Her duties include answering as many as 300 requests a week—from charities, fund-raisers, even terminally ill children. A couple of months back Janie got a letter from a nurse in Oklahoma asking if Shaq would phone a cancer patient on his eighth birthday. "The nurse made it sound as if the boy was about to the any second." Janie says. She takes a deep breath. "It's emotionally draining. If it were my own child who was dying, I'd do anything I could. So I do the best I can."
How often do things work out? "I'm usually afraid to ask," she says.
From her redoubt at Skunk Flats, Janie watches the Shakespearean spectacle of her father's succession unfold. "My brothers would love to run my father's operation," she says, "but I don't think they could. John is too angry and fragile. He's got the first-born syndrome: If people don't play the game his way, he takes the ball away, sits by himself and cries. I feel so sorry for him, but I can't feel real sorry for him."
Janie finds her Prince Hal of a second brother as unworthy of the throne as her Prince of Denmark of a first brother. "Jimmy doesn't have the backbone to negotiate or the confidence to succeed," Janie says. "He defers to his friends, and once you start delegating power, you lose control. Both my brothers are fearful of getting what they want and fearful of failure. If you're not ready to accept failure, you can never face it."
Which leaves Jeanie, the fair Cordelia of this fractured family fable. "Only Jeanie has the brains and the desire," Janie says. "She's a great negotiator and a great numbers cruncher, and she knows how to say no. At some level, Johnny and Jimmy must understand that."
Janie believes her father's "master plan" may be to sit back and watch the three children jockey for position. "Like I say, my dad is always 10 steps ahead," she says. "I mink he's testing us to see if we can get along. He's getting us used to the fact that he won't be around forever, and he's watching each of us to figure out who should do what.
"Well, I guess it's better now than 10 years from now. But realistically, I don't see how it could ever work."