Chapter 11 Ray sticks his head inside Cal's office. "Nobody knows," he says, "the trouble she's seen." "What's up?"
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Ray sticks his head inside Cal's office. "Nobody knows,"
he says, "the trouble she's seen."
"It seems our secretary is minus a boy friend. At least
that's what I get from the
stuff going out over the tele-
phone wires. She's got her own personal Ann Landers
on the other end, I guess. Lord, I wish she'd blow her
"You're a hard-hearted bastard," Cal says.
"Yeah, she'll find out how hard-hearted if she doesn't
get some of this mail out. Not that I'd presume to com-
pare it with the tragedy of the century that's going on
"Somebody who's going through a romantic crisis
shouldn't be expected to get the mail out."
"Hey, whose side are you on?" Ray comes in; shuts
the door behind him. "You through with that pension
"Hey, buddy, what have you been doing all morn-
"Hey, buddy, don't get on my back. I'm not Cherry."
Ray laughs. "See? What she's doing to me? Making
me into a browbeater and a nagger,
with my own part-
An endless parade of secretaries. He has seen them
interviewed, instructed, hired, used, and lost, forever
and ever, on into eternity. They have been doing it for
seven years. It has been that long since they have had
a good legal secretary. Since Lynn Searles.
Poor Cherry. people are like icebergs; one-seventh
visible and operative, and the rest just so much proto-
plasmic energy, seething around under there, looking
for a target to funnel toward. Too bad she picked the
wrong target. Yet it's
hard to imagine that giddy, empty
girl with any hidden energies; how did she summon up
that much feeling for anybody? Watch it--your im-
munity is showing. That is it, of course. He has become
immune to the sufferings of others. I don't give a damn.
Let them hurt. The things which hurt instruct -- Benja-
min Franklin. That was one of Arnold's favorites, Not
true, though. The things which hurt don't always in-
struct. Sometimes they merely, hurt. Ask me. Ask
Nancy Hanley. Instruct sounds like such a positive
word, but he doubts whether Ray's wife, even now,
would believe in that saying.
In any case, he would not
ask her. A long time ago, and water over the dam.
Lynn Searles. What made him think of her? Stern,
straight-thinking Lynn, who always looked right into
your eyes when she spoke to you, as if she could see
behind them and into your head. He wonders, idly,
what she is doing now. He wonders if Ray knows; if he
knows where she is. Another question he would not ask.
What was that? Water over the dam? Con is right, he will have to watch it, he is getting to think more like Howard every day.
He runs into Carole Lazenby downstairs in the Plaza.
Hatless, wearing a tweed pantsuit, her large-boned,
figure looks farmlike, out of place here, among
the coeds and snazzy secretaries parading the streets of
Evanston at noontime. And because she looks so real
and so alive, he is absurdly glad to see her; asks her to
go to lunch with him on the spot.
"Gee, nobody's asked me to lunch in ages! I wonder
if I'll know how to act!"
She offers to take him to the University Sandwich
Shop, where she commands a discount with her student
"What are you taking?" he asks.
She laughs, self-consciously. "It's called Search for
Funny, he would never have picked her out as a
woman with identity problems.
He tells her so, but she
"Oh, come on. Everybody has them, Cal. Looking
forty in the face is what scared me. Maybe if I was your
wife, I could handle it better."
"Why?" She laughs again. "Oh, I don't know. I guess
because she doesn't look it."
A pleasant lunch. He has forgotten how easy she is to
talk to, how genuine. She asks about Con, and that
makes it easy for him to inquire after Joe, to mention
how he misses seeing him around the house, as he used
"Yes, they don't spend much time together, do they?
Well, you tell Connie that I miss him. Tell him to stop
over some time soon. Beth, too. How is she? I only see
at bridge once a month, and we never seem to get
a chance to talk."
"She's busy, too," Cal says. "She's chairing the tennis
tournament at Onwentsia next spring. She spends a lot
of time over there."
"I admire her organization," Carole says. "She's such
a perfectionist. And yet she never lets herself get
trapped into things she doesn't want to do. Now, there's
an art. I'm just beginning to learn the trick myself. I
hope it's not too late!"
He walks Carole to the corner; sends his greetings to
John, and to Kaytee, their daughter.
"We'll get together," he promises.
On the way back to work he thinks, She never lets
herself get trapped. Not strictly true.
He can remember
a period of their lives when she felt distinctly trapped.
When Jordan was two years old, with Connie toddling
around after him at ten months, both of them spreading
havoc in that tiny northside apartment. Those first five
years just passed in a blurt he has heard her say gaily
at parties. But he remembers them, and remembers
the scenes: her figure, tense with fury as she scrubbed
the fingermarks from the walls;
she bursting suddenly
into tears because of a toy left out of place, or a spoonful
of food thrown onto the floor from the high chair. And
it did not pay him to become exasperated with her.
Once he had done so, had shouted at her to forget the
damned cleaning schedule for once. She had flown into
a rage, railed at him, and flung herself across the bed,
in hysterics. Everything had to be perfect, never mind
the impossible hardship it worked on her, on them all;
never mind the utter lack
of meaning in such perfec-
tion, weighed as it was against the endless repetition of
days, weeks, months. They learned, all of them, that certain things drove her to the point of madness: dirt tracked in on a freshly scrubbed floor; water-spotted shower stalls; articles of clothing left out of place, And, he had to admit, he liked a clean house; he liked the order she brought into his life, perfectionist that she
And so had he been, after a fashion. No more. Not
since the summer before
last and an unexpected July
storm on Lake Michigan. He had left off being a perfec-
tionist then, when he discovered that not promptly
kept appointments, not a house circumspectly clean,
not membership in Onwentsia, or the Lake Forest Golf
and Country Club, or the Lawyers' Club, not power, or
knowledge, or goodness -- not anything cleared you
through the terrifying office of chance; that it is chance
and not perfection that rules the world.
"I saw Nancy Hanley today.
Having lunch at the
"Oh?" He keeps one eye on the newspaper before his
face: Welfare Fraud Investigated.
"She said Ray's been putting on weight."
"He has?" she teases. "Darling, Ray Hanley. Your
"Oh, yeah, him." Grinning, he puts down the paper.
"I hadn't noticed. Yeah, I guess he has been."
"Twenty pounds. That's a lot not to notice."
"That much? How did she happen to tell you that?"
Beth shrugs. "Just conversation. She said she's been
trying to get him to see a doctor. It's just since he quit
smoking. She looks terrific, by the way. Have you seen
"No. That's what Ray said about you."
"Well, she's thin. As thin as I've ever seen her, and
she's done something to her hair. A rinse, I think"
·.. officials in the downtown office say as much as
$300,000 may have been misdirected by the
fraudulent claims ....
"I asked her how she stays so thin. She said,. "Worry,
and a bad marriage."
She smiles. "Just checking. To see if you were listen-
ing. Would you like a drink before dinner?"
"No, thanks." He glances at his watch. "Is Con home
"He's been later the past couple of weeks."
got an idea," he says. "Why don't you come
down tomorrow, and take a look at that car with me?
We can have lunch."
"I can't tomorrow."
"I ought to put the order in soon, to get delivery
"Then, do it," she says. "Do what you like. I'm not
good at picking out cars anyway."
"You don't sound terrifically sold on the idea."
"I'm sold. I think it's a nice idea."
"Well, it would give him some independence. He
wouldn't have to rely on us for rides."
"Fine. We can make it a combination Christmas and
birthday present. You decide. I'll leave it up to you."
If it was up to him, he would give him everything --
sun and moon, eternal happiness, serene and uncom-
plicated, Here, will this fix it? But nothing needs fixing, does it?
Things do seem better, more relaxed, just since
Thanksgiving. No, even before that. Is that illusion or
Illusion or reality. Seven years ago, he had had a
conversation on that very subject with Nancy Hanley.
At the Law Club Christmas Dance, sitting on the upper
deck of the Chicago Yacht Club. Nancy had leaned over
and said to him, "Tell Beth for me how lucky she is, will
"To have you. And never to have been disillusioned."
He had laughed,
embarrassed, knowing where it was
leading. He had emphatically not wanted to go into it,
had never wanted to take sides in the thing, but Nancy
was not about to let him off the hook.
"People make mistakes, Nance."
A mirthless laugh. "Yes, they do."
Carefully, because he had no desire to disturb the
truce that had been so recently effected between them,
he had said, "Don't you think people are entitled to a
few mistakes in a lifetime?"
"No," she said. "What people are entitled to are their
illusions, and frankly,
I preferred my illusions about
him. I would have preferred it if he had screwed her
until he was sick of it and gotten rid of her without my
ever having found out about it at all."
"I can't believe that," he told her. "Illusions are for
fairy tales. Your marriage is stronger now--"
"Don't bet on it. And if you ever do a survey, you'll
find that people prefer illusion to reality, ten to one.
Twenty, even. Any odds you want to give, I'll cover."
Worry and a bad marriage. Beth was joking. She said
she had been joking. It had been seven years since Ray's
affair with Lynn. Seven years since Nancy had packed
up the girls and gone to her parents in Oklahoma, and
Ray, wild with grief, had come charging into the office
to tell him.
could I have been so stupid, Cal? How could I
have been so selfish, thinking I had it so tough, having
to come home to a squalling baby every night? She's
gone, Cal! She left me! What the hell am I going to do
Well, things change; people change. Lynn had left,
and Nancy had come back, and they had moved out of
their apartment and bought the big house in Glencoe.
And surely Nancy is not the type of woman to live with
somebody she doesn't love "for the sake of the chil-
dren.'' No illusion there. They are still married; there-
fore, they are happy. But
he sees the point she had been
making. Depending upon the reality one must face,
one may prefer to opt for illusion.
He wants so much to believe that all is well. But,
then, if it is, why does he keep taking pulses, and look-
ing for signs?
The front door opens. He hears the familiar sounds,
of his feet scuffing the doormat, of the hangers clanging
against each other in the closet as he hangs up his
"Hi. You're late tonight."
"Am I?" He looks at his watch. "Yeah, a little. Hey,
"Is it? Must have just started."
"Yeah, it looks nice." He sits down, and Cal hands
him the sports section. "You finished? Thanks."
"How's it going?"
"Fine. Great. He gave back the trig quiz today. I got
an A on it."
"Well," he says and shrugs, "it was just a quiz."
But a gift. To have offered
it is to show that it must
have value for the giver, also.
"That your first A this semester?"
He looks up from the paper. "Yeah. I'm getting back
in the swing of things, huh?" He grins.
So truth is in a certain feeling of permanence that
presses around the moment. They are ordinary people,
after all. For a time they had entered the world of the
newspaper statistic; a world where any measure you
took to feel better was temporary, at best, but that is
over. This is permanent. It must be.
Beth comes in from the kitchen. "Dinner's ready."
Conrad puts the paper down. "I'm coming. Just have
to wash my hands."
"Didn't you just take a shower?"
He grins again. "Forgot to wash my hands."
Cal laughs. "Tricky.
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