Secrets of the Lottery Winner
CHAPTER 17: WORKAHOLIC
Gari delighted Emily and the boys by arriving home early from work Tuesday morning. Emily remarked on his appearance, as she might, as his suit was rumpled, his shirt sweat-stained, and his countenance haggard.
Sipping a black coffee with three sugars—excessive, yes, but he hoped the sweet would reinvigorate him—he exuded, “I’ve got to tell you, Emily, this executive life isn’t exactly what I thought it would be.”
The boys were in the basement screaming wildly as they enacted a space fantasy. Emily sat across from him at the kitchen table. She patted his hand. “Hard.”
“Exhausting. I’m beginning to doubt I’m made for this. I’m thinking I’d be better off staying at home, watching the boys grow, being with you.”
She lit up. She was pleased for two reasons. Finally, Gari was providing for his family, fulfilling the promise of their marriage. And he had grown more sensitive and caring toward her, more as he had been during the early years of their marriage. She said, “It would be wonderful,” and caressed his hand.
He pondered her high spirits and her emollient words for a moment. “Yeah, but I guess it’s impossible. I’d better take a shower.”
“I’ll check on the boys and follow you up in a minute.”
He managed a small smile, hoping the boys would break into a fight requiring her refereeing as he wondered how he would manage if they didn’t receive his telepathic message and cooperate.
He stalled by hanging in the shower until his extremities shrank to white prunes. She worked in the kitchen to restore him with a proper home-cooked meal, second only to sex as her reborn wifely specialty. It was an hour before he presented himself, well scrubbed and draped in freshly laundered clothes, in the kitchen, where she served him a lumberjack breakfast. He studied the meal, grateful she’d foresworn her earlier rush into healthy gourmet cooking. After a few weeks of healthful eating, he’d thrown up his hands and cried the culinary cousin of uncle, regretting to her he was a pedestrian and crude eater, preferring hamburgers, sandwiches, steaks, roasts, and the like to five-star and longevity fare. He described his preference as “grub” to emphasize she was wasting her time and skills on him. It was an oblique attempt at assuagement, coupled nicely with his assurance she was far too busy with the boys and the house (and if she was an e-Bay entrepreneur then that, too) to impress him with her galley skills, though he acknowledged them as indeed towering.
He complimented her effusively but not insincerely as the meal was delicious and among his top five favorites. Of course, after such a feast what was a husband good for, and particularly a man who had worked with and entertained a man like Victor Lubeck into the wee hours? He hoped she would agree: not much more than collapsing in bed for a long nap, maybe even a straight shot to morning. She was sympathetic and claimed to know just what he needed. She commenced his treatment with a gentle back massage followed by the massaging of others parts of him until he felt he might be up to performing his husbandly duties. But his fate was flaccidity.
His deflationary state troubled him on two counts. The first was astonishment. Limpness, failure to arouse to the occasion, raising the mast—this had never been a problem for him. He’d always been a once a day guy, whether Emily or anybody was available; and often he found himself at it twice in twelve hours. Was he getting too old for what he had always regarded as among the greatest pleasures of life, up there with driving a truly outstanding auto, and eating a dripping burger? He was not yet forty and already was age diminishing his life?
It simply couldn’t be. The second was concern. He’d always performed with Emily, regardless of her deteriorating appearance and the enlarging gulf between them. She expected him to respond, especially when she labored assiduously to prime him. Would she suspect a reason might exist beyond mere weariness?
They were on their bed. She was on her knees, finally convinced Gari was a lost cause. She crawled up to him, reared back on her heels, and grasped his face in her hands. She peered deep into his eyes and with such intensity he felt her piercing through to his heart where the truth of the past several months resided. He imagined she saw it all unreel like a B movie.
“God, Gari, you’ve been working way too hard. You need a break. You should ask Larry for some vacation time. Maybe we can get away to somewhere sunny.”
He didn’t mean to blink, but he could not believe his great good fortune continued unabated—except for the problem with Loretta and the black and bluing of his heart and his soul, if indeed he possessed such a moral core.
“What?” she said, with a hint of humor he hadn’t expected, “you’re so indispensable Lefton & Associates will fall apart without you. It’s only a week, Gari.”
Well, truth was he could use a vacation. A week in the Caribbean would be delightful. Being the agency star was hard work. He never would have believed it. It always looked like a snap. But, damn, you really had to work. You had to tell people what to do, because half of them weren’t capable of figuring it out themselves; and the other half that could were either too lazy or adopted the attitude of, “You do it. That’s what they pay you for.” Jamaica sounded good to him. He remembered an ad on television. It was warm there. The beaches were white. The sea was crystal blue. The mountains were green. And the women, they were dark and lusty. Yes, a week in Jamaica was an excellent idea.
But with Emily and the boys. The thought elicited a groan.
She slapped his chest lightly. Still it stung. “I never thought you’d be like this.”
“Like what?” he managed.
This launched Gari onto a laughing jag; the type when you’ve struggled to regain control of yourself a new barrage bursts forth, and then becomes self-sustaining, a chain reaction of guffaws, until something causes the control rods to be lowered to abate your mirth; but that never happens before you’ve made a complete idiot of yourself; or in the case of guilty yukking, have aroused the suspicion of a mate perched over you.
He a workaholic? Well, he supposed, if you were viewing his life from the outside, as Emily was, it might appear he was a man consumed by his work. Who else would fly to L.A. to work weekends? Who but a work nut would open the doors of the office and practically close them at night? And who but a devotee of labor would disappear for a day and night simply to entertain a client? Yes, he could understand how Emily might label him a newborn member of the species. When he weighed his behavior since springing his account-saving idea on Larry Lefton, he discovered himself agreeing, at least to a degree; he might be putting too much effort into his job.
Emily interrupted his reverie. “What’s so funny?”
“You thinking I’m a workaholic.”
She chuckled, the shared memory real and tactile, as if it happened last week. “Well, what I thought of you before, it was true then. Admit it. You never worked enough, didn’t work hard enough; you know, no nose to the grindstone. But look what happened when you decided to apply yourself. Wham. You jumped ahead. Instead of laughing with you, I should crown you,” she declared, affecting peevishness.
“Huh? For what?”
“For not doing it sooner.”
“When you were pestering me about it.”
“That’s such ancient history I can’t remember when I did it.”
“You’re right. I should have listened. Things would be better now.”
She blinked. “You don’t think they’re good now?”
Quickly he said, “Now they’re great. But a few months ago they weren’t is what I meant.”
He took her in his arms and kissed her. “I’m sorry.”
“What about the vacation?” she asked, returning to the beginning; but actually to change the subject, as she was not comfortable discussing how their relationship had deteriorated because he hadn’t been the husband she’d expected; the husband she thought he had promised her. Earner was the word she wanted to use, but which she couldn’t form even in her mind, too crass did it ring.
“Sure, why not? I’ve earned it.”
She winced. He noticed.
“I mean we’ve earned it.”
She descended onto him and he felt warm where her skin touched his and after they’d snuggled in that manner for a minute, quiet, happy in the silence, he sensed in himself the ability to please her in every way she expected.
* * *
Wednesday morning he was back to his workaholic ways, for he now saw himself as a man—no, an executive, an individual of importance conferred upon him not by the blind, stupid luck of getting rich effortlessly winning the lottery—completely absorbed in his work, keeping Victor Lubeck happy and rich and filling the Lefton & Associates coffers to overflowing. Emily was right: He deserved time to himself, time with his family.
After opening the shop, he settled in front of his computer, jumped on the Internet, and began researching his family vacation. Where to go was the first challenge, and he really had not the slightest idea. The boys would love Disney World, but he’d hate it. Tramping through a crowded amusement park wasn’t his idea of relaxation. Warmth with beaches, nothing to do but lie in the sand, scan the blue horizon, see nothing but the occasional bird wheeling against the azure canvas, snapping fingers for a fruity drink, leaving Emily and the boys to explore shopping bazaars—now that was a vacation. And so he looked into Jamaica.
Gari was an advertising man, and though he projected at times cynicism about the business, he was not much different than most of his type. He was lured and blinded, and blindsided, by advertising’s seductiveness. Had he deployed his antennae and dug deeper into Jamaica, he might have decided on Disney World. But, naturally, like the victim who knows he shouldn’t enter a room in which he suspects a killer hides, Gari booked tickets and a hotel for a week in Jamaican paradise.