Emend by Eclipse
Chapter 8

Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac

May 24, 1974

Tim and Benny had been cleaning the two office buildings for five months less eleven days. They had been paid $2,400 so far with another $600 coming in a few days. They had over $800 of that money sitting in the war fund. They had spent some money on paying for insurance, gasoline, cleaning supplies, and a second vacuum cleaner. They had used $600 of that money to buy a 1962 F-100 pickup truck and to completely rebuild it. For most days, the truck remained parked in front of Tim’s house. On Sundays, he got to drive it with his father in passenger seat.

They had also been out on Saturdays painting curbs six times since the weather had started getting warmer. For that little business, they had two people they had hired from school to work with them. They could do four streets with an average of 150 customers on a single Saturday. Their gross averaged $450, they were paying their two employees $25 each. Their supplies were running another $50. They were basically making $350 profit each weekend they could paint curbs. They had $2,000 dollars of that money set aside for future use.

Thus they were sitting there with $2,800, which wasn’t too bad for two guys who were still teenagers. Other kids their age would have been doing good to have saved $75 over that same time period. Of course, Tim and Benny weren’t satisfied with that. Tomorrow was Memorial Day and was the official first day of summer vacation and it was approaching time to put their summer business plans into action.

Today had been the last day of school and it had only been a half day. Tim and Benny had charged out of the school. Rather than taking the van to school that day, they had taken the truck. They were probably the third vehicle out of the student parking lot that day.

“Do you have the address?”

Tim pulled out the paper from his pocket. “Yes.”

“Where is it?”

“It’s on East Memorial Road. It’s just down the street from the college.”

“I think I know where that is.”

Benny navigated the truck to the address Tim had given him. He missed the GPS navigation system of the future where he didn’t have to slow down to try to read street signs which were often poorly placed, too small to read from a distance, or completely absent. They were relying upon paper maps which, due to the out of control development currently taking place in Oklahoma City, weren’t up to date. They had only gotten lost once, but had figured out where they went wrong after a couple minutes.

They pulled into the parking lot of the business. It was pretty easy to see that they were at the correct place. There was a line of lawnmowers in front of the building. All of them were brand new, with price tags that fluttered in the weak breeze.

After taking a moment to inspect the lawnmowers, they went into the business. Benny stopped to examine an edger that was on sale for $35.99. Tim walked up to the guy at the sales counter. He was a tall thin guy wearing blue jeans, a red plaid shirt, boots, and a cowboy hat. He was smoking a cigarette. He looked like a less than impressive Marlboro man.

After living in the future, it was hard to believe that people smoked in businesses at this time. There were a lot of smaller stores that had ashtrays next to the cash register. Customers and sales clerks would stand at the counter smoking. Tim tried to imagine that happening in 2017 and just couldn’t. He remembered being treated like a leper for smoking.

Holding out his hand, Tim said, “Howdy. I’m Tim and that’s Benny over there.”

While shaking Tim’s hand, the man answered. “Howdy. I’m Frank. What can I do for you fellas?”

“I understand that you have some used lawnmowers in stock.”

“That’s right.”

“We’d like to see what you have.”

“We’ve got them out back. Come on and I’ll show them to you.”

They went out the back of the store. Benny followed them while letting Tim do all of the talking. He was looking over the stock trying to assess what would be best for their business.

“Those over there have just come in. We haven’t had a chance to work on them yet, so you’d have to buy them as is. These over here have been rebuilt and come with a four month warranty.”

A four month warranty would last the whole summer. They expected to put a lot of hours on it. Benny walked along the line of rebuilt mowers. He knelt down next to the one with the most powerful engine. He pointed to it.

Tim asked, “How much is that one?”

“$38.”

Benny pointed to another one. Tim asked, “And that one?”

“$33.”

“Let’s try starting them.”

Frank went over to the first one. He adjusted the choke and gas. He put a foot on a wheel to keep the mower from rolling and then pulled on the starter cord. It took two attempts before it started. Tim and Benny listened to it for a minute while it warmed up and Frank adjusted the choke. It sounded good.

“Okay. You can shut that one off. How about the other one?”

Frank moved over to the second machine and yanked on the cored. It started on the third attempt. They listened to engine. It sounded good.

“Okay. You can shut that one off.”

Frank stood back and asked, “Which one do you want?”

“What do you think, Benny?”

“You’ve got gas edgers inside for $35.99. Do you have any used ones?”

“No.”

“Tim, start to negotiate for the mowers and edgers.”

Tim smiled. “How about you sell us both mowers and two edgers for $130?”

“Are you serious?”

“Very.”

“Are you sure that you two kids want to buy two mowers and two edgers?”

“Sure as lightning in a thunderstorm.”

“The price for the two mowers and edgers comes to $142.98.”

“I know. We’re offering you $130.”

Frank stared at Tim and Benny. He looked over at the mowers for a moment. They were used merchandise and the prices weren’t set in stone. He did have a little flexibility in what he could sell them for. Besides, this basically counted as two sales. He replied, “$135.”

Tim stuck out his hand and said, “Deal.”

They shook on it. Frank asked, “How are you going to get them home?”

“We’ll load them into our pickup truck.”

“Why don’t one of you drive the truck around here to the back so we can load it up?”

Benny headed back into the store. Tim said, “He’ll bring the truck around. Let’s go inside and ring it up.”

“Sure enough, partner.”

Tim followed Frank into the shop. Frank said, “I’m a little curious. What are you two boys going to do with two lawnmowers and two edgers?”

“Benny and I have contracted to mow twenty lawns a week. We’ve hired four guys from our school to work for us. One will mow, another will edge, and one of us will trim hedges, rake, and sweep. We figure we can handle two crews with each crew doing two lawns every morning. We should be able to get everything done before it gets too hot out.

“We’re hoping to get another twenty lawns under contract. That’ll give us forty lawns a week. We figure we can start mowing around eight in the morning and end at eleven. We pay the guys a nice hourly wage and we walk off with the profit. After expenses, we should be clearing one-seventy-five a week. Of course, there are the start up expenses like mowers, edgers, rakes, and brooms.”

Frank was impressed. They were talking about making over two thousand a year mowing lawns for three months. It was part-time work at that. These were two teenagers and not many kids made that kind of money.

He said, “It sounds like you two got things worked out.”

“Summer is when we make most of our money.”

“You should be making pretty good money.”

Tim paid for the mowers and got a receipt for the taxman. It was a business expense. In fact, they were starting to get worried about taxes. They were making pretty good money and didn’t have that many expenses. Of course, they were going to have to pay people who worked for them and that would eat into their war fund. Still, the tax rate on the kind of money they were accumulating was significant.

When they went out back, the truck was there, but Benny had disappeared. Frank helped Tim load the mowers and edgers into the back of the truck. Tim climbed onto the truck bed to tie them down. It wouldn’t be safe to have the mowers and edgers moving around in the back while they were driving.

“That’s a nice old truck.”

“Thanks. We just rebuilt it.”

“You rebuilt it?”

“We rebuilt the engine, replaced the ball joints, shocks, tie rods, brakes, and all four tires.”

“You two boys did all that?”

“Yes. The truck is going to be mine when I get my license.”

“You don’t have a license?”

“Not until August.”

“So your friend is using your truck for now?”

“Actually we also have a van. He’s using that for our cleaning business. We used the truck because it’s easier to load things like lawnmowers and such.”

“You have a cleaning business?”

“Yes. That’s our year round income.”

“Okay.”

Benny appeared from around the front of the truck. Gesturing over his shoulder, he asked, “Do you know who owns that pickup truck?”

“Which pickup truck?”

“That 1940 Ford pickup truck that’s parked over there.”

“You’re interested in that old thing?”

“Yes.”

“The guy who owns this building owns that truck. It’s been sitting there forever.”

“Have you got a number for him?”

“Sure. I’ll get it for you.”

While Frank was in the building looking up the number, Tim and Benny went over to check out the truck. There were a lot of parts missing from it, but the body was in reasonably good shape. Despite the long hot sunny days during the summer and the cold days in the winter, the climate where they lived wasn’t too bad for old cars. A car with its paint intact could sit out in the open for years before rust started to destroy it.

“What do you think, Tim?”

Benny didn’t need to explain to Tim what he had in mind. After repairing the two older vehicles, it wasn’t much of a stretch to move into the business of repairing antique cars. There was a lot of money in those older cars.

“I know we can fix it up.”

“I’m not sure how much we could sell it for.”

“It’s thirty-four years old. That makes it an antique.”

“That’s true. With a good paint job, we could sell it for some reasonable money. A well restored one went for over forty thousand dollars back in our time.”

“I figure we’re talking ten grand, today?”

“Maybe, although I suspect that’s probably a bit high. Probably closer to seven.”

“The average house costs about thirty-five thou. That’s a fifth the price of a house – just right for a down payment.”

The two of them were always trying to find some reasonable way of assessing value. It wasn’t easy. Some things that were expensive in the future were cheap, now. Some things that were expensive now, were cheap in the future. Talking about inflation was misleading. The prices of things didn’t go up equally.

“That’s about right. At least, that’s the impression I get from reading the ads in the newspaper.”

“I figure we could restore it now and sell it in a couple of years when we’re ready to buy a house. That would be a twenty percent down payment right there.”

“We could restore a couple of them over the next three or four years. We could buy a house outright.”

“You’re right. We can do the work in the winter since we won’t be mowing lawns or painting curbs on Saturdays.”

“Don’t forget, we were talking about flipping a house. That’s the capital we would need to start that business.”

“Let’s do it.”

Frank returned with a slip of paper. He said, “I wrote down the owner’s name and telephone number.”

“We’ll give him a call.”

“Don’t get discouraged if you can’t reach him right away. He’s a difficult person to get a hold of.”

“No problem. We tend to be busy ourselves.”

After loading the mowers and edgers into the bed, Benny and Tim got into the pickup truck. They drove off with Frank watching them. Shaking his head, he returned to the store thinking about how ambitious the two kids were.

Benny said, “We should hit the hardware store and pick up the rest of what we’ll need.”

“We might want to wait for tomorrow to see if they are having any Memorial Day sales.”

“I’m sure that you can get the guy at the hardware store to tell us about any sales they’re having.”

“You’re probably right.”

They went to the hardware store. There wasn’t a sale on rakes or brooms or manual hedge clippers. There was a sale on electric hedge clippers. After considerable debate, they choose to go with manual clippers. It wasn’t because of concerns about being able to use the electric hedge clippers that directed their choice. They could just see the people they had working for them cutting the cord and tripping fuses which they wouldn’t necessarily be able to turn back on. It was a reasonable concern. In their previous pass through life, they both had electric cords that had been cut multiple times when trimming hedges.

Fully loaded up with what they needed for the lawn care business, Benny and Tim returned to Tim’s house. They unloaded the lawn mowers from the back of the truck and immediately mowed the lawn at Tim’s house. This allowed them to get a feel for how well the lawnmowers and edgers worked. With them working together, it didn’t take much more than half an hour to mow, trim hedges, edge sidewalks, rake up the grass, and sweep the sidewalk and driveway free of grass clippings. They figured with a full crew of three people working on a single yard that they could have it done in half an hour. Of course, that time didn’t include unloading and loading the truck or driving from one job to the next. That would put them at close to an hour. The hope was that they could get everything done before 11:00 in the morning once they got another four houses a day under contract.

One thing they noticed was that loading the hot mower into the bed of the pickup truck wasn’t a pleasant task. That lesson was clearly made when Tim burned himself on the muffler. They looked at each other and agreed, “We need a trailer.”

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