The Contract

“I’m exhausted Celeste. He’s relentless. I’m pretty sure we’re in the hole already for supplies,” said Ben. “I’m starting to wonder if he’ll ever finish anything. He’s started over three dozen plates and nothing is done. His crap is all over the shop.”

“I should be here to help you, but I’m afraid to quit my job and have this project blow up in our faces.”

“Keep your job. We need to see it through. Tzvi told me Harold landed him a one man show in a gallery on Madison Ave with the prints we’re doing with him. This could give us real visibility and lots of work going forward.”

“You’re right, but I’m frustrated. When I get home and he’s still here, I want to scream. I wish I could start a piece of my own, but that’s impossible for the foreseeable future.”

One evening after ten o’clock with her feet burning, Celeste cleaned up the press area.

Her throat became irritated from the fumes as she approached the sink where the acid trays were placed. “Are these the two plates you were etching earlier? The acid is really clear.”

She looked below the sink and noticed both of the acid containers they’d purchased for the whole project were empty. 

“No, this is the third pair. The acid was so slow, I added to it, but it’s still not biting well. You need to buy more hydrochloric.”

“I’m sure it’s etching perfectly,” said Celeste. “Ben, can you come here?”

Ben saw the empty containers too. “Tzvi it’s dangerous to use a solution this strong. We need to dilute it.” He turned on the faucet adding a slow stream of water to both trays. 

“You think I’m a fool? I need a stronger solution, not less.” Tzvi glared at Ben.

“You’ve used everything we bought. And we need to do something about the ventilation. These fumes will make us all sick.”

 “I’ll tell Harold you refused to let me do my work,” Tzvi shouted at Ben while he ripped his apron off.  “You signed a contract.”

“Tzvi, it’s too dangerous,” said Celeste hurrying across the floor to open the windows.

“We can’t work like this,” said Ben as he followed the retreating Tzvi. “There’s going to be a transit strike; it’ll be impossible to get anything delivered.” He opened the door and Tzvi stormed out like an offended teenager. “Go home. I’ll call when you can come back.”

Later Harold called. “Ben, I know Tzvi can be impetuous, but he’s a great artist. We’ll both benefit from our association with him. Be patient. Remember the contract.”

“Okay, Harold. But try to get him to see reason. This strike’s going to complicate everything.” 

*

The NYC Metropolitan Transit Union after months of talks were unable to agree on a new contract. They called a walkout for the next morning Tuesday, April 1st, 1980. 

After contacting all the messenger services, Celeste discovered none would deliver to Brooklyn. Due to the strike everyone who had a car was driving it, jamming all the river crossings into and out of Manhattan. Ben quickly realized he had no choice but to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to fetch the supplies. 

“God knows what lies Tzvi told Harold. That contract is our future. We need to find a way to work with him regardless of how difficult it is.”

“You’re right. He’s like working with The Alien.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

*

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