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THE BYERSON TEST/E. S. Goldman CHESTER BYERSON WAS SOMEBODY I knew in the elevator and the coffee shop. A man who sells something substantial, I thought: carloads, bonds, yachts, properties. Jutting from his breast pocket like a third cuff was a squared handkerchief with the erratic weave and edge of handwork; I took this for a trademark. Men don't show breast pocket handkerchiefs much these days. WeU-barbered thready bronze hah- frizzed to an Abyssinian beard behind his ears. On a morning when people from the convention hotel on the corner were swarming for breakfast he motioned me to the open seat at his table. We said no more than was poUte whUè we explored how much interruption of the Times was enough for civiüty. He read as I did, scanning page one, Ungering at Business before returning to other sections. We found it congenial to sit together, turning pages, making circumspect comments on the news, and continued to do so other mornings when our breakfast times coincided. Byerson is a partner in a public relations firm. He is more gregarious than I, natural for someone in his line; but I am not taciturn, so our conversation expanded over the months to include by disclosure and inference as much information as most people in more intimate relationships exchange in a Ufetime. He is PhUadelphia and Princeton. I am Akron and Western Reserve. He says At this point in time, which for me impUes a whole cultural landscape. He is separated from Ann Marie but they are friends. His trick right knee made him draft-proof. He considered going for political science while at Princeton. He thinks he is vulnerable to colon cancer on account of a family history. Bernice and I are divorced. The children cUng to her side of the famUy, which makes it rather morose for me sometimes. During Vietnam I did biology at Western Reserve and now I'm a science writer. We have stocks. We know scores, game scores, not music. We travel. We know hotels. We had had this relationship for several months when Byerson said, "I have business in France. I'll be gone for a couple of days next week." I said that it seemed to me he had been in France not long ago. The Missouri Review · 262 "We have clients there, a cosmetic house and a drug company. We show the flag now and then. Do you get to Paris?" "As a matter of fact—," I began without the firm intent to say what the fact was. I had a mission in Paris for somebody but was not entirely comfortable that Chester Byerson was the person for it. Understand, the friendship between us didn't extend a foot beyond the breakfast table. For one thing, to put a word on it, and looking at it only from my side, I didn't trust him. I liked him but didn't trust him. I liked him for breakfast, think of him as a cereal, but Td never asked if he wanted to meet with our dates at Bradley's or volunteered to pick up a pair of tickets for the Knicks, nor had he asked me. We didn't have the kind of workplace friendship I had with Claude Prennis. Claude and I saw the world with the same biases. I could say to Claude, "The president has no business sending American troops to Kuwait. It's out-of-date oU diplomacy," and anticipate his agreement. Or I could say the opposite and Claude would write it off as temporary insanity. But to Byerson I never ventured an opinion that couldn't be tempered, softened, put aside for another subject. On the same evidence that I would say flatly to Prennis that Kuwait was no business of ours, I would say circumspectly to Byerson, "I see the president is committing more ground troops to Kuwait," and the accredited observer from Mars wouldn't be able to say if either of us seriously thought that was a good idea or a bad one. It frustrated me that if Claude's wife weren't so militant they would live at a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 161-174
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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