Emend by Eclipse
Chapter 10

Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac

September 3, 1974

With the start of a new school year, Tim and Benny were now driving different vehicles to school. Tim was driving the truck and Benny was driving the van. Sometimes they traded off vehicles for situations when one had a need that was better supported by the other vehicle.

With school starting, they couldn’t mow lawns first thing in the morning. Getting out at 3:30, they could only get three lawns mowed before 5:00 when they needed to start cleaning the first office. With Tim able to drive for a second crew, the plan changed a bit. He would continue to run crews to mow the final lawns. He would then take that crew over to the office building to clean the second building. Benny would bring his crew over once they were done with the first building and help on the second. The end result was that they were ending thirty minutes earlier. This had the effect that their earnings from lawn care didn’t immediately decrease. It also cut into the profit for the cleaning business.

The really good news was that the weekends were glorious weather wise. An article in the newspaper one day about their business had the impact of increasing the percentage houses that hired them from around 50% to almost 89%. They brought in $1708 that day. They were paying $150 in wages, but that left quite a bit for the company.

It should be noted that Tim and Benny were always looking for ways to improve their income. The easiest way was to increase the price which they did by raising it one dollar. It wasn’t just a greedy move. They had a new process that would protect the painted numbers longer and provide better visibility. The cost of painting a house number went up by fifty cents, due to the new clear coat they used. So, rather than $3.00 per house, they were charging $4.00 per house.

Another way to improve business was to do more houses. The only answer they found was to hire people to do some of the work. They hired the boys who helped mow the lawn to help paint the curb. They basically turned curb painting into a production business.

Walking from door to door, Benny or Tim would pick up an envelope, with money in it, which would be hanging from the door knob. He’d gesture to the guy at the street to paint the background. When they were done, they would walk up the street to the next house with an envelope showing. The second member of the team would paint the number using a template. Upon finishing, he would clean up the template and head for the next site. The third member of the team sprayed the transparent cover coat that protected the first two coats so they’d keep their color vibrant.

The revised painting process increased the time by about 10 seconds per house. It wasn’t too bad for one, but after 356 houses, that came to 3560 seconds. It added an hour to the job. The added time and materials was why they had increased the price for the new and improved curb side sign by a dollar.

This particular day was a banner day. It marked the time when they had finished canvasing every street in their subdivision. From now on, they were to move to the subdivision next to their theirs. It was remarked upon, but not celebrated.

The fact that they were now in two vehicles meant that they could divide up their teams even further. Tim and Benny could each run two teams that were working on opposite sides of the street. They could double the number of streets from four to eight. Even at 50% of the houses going for it, that would be two hundred houses a day. They would top $800 easily. On a really good day, it could top $1,400. Their labor costs were $300 and their material costs $200.

Tim and Benny looked at the increased numbers and wondered what they were going to do with the money. To bring in almost a thousand dollars on a single weekend was a much greater haul than they had imagined when they began. They estimated that they could do this about six more times before the weather began to become an issue. In actual fact, they had 8 Saturdays in a row with weather perfect for painting numbers on curbs.

The office cleaning portion of the business was not making nearly as much money as the curb painting and the lawn mowing portions. They would have sold it off except that it did provide continuity over the winter. They could have doubled the number of buildings by doubling the number of crews now that they had two vehicles. The problem was that it made the most demands upon them. They had to be there five days a week every week regardless of their health or desire. It was also the job that required the most honesty and integrity. They were being given access to the offices of businesses upon which people depended for a living. They felt that they had to closely supervise anyone who worked for them.

They had a young man, Terrance Grant, who had joined their workforce in the middle of the summer. There was only one way that they could find to describe him: he was hungry. He worked on the lawn mowing crew, on the curb painting crew, and on the cleaning crew. He was the first to arrive, the last the leave, and the hardest worker while he was there. He was polite with everyone, but he didn’t talk much, preferring to focus on his work.

Tim was the first to notice him. It took Benny a lot longer to notice him. They had expected him to leave at the end of summer, but he showed no signs of wanting to quit. Between the mowing and the cleaning, Terrance was earning $45.00 a week. When the weather was good on the weekend, he was earning another $25.00. On a bad week he brought home $45.00 for 15 hours of work and on a good week he brought home $70.00 a week for 23 hours of work. This was a significant amount of money for a teenager who could expect to earn $1.60 an hour with a limit of 20 hours a week.

Tim investigated the background of Terrance by talking to people. What he discovered was that Terrance’s father had been in a workplace accident and was recovering at home. Money was tight and Terrance’s income was paying for the food the family ate. This job was heaven sent since he could work, earn a good wage, and have time to study in the evening after work. Tim and Benny discussed the matter and promoted him to supervisor of a team with a pay rate of $4.00 per hour. They had decided that would give them a day off on occasion.

They were seated at a table in the school cafeteria. They were there because it was quiet and no one would bother them. The first day of school lasted just a half day. Rather than run out of the building with the crowd, they stopped where they could have a nice quiet conversation without being interrupted or overheard.

Benny said, “We’ve got the closing on the property this Thursday. We’re going to have to skip school to make it to the closing.”

“I know, but we shouldn’t skip school that early in the semester.”

“It’s either that or we miss cleaning and mowing that day.”

“I’m not so worried about the mowing. The problem is that we can’t miss the cleaning job. Who would run the second crew?”

“No one, so I guess we miss school.”

“Let’s schedule it for the early afternoon. Maybe we can convince the principal to consider it an excused absence since they said we have a limit on our unexcused absences.”

Towards the end of the previous school year, it came out that Benny and Tim had more than a hundred absences from the last two classes of the day. They had done pretty good with less than ten absences in the first class of the day which was the most important one from the school’s perspective. Benny and Tim still made A’s in all of their classes. They were informed by the principal that this year they couldn’t have more than thirty unexcused absences in any given class or they would fail the school year.

“I wish we could find another Terrance. If we had another person like him, we could offload some of our work on him or her. We could let Terrance and whoever take care of the cleaning business when our schedule gets too full.”

Tim paused as if searching his memory for a candidate who could do the job. He came up blank before he answered, “Me, too.”

‘We’ve got another six weeks of mowing.”

“That’s about right.”

“We’ve got about six weekends of painting curbs although that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be working six Saturdays. It all depends on the weather.”

“I can’t believe how much money we’re making at painting curbs. I nearly died when the count came up at seventeen hundred and eight bucks that weekend after the article came out. Do you remember when we would do good to come up with a hundred dollars on one day?”

Benny said, “I remember the first pass through and struggling to make enough to pay our ninety-five dollar rents. Do you remember dumpster diving for coke bottles so that we could turn them in for the deposits so we’d have something to eat?”

“I remember. I remember trading in that bag of bottles for a bag of potatoes.”

“The guy was nice enough to ignore the fact that the bag didn’t have enough bottles to cover the cost of the potatoes.”

“We had fried potatoes for breakfast, mashed potatoes for lunch, and baked potatoes for dinner. They made lousy desserts.”

“I remember those days. I got sick of eating potatoes after a while. If it wasn’t potatoes, it was pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

“With a tomato sauce made from the packets of catchup from burger places. A little water, some oregano, a touch of garlic salt, and you have poor man’s spaghetti sauce.”

“Do you remember Mrs. Johns?”

“That was a dear old lady. I don’t know how many times she played that old - it’s buy one and get one at half price.” Imitating her voice, he said, “I want to save the money, but I only need one can. Why don’t you boys take the other one?”

“Dozens of times.”

“We’d take her to the store since she couldn’t drive and she’d come of there with a half filled bag of groceries for us. We’d argue, but she always won.”

“Yeah.”

“She was one of the few people who got past your defenses. You liked her.”

“I was very sad when she died.”

“I know,” Tim said. He patted his friend on the shoulder. “I remember.”

Benny was silent for a minute looking off at the wall. He shook himself and said, “We’ve got too much money again.”

“The tax man said that we can defer some money over to the next fiscal year.”

“He said there are limits. Don’t forget, we’re still trying to make sure that our parents can declare us as dependents.”

“So, we pay for the garage out of the cash rather than the escrow account. That will knock down our balance some.”

“And the road.”

“You mean the driveway.”

“I mean the driveway. We’ve still got too much money.”

“So what are we going to do?”

“We’re going to buy a tractor with all the attachments -- brush hog, post hole digger, plow and whatever else comes with a tractor.”

“That could use up more than we have. I saw a new tractor for $5,700. It was one of the small ones.”

“So ... we buy a used one and get what pieces of equipment we can. I definitely want that grass cut short around the house to get rid of the snakes. I want to see them from as far away as possible and never get close enough to hear them.”

“I agree.”

“Who would believe that we could make so much by painting numbers on curbs,” Benny said.

“We’ve got a couple of hours to kill. Do you have any plans?”

“I’m going to visit Carol.”

“It’s that time again?”

“Not really. I visit before the need gets too bad.”

“Good.”

“I don’t know why I didn’t do this on my first pass through life. It’s the perfect solution to my particular problem. You’ve got to admit, I’m able to concentrate now.”

“You couldn’t afford it during our first pass through life. You couldn’t rub two nickles together, much less come up with twenty-five dollars.”

“That’s true.”

They sat back and looked around the cafeteria. The noise of students which had echoed through the hallways was gone.

Benny said, “I think we got everything decided. We’re building a garage, getting the driveway fixed, and buying a small used tractor with brush hog.”

“Right.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

“Okay.”

The two young men headed towards the main door of the cafeteria. There was a young woman posed just outside the door. She had her chest pushed out and was twirling a lock of her hair with the fingers of her right hand. She tossed her hair back a little and brushed it out.

“Hello, Tim.”

“Uh ... hello, Stacy.”

Tim and Benny exchanged a look. They were both wondering what was going on. There was no reason for Stacy to be looking at Tim that way.

“How are you doing?”

“Um ... I’m fine.”

She twisted and turned with her hands behind her back, a posture that pushed her breasts out. She licked her lips and batted her eyes at him. She was definitely advertising her availability. Tim and Benny looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

“So do you have a good schedule this year?”

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