Part Three: Winter
Richard Moyer became very busy, and very frazzled over the next few weeks. He forgot all about the library book, although he drove through Emery Township on the thruway at least once a week. Each time, he would dutifully take the exit ramp onto the frontage road, and drive slowly past the library.
Once or twice, he thought about stopping in, but reconsidered. She appeared to be married or otherwise spoken for, and he had no business flirting with her or courting her. With all the stress going on right now, he had best let that all cool off for a while.
Mom was seeing a doctor about a possible cancer scare. Her liver was waving for help after years of quiet Chablis. Dad was on his high horse, trying to settle two huge estates in Pennsylvania, so he was throwing Rick at one and Geoff at the other, while working himself to death eighteen hours a day behind that desk of his in West Hartford.
Rick had been doing penance now for how many years? He slammed the stick shift of the car through its gears, and ground his teeth as he thought about it. Where am I?
He couldn’t help it. Dad controlled the finances. Rick earned a relatively modest salary, although he had a corporate expense account equal to his salary, so he really had a lot of income to play with. But Dad was of the school that you plowed everything back into the business, so there was a floor (rather low) above which Dad reviewed Rick’s expenses with a green eye shade, so to speak. It was rather humiliating. Rick understood enough about business to start his own firm, toss the old man overboard, and kiss Moyer LX Holdings goodbye. It was very tempting to do so. His parents were wonderful and loving people, but severe and smothering. With the snap of a finger, Rick could walk and probably be a millionaire in his own right within a year, year and a half. He had enough connections of his own to do deals without bumping the old man. What kept him in this harness was pure loyalty. He felt obligated to his mother, to his father, and to the firm that represented over century of family endeavor. It was a legacy. Also, to be brutally honest with himself, Dad was going to retire in about ten years if he did not drop from a heart attack or a stroke first. He was already on blood pressure medications, and borderline diabetic. The stress of running a tight ship would take a toll. Rick wanted to be more helpful, but the old man was a control freak.
Filled with anger and frustration, Rick drove between the City and Hartford or Boston many a day, listening to overly loud music on the car stereo and trying to put off the fact that he was increasingly doubtful he could stand waiting. He was becoming more and more tempted to chuck it. He was not sure his parents would ever forgive him. Things would not be the same again, for sure. And yet how could he go on being a trainee, more or less? He’d soon be in his mid 30s. This other old guy, Geoff, was being groomed for some role that Dad had not made entirely clear. That was the other huge, frustrating factor. Rick had no doubt that he would inherit the firm, and control over it. The assumption was that he would take his father’s place one day. But when, and under what circumstances? He had no idea what his father had in mind. Until that became clear, Rick was living in limbo. He did not lack for a fine car, the best suits, or a nice home. It was all good for businessno questions asked. If he decided to take a two week vacation and go surfing in Hawaii or sailing in the Bahamas, the old man would be all over him. Money and time wasted. Gaaaad!
Rick almost side swiped a Greyhound bus pulling up from the entrance ramp near Meriden as he was ready to tear his hair out, thinking about all this. He felt tears of rage and frustration welling up in his eyes at the thought of how badly his marriage had turned out, and how his old man was treating him like a kid, and how his love life consisted of elevator music dates and a crush on a married chick in a small town library.
Recovering, he swerved to avoid the bus, whose driver emitted a long, angry blare of the horns behind Rick as dusk fell on the busy highway.
Although he knew the near accident would have been his fault, Rick made a frustrated gesture to the rear window. It was something he’d learned years ago while on vacation in Santiago, Chile. It was the open palm, held face up as if containing a large object. These are your cojones, amigovery large.
Actually, the gesture was as much meant for Moyer LX Holdings and its Chief Executive (Mister Daddy-O) as much as for the poor bus driver, who probably figured who is this gadzook tearing around in the Jaguar?
Over the next few weeks, Rick got his deal done, and Geoff got his in the bag. They reported back to Captain Bligh and were put back in their eternal holding pattern under Dad’s controlling hand. Rick could see the questioning and confusion growing in Geoff’s eyes. He had a feeling Geoff was starting to look around for a better position. He couldn’t blame him.
Amid all this, time fled by, and Rick did not see his librarian angel again for a few weeks.
Thanksgiving came and went, with all the obligatory office parties and family get-togethers. The Moyers were a small clan, and did little partying at home. Rick’s sister flew out with her husband because of the diplomatic reason that, if they visited her family in West Hartford for Thanksgiving, as the holiday season launched, they could spend Christmas in Santa Barbara, California with his family. Rick’s sister had married into Chicago money, and Rick’s brother-in-law by now had set up a corporation in Santa Barbara. Rick had never been as close to his sister as he might have liked, and accepted the terms of this strange arrangement. He only hoped it gave his parents pause for thinking about their priorities in life.
The season’s first snow fell, a light dusting that was quickly churned into mud by thousands of automobile tires in the city and on the freeways. The lights looked pretty at night, especially the colored lights of Christmas. On New Year’s Eve, Rick attended a company bash in Boston, paid for by his father, and attended by some of the bright young investors whose every waking (and maybe sleeping) moment was dedicated to the glory of their personal aggrandizement. Rick cautioned himself not to be too cynical, since he already had his personal nest egg, handed down through generations of Moyers, and could afford to float around in the ether of Abraham Maslow’s 1943 Hierarchy of Needs at the fifth and highest level of self-actualization: the spiritual, at which all of a person’s more earthly needs had already been satisfied. Most of the strivers around him at the costly party in Boston would go on to greater wealth, because Dad had chosen them carefully like the great Gatsby bringing people to his parties on Long Island. The difference was that the Gat in Gatsby most likely referred to a Gat, which was slang for a gun, and Fitzgerald’s desperately phony, sad character had been modeled on a gangster (Rick’s theory about this, on which he’d written an A+ paper in college English)whereas Dad was the most up-and-up, straight-arrow, Eagle Scout guy Rick knew, and the attendees in Boston had been carefully vetted by the near apoplectic man trapped so painfully and hyper-diastolically at his desk.
The holidays passed tolerably. Rick made all the prescribed stops, and saw a few women. Actually, he was selective and only dated two or three old friends.
One was a high school classmate from long ago, who was separated from her husband and not available but good for lunch and some hearty laughs.
Likewise, he spent a day in Manhattan with an old college friend who had been the girlfriend of a girl he had dated during junior yearmore for old times’ sake than anything else; with a promise to visit each other again someday, all very cordial, but no commitment even on when that might be.
Last, he’d actually dated a Japanese-American cellist who was doing her Ph.D. work at the University of Connecticut. It had been a bland, forgettable date, though they’d shared a glass of wine, and he’d listened to her playing some adagios in a key of blah.
Taking nothing away from the woman’s talent or beauty, he’d been glad to drive back from the main Storrs campus on I-84, feeling unfulfilled and in need of a cold shower. And a hot toddy. And an hour or two throwing darts in a dark dive of a corner bar while pool balls clicked in a nearby corner, and down to earth people dropped quarters in a juke box full of old rock hits.
January arrivedunseasonably warm and rainy. It looked to be a mild, boring winter, which was fine if you spent zillions of hours driving in your car on crowded turnpikes. Emery became a memory.
The book with the cowboy and the girl on the rail lay forgotten in the trunk of Rick’s car.
As the days ticked by, and the book lay in the darkness next to the spare tire, its license expired, and the Emery Township Free Public Libraryas promisedwas organizing a Ninja assassination squad to find the missing Mr. Moyer, waterboard him, and then return him face-down and hog-tied on a horse along with the stolen manuscript, to be delivered to Mrs. Otter, who no doubt kept looking out the window of the library at the traffic and wondering where her novel had been hijacked to.
Had Rick remembered the book (he later thought), it might have occurred to him in his most dismal nightmares that the girl on the cover had stopped clapping, gotten off the fence rail, and walked away in a huff.
Actually, things were not about to happen in quite that manner. But the book was to precipitate a crisis within Moyer LX Holdingsand in Rick Moyer’s life.
It was something with which neither Mrs. Chicken nor Marian the Librarian would have anything to do.
Thank you for reading the first half (free, what I call the Bookstore Metaphor). If you love it, you can (easily and safely at Amazon) buy the whole e-book for the painless price of a cup of coffeealso known as Read-a-Latte (hours of reading enjoyment; the coffee is gone in minutes, but the book stays with you forever). You can also get those many hours of happy reading from the print edition for the price of a sandwich (no, I don't have a metaphor for that, like a 'sandwich metaphor?'). To help the author, please recommend this book your friends, and also post a favorable (five star!) review at Amazon, Good Reads, and similar online reader resources. Thank you (JTC).