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The Morning

Weinstein’s wife is crying. They just made love and she is crying that soft silent way women cry when what is wrong, or what’s right for that matter, is not yet a wordful thing.

Weinstein considers for a moment that she is crying because she is happy, but any such notion dies quickly. He knows her well enough to be quite positive the tears running down her pale morning cheeks are not the good kind. There is no mystery here. Far from it.

He leans over and gently kisses her, tasting her salt, and her sadness too, he thinks.

“What’s up babe? Was I that good?”

“I heard you drive in last night. What took you so long to get out of the garage?”

“Oh, I straightened up a few things. The kids must have been screwing around in my shop. You know how I am about my tools.”

“I know how you are about everything. Your priorities are shit. You’re gone for two weeks, arrive home in the middle of the night and it takes you twenty minutes to come to our bedroom. I’m sick of feeling like this”.

“Feeling like what?”

“Oh, come on, do I have to spell it out for you? We’ve had this conversation before. I’m so lonely I could scream. And I think there’s something terribly wrong with me. The whole right side of my face is numb again.”

It is zero dark thirty and the day is already off to a great start, Weinstein thinks. He envisions his desk stacked high with molten issues that will require his immediate attention, especially the impending loss of a major account. Big money and it’s burning like a trash fire. Weinstein wants to run to the office and call upon everything he must try to douse it. Priorities? He knows what she means, but still.

“Look, hon, can we talk about this tonight? I’ll try to be home early. I understand what you’re saying. We’ll work on it”.

“Yeah, you’ll come home, have a few drinks, smoke a joint, get into bed, turn on the television, close the bedroom door and zombie out while I help the kids with their homework. And God forbid if the house is a mess. I’m telling you I can’t do much more of this”.

“I know, I know. We’ll talk tonight”.

Weinstein pads slowly to the bathroom and closes the door and locks it noiselessly to soften his exit. In the shower with the strong stinging spray of hot water directed straight into his face he thinks, privacy, no matter how goddamn ephemeral, is one of the truly solid gold values in this life.

In the car on his way to the office, Weinstein begins to review the plot, the strategy he plans to employ to try to save the account. It really doesn’t seem salvageable at this point because he knows what he’s up against, a powerfully rooted combination of ignorance and intransigence that’s been well watered by a competitor whose tactics are shameful but effective.

The Ventura Freeway is a mire of stop and go traffic proceeding at a crawl. Weinstein notices the expressions on the faces of his fellow commuters appear sullen and depressed. He glances at his own worried eyes reflected in the rearview mirror and sees he looks like hell too. Legions of the doomed, he whispers to himself, and I’m right there in lock step, going to work with a gut full of anxiety in the early morning gloom of June in L.A., a sunless toxic gray brown shroud of smog and fog that defines a summer morning in this beleaguered bellicose city of my birth.

Suddenly a sea of brake lights. Road construction ahead. Caltrans has coned off two lanes. The grand orange bureaucracy has chosen this most viscous rush hour as the ideal time to patch a few potholes. Weinstein and hundreds of others, thousands of others, brake to a rude halt, a painful squeeze, a trap, a numbing delay from which timely escape is out of the question.

Of all the goddamn mornings, Weinstein thinks, but then he stifles it remembering an ancient prayer that has something to do with the hopelessness of attempting to change what is absolutely the unchangeable, the immutability of fate.

Minutes pass. Way too many of them. Weinstein tries to focus on the problem, the big one, the matter of losing fifty thousand dollars of revenue in what is hardly shaping up as a banner fiscal year in any event. His competitor has clearly outmaneuvered him by getting the client and those frightened men at the ad agency screwed, glued and tattooed while he had a polite hopeless dinner discussing circulation and demographics with two large officious female media clerks who drank like fish and ordered the caviar appetizer. He’s been phoning them, faxing them, emailing them since he became aware of the shipwreck, to no avail. Only a portentous silence suffused with defeat, a silence upon which floats Weinstein’s worst primal fear, the big F, Failure.

Perhaps fifty yards ahead Weinstein can see blinking lights, the flags, the men and the machines of the road crew, and beyond, the lanes of traffic beginning to flow normally again. However agonizing the pace, release from the maddening pinch is at least in sight. As Weinstein inches closer to the work site he can hear the whine of diesel engines and the staccato bursts of jackhammers and then as he is astride it he sees the men themselves in their orange vests and metal helmets, a few doing the real grunt work with picks and shovels. It is these men upon whom Weinstein focuses, these men at their fundamental honest physical toil with their hand tools, their tanned unshaven faces registering only simple exertion, and Weinstein thinks, those lucky sons of bitches, this morning I wish I could trade places with them and then go home to a clean, empty, well lighted little cottage in Canoga Park with an ice cold 12-pack of Budweiser.

Weinstein is lost in fractured nonsensical thought by the time he slides his car into his space in the office parking lot reserved for company executives. His mind has wandered to North Africa and there he sits by a campfire under a vast star-pocked Sahara sky munching roasted goat with a family of Bedouin tribesmen. Then at once he glances at his Rolex. Realizing it’s already past nine, he is jolted back to painful reality, too late to make long distance calls back east he needs to make. The bastards will be on their first martinis by now, and since its Friday, trying to reach anyone who matters after lunch is going to be futile. The weekend looms, two days with the family, two more days to stew.

“Mr. Weinstein”, the receptionist says the second he steps through the door, “Your wife called. She wants you to phone her right away.”

“Ah Karen, you look gorgeous this morning. You know what she wanted?”

“Something about a birthday, oh yes, it’s her mother’s birthday and she wants to remind you about going to the party tomorrow. In Orange County. You must be there by noon and you know how the traffic is”.

“Yes Karen, I know how it is. I know exactly how it is. Do me a favor and call her back for me, will you? Tell her I wouldn’t miss her mother’s birthday party for the world, not for the whole fucking world.”

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