Sam is a rising upper middle management member of a 24-hour global team for a global company and with a huge assignment from the boss, work takes over his life. An evil spirit (or a recurring voice in Sam’s head) sees a perfect opportunity to bring Sam to the point of destroying himself and several factors are working in the evil one’s favor: the round-the-clock pressure, the exhaustion of having a young family, and the realization that his son is heading for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Father and son share a deep and natural bond, and though Sam knows that both of them badly need to spend more time together, he increasingly finds refuge in his work team, who he sees mostly on screens. As the assignment deadline and the rise in autism symptoms converge, the evil voice is ready to make its play. At the crucial moment in “Tough Blue,” Sam is pulled away by his son’s cry and the devil curses the kid for spoiling what seemed like an easy victory.
In submitting for publication the Transcendent Guide to Corporate America, my collection of stories about work and life in the corporate era, I recently wrote a detailed description of the book. It turned into a story-by-story summary about how themes in the stories relate to the general themes of the guide. I thought I'd present them here, one story at a time. This is the seventh. As for what the individual stories are actually "about," you're on your own.