Three

 [p.28]ANOTHER BULLETIN JUST IN FROM THE RENOWNED TIME TRAVELER, SIR ROSS DRAKEFORTH:

I have returned from another extraordinary adventure in search of the desperado Ryan, last sighted in the year 1548 but now having crossed into the future, 1990. I tracked him down to a hobo jungle, where he was operating under the guise of an itinerant preacher determined to make everyone in the world stop telling off-color jokes. I almost had him, but he must have seen me coming, for as I approached the hideout, a pack of disheveled men marched forth in my direction. Imagine my apprehension. But I wasn’t to be hurt at all. Instead, I beheld a host of angelic faces as they surrounded me, calling me brother, and pressing tracts into my hand.  “Where’s Ryan?” I demanded. “Somewhere in time,” came the chorus of replies.

Sitting in the offices of the Nichol and Farley Advertising Agency, Ryan chuckled at the “bulletin.”

He checked his watch. Before long Ross would be [p.29]wondering why he was taking a lunch break longer than an hour. Ryan had been working hard on the charts for the instructor’s handbook, but Ross was still worried about them.

The receptionist told him his interview would be delayed just a few more minutes.

“No problem,” he said.

He hadn’t told Catherine about the interviews. He wanted to surprise her if he were offered the job; otherwise he didn’t want to mention it.

She and Allison and Tyler had returned after a week at her sister’s place.

She put her arms around him, and he told her he was glad to have her back. And he wasn’t lying. When the kids were asleep, he and Catherine sat on the couch holding each other.  She had just been gone a week, but there was a newness to touching her, a comfort in being close to her.

“I love you, Catherine. I don’t want to lose you.”

“I don’t want to lose you. Let’s try again, a fresh start.”

“Okay.”

They hadn’t fought in the three days she had been back.

The door in front of him opened, and a lady looked over her glasses at him.

“Mr. … Masterson?”

“Yes.”

“I’m Ms. Waters. Please come in.”

She offered him a seat across the desk from her. ‘‘I’m sorry for the delay,” she said, glancing down at his resume and then looking over her odd, half-glasses at him again.

“When you came in last week I believe you met with my assistant.”

“That’s right.”

“And she described the position?”

“Yes.”

“Are there any questions I might answer?”

[p.30]“No, I don’t believe so. I am very interested in the job.”

She glanced down again. “From your portfolio I get the impression that you are quite interested in fine art.”

“That’s true. I have been ever since college.”

“Then, if you don’t mind my asking, how did you get interested in design and production?”

“Well … at first it was simply from necessity—I needed a job.” He smiled; she didn’t.

“At any rate, after I started with Maeser I got interested in design—it’s—well, it’s a challenge to design something that’s really new, and it’s fulfilling to follow something from its original concept through design to production.”

He imagined himself hooked up to a lie detector. Lines would probably be jumping right off the graph paper.

“What kind of career objectives do you have as a graphic designer?”

“I’m interested in a position that allows me to use the full range of my abilities.” Another lie; what he really wanted was to get away from Ross.

“That’s interesting,” she said. “There seem to be many ‘artists’ who think that graphic design is selling out, that it’s a compromise of artistic values. What do you think?”

“I think the conflicts can be resolved.” He would have broken the machine by now. “A designer tries to communicate something and there’s an honest way to do it. It’s just a different kind of communication than fine art.”

“I agree with you, Mr. Masterson. My final question is this: why do you think we should select you over two other well-qualified applicants?”

“I—eh—I feel I have a wide range of experience—both artistic and practical ability to do the job well.”

She looked over her half-glasses and smiled a half-smile.

Miles asked how the interview had gone when he got back to the office.

[p.31]“I might as well forget about that job.”

“I take it the interview didn’t go too well.”

“Oh, you know what it’s like when you’re trying to impress someone. She started giving me this stuff about the conflict between art and design. She was right on the mark, but I pretended to disagree. That’s why I’ll never have my heart in being a designer. It’s for someone interested in something besides art.”

“Well, I’d say you’ve got yourself in a bind. How can you expect to find a design job when you don’t have your heart in it?”

“I don’t know. I just want to get away from Ross.”

“That’s the point. You’ve got to find something you’re genuinely interested in or you never will get away from him.”

“I wish I had been honest when she asked why I’m better qualified than the other applicants. Know what I should have said? I should have said I had no idea because I didn’t know a thing about the others. It’s such a stupid question to ask. But I had to try to bluff my way through it.”

“Man,” said Miles, “maybe it’s a good thing you’re not going to get this job.”

“Maybe.”

“Just don’t quit till you’ve got another job lined up.”

“Now you’re sounding like Catherine.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Miles.

“I mean sometimes a person ought to live dangerously. Worrying so much about being safe and secure drains the life right out of you. “

“Well,” said Miles, “if you want to live dangerously, go drive through the K-Mart parking lot.”

Ryan laughed. “Yeah, that’s about right.”

Miles stood up and walked to the door. “I guess I’ll see how Shirleen’s doing.”

Ryan walked out to his box. There was a note from Ross:  [p.32]“Ryan, I think you did a great job designing the flowcharts for SMD problems. Thanks. Ross.”

On the bus. He held the rail and stared straight ahead, hoping that would ease his nausea. Sit in the front and watch the road:  his mother’s cure for car sickness. He used to sit in the front, but he always stared out the side window at the reservoir. There wasn’t anything more beautiful than the reservoir. You’d round a bend and think it was about to end, only to see it reaching out into another cove and then another. Nothing matched the thirty-minute ride from Palisades, Idaho, to Alpine, Wyoming.

He took Ross’s memo out of his briefcase. Ross’s compliments always mystified him.

The bus had only gone a few blocks when he found a seat.  He had missed his normal bus in order to work late on some charts. He had more charts to work on at home, if he had time.  He had to write checks for several bills and do the bank statement first. And he wanted to write a letter to Uncle Neal and Aunt Norma.

Last night, looking through some of his letters and journals, he had realized it was twenty years to the month since he went to Seattle with Neal and Norma. Norma had a sister there. Ryan and Neal took turns driving the old Dodge.

They’d stop at a gas station, and he and Neal would check the car together. “You take the oil and water,” Neal would say. ‘‘I’ll take the tires and have a look underneath.” Then Neal would buy them a bag of peanuts and a couple of cans of RC.

Back on the road, Neal would talk about working on Wake Island in the summer of ’41, about the Japanese capturing the island and his friends who died. Other times he would talk about working on the Palisades dam or about a fishing trip he and Ryan should take to the Wind Rivers.

A nice-looking girl walked down the aisle of the bus in a pair of black heels, not unlike the heels Ryan had bought once for Catherine.

[p.33]It must have been fifteen years ago. “Oh,” she had said, opening the package, “those—those are very nice.” Then she gave him a quick kiss and muttered something about how she should have mentioned that she really didn’t like heels that high.

He hadn’t seen those shoes in years. Catherine had probably given them to the Salvation Army, or Disabled American Veterans, or Deseret Industries. Someone had probably bought them for five bucks. They could be rotting in some dump by now.

She had looked great in those heels.

At 4500 South a guy wearing a three-piece suit got on. He stood at the front of the bus surveying the passengers until his gaze rested on Ryan. Then he strode down the aisle and sat next to him.

“Hello.”

“Hello,” said Ryan.

“Think the Jazz’ll win tonight?”

“I hope so.”

“I hope Green is hot again.”

“Yeah,” said Ryan.

“Well, they’ve had a great year regardless of what happens in the playoffs.”

“That’s right.”

“Do you work downtown?”

“Yes,” said Ryan. “Maeser Communications. We do advertising and user documentation for computer companies.”

“Local clients?”

“Several here and several others throughout the West.”

“Sounds fascinating.”

“It’s pretty interesting,” said Ryan. He looked out the window as they passed a row of condominiums. Some teen-aged kid was playing tennis with his girlfriend.

“I work downtown, too, in the Kennecott Building.”

“Oh, and what do you do?” asked Ryan, realizing as he [p.34]did that it was the very question he was supposed to ask. He should have seen it coming a mile away.

“I’m in insurance,” the man said, handing Ryan his card.

 

Clawson R. Jenkins
Metropolitan Life
50 East South Main
Suite 345
Salt Lake City UT 84150
532-2626

“I’ve got a friend who works in that building,” said Ryan.

“He’s got a membership to Crossroads Spa.”

“So do we. I’m over there three or four times a week playing handball. Do you play?”

“Not lately. I’m out of shape.”

“Well, handball is great exercise. Maybe you and I could get together for a game some time.”

“Maybe so.”

“Excuse me, I don’t believe I’ve asked your name.”

“Ryan Masterson.”

He extended his right hand. “Glad to know you, Ryan.”

They shook hands.

“I suppose you’re on your way home to the family.”

“Yes,” said Ryan.

“Me, too. We’ve got three and we’re expecting another in two months.”

They were on Highland Drive. Ryan put his magazine in his brief case.

“How about yourself? How many children do you have?”

“Two.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, how’s your life insurance coverage with Maeser?”

“It’s fine. I’m in good shape as far as life insurance goes.  This is my stop.”

[p.35]The salesman stood up. “I’ll walk with you. I get off in a couple of stops anyway.”

“I don’t think I’m interested in any life insurance right now.”

“I could get back with you in six months.”

“No, thanks.”

He hurried down the steps, the door closing behind him.  He hadn’t been followed.

He almost wished he had been. Is that all people are to you—potential clients? he would ask. But he had had his chance and hadn’t said anything at all. He hated being manipulated like that.

He wandered into Albertson’s and stopped at the book racks. Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, and  the other bestsellers.  Then two or three rows of romance novels, another of science fiction, and another of celebrity biographies. Then came the making-it-big-in-real-estate, how-to-earn-a-rnillion, how-to-get-control-of-your-life, and how-to-make-love books.  Nothing that his mother would have found interesting—no Neville Shute or Charles Dickens. The Newsweek cover story was on child abuse. He had read a little of it at the office, stopping because it was too depressing.

He got some Comtrex and walked back to the bakery case.

“Can I help you?”

“Do you have any cream-cheese Danish?”

“No, I’m sorry, we’re all out.”

Down the aisle to the ice cream. Double chocolate chip, banana split, peanut butter crunch, cookies and cream, but nothing as simple as Meadow Gold chocolate.

He wanted something but had no idea what. He finally settled on a Cadbury fruit and nut, nibbling at it on the way home and stuffing it in his briefcase before reaching the house.

He told Catherine about the guy he had met on the bus.

“Well,” she said, “selling is their business.”

“Hi, Daddy,” Allison called from her room.

[p.36]“Hi, Allison. How was your day today?”

“Fine,” she said, hugging him. “Daddy, guess what?

Kimberly asked me to sleep over tomorrow night.”

“Oh, that’s good. We’ll have to get your sleeping bag ready.”

“Yeah, it’s a Cabbage-Patch party.”

“It is, huh? That should be fun. Where’s Tyler?”

“I think he’s out in the back yard.”

Ryan left his briefcase, coat, and tie in his room and walked out the back door. Tyler wasn’t in the backyard. He went back into the house.

“Do you know where Tyler is?” he asked Catherine.

“Down at the Johnsons’ probably. I have a hard time keeping track of him.”

He walked down the block to the Johnsons’. Tyler wasn’t there. He started around the block but then went back to the house.

Tyler was lying on the living room floor watching He Man.

“Hi, buddy, where were you?”

“At Mike’s. He’s got a new bike. Daddy, can I get a bike?”

“We’ll see when you get to be five years old.”

“That’s too long, Daddy.”

“Well, use your trike right now.”

“It’s too little.”

“You are getting bigger, aren’t you?”

Tyler turned his attention back to the TV.

Catherine was in the kitchen fixing dinner. She was listening to a transistor radio, Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York.

“I love to hear him sing that song,” said Ryan.

“Oh, he wouldn’t be bad if he didn’t think so much of himself.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with how well he sings.”

[p.37]“Yes it does,” she said. “He sings with pretense, not with honesty, like Tony Bennett.”

“Well, I like Sinatra. I’d pay twenty-five bucks to see him if he came to Salt Lake.”

“That bothers me.”

“What?”

“That attitude toward money when we’re so tight.”

What? It was just hypothetical.”

“Since we came back I’ve been trying very hard to avoid arguments. Let’s not get into one now.”

“I wasn’t trying to get into an argument. I just said I like Frank Sinatra. And you get upset about that.”

“Don’t be so defensive. Try to understand my feelings.”

“That bothers me. The way you take a shot at me and then ask me to understand your feelings.”

“Worry about yourself. That’s all you do. We’re always scheduling things around Hill Street Blues or a baseball game or football game or basketball game or whatever.”

“You just don’t like sports.”

Like? That would be one thing; being obsessed with them is another.”

He laughed. “Get serious.”

Tyler came into the kitchen. “I’m hungry. Can we eat dinner?”

“It’s not time for dinner,” said Catherine. “Have you cleaned up those blocks in your room?”

Tyler paused. “Yeah, Mommy.”

“Are you sure?”

Tyler didn’t answer. Catherine turned back to Ryan.

“You don’t treat me with respect.”

“Do you think you’re treating me with respect?”

“See what I mean?” she said. “I try to express something and you shift the conversation to whether I treat you with respect. You’re not interested in my feelings.”

[p.38]She stood up and started to put dishes into the cupboard.

“You’re hopeless,” she said.

“I am, huh?”

She took a clipboard from the drawer and started to add items to her grocery list.

“So now you’re going to give me the silent treatment?”

“That’s right,” she said.

“Frank Sinatra—that’s how this whole argument started.

With me making an innocent remark about Frank Sinatra. But you had to pick a fight.”

“I didn’t pick a fight.”

“Sure you did. You wanted to get into a fight from the minute I got home.”

He got his keys and wallet from the bookcase.

“Kids,” said Catherine, “Daddy’s taking you to the store.”

“Oh, good, Daddy,” said Allison from the living room.

“Can I go too?” asked Tyler.

“I’m not going to the store,” he said.

“Where are you going?” asked Allison.

Ryan whispered to Catherine, “Don’t use the kids like that.”

“Why not? You use them by leaving and making me take care of them.”

“Daddy,” said Tyler, “can we go to sen’levn?”

“If you want to go somewhere alone,” Ryan said to Catherine, “go ahead. I’ll stay here with them.” He walked back into the living room. Allison asked again if they could go to the store.

“Okay,” said Ryan.

“Goody!” yelled Tyler.

“Daddy, can I get a Twix candy bar?” asked Allison.

“I guess so.”

“Can I too?” asked Tyler.

“Yeah.”

“Goody.”

[p.39]In the car he told them to put on their seat belts. At the end of the block he turned to find Tyler still not in his seat belt.

“Tyler, do you want to go to 7-Eleven?”

“Yeah, Daddy.”

“Then put on your seat belt, or I’ll take you home.”

“No. My seat belt hurts.”

“I’ll count to five. One … two … three … ”

“Hurry Tyler,” said Allison, reaching over to help him.  “Four … ”

Predictably, Tyler buckled the belt as soon as Ryan said five.

“Okay, now keep it buckled.”

“I wanna Twix,” said Tyler. “And ice cream cones.”

“7 -Eleven doesn’t have ice cream cones.”

“Yes they do. They have ice cream cones.”

Ryan pulled into the parking lot.

“You two stay in the car. I’ll get your candy bars.”

“I wanna go in,” said Tyler.

“Please, Daddy,” said Allison.

“No. I’m in a hurry. Stay here and keep your seat belts on.  Do you hear me, Tyler? Stay here.”

“I wanna go in.”

“No. And keep your seat belts on.” He opened his door and walked into the store. He didn’t want any more of the Cadbury, but he knew he would want something later, when Catherine was asleep and he was sitting on the couch trying to finish the bank statement and watch Hawaii Five-O at the same time. He got some Meadow Gold rocky road and was paying for it and the candy bars when he saw Tyler standing out near the street. Dropping his wallet on the counter, he ran out of the store.

“Tyler!”

He grabbed him by the arm and yanked him toward the store.

[p.40]“I told you to stay in the car. Bad boy.”

“Daddy, you hurt my arm.”

“You shouldn’t get out of the car.”

A bearded man with no shirt was paying for several sixpacks of Coors, then quibbling with the clerk over the total.

Tyler tried to get away.

“You stay right here with me.”

“You hurt my arm.”

“You stay in the car next time.”

“You dummy, Daddy.”

Ryan knelt on one knee. “Don’t call your daddy a dummy or you won’t get your candy bar.”

“You dummy, Daddy.”

“Okay, no Twix for you.”

Tyler started to cry. In the car Ryan lifted him onto the seat and buckled the seat belt.

“Allison, why didn’t you stop him from getting out of the car? Didn’t you see where he was?”

“I thought he was going into the store. And you told me to keep my seat belt on.”

“Tyler, you can’t come with Daddy to the store if you act like this. You stay in the car when Daddy tells you to stay in the car.”

“You’re just a dummy, Daddy.”

Ryan slapped him on the shoulder. “It’s dangerous to get out of the car like that. Don’t you understand that?”

Tyler was screaming now. “Daddy hit me,” he sobbed.

“Does it hurt?” Allison asked.

Tyler nodded his head, tears streaming down his face.

“Daddy hurt me.”

Ryan sat down in the front seat, dropping the sack next to him and leaving his seat belt unbuckled. His throat hurt.

“Daddy hurt me,” Tyler repeated between sobs.

[p.41]He had been trying to decide between rocky road and chocolate chip while Tyler had walked out toward the street. Anything could have happened. Tyler had stopped crying by the time they reached home. Ryan helped him with his seat belt. Tyler rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Would you like your candy bar now?”

Tyler nodded.

“Please don’t get out of the car by yourself, okay?”

“Okay.”

Ryan kissed him on the forehead. “Daddy’s sorry he hit you. Here’s your Twix.”

“Thank you, Daddy.”