The Lloyd Saga

1. Lloyd Wakes Up

Lloyd opened one eye and looked at the digital clock. It was beeping. The television was on as well. Wow, thought Lloyd. What time is it?

He sat up in one great lurch and peered into the darkened space before him. He could tell that outside the massive drapes it was bright morning. If he parted them just a bit, the ribbon of the Monongahela River would wink back at him. He could smell his own breath without putting his hand in front of his face.

"It's cold out there," said a very fat weatherman on the local morning news show. "You betcha," said the anchor. Then they both cracked up, as if some absolutely hilarious bon mot had passed between them. But nothing looked funny to Lloyd.

Lloyd was in Pittsburgh for a corporate retreat. It was hard to hurt yourself in a town like Pittsburgh. Although the drinks they served were tremendous-eight ounces of scotch in a twelve-ounce broad-bottom tumbler was common-they stopped serving them very early. Lots of guys bailed out at 10:30 with a pack of yawning excuses. But Lloyd and Ron Lemur had decided to hang tough. At midnight, Lloyd had given up on beer and moved over to Bombay Sapphire martinis without any vermouth in them.

The pounding in his head was incessant. There was a tight, acid churning in the pit of his stomach. The slightest motion of his head produced a chasm not only beneath his feet but on both sides of him. He went into the palatial bathroom and attempted to hurl, succeeding only in drawing 85 percent of his blood into his face and neck, which produced such exquisite pain that he gave up hanging over the bowl and sank to the floor, pressing his face against the cool tiles. He slept, awakening ten minutes later with a loud exclamation. "Buh!" Then he yawed to his feet and ran the shower as hot and hard as it would go. "I'm up!" he yelled to nobody in particular.

He remembered something about ladies dancing in a bar. A girl had sat down next to him. "Hi," she said. She smelled like powder. He remembered that the woman kissed him. "What was I thinking?" he said. He was aware suddenly that there was no blood at all in his face now, and that he was about to faint in a minute. He sat down in the shower. Maybe I'm having a heart attack, he thought. There was no aspirin.

"Ach," Lloyd said. He was on his hands and knees like an elephant, swaying into the main room now. All he wanted to do was make it to the bed and lie there until his head cleared. He brought the little tin wastepaper basket with him to put in the space between the two queen-sized beds. On the basket was an American eagle in a furled silver banner. It looked fierce. "Never," Lloyd said to himself. "Never, never." He lay down flat on his back on the bed and wrapped himself in the stiff quilt. The telephone rang. "This is your wake-up call," said the voice. "It's eighteen degrees in downtown Pittsburgh. Good morning!" Lloyd hung up.

"Christ on his cross," said Lloyd. The telephone rang. "I just called in to see what condition your condition was in," said Lemur's voice.

"I hurt myself, Ron," said Lloyd. "I hurt myself bad. I don't think I can be doing that anymore. I'm too old and it's not good for my credibility as an executive. Who's going to take a guy seriously at nine in the morning who you saw barking like a dog six hours before at a fried-chicken restaurant?"

"You were magnificent," said Lemur. He hung up. The clock suddenly erupted in furious beeping again. Lloyd jumped at least three inches off the bed. "Fat people who want to commit suicide! Today at 5:00!" said the television set. Lloyd sat up. His head felt as if it were not connected to his body. His face felt very, very cold and his teeth were chattering. "I'm poisoned," he said. Hands shaking, he closed on a sock with an almost-imperceptible grip and began to dress. His meeting was in an hour and fifteen minutes. If he could dress, stand up without falling to his knees, walk without throwing up, exit the hotel without attracting notice, make his way to a convenience store to purchase aspirin and grapefruit juice, walk in the fresh, cold air for a couple of minutes, make his way to Walt's hotel, go to Walt's room without collapsing in the elevator, enter Walt's room, seat himself, and deliver a complete briefing to Walt on the sixteen or twenty industry issues that might come up in his morning panel discussion with fellow executive vice presidents, he could come back to his room and perhaps grab a couple of z's before the 8:30 mandatory informal breakfast that preceded the three-hour financial review of all business units.

"I want to die," said Lloyd. And he did, too. 

Next: Lloyd gets out and goes to a deli

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