortunately, they did quiet down a little.

"I'm sorry about that," I said to the phone. "Now you want to order 100 books, right? Oh...Really? Oh...Sure...I'm sure we could do that. Yeah, all right...That's right..I've got it. I'll have to check. I'll call you right back!"

My heart was pounding as I walked, dumfounded, to the kitchen. "What's the matter, Rick?" Mag said looking up. "You look awful."

"Well, that was Monumental Cards..."

"They want to order some books for one of their stores, that's nice," Mom said. "Did you give them a good discount?"

"It wasn't one of their stores. It was the main office. They loved the book and they want us to do a whole series of smaller Names books. They want to start out with a hundred different ones. They offered us $100,000 up front...What do you think we should do?"

The next few months were the busiest and happiest of our lives. We hired twenty people and rented an office building and ASTAR Publishing was finally a real business.

By the end of the year we'd made our first million. When the money from the Christmas sales started rolling in, well, let's just say we were all quite rich.

We still edit new Names books, now, but we have a whole team researching them, and writing them, and we occasionally write up a few bios. The money just pours in. The publishing industry never saw anything so big. We set new sales records every day.

Mom lost her job translating Chinese recipe books when the Fortune Cookie Scandal broke and the CIA's activities in China were disclosed. She trashed the trash romance novelist and quit the paper. She just writes science fiction full-time now. The publishers are beating down her door to get her to write for them, but ASTAR Publishing gets all her novels.

Dad's taken to the road doing radio interviews and TV talk shows and college lectures, talking about the New Good Science Age, urging scientists and the public to support Science for a better world.

Mike opened up a motorcycle repair shop and his customers get free philosophic advice.

Suzie and Peter bought a record company. I'm sure you've probably heard a few of their songs on the radio. They're really good. Well, so I'm biased. But they're pretty good.

After Davey graduated, he fell head-over-heels for this prima ballerina he saw...so he bought the dance company and dances the lead with her. To his happy surprise she likes him, and according to Mom, they're making plans for a June wedding.

And me? Well, Maggie and I bought his gallery in Charlottesville. It's kind of a neat place. It's a coffeehouse art gallery, with live musicians. I look for undiscovered artists and musicians and help give them a chance to do something that they really want to do.

My family bought the whole block on Main Street and we all live here in Eagle Rock. It's a great life.

Now, I know you're thinking that we're not really that talented, so how come we made it to the top. But a little talent can go a long way when you've got money. Sure, they always say that money's not supposed to buy happiness, but don't let them fool you -- it sure helps!

Huh? Oh...Excuse me. Things are getting a little crazy here. I've got to go. Grandma and Grandpa are coming to visit, and I've got to help Mom and Dad get their place into shape. They've been buying quite a lot of things lately, and the black hole is back in Eagle Rock.

Well, so long, folks. And just remember, your name is famous, too.




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