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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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The next thing I know, I look out the window and it's dark outside. The sun has set and I'm still in the middle of my sixth meeting of the day. After everyone has gone, I take care of some paperwork. It's past seven when I hop in the car to go home.

While waiting in traffic for a long light to turn green, I finally have the opportunity to remember how the day began. That's when I get back to thinking about Jonah. Two blocks later, I remember my old address book.

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I pull over at a gas station and use the pay phone to call Julie.

"Hello," she answers.

"Hi, it's me," I say. "Listen, I've got to go over to my mother's for something. I'm not sure how long I'll be, so why don't you go ahead and eat without me."

"The next time you want dinner-"

"Look, don't give me any grief, Julie; this is important."

There is a second of silence before I hear the click.

It's always a little strange going back to the old neighbor- hood, because everywhere I look is some kind of memory waiting just out of sight in my mind's eye. I pass the corner where I had the fight with Bruno Krebsky. I drive down the street where we played ball summer after summer. I see the alley where I made out for the first time with Angelina. I go past the utility pole upon which I grazed the fender of my old man's Chevy (and subse- quently had to work two months in the store for free to pay for the repair). All that stuff. The closer I get to the house, the more memories come crowding in, and the more I get this feeling that's kind of warm and uncomfortably tense.

Julie hates to come here. When we first moved to town, we used to come down every Sunday to see my mother and Danny and his wife, Nicole. But there got to be too many fights about it, so we don't make the trip much anymore.

I park the Mazda by the curb in front of the steps to my mother's house. It's a narrow, brick row house, about the same as any other on the street. Down at the corner is my old man's store, the one my brother owns today. The lights are off down there; Danny closes at six. Getting out of my car, I feel conspicuous in my suit and tie.

My mother opens the door.

"Oh my god," she says. She clutches her hands over her heart. "Who's dead?"

"Nobody died, Mom," I say.

"It's Julie, isn't it," she says. "Did she leave you?"

"Not yet," I say.

"Oh," she says. "Well, let me see... it isn't Mothers' Day..."

"Mom, I'm just here to look for something."

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"Look for something? Look for what?" she asks, turning to let me in. "Come in, come in. You're letting all the cold inside. Boy, you gave me a scare. Here you are in town and you never come to see me anymore. What's the matter? You too important now for your old mother?"

"No, of course not, Mom. I've been very busy at the plant," I say.

"Busy, busy," she says leading the way to the kitchen. "You hungry?"

"No, listen, I don't want to put you to any trouble," I say.

She says, "Oh, it's no trouble. I got some ziti I can heat up. You want a salad too?"

"No, listen, a cup of coffee will be fine. I just need to find my old address book," I tell her. "It's the one I had when I was in college. Do you know where it might be?"

We step into the kitchen.

"Your old address book..." she muses as she pours a cup of coffee from the percolator. "How about some cake? Danny brought some day-old over last night from the store."

"No thanks, Mom. I'm fine," I say. "It's probably in with all my old notebooks and stuff from school."

She hands me the cup of coffee. "Notebooks..."

"Yeah, you know where they might be?"

Her eyes blink. She's thinking.

"Well... no. But I put all that stuff up in the attic," she says.

"Okay, I'll go look there," I say.

Coffee in hand, I head for the stairs leading to the second floor and up into the attic.

"Or it might all be in the basement," she says.

Three hours later-after dusting through the drawings I made in the first grade, my model airplanes, an assortment of musical instruments my brother once attempted to play in his quest to become a rock star, my yearbooks, four steamer trunks filled with receipts from my fatber's business, old love letters, old snapshots, old newspapers, old you-name-it-the address book is still at large. We give up on the attic. My mother prevails upon me to have some ziti. Then we try the basement.

"Oh, look!" says my mother.

"Did you find it?" I ask.

63

"No, but here's a picture of your Uncle Paul before he was arrested for embezzlement. Did I ever tell you that story?"

After another hour, we've gone through everything, and I've had a refresher course in all there is to know about Uncle Paul. Where the hell could it be?

"Well, I don't know," says my mother. "Unless it could be in your old room."

We go upstairs to the room I used to share with Danny. Over in the corner is the old desk where I used to study when I was a kid. I open the top drawer. And, of course, there it is.

"Mom, I need to use your phone."

My mother's phone is located on the landing of the stairs between the floors of the house. It's the same phone that was installed in 1936 after my father began to make enough money from the store to afford one. I sit down on the steps, a pad of paper on my lap, briefcase at my feet. I pick up the receiver, which is heavy enough to bludgeon a burglar into submission. I dial the number, the first of many.

It's one o'clock by now. But I'm calling Israel, which happens to be on the other side of the world from us. And vice versa. Which roughly means their days are our nights, our nights are their mornings, and consequently, one in the morning is not such a bad time to call.

Before long, I've reached a friend I made at the university, someone who knows what's become of Jonah. He finds me an- other number to call. By two o'clock, I've got the tablet of paper on my lap covered with numbers I've scribbled down, and I'm talking to some people who work with Jonah. I convince one of them to give me the number where I can reach him. By three o'clock, I've found him. He's in London. After several transfers here and there across some office of some company, I'm told that he will call me when he gets in. I don't really believe that, but I doze by the phone. And forty-five minutes later, it rings.

"Alex?"

It's his voice.

"Yes, Jonah," I say.

"I got a message you had called."

"Right," I say. "You remember our meeting in O'Hare."

"Yes, of course I remember it," he says. "And I presume you have something to tell me now."

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