About July 26 it always got really old. Especially on a Saturday. Every summer on the ride home, as they came down the track through Walpole he just got this feeling that 'hell, school is out and I should be on vacation.' Not some dumb, squeeze-it-in vacation, three days worrying about all the shit still happening at work, another three at the end worrying about going back to work and maybe a, what, week in the middle to get to know Tom and Annie better, then maybe, if the timing was right, the little punks off at the pool for an afternoon, and her mood was right, then a really great fuck in the middle of the afternoon.
A whole year for that? No. So every day at the end of July he wanted that time machine to take him back to whole summers of -not even the summer job at Kent Pool- but just time to do stuff from, what, June 10th to maybe September 7th or something. Teachers had that but he didn't like kids enough to teach.
These start ups expected you to pitch in, nights, weekends. This day especially, his last day tweaking the new visual construction medium, the VCM or even the ' Viz ' as the kids call it. Kids. The company hired them and gave them a good salary, a good one, and, he had to admit, they could crank. You just sketched the algorithm and they were suddenly there, 20 steps ahead, plucking subroutines they could tailor from here and there, asking 'why couldn't we' kinds of questions. No fear of client disapproval. Just do it, and if it bombs, do something else.
He knew why Stephen kept him on. Because he did get the willies when the clients made demands, because he was comfortable in a suit and remembered thin tie days at I've Been Moved. He could sit with the clients and listen to their bullshit and tell them what they'd get when they went on-line.
The new ones, like that shining hacker, Peter couldn't talk at all. Oh, to each other, yes, but then it was not really talking. They'd park in front of a terminal and start bouncing code at each other, "we could, like... and then, like retrofit with this Java Beans.", and so on.
Even when they talked about life it was TV and it was shorthand. Kid comes in the room where two others are eating Cheetos and watching a soap on the conference room monitor (how they get it to get broadcast?) One says- "So when Spade ate that orange, was that a riot? And other dude says, "Superb. Kick James's conceited ass."
"And that dress..."
"Is his mother mad?"
"After the baby was born-"
"Oh, a natural! Way bitching dumb! "
That was the conversation. It would make no sense to ask what it was about because they would screw up their foreheads with that 'do I really have to go there' look and start to talk like camp counselors with a dumb camper.
He was useful to them, though. He knew 'the old stuff.' They would realize all of a sudden that something had been Done Before, then come running to him for his arcane knowledge. He would point at a book on his library shelf. They would frantically pillage it, almost tear the page out, look it him, think better of it, borrow pencil and paper, scribbled down some code, rush out, rush back in a couple of minutes later for 'some missing stuff' and rush out again.
Above all, he could clean up their dirty code and let them move on to 'the good stuff.'
Murray looked out the window of the train at the loft rental sign on the pickle factory next to Walpole station. Almost every time he saw it the thought of quitting popped into his head. Coming out here and setting up in a place like this, cheaper rent, two machines-a Mac and a DOS platform and shopping himself around. His own hours. His own style.
Low-ball it. Never mind attracting new Internet cutting edge nuts. People need logos for crissakes. They just want a personal Web page with a few fancy doodads. Hell, they just want advice. They want 'is it time yet?' kind of stuff.
He'd need an assistant. Did he dare ask Marielle? Would she give it a second thought? The sun was full on him now and he was sweating heavily again. God, if he only dared. The thought made his penis twinge. It was a little bit sore. She had been in such a hurry. Ellen had never been that kind of urgent and especially not since the kids. There was that one time after the New Year's Eve party when she was high and Tad had been feeling her up. They fought in the car on the way home. They screamed. They cried. They made love in the front seat of the Dodge.
Hmmm. Getting horny about two women at once.
Used to be you had to play up to a woman a long time before she said yes. Now they ask you. What a day.
God, it was close and musty in that place, the huge windows along the south side looking out on Summer Street just throwing the heat in. You couldn't open them. The air-conditioning pushing weakly down from the ceiling.
He was chopping away late, trying to get the buttons to work right in the Cardiac Interactive Diagnostic Analyzer. For some reason they kept winking out whenever you clicked on them.
Marielle was behind him, across Hackers Alley in her cubicle, on the phone with someone. She was eating a tuna sandwich, which he could smell, and she was laughing her head off.
Marielle broke the dress code. Almost everyone, men and women, dressed in jeans. Maybe it was the marketing link but Marielle almost always dressed in black, fashionable black. She even wore skirts. Of course she had to know the stuff so she could explain it to the clients and get their feedback. So she really was very smart, often told him things that got him through an impasse. Hell, she did it for everyone. So she was sort of the webbing that held things together, not a project lead but something better because nobody was phony with her. They said what wasn't working. She gave them new ideas.
A horse fly settled on his terminal and then went away, buzzed around him again, settled on his ear. It was like a little devil sent to keep him from finishing his work.
Marielle called out:
"So is he bothering you now? Can you kill him? I've got a rolled up magazine if you need it."
He swiveled around to look at her. Had she set him up? She was still on the phone, tilted way back in her chair, swinging back and forth, her legs restless. She was, what, thirty feet away. The light was from a fluorescent overhead and she was wearing black, but under the black skirt he could pretty much tell she had nothing on.
He quickly turned back to his terminal, mumbling something about having a newspaper. The fly wasn't around, so he started scanning the code again, looking for the conflict. A huge 'whack!' on the filing cabinet behind him made him yell.
"Got him!" Marielle giggled, holding out the magazine with the crushed insect on it.
He was speechless. He continued to be speechless a she crowded in next him, then started playing with his program. She was totally concentrated on it, shifting lines of code.
"There, I think that's got it. The object was fighting the cursor. One had to give."
A few keystrokes. Done. Easy as pie. Suddenly he felt very old and very stupid. Then she noticed his hound dog look. So she kissed him on the nose. No overtures. Just did. Then she kissed his mouth. He thought she would stop. She didn't. The machine's fan hummed. The traffic outside made its white noise but otherwise the place was so quiet he could hear her breath.
His hands found lives of their own. One clamped on her right breast and its middle two fingers crushed into her nipple. The other slid up the inside of her leg. She began a little dance, squeezing his hand between her thighs. He didn't want to move too fast but she was pushing herself down onto his fingers. Both his index and second finger slipped in easily. She rode them until his palm was wet.
Papers on his desk began to fall on the floor. She stopped. She thought.
"I know a place." She whispered.
It was a storage closet out in the corridor next to the women's room. She almost threw him into it. There were large stacks of copy paper on the floor and he sat on one. She closed the door and it was absolutely dark and very close and maybe a hundred degrees.
He didn't have to do anything. In a few swift moves she had his trousers down, her skirt up and she had climbed onto him, grinding down hard.
There was no pretense at tenderness. She pushed him. She pulled him. She latched her teeth onto his earlobe. He was very hot, his head like an overstretched balloon. As much as he wanted to relax, just let go, he was hyper conscious of the sounds of the elevator, the air vents, the amazing slick that was coming from Marielle, running down his legs and on to the copy paper.
She scooped up one of her breasts, squeezing it so the nipple was tight and swollen, pushing it back and forth across his face until she found his mouth.
"Bite it! No, bite it hard!" She urged. "Now suck it in!"
As she launched into her climax she crushed his face to her chest so tightly that he could not breathe. She buried her mouth in the top of his head to keep from crying out. He could feel the edges of her teeth on his bald wet scalp. Her hips snapped once, twice, three times and her hot breath bathed the top of his head. But she didn't stop.
He couldn't believe it, how she went on and on, flexing in great spasms and then easing off while she whimpered in his ear like a puppy starving for mother's milk, rocking, pushing and then demanding more, pulling his face into the slippery valley between her breasts, and then finally, unable to keep quiet any longer howling in his right ear until he was deaf.
He passed out before he could come. The darkness was red and there seem to be a slow hot wind blowing. He dreamed of being in a cave in the side of a cliff. He woke up in a hot closet. Marielle was gone.
There were voices in the corridor, as he stood up, shaky. He tried to pull his pants up and staggered forward into the dark cracking his head against the edge of a shelf. Finally, he realized there must be a light and he felt around for the switch. He managed to get himself almost presentable with the help of his distorted image in a coffee urn. The stack of paper was streaked with stains. He picked up a tape dispenser and left.
When he got to his cube Marielle was on the phone again looking just as she had before. She hardly glanced at him, but on his monitor he found a sticky that said, "Thanks for the contribution. M."
Maybe ten minutes later Tad came into his cubicle and asked about the button problem. "All fixed." He had said.
Ted was looking at him funny so he asked, "What?"
"You look kind of red and sweaty. It worries me. Maybe you have been pushing too hard. I'm sorry. It's a big contract."
"I can handle it."
"All the same. This part's done. Why don't you take the rest of the afternoon off? I would if I could."
He had objected, but he didn't really mean it. Somehow he wanted to get away and not let the extraordinary thing with Marielle be diluted by ordinary office stuff.
As the train neared Forge Park the engineer hit the whistle and Murray shrugged his shoulders. A persistent cramp had been bothering the back of his neck ever since he woke up in the closet. His jaw was sore. Marielle was no chiropractor.
Ellen would be surprised to see him and might stew about whether or not he had been fired. Maybe he would lead her on a bit. He liked to see her worried about him. Somehow the thing in the closet didn't bother his conscience. Maybe was because it happened at work and in the dark.
He was a top of the stairs when he felt the train stop. It felt like something punched him in the middle of the chest and slammed him against a wall. He could feel himself stop breathing and he wondered when he would start again. Then he seemed to watch from a very long distance as his body fell so slowly down each step until he hit the floor and went back into the warm red dark.