Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
August 18, 1975
June, July, and the first half of August had passed with glacial slowness. The weekdays were filled with work, starting early in the morning and lasting until late at night. Yet the money kept growing, slowly but surely.
They now had five crews with each crew mowing lawns at four lawns a day and five days a week. Their profit on a lawn was three dollars so they were bringing in $300 a week net. The season would last about 20 weeks and bring in $6,000 in profit. Most of their cost for this aspect of their business was labor, although they did have five trailers each loaded with the full equipment needed to mow a lawn. Each fully loaded trailer had a value of $400.
The five office buildings they were cleaning were bringing in $250 profit a month. Over the course of a year, that would bring in $3,000. This was their least profitable endeavor, but it was also the one from which they paid most of the bills including insurance, their income, and mortgage. It was year round, and stable, which meant that they could count upon a minimum amount of money each month.
A Saturday of curb painting would bring in an average profit of $1,500, but they were limited in how many weekends they could work. It was becoming obvious that they could only do between 14 to 18 Saturdays a year. They expected to earn a little over $21,000 for the year on curb painting.
So four teenagers were operating a company with about $32,500 a year in profit. Sandra was earning $3,600 a year and Cathy was earning $4,000 a year. Terrance was taking home $3,600 and was ecstatic at earning so much.
Benny and Tim were making $2,400 a year, almost all of which was going into savings. Of course, Benny and Tim were also going to have to share whatever profits the company made at the end of the year. They would get clobbered with taxes. As had been the case the previous year, the two young men were getting concerned about having too much money on the books when the end of year came. The company, including cash assets, now had a value of around $70,000, which was expected to grow by another $10,000 by the end of the year. The bad thing was that they were looking at $38,000 in cash.
At the moment, Benny, Tim, Cathy, and Sandra were seated around the conference table with the remains of a lunch in front of them. It was a simple meal of home made sandwiches with chips. They still had some soda in glasses along with a large bottle that still was a quarter full. They had just finished eating and were starting to discuss business.
“We haven’t found a car worth restoring.”
“We’ve been waiting to come across one and decide it’s the one. Maybe we ought to pick a make and year and put out the word we’re looking for one.”
“How about Chevy, 1935?”
“What were they making back then?”
“I have no clue.”
“We’ll find the body style for a 1935 Chevy and put out the word.”
“That will still be a drop in the bucket of what we need to spend.”
“We pay off the office.”
“Okay. That’s five grand, now what?”
“Why not? I’m sure that we can find a house for twenty thousand dollars that can be fixed up to sell for forty.”
“That would lock up a bunch of our money. We could even start on some of the internal repairs over the winter.”
“Sandra, call up Cynthia Frederick. Ask her to come over here so that we can talk real estate. Let her know that we’re interested in buying a house.”
“Benny, if we’re going to be fixing up houses to flip, we’re going to need a lot more tools than we have. We poor-boyed this house. We can’t do that when we’re talking about selling a house for forty grand.”
“We’ll set aside a thousand dollars for tools.”
“That sounds like a lot to me. Are you sure we’ll need that much?”
“No, but it should be close.”
Interrupting the flow of the discussion, Sandra interjected, “Cynthia will be here in an hour.”
“Thanks, Sandra,” Tim said.
“You’re welcome, Tim.”
Turning back to the discussion with Benny, Tim asked, “Why so much?”
Benny said, “None of the tools are all that expensive, but we’ll need a lot of them. We need the tools for carpentry, flooring, plumbing, painting, and electrical work. We want power tools rather than hand tools. I’m not putting screws in with just a screwdriver, I want a power screwdriver.”
“All right. We’ll do it that way.”
“School starts September second. That means we’ll be mowing lawns after school through September, and halfway through October. Fortunately, once the weather cools off we’ll be able to mow every other week rather than every week. Still, as soon as we finish mowing the lawns, we’ll have to head over to the offices to clean them. We aren’t going to have a free minute during the weekdays until the middle of October. We can expect another three, maybe four, good weekends for curb painting. Our lives are going to be busy.”
They had increased the number of crews and the number of lawns mowed from the previous year. It wasn’t until they had first considered their fall mowing schedule that they realized there weren’t enough hours in the day. Each crew had an hour and a half, to mow five lawns if they were going to get to the business offices at 5:00 each day. That was only a problem through the first three weeks of September. By the second half, the temperature was low enough that the grass only needed to be cut every other week.
“So you’re saying that we can’t really consider working on an old car or a house, until the middle of October.”
“For a house, starting after the middle of October is fine. I doubt we could buy one by then.”
“I’d like to get the unexcused absence limit to over sixty this year.”
Cathy said, “I don’t get it. How can you two get away with not going to class so much?”
Tim said, “Benny’s so smart and so far ahead of everyone else that forcing him to stay in class every day is a crime and the people at school know it.”
“Tim is in special education classes, which is a polite way of saying they’re just passing him through the system. They get paid more for him because he’s in special education classes. They don’t care if he’s there or not other than the first hour of the day.”
“That sounds kind of jaded,” Sandra said.
Shrugging his shoulders as if show that he didn’t care, Tim said, “It is, but it’s the truth. I’ve known that since the fourth grade.”
“Why aren’t you angry?”
“Look, up until the fourth grade they wanted to see if we could catch up. After that, it was that they wanted to take us as far as we could go in the time that was left. One day, it was basically we’ve done all we can for them so we’ll just keep them here until they quit or graduate.”
“The stupid thing - he has to formally withdraw from school. For too many absences, they’ll make him repeat the year.”
“Once a week I have to read aloud some elementary school level story so they can say they’re working on my reading skills. There’s no algebra for us...” Tim changed his voice to a hillbilly accent, “jus’ addin’, subtractin’, multiplyin’, and dividin’. Dat’s all we’s gots to know.”
“Why didn’t you quit?”
“I was going to. Then I met Benny. He saved me. When I graduate, my high school diploma will be worth as much as anyone’s and I won’t be a high school drop out. That’s important.”
“The futility of going to school is why we want to increase our unexcused absences.”
Cathy said, “All four of us are eligible for the work/study program. We can get out of school two hours early to go to a job.”
“Excuse me?” Tim said. “There’s a work/study program?”
“Why didn’t I hear about it?” Benny asked with a frown. He had been through high school once before and was going through it again, and he’d never heard of a work/study program there. He would have thought that the principal would have mentioned it as a compromise on absences.
“I don’t know.”
“Sandra, call up the school and schedule a meeting with whoever we need to talk to about all of us getting into the work/study program.”
“That’ll solve our lawn mowing scheduling problem.”
“You betcha it will.”
“Cathy’s emancipation hearing is Monday at 10:00.”
“Right,” Cathy said.
At the moment, Cathy was living with Gladys, but she didn’t have any legal rights as an adult. She could drive, she could get pregnant; but she couldn’t sign herself in for surgery, and she couldn’t sign any of the school papers. She was more or less living in limbo.
Benny asked, “Who is going to go there with her?”
“It should be you.”
“You’re her boyfriend.”
“This is a people thing. You are the one who deals with people.”
“How about me?”
Cathy answered, “I’d love for you to be there, but I’d be worried that our relationship would come out. There’s no telling how they’d react to finding out that I am a lesbian.”
“I still think it should be Benny.”
“She needs to show that she has the support of someone. You’re the boyfriend.”
Cathy said, “This is really important to me. You have to show up on time and you’ll need to wear a suit. Do you have a suit?”
Tim said, “We’ll let half the people on our crews have the day off or work half a day since we’ll only be able to oversee three crews instead of five. Terrance, Sandra, and I will cover the houses you would normally mow that day. We’ll just mow eight houses that day instead five. We should be done by 3:00 and get over to the office buildings on time.”
“We can just start late,” Cathy said.
“No. I think it would be best if you and Benny have the day off.”
“I have a better idea,” Benny said. “I go to court with Cathy. Afterward, I take Sandra’s crew and finish the yards while Cathy and Sandra have some time alone together.”
“Bull’s eye,” Tim said.
“Yes,” Sandra said.
“That’s a nice idea.”
“There you go,” Tim said. “It’s settled.”
“Let’s clean up this mess before Cynthia gets here.”
Working together they cleared the table, the dishes were washed, the trash disposed of, the bottle of soda put away in the refrigerator, and the half empty bag of chips put into the cabinet. They were a well oiled team. Once everything was clean, the women went back to their desks. Tim and Benny went out the back door to examine the property.
“We’re going to have to mow the field this week.”
“I can do that Sunday.”
“Are you sure you want to do that, Benny?”
“I mow the place on autopilot. I just sit there thinking while driving back and forth. Last time I was putting the tractor away and didn’t remember a thing about mowing the grass. I had to go out to check to see if I did it.”
“I can believe it.”
“So what’s bothering you?”
“I’m worried about Cathy.”
“She told me that living with Gladys is the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Last Sunday, Gladys taught her how to cook a roast. She’s also teaching her how to knit. Her mother never did any of that. I think Cathy is reveling in the attention and what she sees as the normalcy that had always been missing in her life.”
“Yes. You should have seen her showing off the pork roast she cooked. She was happy.”
“I’m glad to know that.”
They returned to the house. Tim sat back thinking about Cathy’s situation. Benny grabbed a pad of paper and pencil, and started thinking about a problem that had been bothering him for a while.