Monday, May 21, 2007

"How about a moron instead?"

March 23, 2007 (continued)

Tim heard enough of the conversation to figure this out on her own; no sense lying on top of it. I fill her in on the whole sordid story.

She stares at me, her blue eyes big and unflickering, her long hair flipped over one shoulder. For a moment I forget about Chris, forget that it's the middle of the night, forget that--

"Your brother is cheating?"

"Yeah, Tim, that's so shocking, 'cause no man ever cheats on his wife."

"She just had a baby!"

"What are you telling me for?" I ask.

Yeah, I'm innocent! All I did was fuck the girl's sister!

"She needs his help! And he's out sleeping with some college girl?"

Actually, she's out of college. A total geezer!

"So you never slept with a married guy?"



"That doesn't mean it was right to do it. Your brother knows better. What happened? I thought they were all lovey-dovey!"

"She got pregnant and turned into a bitch. Or should I say, more of a bitch than usual."

"If you ever do that to me, I swear--"


Webb Group Graphics (Chris's office)
Monday, March 26, 2007

Your workspace says a lot about you. It shows your obsession with detail, or your habitual procrastination, or, in Chris's case, a thirst for power.

Neatly labeled black binders line a shelf across from his desk: Customer Retention (Nat'l), one of them says.

Chris is an accountant. He pursued that line of work because he loved the certainty of dollars and cents. The numbers didn't care if he forgot to brush his teeth or wore the same shoes as yesterday. Building working relationships was a waste of time for Chris; he felt that everyone should be like him, quiet and efficient, and that anyone who needed a coworker to reassure them was hopelessly immature. Maybe he still feels that way, but now he's playing the game.

Accountants don't care about customer retention. Accountants work from 8:30 to 12, take exactly 30 minutes for lunch, then work from 12:30 to 5, at which point they turn off their computers, slide their chairs under the desk, and go home. Clearly, Chris has changed.

Chris's boss sure as hell isn't holding him responsible for customer retention. If he's concerned about it, it's because he's gotten restless and started looking at the overall health of the company, and is eager to do something about it.

His phone beeps loudly. "You wanted me to remind you about the deposit," a female voice says.

"Thanks, Carol," he says, without looking up from his computer screen.

"Damn people forgot the deposit for the health insurance a couple months ago," he says, not looking at me. "You don't wanna screw around with people's benefits. You know?"

"Are you some kind of big shot around here?" I ask.

"You're not jealous, are you?" he asks without smiling, and then, finally, he looks at me.

A young brunette taps on his door frame. "Hi Carol," Chris says.

"I think this is right. Can you just have a quick look at it?"

"Seeing that it's you," he smiles.

My eyes open wider as she walks behind his chair and leans against him, firmly enough so that his shoulder is buried in her left tit. Neither of them flinches, and right away I know they are fucking. It's instinctive: When a tit touches you at work, you jump. Unless you are so used to touching said tit that you don't notice anymore.

"Come say bye before you go," she says as she leaves the room.

Yep, fucking.

Twin Pines Restaurant

"Irene wants me to get a divorce," Chris says.

"You going to?"

His eyes narrow, and suddenly I realize what's been bothering me all day about him: He looks different somehow. There's a subtle change in his face, so insignificant that it barely registered in my subconscious. It's been gnawing at me all day like a phone number that I couldn't quite recall, but I finally figured it out.

It's his right eyebrow.

Chris and I inherited dad's thick, dark hair, and while our eyebrows are not bushy, you can't miss them, either. And, as my obsessive-compulsive mind repeatedly notices, they are perfectly level with each other. Or at least they were.

His right brow is slightly lower than his left--just a millimeter or so--and the eye underneath squints almost imperceptibly, as if he's heard something he doesn't quite believe.

It's ridiculous. Chris is almost 40, and at that age, skin sags. It's nothing.


But maybe it's not nothing. Maybe the eyebrow is a sign that his personality has changed, a tiny nuance that will end with my brother becoming someone I don't know, and don't even care for very much.

"What are you looking at, Steve?"

"Are you divorcing Janet?"

"Don't be an idiot."