Tom Sanders never intended to be late for work on Monday, June is. At 7:30 in the morning, he stepped into the shower at his home on Bainbridge Island. He knew he had to shave, dress, and leave the house in ten minutes if he was to make the 7:50 ferry and arrive at work by 8:30, in time to go over the remaining points with Stephanie Kaplan before they went into the meeting with the lawyers from Conley-White. He already had a full day at work, and the fax he had just received from Malaysia made it worse.
Sanders was a division manager at Digital Communications Technology in Seattle. Events at work had been hectic for a week, because DigiCom was being acquired by Conley-White, a publishing conglomerate in New York. The merger would allow Conley to acquire technology important to publishing in the next century.
But this latest news from Malaysia was not good, and Arthur had been right to send it to him at home. He was going to have a problem explaining it to the Conley-White people because they just didn't
"Tom? Where are you? Tom?"
His wife, Susan, was calling from the bedroom. He ducked his head out of the spray.
"I'm in the shower!"
She said something in reply, but he didn't hear it. He stepped out, reaching for a towel. "What?"
"I said, Can you feed the kids?"
His wife was an attorney who worked four days a week at a downtown firm. She took Mondays off, to spend more time with the kids, but she was not good at managing the routine at home. As a result, there was often a crisis on Monday mornings.
"Tom? Can you feed them for me?"
"I can't, Sue," he called to her. The clock on the sink said 7:34. "I'm already late." He ran water in the basin to shave, and lathered his face. He was a handsome man, with the easy manner of an athlete. He touched the dark bruise on his side from the company touch football game on Saturday. Mark Lewyn had taken him down; Lewyn was fast but clumsy. And Sanders was getting too old for touch football. He was still in good shape still within five pounds of his varsity weight-but as he ran his hand through his wet hair, he saw streaks of gray. It was time to admit his age, he thought, and switch to tennis.
Susan came into the morn, still in her bathrobe. His wife always looked beautiful in the morning, right out of bed. She had the kind of fresh beauty that required no makeup. "Are you sure you can't feed them?" she said. "Oh, nice bruise. Very butch." She kissed him lightly, and pushed a fresh mug of coffee onto the counter for him. "I've got to get Matthew to the pediatrician by eight-fifteen, and neither one of them has eaten a thing, and I'm not dressed. Can't you please feed them? Pretty please?" Teasing, she ruffled his hair, and her bathrobe fell open. She left it open and smiled. "I'll owe you one . . ."
"Sue, I can't." He kissed her forehead distractedly. "I've got a meeting, I can't be late."
She sighed. "Oh, all right." Pouting, she left.
Sanders began shaving.
A moment later he heard his wife say, "Okay, kids, let's go! Eliza, put your shoes on." This was followed by whining from Eliza, who was four, and didn't like to wear shoes. Sanders had almost finished shaving when he heard, "Eliza, you put on those shoes and take your brother downstairs right now!" Eliza's reply was indistinct, and then Susan said, "Eliza Ann, I'm talking to you!" Then Susan began slamming drawers in the hall linen closet. Both kids started to cry.
Eliza, who was upset by any display of tension, came into the bathroom, her face scrunched up, tears in her eyes. "Daddy . . . ," she sobbed. He put his hand down to hug her, still shaving with his other hand.
"She's old enough to help out," Susan called, from the hallway.
"Mommy," she wailed, clutching Sanders's leg.
"Eliza, will you cut it out."
At this, Eliza cried more loudly. Susan stamped her foot in the hallway. Sanders hated to see his daughter cry. "Okay, Sue, I'll feed them." He turned off the water in the sink and scooped up his daughter. "Come on, Lize,'' he said, wiping away her tears. "Let's get you some breakfast."
He went out into the hallway. Susan looked relieved. "I just need ten minutes, that's all," she said. "Consuela is late again. I don't know what's the matter with her."
Sanders didn't answer her. His son, Matt, who was nine months old, sat in the middle of the hallway banging his rattle and crying. Sanders scooped him up in his other arm.
"Come on, kids," he said. "Let's go eat."
When he picked up Matt, his towel slipped off, and he clutched at it. Eliza giggled. "I see your penis, Dad." She swung her foot, kicking it.
"We don't kick Daddy there," Sanders said. Awkwardly, he wrapped the towel around himself again, and headed downstairs.
Susan called after him: "Don't forget Matt needs vitamins in his cereal. One dropperful. And don't give him any more of the rice cereal, he spits it out. He likes wheat now." She went into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
His daughter looked at him with serious eyes. "Is this going to be one of those days, Daddy?"
"Yeah, it looks like it." He walked down the stairs, thinking he would miss the ferry and that he would be late for the first meeting of the day. Not very late, just a few minutes, but it meant he wouldn't be able to go over things with Stephanie before they started, but perhaps he could call her from the ferry, and then
"Do I have a penis, Dad?"
"That's just the way it is, honey."
"Boys have penises, and girls have vaginas," she said solemnly.