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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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"but about the effect of the two of them together. Which is what I want you to think about, because I have to go."

"You're leaving?" I ask.

"I have to," he says.

"Jonah, you can't just run off like this."

"There are clients waiting for me," he says.

"Jonah, I don't have time for riddles. I need answers," I tell him.

He puts his hand on my arm.

"Alex, if I simply told you what to do, ultimately you would fail. You have to gain the understanding for yourself in order to make the rules work," he says.

He shakes my hand.

"Until next time, Alex. Call me when you can tell me what the combination of the two phenomena mean to your plant."

Then he hurries away. Fuming inside, I flag down the waiter and hand him the check and some money. Without waiting for the change, I follow in the direction of Jonah out to the lobby.

I claim my overnight bag from the bellhop at the desk where I checked it, and sling it over my shoulder. As I turn, I see Jonah, still without jacket or tie, talking to a handsome man in a blue pinstripe suit over by the doors to the street. They go through the doors together, and I trudge along a few steps behind them. The man leads Jonah to a black limousine waiting at the curb. As they approach, a chauffeur hops out to open the rear door for them.

I hear the handsome man in the blue pinstripe saying as he gets into the limo behind Jonah, "After the facilities tour, we're scheduled for a meeting with the chairman and several of the board..." Waiting inside for them is a silver-haired man who shakes Jonah's hand. The chauffeur closes the door and returns to the wheel. I can see only the vague silhouettes of their heads behind the dark glass as the big car quietly eases into traffic. I get into a cab. The drivers asks, "Where to, chief?"

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12

There is a guy I heard about in UniCo who came home from work one night, walked in, and said, "Hi, honey, I'm home!" And his greeting echoed back to him from the empty rooms of his house. His wife had taken everything: the kids, the dog, the gold- fish, the furniture, the carpets, the appliances, the curtains, the pictures on the wall, the toothpaste, everything. Well, just about everything-actually, she left him two things: his clothes (which were in a heap on the floor of the bedroom by the closet; she had even taken the hangers), and a note written in lipstick on the bathroom mirror which said, "Good-bye, you bastard!"

As I drive down the street to my house, that kind of vision is running through my mind, and has been periodically since last night. Before I pull into the driveway, I look at the lawn for the telltale signs of tracks left by the wheels of a moving van, but the lawn is unmarred.

I park the Mazda in front of the garage. On my way inside, I peek through the glass, Julie's Accord is parked inside, and I look at the sky and silently say, "Thank You."

She's sitting at the kitchen table, her back to me as I come in. I startle her. She stands up right away and turns around. We stare at each other for a second. I can see that the rims of her eyes are red.

"Hi," I say.

"What are you doing home?" Julie asks.

I laugh- not a nice laugh, an exasperated laugh.

"What am / doing home? I'm looking for you!" I say.

"Well, here I am. Take a good look," she says, frowning at me.

"Yeah, right, here you are now," I say. "But what I want to know is where you were last night."

"I was out," she says.

"All night?"

She's prepared for the question.

"Gee, I'm surprised you even knew I was gone," she says.

"Come on, Julie, let's cut the crap. I must have called the number here a hundred times last night. I was worried sick about

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you. I tried it again this morning and nobody answered. So I know you were gone all night," I say, "And, by the way, where were the kids?"

"They stayed with friends," she says.

"On a school night?" I ask. "And what about you? Did you stay with a friend?"

She puts her hands on her hips.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I did stay with a friend," she says.

"Man or woman?"

Her eyes get hard on me. She takes a step forward.

"You don't care if I'm home with the kids night after night," she says. "But if I go away for one night, all of a sudden you have to know where I've been, what I've done."

"I just feel you owe me some explanation," I say.

"How many times have you been late, or out of town, or who knows where?" she asks.

"But that's business," I say. "And I always tell you where I've been if you ask. Now I'm asking."

"There's nothing to tell, " she says. "All that happened was I went out with Jane."

"Jane?" It takes me a minute to remember her. "You mean your friend from where we used to live? You drove all the way back there?"

"I just had to talk to someone," she says. "By the time we'd finished talking, I'd had too much to drink to drive home. Any- way, I knew the kids were okay until morning. So I just stayed at Jane's."

"Okay, but why? How did this come over you all of a sud- den?" I ask her.

"Come over me? All of a sudden? Alex, you go off and leave me night after night. It's no wonder that I'm lonely. Nothing suddenly came over me. Ever since you got into management, your career has come first and everyone else takes whatever is left."

"Julie, I've just tried to make a good living for you and the kids," I tell her.

"Is that all? Then why do you keep taking the promotions?"

"What am I supposed to do, turn them down?"

She doesn't answer.

"Look, I put in the hours because I have to, not because I want to," I tell her.

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She still doesn't say anything.

"All right, look: I promise I'll make more time for you and the kids," I say. "Honest, I'll spend more time at home."

"Al, it's not going to work. Even when you're home, you're at the office. Sometimes I've seen the kids tell you something two or three times before you hear them."

"It won't be like that when I get out of the jam I'm in right now," I say.

"Do you hear what you're saying? 'When I get out of the jam I'm in right now.' Do you think it's going to change? You've said all that before, Al. Do you know how many times we've been over this?"

"Okay, you're right. We have been over it a lot of times. But, right now, there's nothing I can do," I say.

She looks up at the sky and says, "Your job has always been on the line. Always. So if you're such a marginal employee, why do they keep giving you promotions and more money?"

I pinch the bridge of my nose.

"How do I make you understand this," I say. "I'm not up for another promotion or pay raise this time. This time it's different. Julie, you have no idea what kind of problems I've got at the plant."

"And you have no idea what it's like here at home," she says.

I say, "Okay, look, I'd like to spend more time at home, but the problem is getting the time."

"I don't need all your time," she says. "But I do need some of it, and so do the kids."

"I know that. But to save this plant, I'm going to have to give it all I've got for the next couple of months."

"Couldn't you at least come home for dinner most of the time?" she asks. "The evenings are when I miss you the most. All of us do. It's empty around here without you, even with the kids for company."

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