Sitting in Homer's office alone I think to myself, "What chance has a bee against a rose?" I look at family pictures behind Homer's tremendous desk, a whole shelf of photos in lucite frames. One shows my Trina as a schoolgirl sitting on top of a spotted grey horse. She is so royal, so in command. Her bud breasts are thrust forward like weapons of war. Her eyes catch circles of sun.
Other pictures show Homer with Lauren, with Amos and Amanda, with me on a hunting trip in Western Canada. There are many glossies of Homer with the great ones: artists, scientists, politicians, heroes. He stands alone with Dr. Hoffenstein on the prow of his yacht, Fulfillment. That picture is larger than the others and framed in gold leaf.
The office is splendid with panoramic views. New York's rivers converge, streams of silver flow to the harbor. I see far beyond the Statue of Liberty (Homer calls her Libby) to the Atlantic. The city is a garden from up there with bridges arching like inchworms. Today that city is drenched in light. Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears. America, America . . .
Wooden walls hold the carved logos of Homer's corporations. Brogg Atomics, Brogg Genetics, Brogg Communications, Brogg Mines and Minerals, Brogg Entertainment Enterprises, Brogg Realty, Brogg Marine, Brogg Frontiers. His head produced wonders, his dick produced Trina.
I press the button on his VCR. What comes up on the projection screen? My Amos and Amanda rolling in diamonds. The time we took them to Vail. Homer circles them on a snowmobile. They toss snowballs at him. He pretends to be mortally wounded or at least mortal. He tumbles onto a drift. He lays flailing his arms mimicking agony. The kids bury him in gobs of pure white snow. That is the tape he keeps on his machine. The man is special. He knows his priorities. Family, family, family.
Homer comes into the office carrying a bulging briefcase. He throws it on the desk. "Jim, I am sorry to be late. You want something to drink? Coffee? A soda?"
"Nothing, no, thanks. I'm fine."
"Wasn't last night a pisser? Do you know what? I cried. I turned to butter. Talk about inspiration. Was there a cynic in that room? Was there? There are no atheists in potholes, eh?"
"It was a wonderful evening, Dad. Don't apologize for your tears. I think we all wet our faces. Trina couldn't stop talking about it. The offspring were actually moved. Amos was all questions on the way home. I heard Amanda telling her doll about the birth scene."
"Did that work or did that work? You know we produced the video. We went a hundred thousand over their budget but it was no time to skimp. Hell, my father found that scene stealer rattling around some toilet lab up at Columbia University. If it wasn't for Ulysses Brogg a certain Dr. Lawrence Hoffenstein would probably still be banging his hippo head against a stone wall. If there was a wall left."
"I know that, yes. If it wasn't for your father's faith and vision . . . "
"It wasn't faith or vision. And my father didn't listen to echoes. Was that perfect? Echoes from the future, echoes from the past. What a speaker. No, my father listened to facts. He saw consequences. They were bricks to him. Building blocks. And he had a bodacious set of balls."
"I'm sorry he passed away before I met him. I only wish he could have lived to . . . "
"You're so right, Jim. I should have had him stuffed and mounted and hung in the hall outside for the idiots to ponder. I remember when they coded me. I was in the first wave, three years old. I put up a hell of a fight. They held me down. And it hurt. It wasn't like now. I kept trying to scratch the damn Code off my skin. My mother kept feeding me Mallomars to calm me down. I loved my Mallomars. Chocolate tits. Did you know that Mallomars have seasons? You can only buy them Fall to Spring. So what happens to Mallomars in the Summer?"
"Wasn't there a danger back then? Suppose your Code came up, say, F, Limited Potential. Wasn't it Russian Roulette? I'm surprised your parents didn't take the exemption. You were qualified for Uncoded if you were more than a year old."
"Yes, I was in the transitional group. But my father owned Hoffenstein, remember? That accident wasn't about to happen."
"But the coding was random."
"I worry about you, James. You know that the chances of getting an A Code at random are a few million to one. You can consider yourself a very fortunate young man. It happened, you won the lottery. I got some help. That's the way it was back then. There had to be some promises kept. I mean, there was strong opposition. You can't imagine. They almost had my father killed. More than once. If you couldn't guarantee their own children A Codes, how far do you think it would have gone?"
"I never thought much about the beginning. For me it was all just there, in place."
"Well it was a bloody road to get there. Someday we'll sit and talk. I'll play some tapes for you. We'll spend an afternoon down in the vaults and you'll learn some history."
"I look forward to it, Dad. You should write a book."
"I should but I won't. Why give ammo to the crazies? There are still crazies. There are still jails. No book. Not for another century at least. I'm no movie star hanging her pussy out the window. I want a coffee. You?"
Homer buzzes his secretary while he pulls papers from his briefcase. He flops into his chair. It lets out a puff, a leather fart. He has something in mind. I wasn't called to talk about last night or how it was in Mallomar days.
"We're poised for a jump at the jugular. I am about to pay $56 a share for Star Insemination. I should have control by tonight."
"Congratulations. It strikes me as a positive move."
"We'll see how positive. It's a demented operation. A bunch of fuckups. The company needs a new Executive Director. Total rethinking and reorganization. It's got to be done and you will do it."
"Homer . . . Dad . . . what can I say?"
"Say thanks. This is your toy, James. You touted me onto this deal. Now you make sure that Homer Brogg is not elected asshole of the month. You know I've been planning to broaden your power base. If you can effect a turnaround at Star it would be no small thing. The board would have to show gratitude. Face it, they're suspicious of nepotism and they should be. They like you, son, but let's make them love you. I'm not keeping this seat warm for some dingus or cunt that doesn't have Brogg stamped on his or her equal opportunity backside. I have no sons but you. I want all this to stay in the family. I want that more than I want anything. You and then Amos or Amanda. Trina is a lost cause for business. We both know that."
"It's just not her talent."
"Don't put Trina down. Never dump on your own wife."
"I was only saying what you already know."
The coffee comes on a cart. There are the cookies Homer likes, imported from England. Homer's secretary spreads a napkin and pours. She's an icy bitch, a classic D Code who loves her job. She sweeps up Homer's crumbs and body dander and takes them home with her to cuddle. The woman has no life outside the office. She's been with Homer forever. She would kill for him. She comes from watching him chew on Brit cookies. Homer waves her away.
"Let me ask you frankly, Jim. Are you and Trina getting along? I had one eye on her last night. She seemed distracted."
"We're more than getting along. We're fine. Really. I think it was the occasion. The emotion. We're solid."
"Good. Thank God. Lauren and I have been married thirty-seven years come April. I'm not saying it was easy. Fortunately, there's an inertia to marriage. A weight. It lays like a rock on your chest, a tombstone. It's got its own gravity. That kept me in place more than once. Thank God. There are always rough spots. Frictions. But they can be overcome."
"You want the absolute truth? When I feel turbulence I look over at Trina and remind myself that I might just be the luckiest guy in the universe. And I don't believe in luck."
"Why don't you believe in luck?"
"I believe in making my own luck."
"Believe in luck."
"Fate, maybe. Even destiny."
"Luck. Plain bare-assed luck. Believe. Maybe you're too young. Maybe that's your problem, James. When a man tells me he doesn't believe in luck I draw an X across his face. Unless he's a plebe. Like you."
"The point is, I believe in Trina, the kids, my job, myself. I admit that maybe four o'clock on a rotten morning I might wake up and ask a few questions but who doesn't?"
"You've got to be forgiving in this life. Face it. Women make lousy mothers. Men make lousy fathers. Kids make lousy children and pets crap on the rug. Accept it and relax. There was a 20th Century saying, my father had it hung on his wall, 'Kill 'em all.' Let God sort 'em out. You follow me? Listen, getting back to reality. Star Insemination is a launch pad or a dead end. It could be an important profit center. Their concept is on-target. The better the sperm the better the chance for a higher Code. That's close to the truth. They're just not getting their message across to the market. Why? How? That's for you to figure out."
"I had a thought. A name change. Fabergee Sperm."
"Elitist. How many people know about Fabergé eggs?"
"The people who can afford Fabergee Sperm."
"There's where we collide. I want to broaden the consumer base. Reach out. Not concentrate on the A, B and C Codes. I want to go all the way to Z. Hell, that's the demographic segment that wants upgrading. They're our thrust. Forget Fabergee. Give me a name like Little Squirt. Remember, we can't guarantee how the machine will code their babies. We can only tip the odds fractionally in a positive direction. That's our edge. To the uppers it's a small edge. To the lowers it's the light at the end of the tunnel."
"I'm on it. I'll institute a research scan of . . . "
"Fine. Research all you want. But I'm buying your intuition, Jim. I'm buying the sudden flash. The bulb over your head. And take good care of my Trina. Amos. Amanda. My treasures. What the hell else have I got in this world?"
Homer finds Trina on her horse. He kisses the picture. His secretary will wipe away the spit before she goes home if she ever goes home.
We shake hands, we pat Codes. I leave richer, more secure, entrenched. Is it luck? Is that it? Something else. I worked for all this glory.
Lance Bedlock is lucky. The recipient of random gifts, a harmonic convergence. His face was carved by clean mountain water running down a slab of rock. His eyes are flat blue jewels. His body is perfectly muscled and proportioned. All six feet four inches of him coordinate. Even his blond hair is choreographed. He is a superb athlete. His voice rolls like a truck on a highway. Everything about him works. He is coded A+ like me but my Code comes as a surprise. His is assumed.
When we finish our game of squash at the club I am a puddle of sweat. Lance is a little moist. There are stains on his Be Proud of Your Code T-shirt but no more than from a light drizzle. My own shirt hangs limp and soggy like the skin of a rhino. Lance won five of our six games. He wants the loss back. No matter how many games we will play in the future he will never get it back but he wants it and will plot.
We leave the court. I wonder if he slept with Trina. They went together before my time. When I came to the Brogg empire they were considered a couple. Why Trina switched her affection I will never understand. Maybe there was too much perfection between them. She can measure herself against me but with Lance it was white-on-white. Of course he slept with Trina, white-on-white. Still, there is a vague chance that he insisted they wait for the consecration of marriage. He's that kind of guy.
"I heard the old man has marked you for Pope," he says, stripping down in the shower room. His tool is twice as long as mine and more sculptural. He has a marble cock, a Brancussi. Mine is more of a club fighter, more acquisitive. But that could be wishful thinking.
"The talk might be premature."
"Come on, Jimsy, he gave you Jew Juice, didn't he?"
"We talked about Star Insemination, yes."
"So where did I go wrong? First Trina, now this?"
"Old story, Lancelot. The best man won."
"But seriously, my heartfelt congratulations. Besides, you're his son-in-law and we know God works in predictable ways."
"I want you to come over with me as Executive VP Marketing. I need help."
"Thank you, Jimbo. Count on me. Did you really come up with Fabergee Sperm?"
"Who told you that?"
"Homer himself. He was pissing pearls in the adjoining stall. We had to talk about something. I told him not to worry. Everybody has lapses."
We turn on the showers. Steam fogs the tiled cubicle. Lance turns to smoke. "This could be a real challenge. It's an interesting playground. The old man is really optimistic." Lance's voice comes booming through the droplets. He sounds enthusiastic. I bend to pick up the soap that slithered out of my hand. I get a slap on the ass. It is like a handshake. He is on my team.
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