Steady Jack – from a much longer work. . .

A few months earlier Jack had been living in Dallas. One night he had trouble sleeping and was awake, staring at the ceiling, long before the alarm went off. Carrol lay sleeping in the center of the king-sized bed. She lay on her side facing towards him. Her brown hair had slid over her face and moved softly with each soft purring breath. As usual, she had gone to sleep as soon as her head hit the pillow and would continue to snore softly until the shrilly beeping alarm slowly caused her to irritably wake, roll to her side and turn it off. Insomnia, like many other things, was not something she shared with Jack.

The ceiling above the bed was speckled with small sparkling spots that glistened like stars with the slightest light. Jack had been staring at them for quite some time, watching as they changed when he moved his head slightly side to side. As the light from the window became brighter, the sparkles slowly disappeared and the ceiling went from black to white.

A few minutes before the alarm was due to go off, Jack got up and went to the bathroom. He got in the shower, turned the water on hot and stood with it streaming down his head. For several minutes he stood there. The water felt to good to move.

That morning, as many others lately, his mind was just blank. He was not thinking about anything, or worrying. There was nothing that he was upset about or anything, in particular, that made him wake up in the middle of the night and lay there till dawn. He just woke up…and laid there.

When he finished his shower, Carrol was sitting on the edge of the bed. She did not look up when he came back into the room and he did not speak. Neither of them were “morning people”. She continued to sit there as he went through his daily ritual of getting ready for work. After he finished tying his tie and headed out of the room, Carrol got up and went into the bathroom.

He and Carrol had been married for nearly four years now and had lived together for almost a year before that, and like most married people had evolved a strongly patterned routine. They rarely got into one another’s way and lived with a minimum of fuss. Carrol worked at her father’s bank and had many social activities that often included Jack. Their life together was busy and well organized. Carrol liked organization. For the past few months they had been trying to become parents but without success so far.

Downstairs, Jack was just finishing his oatmeal when Carrol, fully dressed now, came into the kitchen. “Good morning, Sweetheart,” she said, kissing him on the cheek.

“Morning” Jack replied without looking up.

“Remember that I have a meeting at the country club tonight so I’ll be late.”

“Okay” Jack answered still without looking up.

“And don’t forget we’re going to Mamma’s this weekend for her anniversary.”

“I remember.”

Without saying anything else, Jack got up, put his bowl in the dishwasher and picked up his briefcase. Carrol came over kissed him again on the cheek and said “Have a nice day, Honey.” “You, too.”

Jack stepped outside. Even though’ it was only a few minutes after seven, it was already hot. As he unlocked his new gray Grand Prix, he stopped and looked at his house. It was starting to look good with all the landscaping they had done. Jack hadn’t been sure about buying the house in Garland, he had wanted to move to Plano, but Carrol had found this house just as the builder finished it and had insisted. It really wasn’t that important to him.

When they had moved in, six months earlier, the yard had been bare dirt with ruts from the construction trucks in several places. Carrol had quickly planned every square inch of the yard, choosing exactly what type of plant would go in each spot. Jack had done all the work himself, with Carrol over his shoulder telling him exactly how to do each step. As always, Jack just followed her plans. He learned several years ago, when they first began dating as students at SMU, that she was a careful planner and once her plans were made, she did not like changes. It was best to let her do the planning. It was much easier.

The car started at the first touch of the key as always. He liked the car. It was the first one that he had bought himself. He hadn’t planned to buy it. One day he was driving down Airport Freeway in Irving and had pulled into a Pontiac place. Not quite an hour later, he drove away in the new car.

Jack got onto I-30 and headed towards his office in downtown Dallas. Even this early the traffic was heavy. He turned his radio on WBAP and listened to his favorite morning drive show.

Since graduating from SMU with a degree in Business Management, Jack had worked for Lone Star Mortgage Company. It wasn’t anything he was really excited about but he had talked with them when they were interviewing on campus. When they offered him a job he wasn’t sure about it, but it was a job so he accepted. Maybe if he had been more excited about school and his major it would have been different, but he had majored in business at the urging of his father. After all, his father was paying the tuition and all his other expenses and Jack really didn’t have anything else he was really interested in taking as a major, so he thought business would do while he made up his mind. The next time he really thought about it was when he was walking up on stage to receive his diploma.

His job at the mortgage wasn’t bad. They moved him to a different department each six to twelve months so he could learn all the different aspects of the business. The money was good and with the way the company was expanding, he would likely be in charge of his own office before long. It was obvious that they thought well of him and that he had an excellent future with the company.

As he neared downtown, Jack got into the right lane to exit. He watched as the sign for his exit flashed by. He watched as the car in front of him turned into the exit and as the green sign with the arrow and the word “EXIT” flashed by. He kept going straight watching the signs above him. He moved into the lane under the sign that said “I-30 WEST. Ft Worth”.

As the road turned towards the right, Jack reached and turned the radio a little higher. Just before he got to Weatherford, he took off his tie and tossed it into the back seat. He stopped for gas at a Texaco station just outside of Abilene and ate at a Dairy Queen in Sweetwater. In the middle of the afternoon, he exited on Grandview Street in Odessa. At the first major street, he turned left until he came to a store with a large imitation oil derrick out front called Strike It Rich. He stopped, went in and bought some work boots, jeans and work shirts and headed out of town on a highway to the south.

A few miles out of town he stopped and changed into the work clothes. When he saw a drilling rig he drove down the cliche road, parked and walked up to the platform and asked for a job as a roughneck.