The Millionaire Next Door
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Alison plopped down on the blanket and looked up at the sky. Dan paused in starting the fire, and looked over at her. She was wearing a simple wraparound skirt and a blouse. It was pretty obvious that she wasn’t wearing a bra underneath the blouse. He thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. For a change, she looked like the nervous one on the date. He smiled at her and said, “I hope that you’re not disappointed.”
“This is lovely. A little too romantic, but lovely,” Alison said smiling over at him. She had to acknowledge that she couldn’t have planned a better place for them to have a little fun. She was worried about the discussion that they were about to have.
“Too romantic?” Dan asked. He had been concerned that it wasn’t romantic enough. He didn’t like the suggestion that it was too romantic. He wondered if she was going to tell him that their relationship was coming to an end.
“How’s the fire coming?” Alison asked changing the subject.
Turning his attention back to the pile of wood in front of him, Dan lit the starter log. They were supposed to bring their own wood to the park. He had brought one of those fireplace ‘instant lighting’ logs and some scraps from the building site. It made starting a fire rather easy. He lit the match and held it against the starter log. Watching the small flame grow, he said, “It’s lit.”
“Good. Come sit beside me. We need to talk,” Alison said patting the blanket.
Worried at how serious she sounded, Dan joined her on the blanket. He looked at her concerned that the date was coming to an end and wondered what he had done wrong. He said, “You sound serious.”
“Oh, I am,” Alison said with a worried smile. She turned and pushed against his chest so that he was forced to his back. She climbed on top of him so that she sat astride him and grabbed his arms to hold them down. Looking down at him, she said, “I want to make some rules clear before we go any further.”
“Rules?” Dan asked.
Alison said, “I like you. I like you a lot. You’re a nice guy, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Hurt,” Dan echoed with a frown. He liked the part about her liking him, but wondered about the part concerning him getting hurt. He figured that he was about to get the ‘I like you like a brother’ speech.
“I’m going off to college in a month and a half. Until then, I’d like to have a little fun. I would like it if some of that fun involves you and me having massive quantities of sex,” Alison said. She emphasized her words with a suggestive wiggle of her body.
The idea of massive quantities of sex really appealed to Dan, but he knew there was a major negative -coming, so he asked, “But?”
She said, “You just have to accept that it’s just a summer fling. Enjoy yourself and me, and our times together; but I don’t want you getting all romantic and mushy. We’ll be friends with benefits, but not boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Before reading the paper on the pursuit of happiness, Dan would have probably been upset by her assertion that a more intimate relationship was out of the question. He recalled the section on not pushing relationships beyond their boundaries. Nodding his head thoughtfully, he said, “I can accept that.”
His easy agreement to her terms surprised Alison and she wondered why he wasn’t a little more upset. She wondered if she had misjudged him. She said, “You accepted that a little too easily.”
“I read an article that discussed relationships. It described all kinds of relationships and the happiness benefits of each kind. It warned against trying to take relationships further than they were intended, or rushing them faster than was reasonable. I’m pleased that you want to be my friend. That’s important to me. I’m overjoyed that you want to include benefits. Sure, I’m a little sad that you don’t want it to go further than that, but I can accept it,” Dan said looking into her eyes as he spoke.
Alison looked down at Dan amazed at his calm acceptance. She had expected him to fight the limitation a little, but his suggestion that he understood limits was reassuring. She smiled and said, “Overjoyed?”
“I’ve got to warn you that I’m a virgin,” Dan said looking up at her. He was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to satisfy her.
Alison thought that she had been running into a lot more virgins her age than she had thought existed. She said, “I guess that means that you’re going to want lots and lots of sex!”
“Yep!” Dan said liking the way she thought.
“Good,” Alison said with a giggle.
The smile on Dan’s face went from ear to ear. After taking one look at him, his mother said, “You look happy.”
Dan had just returned from his evening at the lake with Alison. When she had mentioned massive quantities of sex, she had not been kidding. He smiled and said, “I’m very happy.”
She looked at him and guessed what had happened on his date. Worried that he was going to go overboard with Alison, she said, “Don’t rush things.”
“Don’t worry. We talked about it,” Dan said.
Curious, his mother asked, “What did you talk about?”
Dan answered, “You’re worried that I’m going to fall in love and be hurt when she goes off to college. We talked about it. She was very clear in what she wanted out of our relationship. I’m fine with it.”
“I like her,” his mother said, “She seems like a very level headed young woman.”
Dan nodded his head in agreement with his mother’s assessment. Alison seemed to understand exactly what she wanted and was quite willing to go after it. He said, “She knows what she wants, and is forthright about it. There is very little guessing involved.”
“That’s good. We’ve been worried about you,” his mother said. She had been afraid that he’d fall in love with Alison and spiral down into a depression when she left for college.
“Don’t be worried,” Dan said.
Thanks to the articles that Tom had given him, he knew what he wanted out of life. The only problem that he had now, was how to achieve it. He suspected that the final article would give him the knowledge that he needed.
Dan looked over at Tom wanting to talk about his time with Alison, but he held back. Gentlemen didn’t kiss and tell. Tom looked very happy. Curious, Dan asked, “What’s up? You look like you got laid.”
Tom wasn’t going to admit that he had sex with Susan. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I had a good date with Susan last night.”
“That’s good,” Dan said looking at his friend.
The two young men burst out laughing. They didn’t have to say anything to know the truth. It was obvious by how they were avoiding details about their dates that they had both been ‘lucky.’ By mutual consent, they dropped the subject. Tom asked, “Have you given any more thought to Parker’s Perfect Pizza?”
“Yes,” Dan answered. He had started reading the last article. It was about how to establish lifelong goals as a way of focusing and directing one’s decisions. It had used a trip to the grocery store as an example about how knowing your destination, allowed you to make decisions at each intersection. It didn’t matter if there was a detour along the way, knowing your destination allowed you to arrive at it eventually. He said, “I’ve just gotten to the part about the importance of setting goals.”
Tom nodded his head and said, “That’s a really important section of the document. The section on what constitutes a good goal is even more important.”
“I haven’t gotten that far,” Dan said.
The article had suggested that a person should establish a set of goals for every aspect of their life. -There should be career goals and personal goals. The goals shouldn’t be trivial, or accomplishable in a few days; they should last for most of a lifetime. When a goal was satisfied, then it should be replaced by a new one. Tom said, “I finished those articles a little before we got out of high school. I’m still working up my list of goals.”
Surprised at Tom’s admission, Dan asked, “Why is it taking you so long?”
Tom said, “Basically you are establishing the goals that will direct you for the rest of your life. I don’t think that is something that should be undertaken lightly.”
“You’re right. I hadn’t thought about it like that,” Dan said. He hadn’t finished the article so he was pretty sure that there were lots of little details that he hadn’t considered so far.
“I hadn’t thought about it either, until I began trying to create my list of goals. All of a sudden I realized that I was deciding what I wanted to do with my life,” Tom said. In the beginning he had pursued college because everyone else was telling him that’s what he should do. After reading the article, Tom realized that he had been acting without knowing where he was going. That had changed over the past few months. He was going to college because it would take him to where he wanted to be at the end of his life’s journey.
Dan frowned as he thought about the significance of what he was doing. It seemed like he was making a major decision without knowing enough on which to base it. He said, “Maybe I’m not ready for this article, yet. I’m not sure that I know enough to plan out my life like that.”
Tom said, “That’s what is rather remarkable about this article. You aren’t really planning out your life. You are establishing a general direction for it.”
“There’s a difference?”
Nodding his head, Tom said, “A very big difference. How many of the people who graduated with us talked about their plans?”
“Everyone,” Dan answered.
“That’s right. They said things like they were going to go to college, get a job, get married, and have children. Some of them even stated what their major would be. A few even talked about the company they were going to work for when they graduated.”
“Right,” Dan said.
Tom said, “Of course, it doesn’t take much for those plans to get derailed. Maybe they get married while they’re in college. Maybe they have a kid and have to get a job while finishing college part- time.”
“I can see that happening,” Dan said. He recalled a line from the article that basically said that everything in a plan has to go right for the plan as a whole to succeed. It only took one thing to go wrong, and the plan had to be modified or abandoned.
“A lot of them give up and they accept what life has to offer. They take a job and spend the rest of their life doing something that they don’t really like,” Tom said.
“There are a lot of people at my job site that talk about that,” Dan said nodding his head. He’d heard more than one person on the construction site talk about how if this or that plan hadn’t failed that they’d be someone by now.
“What they don’t understand is that while their plans may have failed, their goals remained the same. They never stopped to reformulate their plans to pursue those goals. If they had thought more about their goals, rather than their plans, they wouldn’t end up doing something they hated for the rest of their life,” Tom said with a smile. He knew that Dan was going to get the point.
“I see. By distinguishing between plans and goals, you are able to focus on your goals. The plans can adapt to changing circumstances,” Dan said. It was the goals that were important. The plans were just means to achieve those goals. He realized that this article had the potential of being far more life changing than the other two that he had read.
“Exactly,” Tom said.
Thinking he knew the answer, Dan asked, “So is Parker’s Perfect Pizza a goal or a plan?”
“I’d say it’s a plan,” Tom answered.
That answer surprised Dan. He asked, “Why?”
“Because Parker’s Perfect Pizza could fail, but the goal of independence which such an endeavor would provide, can still be realized. You might have to start Parker’s Imperfect Pizzeria before you realize your goal,” Tom answered.
“I didn’t think about it that way,” Dan said.
“It’s a whole lot more difficult to come up with a good set of goals than you might think,” Tom said. Shaking his head, he added, “I hope that I can finish my goals by the end of the summer.”
“What’s the hardest part?” Dan asked thinking that a warning might help him while he was reading the article.
“Every goal has to have a real, finite outcome, by which you can measure success. You have to be able to say, ‘I have achieved this goal.’ How do you know if you’ve achieved financial security? The whole world could change on you the next day, and you’d have nothing. On the other hand, there are some things that you can achieve and no one can take it away from you. Those are your goals,” Tom said.
“You mean like graduating high school,” Dan said.
“Exactly. You worked hard, and graduated. No one can take that away from you,” Tom said nodding his head.
Dan looked over at Tom and asked, “Did you come up with any goals that would surprise me?”
Tom laughed at the question before he answered, “Well, there’s one that is a little surprising. I’ve always wanted to go to Antarctica and check out the penguins.”
Dan laughed at that and said, “I thought you hated the cold.”
“I do, but I still want to see Antarctica. No one said that each particular goal had to be perfect,” Tom said with a grin.
It was six in the morning when Diana stumbled into the kitchen. Her eyes were red and she looked tired. Dan looked up from his breakfast and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“I spent the whole night reading,” Diana answered. Although she hadn’t immediately downloaded the article that Dan had recommended, she hadn’t forgotten about it. With nothing to do the previous evening she had decided it was time to read it. Looking at her brother, she could see how reading that article had such an effect on him.
“Ah,” Dan said understanding what she had been doing.
“That’s one intense series of articles,” Diana said.
She was still locked in the high school social scene, and the articles had shattered a hundred little myths that had dominated her life. Her happiness didn’t depend on being accepted by acquaintances. The opinion of her classmates only mattered if it turned violent.
“Yes, they are,” Dan said in agreement.
“I think I’m a little too young for it,” Diana said going over to the refrigerator. She was going to have a small glass of milk and then head to bed.