Chapter 45 – Love the Redeemer
[In which all’s well that smells well; BFC goes to court; Fred Zarko explains the meaning of it all; Jack makes French toast]
Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan lay on their bed listening to the patter of a cool late June rain and watching the squirrels chase each other up and down the trunks of the mighty burr oak outside their bedroom window. Though it wasn’t particularly early, Robbie hadn’t turned on his stereo yet, which normally sent pounding punk rhythms through the floorboards into their room, nor had Lulu flipped on the TV for her dose of Saturday morning cartoons.
Sullivan had gone out and retrieved the Saturday/Sunday edition of the New York Times, feeling lightheaded from the copious amounts of sake he had consumed the previous evening, laid it on the night stand, turned on the “progressive/adult alternative” cable radio station, and poured them each a cup of Japanese green tea. Then he crawled back under the covers and spooned with his wife, cupping her soft, warm breasts, twirling his pinky around a nipple, nibbling at the fuzz on the nape of her neck. Suddenly she threw off the covers and rushed into the bathroom to perform the traditional preparatory rights, though she was pretty certain that she was already in menopause, a menopause so mild that barely noticed it but menopause nonetheless. But her German half always erred on the side of caution. When she came out she pulled back the covers, gave her husband a good housekeeping yank of approval, and, all business, lowered herself onto him. “Oooooooh” they both cooed in unison as she buried her face in his neck. And slowly they made love, all the way up and all the way down and all the way up and all the way down she slid, taking loving advantage of every centimeter, when, as if Jack had shot 140 volts directly into her spinal cord she sat bolt upright, abruptly bending Jack Jr. into the discomfort zone.
“OW! What!?” he howled.
“I’ve got it, Jack!”
“Yeah well – ow – ugh…you won’t have it for – ugh – long if you don’t bend forward a bit,” Jack grunted.
“Oh. Sorry.” She braced her open palms against his shoulders, softly on his tender side, and whispered intently: “You need to make a children’s record.”
Jack squirmed under her a bit, getting comfortable. “Oh..what?” He slowly, involuntarily started his motion. “Are you crazy? How can you think of children’s music…ugh, yeah skootch a little that way…oh yeah. Okay…children’s music?”
“You should make a children’s record, Jack!” Carrie howled, then quickly zipped her lip, really not wanting to wake the kids at this particular moment.
“Oh Jesus! Can we talk about this later?” Jack said, picking up steam.
“Honey, seriously. Slow down for a minute, you’ve got to wait for me, remember? Hold your horses, shut up and listen.”
“But honey, Jack Jr.’s gonna lose his…” Sullivan said, slowing down to standby speed.
“I can always get Jack Jr. back in shape,” Carrie said, grinding down and skootching around a little. “Ah..oh..now, as I was saying. What about some music for the happy hop? You know that stupid song you sing sometimes about the bunny?”
Jack chuckled. “You mean this one?” And, synchronizing his lovemaking motions, he began to sing: “You’ve got to HOP HOP HOP…
“Ugh…Ugh…Ugh” Carrie grunted with his thrusts.
“Like a bunny. STING STING STING like a bee, FLY FLY FLY like a birdie, and SWIM like a fish in the sea.” Jack sang in a muffled whisper as Carrie swept her brown curls away from her forehead.
“Yeah, that’s the one. That’s it honey. Sing it again.”
“You’ve got to HOP HOP HOP…”
“Ugh…Ugh…Ugh,” Carrie grunted along in unison. And along they went hop hop hopping sting sting stinging fly fly flying and swim swim swimming until the rhythm had taken on a tempo all it’s own.
“Ohhhh!” Carrie gasped, breathless.
“Unnnnnng!” Jack followed, and, after a bit, also breathless: “Now that’s my kind of children’s song.” Carrie collapsed onto him and they lay silent, listening to the BEAT BEAT BEAT of their hearts in song.
When Jack woke again Carrie had rolled over by his side, snoring quietly. Suddenly he heard what sounded like a braying seal pup coming from his wife’s side of the bed.
“What the hell was that?” he asked softly. Carrie opened her eyes, smiling.
“I have had the worst gas lately.”
“Well, that was a beauty,” Sullivan said, laughing.
“You should talk,” she replied, giggling, “you kept me awake all night. It sounded like a thunderstorm under there.”
“Of course,” Sullivan said. “I’m a professional.” Her husband did, indeed, have a reputation for dramatic, almost superhuman flatulence. By the same token, he noticed that his wife had, over the course of their twenty years of conjugal bliss, developed quite a talent for barking spiders herself.
Sullivan propped himself up on the pillows and opened the business section, trying to focus through his watery morning eyes, thinking that perhaps by pretending he had an important job in corporate America the paychecks might just miraculously continue to appear.
“BFC DENIES WRONGDOING IN SEC INVESTIGATION”
The headline smacked Sullivan upside the head like a Mike Tyson upper cut.
“Hey hon, check this out…” he said, showing his wife the headline.
“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed, trying to grab the paper.
“Jesus,” Sullivan complained. “Hold on, I’ll read it to you.”
New York, June 23 — The Securities and Exchange Commission launched a special inquiry into the accounting practices of technology giant BFC today, claiming that the corporation had misstated revenue over three consecutive quarters.
“Consecutive quarters?” Sullivan said, turning to his wife, who had perched her head on his shoulder so she could read along. “That means LeDouche was up to this long before I got involved.”
“Does the article mention the e-Auction fiasco?” Carrie asked. Sullivan continued reading.
The SEC is particularly interested in several phantom transactions that were included on BFC’s balance sheet, even though the corporation cannot prove that the good and services associated with the transactions were ever delivered.
Sullivan paused, listening to the slow leak of a whinnying seal pup from the other side of the bed. “A squeaker,” he commented.
“Maybe I should cook for a while,” she said with a shy smile, knowing that, throughout their twenty years of marriage, she preferred her husband’s cooking, barking spiders be damned. Now that she was working harder than she ever had before, flying back to San Francisco every couple of weeks, then working late into the night with her West Coast suppliers, she was even more dependent on his culinary contributions.
“So, you think you’ll be able to find us a place to live back home before school starts?” Sullivan had asked his wife when she returned from her last trip.
“We’ll find something. It may not be perfect, but we can fix it up, sell it, then find something else,” she said. “The market is nuts out there, still.”
“As long as you like it, I’m fine. I can live anywhere.”
Carrie knew that wasn’t entirely true. He would need a music studio, and some kind of yard to tend. Other than that, he was pretty flexible. She was more worried about the kids.
Robbie, at first, had objected vehemently about moving back west. Somehow, over the course of the summer, he had made peace with the idea, and had even lined up a new band with his cousin. On top of that, he appeared to be pretty sick of his smothering girlfriend, and was looking forward to practicing his survival skills on Mt. Tam.
Lulu, on the other hand, thought it was a grand idea. She would be closer to her NeoPal in San Jose, her cousins, grandmas, grandpas and all her old friends. “People appreciate a sense of humor in California,” she observed. “They’ll love me out there.”
Now, during a lull in the husband/wife farting Olympics, Sullivan heard the strains of a new JT song filtering into the bedroom, his voice as clear and strong as he remembered thirty years prior. There was something about James Taylor’s music, something about his timeless timbre, that pervaded Sullivan’s world, stretching head to toe like a truss rod.
“Wait, that sounds like a new JT tune,” Sullivan said, jumping out of the bed, flabby ass jiggling as he trotted out to the tuner in the family room to turn up the sound. Carrie took the paper, shaking her head, reading to herself as the sounds of the new JT song filled the house.
Then Carrie read:
The SEC, in preliminary investigations, has discovered that few, if any, of the executives involved in the transactions are still with the company. The VP of Sales and Marketing, Bill Beeman, reportedly retired before the transactions were officially recorded. Joe Cirigliano, VP of Sales for the Software Division, has since taken a position with OmniSystems, one of BFC’s primary alliance partners. Other executives involved with the phantom transactions have been difficult to identify, particularly non-US citizens that were on assignment in the US at the time.
Meanwhile Sullivan was distracted by JT singing:
The memory is the sweetest thing
I kissed a girl at a football game
I can still feel the sweat and the grass stains
we walked home together
but I was never the same
He couldn’t remember JT sounding so good, so resonant. Sounded like he had tapped into some primal middle-aged consciousness, the memory of the first kiss, under the grandstands with Seymour Butts.
“Are you listening?” Carrie asked, swinging her legs over his thighs and sitting atop his flaccid thighs in an uncharacteristic challenge for round 2, demonstrating her recovery from the tree fort injury in no uncertain terms.
“I didn’t get a mention?”
Carrie snatched the paper out of her husband’s hands and scanned the rest of the article. “Oh, here we go,” she said, and Sullivan could tell by his wife’s sly grin that she was making it up. “Jack Sullivan, a downtrodden middle manager implicated in the scandal, is reportedly happier than a pig in shit to be spending day after lovely day, unemployed, happily hopping with his stimulating family. Particularly since his lovely and talented wife, Carrie, has struck it rich in the interior design business.”
Sullivan wholeheartedly agreed; even though spending hours surfing the job sites, driving, and sometimes flying, to any number of generally humiliating interviews was consistently debilitating experience, it was nice to be there when Robbie and Lulu came home from school to take them swimming or to hit golf balls at the local driving range on a weekday afternoon. Writing children’s music would be perfect until LuLu decided she was too big for it. “Oh, get this,” Carrie said, “I’m serious now.” She scowled as she read.
Buzz Young, general manager of the BFC Software Division, could not be reached for comment.
Sullivan recalled his recent encounter with the celebrated GM of the world’s largest IT company. Simply, selflessly helping others. That’s God at work, is what the corporate giant had said. And now the poor guy had to go make excuses for “eeeediots” as Dominique liked to call them, in hopes of keeping his own job. Or perhaps in hopes of seeing justice done. Or both, though that might be a little tricky. Still, Sullivan felt as if the GM might have purposefully planted a seed in Sullivan’s self-admittedly selfish self, causing him to start looking for opportunities to “simply, selflessly help others,” beyond those he was already selflessly helping under his very own roof. He was even considering inviting God to help, in a purely consultative role, of course. It was at the very least a comforting thought.
“Read on, por favor,” he said.
Company spokesperson Fred Zarko, Carrie continued, then paused. “Zarko? Is that really somebody’s name? I thought that was what you called a…a hairless…”
“Shaved…yes, when a woman shaves her…” She couldn’t say it.
“That’s right,” Sullivan filled in, ever helpful. “A zarko.”
“My god, the man must be…” Carrie started.
“Hairless? That would be a pretty good…analogy, I guess,” Sullivan said, though he wasn’t particularly hirsute, himself.
“As I was saying…” Carrie continued.
Company spokesperson Fred Zarko insisted the SEC claims were groundless, and that the investigation would end soon. “At the end of the day, you have to have a view to the view of the actual strategic intent of the business relationships in question here, because, at the end of the day, the net-net is that it’s all about share.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Carrie asked. But Sullivan could only laugh, and laugh he did, long, loud and hard, his gut quivering under his wife’s middle-aged thighs, as if he had been holding this one, particular laugh, this one blast, letting it build, waiting for the perfect opportunity to release it, until he could raise it up from his toenails, let it percolate up like a boiling pot, and then set it flowing over the edges, sputtering and hissing through the air like a spent balloon. Carrie Sullivan briefly thought her husband was having a heart attack. His face turned beet red, he coughed, he wheezed, tears came streaming down his cheeks, he gasped for breath and then started hacking and hewing all over again. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, her husband settled into a controlled chuckle, interspersed with a mild twitter, and she could only smile and chuckle along with him, though she was hard pressed to understand what was so goddamned funny.
“So, what the hell does it mean?” she asked again, wondering if her husband remembered what had set him off in the first place. Sullivan caught his breath and took his wife by the shoulders.
“Aw, honey. Sweetheart. You just had to be there, I guess.” His wife shook her head.
“I guess so,” she said. “Sounds like a load of gobbedlygook to me.” She paused, then pinched her husband’s veiny, alcoholic nose. “Still, it’s nice to see you laugh.” He reached up and grabbed her nose in kind, then released a long, deep-throated, window-shattering gasser, the sound flapping like a slow tremolo on a 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb, growling under the covers as if a giant grizzly might be awakening from hibernation.
“Good lord,” Carrie said, her husband still holding her nose. “That’s by far your worst ever,” she added, nasally. “You know I think it’s gotten worse since we moved here.”
“It’s the weather,” Sullivan said, nodding. “Not enough sunshine. Causes the bodily gasses to build into dangerous, noxious chemical weapons.”
“You think so?” Carrie said, gently releasing her husband’s pinching fingers from her nose, wincing at the lingering odor, which, fortunately, was mostly confined under the covers. “I think it’s the people. So sour,” she said. Carrie never hesitated to complain about how difficult it was to make friends in the Northeast.
“And ill-tempered,” Sullivan added, hearing a familiar tune filtering in from the family room, though sung by an unfamiliar singer.
Well I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home
He recognized the Blind Faith song, one of his favorite all-time records, and went spinning back to his teenage bedroom, covered in tapestries and Fillmore posters, a black light nailed to the painted beam above his mattress, when he dreamed of what it might like to take a real acid trip, to blow his blossoming mind and step onto another plane.
A stampede of eleven year-old feet tumbling down the stairs broke him out of his reverie. Carrie quickly rolled off her husband and out of the bed, reaching the bedroom door before their daughter, and Sullivan lay back, wondering which of his two girls he loved most. It didn’t take long for him to realize that it wasn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, as his willowy Lulu came bouncing into his bed, where her mother had been moments before.
“Friggity froggity froo,” she sang, suggesting that her dad get his fat ass out of bed and make her some French toast, or as they called it in the Sullivan compound, “frog bread.” Soon they were both prancing into the kitchen like Dorothy and her pals, as if they were headed to Oz on the yellow brick road, to whip up a batch of Dad’s famous froggy bread, singing “friggity froggity froo” as they cracked the eggs into the bowl, added the milk, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon, dipped the bread slices and dropped them onto the hot griddle with a hiss.
In the back of his mind Sullivan could still hear the melody of the Blind Faith tune, Stevie Winwood wailing over Ginger Baker’s bongos:
Well I’m near the end and I just ain’t go the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home
Well, maybe not, Sullivan thought.
And so he shut off the mental radio and let the gleeful racket of his daughter in the kitchen come streaming in, and Barney, whimpering and begging for his morning treat, and now Robbie, storming the refrigerator like he hadn’t eaten in months, and, finally, Carrie, humming something under her breath and dodging them all as she emptied the dishwasher.