As far as Eric Krieg could see heading south on Interstate 280, traffic was virtually stopped. He and his wife, Lindsay, sat in the contoured black leather seats of his red Porsche 911. Both were trim, tanned, about 50, and dressed in clothes from Wilkes-Bashford. Eric was getting angry.
“Take a deep breath,” Lindsay said. “You can’t do anything about it.”
“Don’t lecture me,” he said. “I don’t need one of your lectures now.”
“Then relax. We’re going to be here for a while. I’ve phoned Jean. She knows we’ll be late. Just calm down.”
“I can’t stand the South Bay,” he said.
“It’s not so bad.”
“Yes it is.”
“Why is that?”
“For one thing the freeways are always clogged up like somebody’s constipated asshole.”
“Well, we don’t come down here that often.”
“I don’t see why we have to come down here for this.”
“You mean Jean?”
“We should have found someone in Menlo Park or Palo Alto.”
“I don’t know, but we should have.”
“If you would have helped choose someone, then, yes, maybe we could have.”
“So this is my fault?”
“No, this is a traffic jam. I chose Jean because Marilyn said she was helpful with her and Don.”
“So how did she help them?”
“Marilyn says things are better now. She and Don are happier, communicating more, not arguing as much.”
“I still don’t get why you’re so bent on this—why it’s either this or ‘Hit the road, Jack.’”
“We need help, Eric. That’s why I’m so bent on this.”
“I don’t see what the problem is. I make lots of money. You don’t have to work. You get your manicures and pedicures every week. I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t cheat on you. I don’t beat you.”
“You’ve been a good provider, Eric.”
“Let’s save it for Jean.”
“Come on, Lindsay.”
“I think we need a referee. I just don’t want to get into it now.”
“It isn’t sex, is it? You don’t seem to have much of an interest in it anymore, so I just don’t push it.”
“Eric, let’s just wait until we get there.”
“So what is it?”
“If I’m not always ‘attentive,’ then cut me some slack, will you? I work twelve hours a day so you and the kids can have a good life, so they can go to their fancy private school, so you can get your fingers and toes painted every week.”
“Quit being an asshole, will you?”
They sat silently for a very long time.
“You didn’t used to be this way,” she said finally.
“Do you know how incredibly hard it is to do the work I do?” he said. “To work the hours I work? To wonder who is going to try to cut my balls off tomorrow or the next day or the next?”
“If it’s the work that’s making you this way, then do something else. You’re a smart guy.”
“Where would the money come from?”
“You might not make as much, but that would be okay.”
“Yea, right,” he said with a laugh.
“Eric, I could live without my weekly manicures and pedicures. You might even manage to live without your Porsche. We could find a way to live with less money.”
“Yea, dream on.”
“Come on, Eric,” she said in a weary voice. “This is why it’s so hard to talk to you. This is why I think we need someone like Jean.” She was silent for a moment. “Do you remember when we had fun together—actually had fun? That seems like a million years ago, doesn’t it?”
They sat in silence again.
“Yea, it does,” he said quietly. He paused. “Where do you think all this is headed?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
A few minutes later the traffic began to open up and Eric and Lindsay were moving again. Soon they saw three Highway Patrol cars, two fire trucks, two ambulances, two tow trucks, and two cars that had both been smashed and gutted by flames all lined up by the side of the road.
“My God,” Lindsay said as a tear rolled down from one eye.
Eric said nothing and drove on. LS
"Fiction gives a second chance that life denies us."