Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
December 31, 1976
The temperature outside was bitterly cold. At four in the afternoon, it had hit a high of 23 degrees. With the gas heater, the temperature in the outbuilding where they were sitting was in the low 50s. They were looking at the 1935 Chevrolet Standard Phaeton admiring the paint job they had just spent nine hundred dollars on. That was a huge amount of money to spend on a paint job at the time, but it was worth every penny.
Benny said, “Mohair seat covers.”
“I thought they made sweaters out of that, not seat covers. I’ve got no idea what that even means.”
“That’s what the technical specs say it had. Mohair seat covers.”
“Who do we talk to about that?”
“What about the material for the cover top?”
“I found a guy in Santa Barbara who does restorations for the purpose of finishing hot rods, who says he can do it.”
“How much will it cost us?’
Benny answered, “Another thousand.”
“Another thousand. When did I hear that last?”
“Last time we fixed something on this car.”
Tim said, “I know. Still, we did get offered thirty thousand for it, as is.”
“So we’ve got forty thousand dollars in assets on wheels, including the 1940 truck and our vehicles.”
“Another ten thousand with brooms.”
With eight office buildings at $300 a month each, and one at $500, they were pulling in a hefty $3,900 a month. With a work crew payroll of around $1,000 a month it was a pretty good money maker. Cathy was getting $500 of that for running that whole business. Sandra was getting $350. Considering that the company belonged to Tim and Benny, they were only taking $100 each. With supplies, insurance, and other expenses, they were still putting away $800 a month out of it.
Benny said, “Another ten thousand in graffiti.”
During the last few nice weekends of September, they had been able to work Saturdays and Sundays on properties that were part of a large development. Without having to collect envelopes, they were able to go from curb to curb without pause. It went very fast with them scheduling only 100 houses a day. On three weekends, at six hours a day, the four of them were able to do the entire 600 house development. It was a nice $2,400 with $400 going to supplies and them splitting the rest since they had not hired a crew to work for them. Of course, Benny and Tim’s share went into the company
During the summers, they only worked Saturdays painting curbs, but that was with eight crews working eight hours a day. Since they had to go from customer to customer which wasn’t necessarily house to house, a crew could normally do fifty houses in a day. Eight crews were painting curbs in front of 400 houses a Saturday. The eight crews were paid a total of $750 and the material cost was $150. That left $700 a Saturday for the coffers of Two Guys Working. They did eleven weekends that summer.
“I wish you’d stop calling the curb painting business graffiti.”
Shrugging off the comment, Benny said, “We have a house that’s worth $24,000 at the moment.”
They were currently remodeling a house that basically needed an interior makeover. It needed new carpets, paint, fixtures, appliances, water heater, and heater. The exterior only needed a coat of paint. The first nice day, they’d get that job done even if it required skipping school that day. They were pretty confident that they could get the house finished by the end of April and on the market first of May.
“An office that’s worth $30,000.”
That figure now included the outbuilding, the repaired driveway, the refurbished house, a tenant who was paying $75 a month rent, and the fact that they had a guy leasing two acres for $50 a year for growing watermelons. They thought it was rather humorous that the $50 a year counted as income from farming and had dropped the tax rate on their property significantly. It wasn’t the money for the watermelons, as much as the fact that the other guy was taking care of two acres. That left just one acre for Benny to mow.
“Don’t forget the Benny house loan. That’s another $10,000.”
Benny had taken a loan from Two Guys Working for $10,000 to pay for the repair of the ‘dollar house’ that he now owned. His monthly payment of $100 was taken directly from his monthly paycheck of $175. The $75 left payed for his monthly visit to Susan, his fake dates with Cathy, and a few meals out. He had a stack of cash in his bedroom for use in furnishing his new house or in the event of an emergency.
Benny’s house currently had a new roof. That was all that was good about the house. The rest of it was a wreck. He was planning to move into it at the end of August. The plan was to tear it apart and rebuild it during the coming summer. Of course, that would be scheduled around the hours spent working, when they were remodeling their next house to flip.
“We’re basically rich,” Tim said.
“Not yet. Everything that we have is in things. We’re going to need cash when the Shah goes on vacation. I’m hoping to buy at least $100,000 in oil futures. I really wish I could remember when that whole silver thing went down.”
“Silver is only four dollars an ounce, right now.”
“I know. I’d say we should buy a bunch of it, but we could end up sitting on it for five years for all I can remember. Did the silver thing happen under Carter or Reagan? I just don’t remember.”
“I guess we can’t call up the Hunts and ask when they’re planning on cornering the silver market.”
“No, we can’t. All I remember is that the economy went to shit under Carter and everyone said the economy bloomed under Reagan. If I was a Warren Buffet, I’d know exactly what to do.”
Tim said, “Look. We can beat ourselves up all day about not remembering the future. Just remember where we were in our first pass through life. We were driving VWs and chronically short of money. Half the time we were eating garbage meals just to fill our stomachs. There wasn’t a girl within a hundred miles who would look at either one of us.
“New Years Eve! I was working at the gas station for two-twenty an hour until nine o’clock, when it closed. I remember freezing my ass off out there. God it was cold that night. - What am I talking about? It is cold. It’s about twenty-three degrees now, and it’s going to get colder this evening. - The last hour at that gas station was the worst. There was car after car lined up at the pumps that night. Just about everyone who came to gas station was on their way to a New Years Eve party. Some of them had started on the juice a lot earlier. At least Skip turned the lights off fifteen minutes early and waved anyone who was pulling in away. He wanted to celebrate New Years at a party, not at the gas station.”
Benny nodded his head in memory of the day. He said, “I was frying chicken for two-twenty-five an hour. We closed at nine, but I didn’t get out of there until nine-thirty, because I had to clean up the place. The only thing good about that job was I got to take home the leftover chicken. I always smelled like fried chicken.”
Tim laughed. “You came over to my house at ten that night. I was still sitting under the electric blanket trying to warm up. We sat at my parent’s house eating fried chicken and drinking near-beer until midnight. I remember we had to steal a pack of my dad’s cigarettes, because we ran out.”
“I haven’t missed smoking one bit.”
“Neither have I.”
“We haven’t had one of those near-beers since coming back.”
“No drugs, either,” Tim said.
“I don’t miss them either.”
“Why did you try drugs, anyway?”
Benny shrugged his shoulders. “I thought I could shut my brain down a little, and be normal like everyone else. I saw people get really stupid on pot and LSD. I figured, if they get stupid, then maybe I can get normal. Didn’t work out that way. I didn’t get happy. I couldn’t drown out the pain.
“Until you and I became friends, I was miserable. No one understood me or even tried to understand me. My parents kept pressuring me into being like everyone else and then when I tried looking like everyone else they wanted me to cut my hair, dress nicely, and stop looking like everyone else. I couldn’t win.
“I was bored to tears in school. Every time I slipped off into my mind, the damned teachers would yank me back into this world. I remember some of them equated behaving well with intelligence. They’d say shit like, ‘If you’re so smart, why can’t you stay out of trouble?’ I’d want to tell them that I would if they’d shut their mouths and let me be.
“I really did think that the grass would help mellow me out. Maybe it did, I don’t know. I know that you and I spent too many ten dollar bills on baggies of grass. The only good that came out of all that was I was occasionally able to trade a couple joints for sex.”
Tim said, “I think things are better for you in that regard now. Susan seems to be keeping you under control.”
“This is a million times better than what I went through before. I think we’ve found a key to life long happiness for me. I’ll find that house, an antisocial cook, and Susan can come by once a month. I don’t need much more than that.”
Tim said, “We’re getting there. We’ve got three acres for you to hide out on.”
“If I remember right, by 2000 this is all housing. This little place will be worth $30,000 an acre.”
Tim suggested, “Maybe we ought to buy some more acres. At four hundred an acre, we could buy another ten acres without too much difficulty.”
“We’d have to sit on the land for 22 years.”
“We’d make $29,600 an acre.”
“We should start thinking about financing things. We can leverage our money better. We can buy one of the bigger houses, fix it up, and flip it for even more money. All we’d have to do is put down 20% and make payments for a couple of months. We sell it and get our 20% back plus what increase in value we’ve added to the property less the interest paid.”
“I was wondering why we were paying cash for everything.”
Benny answered, “Half of it was not having to deal with banks. Let’s face it, we didn’t have a credit rating to line up a loan for a substantial amount. We had to get my Dad to cosign for this place because we weren’t old enough to sign for a mortgage. Now we have a credit rating, and we’re officially adults.
“We can still close on a property faster by paying cash for it. We don’t have to wait around for approval on a mortgage. This isn’t like 2005 when you could get a mortgage if you could prove you had a pulse. It’s a whole lot harder to get a loan, today.”
“Will we have enough money to take advantage of the silver boom?”
“Yes. We’re talking about increasing our money tenfold. As soon as we see the price of silver move, we sell off everything we can and put every penny we can scrape together into the silver market. Every dollar will become ten, every ten dollars will become a hundred, every hundred dollars will turn into a thousand, and every thousand will turn into ten thousand. I’m sure that we’ll be able to scrape together more than ten thousand dollars and come out with a hundred thousand.
“Don’t forget that we have pounds of silver coins stashed away. I calculated what the melt value of a 1963 silver quarter would be when the price of silver hits forty dollars an ounce. A quarter would be worth $7.23. A roll of quarters becomes worth $289.36. That isn’t including the price of copper in the melt value.”
“How many quarters do we have?”
“I don’t know. I do know that if we dump everything else into the silver market, we’ll still be able to eat very well by selling quarters. And quarters aren’t our best bet. A roll of dimes will bring in $361.70. So ten dollars worth of dimes gets us $723.40 while ten dollars worth of quarters gets us $289.36.”
Outside, Cathy and Sandra were beginning to freeze. With an elbow to Sandra to suggest they move, they edged away from the outbuilding. They had intended to get the guys to come back in the house. After hearing Tim and Benny talk about their past in some future, they had better things to do, such as talk about what they’d heard.
Inside the house, Cathy and Sandra looked at each other incredulous at what they had heard. They had heard a lot, particularly about oil, silver, Hunts, and Warren Buffet (whoever he was). They had heard about pumping gas and frying chicken.
Cathy asked, “What do you think?”
“I don’t know. It sure explains a lot.”
Sandra was thinking that she would collect a couple rolls of silver dimes no matter what and hold onto them. That would be easy enough, just head down to the bank and ask for a roll of quarters. She could sort through them and return the ones that weren’t silver. Most people never noticed the silver content of the coins so there were still a lot of them in circulation.
“It raises a lot of questions, too.”
“It raises too many questions to write down on a sheet of paper. Think about what it means. They somehow came back from the future.”
“It boggles the mind. How did it happen? What do they know? Can it happen to us?”
Sandra asked, “Do you know what is scary?”
“There are a lot of scary things about this. Which scary thing are you thinking about?”
“Do you remember Tim telling us he could see the future? He told us that we were caught in bed by my mother, and your parents drove you to suicide.”
Cathy’s stomach dropped at the reminder. What Sandra was suggesting was too horrible to contemplate. She answered with a weak, “Yes.”
“What if that was what really happened in that future they’re talking about?”
“That’s a horrible thought. I really don’t want to think about that. In that future, I’m dead and buried in the ground.”
“I know, but it also means that Tim knew that you were going to commit suicide, and he stepped in with that whole fake boyfriend/girlfriend scheme to save you.”
Cathy stopped to think about it. In a way, that was as surprising as learning they came back from the future. If what Tim had said happened was true, then about the only way to save her, was that whole scheme.
“Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know. We didn’t know him or Benny. In fact, we didn’t want to know him or Benny. They were the class dummy and the weird kid. We were just trying to get by without being noticed by anyone.”
Cathy was silent for a moment remembering their life at that time. They had been a whole lot more reserved than the were now. As long as Tim or Benny was around, they didn’t care if people noticed them or not. Before, any attention meant that someone could discover their secret life.
“That’s true. I remember what it was like then. I also remember how I felt when I realized that he knew we were lovers. I thought I was going to get sick.”
“You’ve got to ask yourself another question. Why would they save two lesbians?”
“You mean one lesbian and one bisexual woman.”
Sandra smiled and said, “Right. I have to admit that Tim has been a good boyfriend. He’s very understanding about you and our relationship. Still, he does pay a lot of attention to me; the kind of attention that a real boyfriend would pay to his girlfriend. Do you think that’s why? He just wanted to get me?”
Cathy thought about what Sandra was saying. Tim definitely treated Sandra like she was his real girlfriend when they were in public. In private, he gave Cathy and Sandra a lot of room to explore their relationship. In the entire time they’d been doing this, he had never come between the two women. She had to appreciate that.
“That’s a good question. Maybe we should ask them.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t. You’re alive. Not only that, you’re going to own a house before you graduate high school. Think about that. I’d hate to confront them and chase them away.”
“You’re right, although it’s that we will own a house, and not I will own a house. We’re in this together. I will admit, what’s happening to us is pretty amazing.”