Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
May 10, 1975
The day was perfect for painting curbs. The temperature the previous night had never gotten below 54 degrees. It was overcast, but there was no rain predicted for the day. The temperature climbed into the seventies around three in the afternoon. It was the first Saturday of the year where they could paint curbs. Sure, there were a lot of days in the middle of the week where they could have painted, but they only worked the curb painting business on Saturdays when homeowners were around. Until now, every Saturday since the middle of March had been cold, rainy, or both. There had been one weekend when the weatherman had predicted rain and it didn’t rain, but at best the temperature would have been marginal.
Outside of a little bit of cash picked up from mowing lawns, they had just about run out of money. They had located the last few parts necessary to finish the 1940 Ford truck and had spent nearly all they had set aside. Desperate for money, Tim and Benny decided to go at it big time that weekend. Cathy, Sandra, Tim, and Benny each ran crews. Cathy and Sandra each had three people working for them so they could cover three streets each. Tim and Benny ran two crews each, with each crew working opposite sides of the street. They were able to cover eight streets each. By the end of the day, they had painted numbers on an incredible 737 houses. Their gross was just under $3,000. Their wages for the crews came to $350. Their materials had cost another $400.
Sandra and Cathy were stunned when opening the envelopes to discover that they had each collected almost $400. It was a little sobering when they handed out $25 to each member of their crew. Tim let them keep $175 each, which to the two young women was an absolute fortune. Minimum wage was now $2.10 an hour. They would have had to work 83 hours at minimum wage to make what they had earned in 8 hours.
After all of the money was accounted for, the boys were left with a little over $2,000. With their coffers full again, the two young men relaxed. They weren’t going to tackle that large of a weekend again, for a while. It was almost more than they could handle.
Cathy and Sandra were looking at the stack of money on the table. The majority of money they collected was in the form of one dollar bills, but there was almost $280 in change. It was huge pile of money though. Looking at the small stack in front of them and the large stacks in front of Benny and Tim, they felt a little cheated. It was human nature.
Counting off two hundred dollars, Tim set the stack of bills to the side. “That’s for the printer. We need more envelopes.”
“We need to update the information on them. Using the leftovers from last year’s envelopes meant that the permit numbers were wrong.”
Tim counted off more bills and set them aside. “We need six cases of paint.”
“We need to replace the templates. The ones we have are getting in pretty bad shape. I had to scrape the paint off of one with my pocket knife.”
Tim put some more money on the pile for the hardware store. He shook his head and dropped a few more bills. “We need paper towels and plastic bags. I had to borrow the bags we used today from my mom.”
“We had better replace them. Your mom said she was making fried chicken tonight.”
Tim looked over at Sandra and Cathy. “You’re invited, too.”
“Thanks. We should probably call our parents.”
Tim counted off some more money. He put it in a separate stack. “We need to refill the LNG tank and pay our electric bill.”
“How are we doing on money?”
“Fourteen hundred left.”
“We need to buy another lawnmower. The two we have need to be serviced.”
“We should have taken care of that during the winter.”
“I know, but money was getting tight.”
“Another hundred for the truck bed.”
“Memorial Day is in 3 weeks. Do you think the truck will be done in time for the Memorial Day parade?”
“Three weeks. Sure. What’s that got to do with the parade?”
Tim said, “I’d like to drive it in the parade.”
“I’d like to show it off.”
Tim counted out some more money and handed it over to Benny. “Payday.”
“A hundred just like we discussed.” He counted out more and then put it in his pocket.
Cathy said, “You paid us a hundred and seventy five dollars, and you only paid yourselves a hundred?”
“Don’t worry. We’ll be paying ourselves a lot more than that this year.”
Looking sheepish, Benny said, “Last year we thought we were limited to earning seven hundred fifty dollars a year. It turns out that we were wrong. We could have kept a lot more of our money last year. I misread the tax booklet and got some bad tax advice. I thought we had to meet the gross earning test, but we were students all year and that didn’t apply. We just had to make sure that our parents provided more than half our support.”
Tim said, “Don’t be embarrassed, nobody understands tax law.”
“Now we’re having to balance the tax hit versus how much benefit we can get from leaving the money in the business.”
“Taxes are high. We have to pay our share of social security and the company share of social security out of what we keep for ourselves. Then we have to pay income taxes on top of that.”
Patting the remaining money, Tim said, “We’ve got a lot of bills coming up. We have to pay on the loan for the house. Basically, every dollar here is spent.”
“That looked like a lot of money.”
“It is a lot of money.”
“But you’re not getting it.”
“That’s not accurate. We own a business. The business owns a house with an outbuilding on three acres, a van, a truck, and an antique show car. We have equipment for the lawn mowing and office cleaning side of our business. We get to use all of that.”
“We want to pay off the mortgage on the property this summer.”
“We are talking about investing in another antique car to restore.”
“Why restore a car?”
“We spent two thousand on the truck, and we can sell it for over $7,000. For now, that $7,000 is part of the value of our company. We don’t have to pay taxes on it until we sell. However, we can borrow against it. If we invest in another car and restore it, we can increase the value of the company even more.”
“We want to increase our credit rating using the value of the company so that we can buy another house to flip.”
“A house to flip? What’s that?”
“It’s restoring a house just like we restore a car. We buy a house in bad condition, we fix it up, and then we sell it for a profit.”
“What kind of profit?”
“Ten to twenty.”
“Ten to twenty what?”
“Next year Benny is eighteen. That’s a magic number. We’ll hand off the lawn mowing company to someone so that we can spend the summer working on houses. This way, we can restore cars in winter when we can work in a heated garage. In the summer, we can work on houses when the weather won’t get in the way.”
“We’re working on a deadline.”
“What kind of deadline?”
“Next year is an election year. We expect the economy to go crazy after the election.”
Cathy said, “Oh. I haven’t thought about the election.”
Tim gestured to the pile of coins and said, “Let’s start rolling coins.”
“We need to separate them into quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.”
Sandra said, “I can’t believe someone actually put a dollar’s worth pennies in the envelope.”
Sandra and Cathy started pulling out coins one at a time. They looked up and saw that Benny and Tim had nearly a third of the coins separated already. It was pretty obvious they had lots of practice at this. It took just a few minutes to get everything separated into different piles.
“Why do you have three piles of quarters?”
“Silver good, silver okay, and junk. Silver good will be worth a good deal more than a quarter based on the silver value. Silver okay will be worth a touch more than a quarter based on silver content. The last is worth a quarter because it is a quarter.”
“Is that important?”
“Let’s say I have a hundred dollars of good silver. The price of silver goes up. Suddenly the silver which was worth a quarter is now worth $0.29. Well when a dollar of silver coins has just become worth $1.16, then a $100 becomes a $116. That’s earning 16% return. Now suppose that it goes up to where a quarter is worth $ .43. Suddenly that hundred dollars worth of coins is worth $172. That’s a pretty good return on money. We’re dividing the silvers into coins that will do well and those that will do somewhat okay and those that will do nothing.”
“You’re playing every angle.”
“No. We are speculating that the price of silver is going to rise sometime in the near future. If we’re wrong, then we trade the coins in for their face value. No great loss for us.”
“It’s all about buying low and selling high.”
Benny suddenly phased out. Seeing the emergence of Thinking Benny, Tim looked around and grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. He put it in front of Benny.
“Shhh!” Tim said while watching Benny.
“Shhh! Tim said almost violently. He gestured towards the door and tip toed over to it.
Cathy and Sarah followed him. Once they were in a different room, Tim whispered, “You can ask your question, now.”
“What is he doing?”
“What’s he thinking about?”
“I have no clue.”
“You’ve got to have some clue.”
“No. He thinks and then he gets an idea. Sometimes they are great and sometimes they are just so-so.”
“I’ll just stay here and watch him. I’ve got to take care of him.”
Cathy and Sarah exchanged looks. They watched Tim bring out various beverages and various snack foods. He placed it all within easy reach of Benny. Then he sat back to watch his friend stare off into space oblivious to the world around him.
Benny picked up the pen and started writing odd little symbols over the sheet of paper. It didn’t make sense to any of the three watching him. It was advanced mathematics. He reached out and grabbed a pretzel stick. He chewed one and then another. He reached over and chewed a couple of nuts. It was hard to say if he knew exactly what kind of nut he was eating. Then he closed his eyes, lowered his head, and didn’t move. After ten minutes, he opened his eyes and wrote some more on the sheet of paper. He closed his eyes and continued thinking. It kept up like this for a little more than an hour.
Cathy and Sandra had gotten bored watching the action. Tim had finished wrapping the coins and put away the money for deposit on Monday. Benny’s eyes opened. “You said your mother made fried chicken?”
“Let’s go over there.”
“Sure. What about the paper?”
“Let me put it with the others,” Benny said. He picked up the paper and disappeared into the bedroom.
Cathy asked, “What were you doing with the snacks and stuff?”
“Sometimes Benny thinks about things very deeply. He goes off and really focuses on what he’s thinking about. Hunger, thirst, the need to eliminate waste, and exhaustion will break his concentration. If I keep snacks and beverages right at hand, then it minimizes the interruption. That way, he can spend more time thinking.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“That’s when he’s happiest. So, yes, that’s a good thing.”
Somewhat sad, Tim put everything away. He waited for Benny to return from his bedroom thinking it had been a long time since Benny had gone off like that. It was a shame. He felt guilty that the businesses might be keeping Benny from working on his problems.
Returning to a topic that had been dropped a while back, Sandra asked, “If you’re driving the antique truck in the parade, can I ride with you?”
“I’d like that.”
“That would be kind of cool,” Cathy said wistfully.
She knew that Benny wouldn’t be interested in driving it. Besides, there was only the one vehicle so only one of the boys could drive it and he could take only one passenger. It was a shame because she would have liked to have ridden in the parade.
Benny returned. The four left for Tim’s house. Benny in his van, Tim in his truck, and the girls in Cathy’s car. It was a regular little parade of their own.
Alone with Sandra, Cathy said, “I want to save this money and put it into their business.”