[p.58]Dantley put up the shot. No good. Phoenix got the rebound.
“Man!” shouted Ryan. “Just once I’d like to see those guys get an offensive board. Just once.”
Phoenix brought the ball down and scored. Just like he thought they would. The Jazz lead was down to three.
“All they’ve got to do is score and they’ve got this one in the bag.”
“Phoenix is going to win it ,” said Catherine. “You can see the momentum switching. And don’t look at me like that. I can say what I want about the game. You should hear yourself complain.”
“Their coach acts like he’s the ace in the hole.”
“He’s not so bad.”
“MacLeod? He thinks the Jazz don’t even belong in the same league as the Suns.”
“Well, you can tell they are going to win the series.”
“And if they do I hope Denver kills them.”
“Why? What good would that do?”
He didn’t answer. Bailey missed a fifteen-footer from the corner, and Phoenix got the rebound. One minute left. They [p.59]brought the ball down and went to Davis. He drove, made the basket, and was fouled.
“I can’t believe it! It isn’t enough to let him score—they have to foul him. Now he’s going to tie it up.”
“There’s only forty-five seconds left! They’ve got to take care of the ball.”
Green passed the ball to Griffith, who put up a three-pointer.
“Look at that! Good! I can’t believe my eyes!”
Adams came in for Edwards. With twenty-six seconds left Davis put up a shot. No good. Adams tipped it in.
“Luck, pure luck.”
The Jazz ran down the clock. Dandey was fouled with six seconds left.
“Beautiful, beautiful. Ahead by one, A.D. at the line. Too good to be true.”
Dantley made both free throws.
“We got ’em,” said Ryan. “It’s in the old refrigerator.”
“I’m not so sure,” said Catherine.
Westphal came in for Nance. The Suns inbounded the ball to Davis, who put up a twisting, arching prayer from the right side. It hit nothing but net.
“I knew that was going in,” Ryan moaned. “There’s no way we’re going to beat them in overtime on their home court.”
“Let’s turn it off,” said Catherine.
“You don’t have to watch it, but I’m not turning it off.”
“Why not? Look at yourself. You’re not enjoying it.”
“Don’t worry about me, okay?”
“You’re supposed to be careful with your heart and here you are giving yourself a cardiac.”
[p.60]“You’re not going to bring my heart into this one. The doctor didn’t tell me I couldn’t watch basketball. Man, my heart is fine and dandy.”
She walked back to the bedroom.
With two and a half minutes left, the Jazz were ahead 107 to 105. Then a three-point play by Eaton.
“All right. 110 to 105. We got ’em now.”
Davis hit another jumper. Then he fouled Griffith. “Okay, Griff, let’s make both of them.” He missed both. Lucas got the rebound, and the Suns got the ball to Adams. He put up a shot. No good. Davis tipped it in.
“They’re hopeless. Can’t get a board to save their lives.”
Thirty seconds. Dantley missed a set shot, and Phoenix got the rebound. Phoenix called time out with twenty-two seconds left.
“Okay, we’re still ahead. We can win this one.”
Phoenix ran down the clock, the Jazz playing excellent defense. With four seconds left Lucas drove into a stationary Eaton.
“No! They can’t call a foul on Eaton. The refs are giving the game away. Home cooking.”
Lucas made both free throws. Phoenix was ahead by one.
The Jazz called time out. The crowd was going wild.
Ryan hated losing to that crowd. They thought they were such hot stuff.
He stood up. “C’mon, c’mon.”
Griffith inbounded the ball to Green, who had an open path to the basket. He went laterally, too laterally, the hardest way in the world to make a lay-up. It would never go. And it didn’t. The game was over.
Ryan walked out to the car, slammed the door shut and then slammed the steering wheel till his hand ached.
“Those stupid fools gave it away. A chance to make the semi-finals, and they give it away.” [p.61]He was mad at Dantley for losing the ball in regulation, mad at the referee for his asinine call, mad at Green for missing the lay-up, mad at the Phoenix fans for the way they gloated.
He was mad at Catherine for her lecture, acting like she was a mother trying to keep her son in line. Before they got married she had talked about how she would never nag him. And he had vowed not to get overweight. Famous last words.
Come to think of it he was mad at Ross, the philosopher, the big boss who thought he knew everything and didn’t know anything, who had somehow fallen into a situation where he was able to manipulate Ryan at whim.
Ryan slammed the steering wheel again, then started the car and backed out of the driveway. He drove to 7-Eleven; good—they had a pinball machine. He asked the clerk to change a dollar.
EIGHT BALL DELUXE. A pinball machine themed to a game of pool. He slid a quarter into the slot and pressed the button. The machine sprang to life.
Okay. Neal would say, let’s go. Let’s bounce that steel ball till it’s silly. Standing at the pinball machine in the Snowball Café in Palisades, Neal always rubbed his hands and smiled when he started a game. Ryan and his dad and Neal would sit in the corner and eat hamburgers with fries and Cokes, squeezing bottles of ketchup and mustard, the waitress calling them all by name. With his last fry half-eaten, Neal would dig into his pocket for a dime and saunter over to the pinball machine. AT THE RACES. Pinball themed to a horse race.
You could see the mountains through the window.
Ryan’s father never played, just sat at the table smiling.
Okay, Ryan, Neal would say after he played a game, let’s see you beat that score. And be patient. Don’t use the flippers too soon.
They didn’t have machines like EIGHT BALL DELUXE back in ’55. This one talked: “STOP TALKING AND START CHALKING,” when you put your quarter in, “NICE SHOT,” [p.62]when you flipped the ball up to the top, “GET THE EIGHT BALL,” after you got the seven, and “YOU LOSE,” when the game ended.
Ryan had five bucks in his wallet, and he was mad enough to play all afternoon. Catherine would be on his case when he went home, and Ross would be on his case when he went to work tomorrow.
Ross was getting ready to appoint managers over the two design departments, and Ryan had typed up a memo stating why he would make a good manager. It would mean a raise in pay and the chance to travel occasionally. But Ross would never promote him. Not in a thousand years.
You had to keep the ball going, keep it up near the top, where it bounced around by itself. Like Ross bouncing you around. Very clever analogy, Miles would say, mimicking Ross.
He slapped the side of the pinball machine. He was 10,000 points short of a free game and the stupid ball was stuck. That was supposed to be impossible. The designer of the machine had to be an idiot for the ball to get stuck. He slapped the side too hard.
He noticed a poster in the window as he left the 7-Eleven.
LEONARDO’S RETURN TO VINCI
An exhibition organized and circulated in the United States by the University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, in cooperation with the Italian Cultural Institute, San Francisco.
Leonardo, 1452 to 1519. Ryan hadn’t forgotten those dates. He remembered that Leonardo was born in Florence and apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio at the age of fifteen. He completed the drapery studies by the time he was thirty.
[p.63]And you should only allow the almost identical thickness of the limbs to be visible in a nymph or an angel, for these are represented clad in light draperies, which by the blowing of the wind are driven and pressed against the various limbs of the figures.
Sitting in the apartment in Pocatello, Ryan had scrutinized the drapery studies and the Manuscripts, amazed at Leonardo’s ability and his thoroughness. Man preparing to act with great force. Study of forcible motion. Figures pushing and pulling. Figures in complex balance.
Ryan had been in Ross’s office once when Ross was reviewing an applicant’s portfolio. “All kinds of people think they’re artists,” said Ross, “but they’re just dreamers.”
Later, with Catherine gone to the store, Ryan looked for some of his paintings. He couldn’t find them in the closet. He checked the storage room and then went back to the living room to see if Tyler was still watching TV. The TV was on but Tyler was gone.
He walked out to the front yard. “Tyler?” No answer. Tyler’s trike was in the driveway. Ryan walked into the middle of the street, looking either way for Tyler.
He went through the gate into the back yard. “Tyler?” Past the patio and out to the empty swings and empty garden. Then back into the house to check the bathrooms, kitchen, and Tyler’s bedroom.
“Never saw a kid who could disappear so fast.”
He kicked his slippers off and put on shoes and socks. Tyler had probably gone to Arnold’s house. It wasn’t unusual to find him there when Allison was there. It was too bad there weren’t any kids on the block Tyler’s age.
Cindy answered the door. “Hi, Mr. Masterson.”
“Hi, Cindy. Did Tyler come down here?”
“No, we haven’t seen him.”
[p.64]“Is Allison here?”
“Yeah, I’ll get her.”
He told Allison to help him find Tyler.
“But Dad, Cindy and I are playing.”
“You can come back as soon as we find him.”
“No, I want to stay here.”
He grabbed her by the arm. “This is important. We’ve got to find Tyler.”
She started to cry. “You don’t have to hurt me.”
“Help me find Tyler, please.”
“Okay.” She wiped her eyes.
“You ride your bike and go that way around the block. If you don’t see him go around the next block. Keep checking those two blocks, okay?”
“Do you have your watch?” he asked.
“Okay, come home in fifteen minutes.”
“And stay with him if you find him, even if you have a hard time getting him back home.”
He watched her ride down the street; then he headed in the opposite direction, toward Cloverdale Lane. It had been at least ten minutes since he had seen Tyler. Tyler could go a long way in ten minutes if he wanted to.
Ryan had gotten away from his parents at Uncle Neal’s cabin at Palisades when he was four. A four-year-old could make it to the river in just a few minutes, and he had vague memories of running up over a crest and seeing the water. He ran alongside the river, up and down a trail. He remembered the sound of his dad coming after him through the brush. Then those strong hands gripping him and lifting him up, his father’s whiskers against his cheek.
[p.65]He had only been four years old. It wouldn’t have taken much to end up in the river.
He turned west on Cloverdale and stopped at the Binghams’. No one there had seen Tyler all day. Now Ryan had to decide whether to stay on Cloverdale or try Meadow Downs. Who could predict the mind of a four-year-old?
He stayed on Cloverdale, walking briskly toward the school. If he didn’t find him at the school he would circle back around on Greenfield Way, then Meadow Downs. Then, if neither he nor Allison had found him, he’d have to do something. He wasn’t sure what. Maybe call Harmon’s and get hold of Catherine. If she hadn’t gone somewhere else. Maybe call the Sheriff’s office. That might be premature.
Tyler could be blocks away by now. He could be walking along Fort Union Boulevard with cars rushing past at forty miles an hour. Or he might be sitting in the next-door neighbor’s back yard playing with their cat.
Ryan was breathing hard when he got to the school. He wasn’t sure if he was going to spank Tyler or hug him when he found him.
Someone was playing at the swings. He couldn’t tell if it was Tyler.
Ryan thought about his father grabbing him away from the river with those strong arms. How could a four-year-old ever comprehend that his strong, wise parents would grow old, grow as vulnerable as little children, and slip out of existence? Who could ever comprehend it?
It wasn’t Tyler.
He turned and looked up the hill, at the outline of traffic moving down Fort Union. Darkness would fall in another twenty minutes. He had to decide what to do when he got home. If Tyler wasn’t there. He needed some immediate help. He could call some neighbors and ask them to start looking. Then he could call Harmon’s. He’d have to keep Allison with him.
[p.66]He quickened his pace across the school ground. He thought about Allison riding her bike alone with darkness coming. He hoped she was back home by now. He had always felt that a girl was much more likely to get kidnapped than a boy.
Arthur Gary Bishop. He had picked up boys, boys loitering in grocery stores, maybe just an aisle away from their parents. Bishop would have picked up a four-year-old walking alone down the street. It wouldn’t be difficult. Allison would scream, but Tyler might be too surprised to respond. A man could drive up and claim to be a friend of Tyler’s daddy and ask him to get in the car. Ryan wasn’t sure what Tyler would do.
Arthur Gary Bishop picked up boys and killed them by hitting them with hammers, shooting them, or drowning them in bathtubs. How could you go on living if someone did that to your son?
During the trial, reporters had interviewed people from Bishop’s home town-Hinckley, Utah. They all called him Art, saying Art had been a good boy, a good student, an Eagle Scout, but a loner.
Ryan didn’t expect to find Tyler on Meadow Downs—he didn’t have any friends there. But it was possible, so Ryan walked the length of the street, checking each yard. He broke into a trot at the end of the street, sweating as he rounded the corner. Then he saw Allison’s bike in the driveway. She was safe. He passed Homgren’s house, then Drew’s. It was a perfect night for running. For someone who was in shape.
The house didn’t come fully into view until he passed the tree in the Smiths’ front yard. Allison was sitting on the step with her arm around Tyler. Ryan stopped at the edge of the driveway, took out his handkerchief, and wiped his forehead. Tyler looked up at him and waved without saying a word. Then he turned back to the story Allison was reading him.
He tried to remember how his mother had reacted when [p.67]his dad had brought him back from the river. He couldn’t remember anything. She had probably put her arms around him and then sat rocking him. He wished he could remember. But now even the details of her last week were hazy. And he had been eighteen then.
“I went around the block and then checked Cindy’s house again,” Allison told him. “He was there, all right.”
Ryan patted her on the shoulder. “Good thinking, honey.”
He kneeled down and put his hand on Tyler’s shoulder.
“You went away without telling me, didn’t you?”
Tyler nodded his head.
“Daddy was worried about you. I thought you were lost.”
“I was at Cindy’s house.”
“We checked Cindy’s house; you weren’t there at first—”
It was no use trying to explain that. “But that doesn’t matter. You left the house without asking. That’s not good.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy.”
He said it totally without remorse.
“You listen to me, Tyler, it’s dangerous for children to go away from home by themselves. Bad men take them and hurt them!” He slapped Tyler’s shoulder.
Tyler was ready to cry. Ryan held his shoulder softly now.
“Daddy’s not going to hurt you. I just want you to have someone with you when you go away from home.”
“I will, Daddy.”
He looked again at Allison. “You did a good job.”
“Thanks,” she said.
He sat down in the waiting room and looked up at the signs.
Please Have Insurance and ID Cards Ready
Please Take a Number
[p.68]He walked over and took a number. Eight. The girl at the counter looked up from her typewriter. “Number three,” she called.
A woman about fifty stood up and helped a much older woman stand. Ryan heard her call the older woman Grandma as they walked to the desk.
He flipped through the magazines and took one called Modern Healthcare. The lead story was entitled “Participative Skills Essential in a Cost-Conscious Market.” Some designer had chosen a typesize for the title that was much too large.
The two women sat down; the typist asked the younger one questions and she repeated them loudly to her grandmother.
“What is your address?” she almost shouted. “What is your birthday?”
He couldn’t hear what the older woman said. “You forgot your birthday?” asked her granddaughter.
The old woman mumbled something about March. Ryan watched the people sitting near him; they were trying to act nonchalant.
A priest walked down the hall and into the snack bar. A minute later he came out carrying a candy bar. You never imagined priests doing something as ordinary as buying a candy bar. He imagined himself dying, calling in a priest for the last rites.
“Does it matter that I’m not Catholic?”
What could a priest possibly say to that? What if you told him you had done your best to live a good life and wanted God’s forgiveness for the sins you had committed? What could he say to that?
“It’s for glaucoma,” the younger woman said to the typist. What could a priest say if you told him you were going blind and wanted God to heal you? Would he have to turn philosophical when you reminded him that Jesus Christ healed the blind?
[p.69]The blue and gold chairs and checkered carpet with blue and gold border made him nervous, like they were trying too hard to make the place cheery. A dull green or brown would have been much more comfortable.
A somber couple about seventy-five walked to the desk. Fifteen minutes later the woman called his number. She gave him a form and told him where cardiology was. He walked down the hall, turned right, and passed some elevators. Now he couldn’t remember if she had said to go right or left. He tried right but came to a door with a “NO ADMITTANCE” sign.
He had to ask a nurse for directions to find cardiology.
“Hello,” he said to the receptionist. “I’m Ryan Masterson; I’m here for an echo cardiogram.”
“Okay.” She scanned the appointment book. “Yes, one-thirty.
And your doctor is Dr. Lister?”
“Okay, Mr. Masterson. If you would please have a seat in the room directly across the hall, a technician will be with you shortly.”
He sat down in a chair near the foot of the bed. At the head of the bed was a computer screen and keyboard attached to a complicated VCR.
The test is non-invasive, the doctor had said. It’s not painful and it doesn’t take long.
He had paid unusual attention to his heart the last couple of weeks, checking his heart rate daily, seeing if he tired easily, trying to perceive any abnormality in his heartbeat.
His heart rate was in the high 70s now; when he had been a senior in high school it had been 60.
So you’re going in for the test, Miles had said. There comes a time when you’re made painfully aware that physical laws apply very specifically to your body. You don’t believe that when you’re eighteen.
[p.70]Eighteen. He was invincible at eighteen, sometimes running seventy-five miles a week, along with weight workouts and swimming. And he was in love with a beautiful, intelligent girl. He couldn’t comprehend ever having heart trouble.
“Hello.” A good-looking brunette about twenty walked into the room.
“Hi,” he said.
She smiled, as if they knew each other and she was glad to see him.
“You’re Mr. Masterson?”
“Okay, would you remove your shirt, please?”
He unbuttoned his shirt and glanced down at his stomach. Not long after they got married, Catherine told him she couldn’t stand men with beer bellies. He said he couldn’t stand rniddle-aged women with flabby arms. Catherine was still as slim as she had been at twenty. He was well on his way to looking like—a slob.
“Please sit here while I attach these.”
He sat on the edge of the bed. She taped a wire to each shoulder and one to his side. Her touch was soft, almost a caress. How long had it been since a woman’s touch had excited him? Years. The way Rose had thrilled him. And Catherine, once.
“An echocardiogram is basically an ultra sound on the heart,” she said. ‘‘I’ll apply this to your chest and we’ll be able to see an image of your heart on the screen.”
“And you use the VCR to record the test?”
“That’s right. A cardiologist will study it later. Now—if you’d lie back here—that’s it—now turn on your side—right—and I need you to put your arm up—yes, like that.”
She put some lubricant on the ultra sound and held it to his chest. Nothing appeared on the screen. She moved the ultra sound. Then a blur on the screen; she moved it again.
[p.71]There it was. His heart. As if someone had pulled it right out of his chest. But he could hardly believe it had anything to do with him. A blob of energy, moving with a motion he had never seen before—so much smoother and constant and dynamic than any machine.
“This is the mitral valve. Normally it should come down flat. You have a prolapse if it slips down in. Here’s another valve over here.”
The valves were two mouths—open and shut, open and shut with unnerving rhythm, the image more and more alien, a creature you’d see in Star Trek or Return of the Jedi: devouring one innocent being after another, open and shut, open and shut, more, more, more.
She concentrated on the screen and shifted the ultra sound.
He was nervous; he wondered if a rapid pulse affected the test at all.
“Are you comfortable?”
“Yeah, I’m all right.”
She was just a technician doing her job, treating him no differently than she treated all the others who came in worried about their hearts. Still, her courtesy was genuine, and rare.
This girl probably hadn’t been born when he graduated from high school. She may have been a year old when he said goodbye to Rose. So the question was, what had he been doing all the time she grew from a baby to a cardiogram technician?
“I don’t see how you discern anything?” said Ryan.
She laughed. “Well, it takes a lot of practice.”
Who could imagine what Neal’s heart looked like—after seventy years of hard work, Camel cigarettes, rich food, hard liquor, late nights, and no regular exercise.
“When you’re middle-aged you think your body is starting to act funny,” he said to Ryan once. “Just wait till you’re sixty.” Then he started to cough.
[p.72]But who could tell? Neal might outlive him. It was entirely possible. People Ryan’s age were dying all the time.
Neal would come to Ryan’s funeral in a twenty-year-old suit, the knot of his tie off center. He wouldn’t speak much, just mumble something to Catherine and the kids about Ryan being a fine man. At the cemetery he would wander off by himself, stand under a tree, and light a smoke.
To die at thirty-eight would be a cheat, with your kids young and a second forty years of possibilities ahead of you. You might have some young doctor tell you in a fatherly way that your heart problem was much worse than expected.
I’m sorry to hear that you’re dying, Ross would say. By the way, how are you doing on the Instructor’s Utilization Handbook?
The possibility of your death was Ross’s favorite way of reminding you to keep your office organized. “What if you died over the weekend? Would your replacement be able to carry on or would your office be utter confusion?”
The image had changed from a monster to drummers on a stage, drumming the same mad rhythm incessantly—in perfect sync—the kind of drumming that could rapidly drive you out of your mind. Smart-aleck drummers taunting you with their energy and their timing, pounding away on tall bongo drums.
He was uncomfortable; maybe she would be done soon.
She knew what she was doing, yet she had only been seven or eight when Watergate blew up. What had he accomplished since Watergate? That was the question.
“This is unofficial,” she said, “but I can’t see a prolapse.”
“No. See—right here—it’s not slipping in.”
“I see.” He couldn’t see anything, just a mad drummer changing to a monster and then back to a drummer.
“But don’t take my word for it. When you meet with your doctor he’ll review the cardiology report with you.”
“Well,” she said, “I guess that’s it.” She removed the wires from his shoulders and side and turned off the machine. “Thank you very much, Mr. Masterson.”
She closed the door behind her. He was sitting on the edge of the bed. He didn’t move for a minute. Then he reached for his shirt.
It was hot in the parking lot, probably over a hundred.
The summers were always too hot in Utah. He liked autumn better, when you could sit on the patio and have a moment of peace and not see the weather as an enemy.
He had left the office over ninety minutes ago. Ross was probably watching the clock to see how long he would be gone. Ryan hadn’t mentioned the echo cardiogram, just saying he had a doctor’s appointment. Otherwise Ross would have started in about his heart and his parents’ hearts—none of them had ever had any heart problems. They were just lucky that way.
He could hardly breathe in the car. Rolling down all the windows didn’t help. Why did it have to be so hot? Whoever had his finger on the thermostat just couldn’t help himself.
An afternoon of pasting up charts: that’s what he had to look forward to.
He pulled into a 7-Eleven for a Big Gulp, maybe a Super Big Gulp, twenty-four ounces to survive running heads and another twenty-four to survive Ross.
He grabbed a Super Big Gulp cup, filled it with ice and then Coke. The clerk said hello to him, told him to have a good day.
He got back in the hot car and took a long drink. Then he opened his wallet and pulled out the clippings.
[p.74]Excellent opportunity for creative art director with strong administrative skills. Minimum of five years professional experience. Strong background in production, design, illustration, and photography.
Send resume and salary history to: 353 Tremont, Denver CO, 80202 Equal Opportunity Employer
Layout artist with above average illustration skills and experience in retail advertising. Firm knowledge of typesetting, process camera and production art necessary. Portfolio required. Submit to: Personnel Department, 533 E. Lawndale Road, Salt Lake City, UT, 84130
He had shown the ads to Miles that morning.
“You know what the problems are, don’t you?” asked Miles.
“Well, first, you can’t abandon me and move to Denver. Second, this job in Salt Lake obviously wouldn’t pay enough. Third, this isn’t really what you want to do.”
“You want to sit in a studio and do real art.”
“So why don’t you?”
“I’ve been asking myself that for a long time.”
“You had art shows in college, right?”
“You sold paintings.”
“So why aren’t you doing real art now?”
“It’s called paying the mortgage.”
“That’s a cop-out. Look, I’ve got something in my drawer [p.75]here. Let me see if I can find it. Okay, here it is.” He handed Ryan a small pamphlet.
James W. Piersanti
The feeling expressed in the works of James W. Piersanti belongs to an ethereal world of realism and fancy, to innocence and wonder.
The jury of the 20th annual Festival of Arts at the University of Utah was so pleased with the exquisite craftsmanship of Mr. Piers anti he was presented with a cash award for his work. It was at this time that the gallery arranged for an exhibition to share his work with our many friends in the art community.
A reception to honor the artist will be held June 12 at 7:00 p.m. You are cordially invited to attend and visit with the artist at this time.
A list of Jim’s works followed, with a small reproduction of one of his paintings.
“I didn’t even know Jim was a painter,” said Ryan.
“I didn’t either. I thought all he was interested in was Pascal and C and Basic. But he does fine art in his spare time, and he still pays the mortgage.”
“Okay, I get the point,” Ryan said.
Miles had already gone to lunch when Ryan got back to the office. He wandered over to the mall by himself but didn’t see anything that looked good. He decided to walk through the Marriott to Arrow Press Square. He had just entered the hotel when he saw Shirleen.
“Oh—hi, Ryan … how’s it going?”
“Pretty good. Cutting through the Marriott again, huh?”
“What? Oh, yeah, it’s a good shortcut.”
[p.76]“I use it all the time.”
“Well,” she said, “we’ll see you back at the office.”
He watched her walk into the mall. She was one good-looking woman.
Ryan walked the two long halls and then into the lobby. Miles was standing at one of the counters, his back to Ryan. Ryan started toward him but then turned and made a quick exit past the liquor store.
Miles and Shirleen. It wasn’t his business, but he couldn’t get it off his mind. He watched them when he got back to the office but didn’t notice anything unusual. Then, when Shirleen was at the copy machine, Miles walked by, put his hand on her waist and whispered something to her. She smiled.
Ryan went back into his office and closed the door.
“It’s not my business,” he said out loud. He lifted a stack of papers out of his desk and started looking through them. He found the letter from Neal the second time through. It was already a year old.
How are you? Ever since you were up here earlier this year I’ve been telling myself I would get a letter off to you.
How are those kids of yours, anyway? They’re sure cute kids. Kids. You lose them when they grow up.
I’m sitting here on the step staring out at the butte. The butte is visible from Hibbard, you know, if you get on high ground. Your dad has probably told you that before. We saw that butte as some kind of vision when we were kids.
How are you and Catherine doing? When you stayed with us she was mad at you for something, mad the [p.77]whole time, though I didn’t hear her say a single unkind word to you. (I know the signs of an angry wife.)
Drove into Idaho Falls on Memorial Day and left some flowers on April’s grave. Norma is very conscientious about that. She’s there three or four times a year. What do you hear from your father? We get a Christmas card every year from Eleanor but no word from Clark. How does a retired man (I guess you could call him semi-retired now that someone else manages the garage) occupy his time in Florida, of all places? It might be all right for some, but Clark was the one who wanted to spend his entire life in some deserted cabin next to the Snake River. Florida. Well, I’ll never get old enough or wise enough to understand that one.
Norma keeps telling me this tobacco is going to kill me (if the beer doesn’t do the job first), but I’m fine. No one lives forever. Hope you’re able to make it up here again before long. We’d love to have you. Those kids are a joy.
Ryan folded the letter and put it back in the drawer. He hadn’t talked to Uncle Neal for several months.
Tilting the machine just shows you’re an amateur.
Four distinct raps at the door. Ryan picked up his T-square and opened the door. Ross had Henning with him.
“Ryan, could you tell me the status of the Comdex brochure?”
“I haven’t started on it.”
“Why is that?”
“I haven’t received the dummies and slix from Bob.”
“And why is that?”
“I don’t know.”
Ross looked at the yellow pad in his hand. “We’ve missed [p.78]the deadline. Somebody let it slip. Now Jack Sloan is on the phone asking me for camera-ready copy. I assumed it would be done. Well, we’ll have to stay late and get it done tonight. Henning, can you stay late?”
Ryan wanted to ask Henning why he hadn’t saluted.
“Good,” said Ross, turning to Ryan. “Ryan?”
“Yeah, I guess I could.”
He had promised Catherine he would come home on time and rest the entire evening. Just working eight hours left him tired. She would be mad when he told her he had agreed to stay late. She would tell him to stand up to Ross. But how could you tell Ross you needed to get home because you had to take care of yourself? He would look at you like you were an eight-year-old kid and tell you to go ahead. We don’t want to jeopardize anyone’s health.
Ross walked across the hall for a minute and then came back to Ryan’s office. “I got two of the writers to help us with corrections and proofreading. We’ll get an assembly line going here.”
Ryan saw Miles and Ted standing in the hall, Miles scowling.
Ryan had been cutting in folios and corrections for an hour when Miles came in to check corrections.
“I didn’t even think you were going to work full days, let alone overtime.”
“I got an offer I couldn’t refuse,” said Ryan.
After a few minutes Miles said, “I saw you hustling out of the Marriott today.”
“Oh did you? I was going over to Arrow Press Square to eat.”
“Don’t act innocent,” said Miles. “You know what I’m talking about.”
[p.79]“I guess I do.”
“Shirleen told me she ran into you.”
“Sounds like you’ve got something to say,” said Miles.
“No. I shouldn’t be saying anything at all.”
“Sure you should. You’re my friend.”
“Your friend thinks you’re getting yourself into a mess.”
“I expected you to say that. Maybe it is a mess. But my marriage was perfectly kosher—and it was a mess.”
“That doesn’t mean anything.”
“I’m in love with Shirleen. Does that mean anything?”
“Of course it does.”
“A couple of years ago, when Mindy and I were really having problems, I started sleeping on the couch. We went weeks and weeks without touching each other. That was hard on me. Well, Mindy’s sister called me here at the office one day. She and I have always gotten along, and she knew Mindy and I were about finished. She asked me if I’d like to meet her for a drink. I went and told her no. I decided to be true to my wife. Well, the minute I get home, Mindy tears into me for not mowing the lawn. The lawn. She told me I was a sad excuse for a husband. My attempt at honor didn’t mean a thing.”
“Oh yes it did.”
“The point is, how can I convince myself that I’m supposed to be ‘honorable’ again? I’m not even married.”
“Shirleen is,” said Ryan.
“I don’t think you’re listening to me,” said Miles. “You’re not hearing a word I say.”
“Maybe I’m not.”
“You can’t imagine what it’s like to find yourself alone after being married for ten years,” said Miles.
“I know it’s hard.”
[p.80] “Shirleen. There’s no way I could have resisted. And I’m not just talking about meeting her in the Marriott. I’m talking about her tenderness and her humor and her class. She is great.”
Ryan didn’t say anything.
“Her husband doesn’t know what he’s missing.”
“Oh, get serious, Miles.”
“You didn’t appreciate Mindy. I don’t appreciate Catherine. What man does appreciate his wife?”
“Is that really you talking?”
“Yes,” said Ryan, “it’s me, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’m just afraid this will be another heartbreak. For both of you.”
“It could be.”
“I won’t lecture any more.”
He watched Miles take the boards back to his office. He had always wondered what it would be like to fall in love with Shirleen.
Around 6:30 it was obvious they wouldn’t finish for a couple of hours. Ross grew very serious. He hovered over them while he waited for boards to review.
“Maybe you should tape some of those small corrections down,” he said to Ryan. “They have a tendency to fall off.”
“I intend to.”
Ross loved to think he was one step ahead of you.
Henning brought a board over to Ryan. “What do you think of this caption? I think we should run it along the top, but I’m not sure.”
Ross stepped forward just as Ryan started to speak.
“Run it along the top,” said Ross.
Ryan dropped his Exacto knife on the table and walked out of the room. If you told Ross not to treat you like that he would put on his innocent act. I had no intention of treading on anyone’s feelings.
[p.81]He walked to the end of the hall and stared out the window. It had been ten years since he walked down this hall for the first time, overjoyed at the job he had just been offered. It looked like a good place to work, a place where you could move up. Ross looked like a good man to work for.
They offered me a job, he told Catherine over the phone. Ryan, I’m so happy, she said. He stood there in the phone booth telling her the details, hardly able to contain himself. Then he sauntered over to the Hotel Utah and treated himself to lunch.
He gave himself two years. By then he wanted to be established as a free-lance illustrator, eventually moving to more serious art. He was going to spend most of his time painting, and he was going to make good money doing it.
Two years. He was more firmly under Ross’s thumb now than when he started. The longer you stayed the worse it got.
He had forgotten to take his penicillin. He just didn’t want Ross to see him doing it. Guess I’m just lucky—haven’t had a prescription in years.
Ryan went back to the light table and started on a stack of corrections. Ross was thumbing through a Chicago Manual of Style.
“Shouldn’t we have a hyphen here?” asked Ross.
“According to Chicago we should.” He handed Miles the book and pointed out an example.
“There’s a difference,” said Miles. “We’re not using the phrase as an adjective.”
Ross looked at the art board and then at Chicago. He didn’t say anything.
“I checked on that when I was editing this,” said Miles. “We’ve all got copies of Chicago in our offices.”
Ryan watched Ross. He didn’t take the bait. He didn’t say anything at all. Miles watched him too, ready to throw out [p.82]another jibe. But Ross showed no signs of being ruffled. He paused, picked up an art board, and walked to a table.
They finished at 8:45.
“I want to thank everyone for working late,” said Ross.
Ryan went to his office for his briefcase and coat.
“Hey,” said Miles, standing at the door. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“And—well … about Shirleen and me … I’d appreciate your keeping that confidential.”
“You know I will.”
“Shirleen was unhappy with her marriage before I came along.”
“I know that.”
“Have you ever been tempted?” asked Miles.
“You mean to have an affair?”
“I’ve been tempted.”
Miles seemed to be waiting for an explanation. Ryan didn’t offer one. Miles said goodnight and followed the others out of the office.
“Well,” Ross said from the foyer, “should we call it a day?”
That’s the way he was. He always wanted to be the last one out of the office.
“I guess so,” said Ryan.
In the parking lot Ryan waited in his car. In a minute he saw Ross stride into the parking lot. He dropped his briefcase and unlocked the car. He leaned on the car, motionless for several seconds, Ryan watching the silhouette. Then Ross was back in action, popping the door open, revving the engine, and driving out of the lot.
Ryan started his car. He had to remember the penicillin when he got home.