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Due to a computer problem, combined with the hectic pace of the holidays, you will have to settle for these 3 S/Short Stories that have been lumped together for the Monday that fell on the 20th of December and for today and for the one that will fall on the 2nd of January 2011.
Happy Holidays to everyone and to all a good night.
No. 1 – THE MUTUAL BENEFIT SOCIETY.
Brian M. Pritchard, being hungry and on his own that night because he’d been kept late at a meeting, decided to go into the first place that he came upon that served food because he wasn’t familiar with that part of town. It turned out to be a large, bright and obviously popular Diner. He parked and went in and sat down at the counter to avoid tying up a whole table and if he hadn’t done so he would have been asked to move following the Diner’s policy – it was coming up to a peak serving hour – but he didn’t know that and he’d done it solely because it was the socially correct thing to do.
The woman who sat on the stool next to him a few minutes later had also found herself in that part of town for the first time – she’d been the seller’s agent at a late afternoon house closing – and she was upset because she – also not knowing the rule but tired and hungry enough to be indifferent to all rules anyway – had sat at a table and the waitress had told her about their policy and she had almost walked out in indignation but then she’d remembered that she didn’t know how far away the next eating place was so she subdued her anger and took a counter stool.
She saw what Brian had on his plate and she liked what she saw so she asked the counter woman for the same thing.
Neither of them ate out alone often and they didn’t much like sitting next to each other in silence so they expanded their tentative and routine requests – “Please pass the ketchup.” and, “Would you be kind enough to hand me the salt?” – into comments on the weather and then how badly people eating alone are treated everywhere, except in Chinese restaurants perhaps, and then how travelling alone was no gem either except in airplanes perhaps, and then, “Would you believe what happened to me in Caracas one time? – – – – ” and then, “Wow! The exact same thing happened to me in Antigua once! – – – – ” and by the end of the meal they were getting along so well that when he suggested they go to the bar next door for a drink or two she readily agreed.
By the end of their first drink their rapport had become so obvious to both of them that when he returned with refills he sat next to her in their booth instead of across from her and after a while he figured that he’d read her well enough to be bold enough to hold her hand and the feeling was so pleasant for both of them, and felt so right, that without having to say it, they knew that they’d be ‘spending time together’ and soon after that all that remained was for them to decide whose apartment to use.
Hers was easily the closest but because there were few or no parking places outside it for ‘visitors’ they agreed to take her car and to leave his where it was until ‘later.’ When they got into the car and had closed the doors their pent up excitement gushed out and they kissed and fondled for a while before recollecting where they were and that they were no longer teen-agers and so they pulled apart and composed themselves and fixed their seat belts and then she started the motor and pulled out of the car park.
On the way over to her place she astonished him by asking if he’d like to, “talk dirty” and he well knew what she meant but was loathe to take a chance that their two interpretations of it might be different so he said that he wasn’t sure and so she said that she’d start. She began to describe what she was going to do for him when they got to her apartment and after she’d used the four pertinent four-letter words around four times each he interrupted her and told her that this idea of hers didn’t do anything for him and he’d like her to please stop.
She told him that she was relieved to her him say so because it did nothing for her either but her late husband – “Who was the only man that I’ve ever, uh, been with up until now” – had liked doing it very much and always got very excited and so she had really benefited from it.
When they got to her apartment they went straight on in to the bedroom and hurriedly started undressing. Just before he was ready to reach for her and escort her to the bed she slipped out of the room and came back in with a large, heavy book, which turned out to be hardcore pornography and it had colored photographs on one side and text on the other. Brian looked at some of the pages and then he closed the book saying that it didn’t do much for him, “ – – – and especially not when there’s a real, live and very attractive woman in the room with me”.
She took the book and pushed it under the bed saying that likewise she did not care for it much but it had turned her late husband on and so she had really benefited from it.
They got into bed and Brian got into her and then she got into doing a whole lot of hip writhing along with some very strange massage techniques. He couldn’t put up with it for long, although he figured that they might be very welcome at a different stage of his needs, and so he asked her to stop and just relax. She immediately did so and said that she would much rather just lie still for him but her late husband had thought the techniques up and they’d driven him wild and so she had really benefited from it.
They enjoyed themselves that night and, on the strength of it, they began to meet frequently and because they always had a good time together, both in bed and out of it, they soon became a regular couple.
After several months she thought that they had grown close enough, and were sure enough of each others commitment to their relationship, to let her unburden her conscience and relieve her inner torment by telling someone, him, how she had become widowed.
“It happened a little over two years ago when my husband came home one evening after having seen a particularly exciting porn movie and he’d insisted on our going to bed that minute.
“Well, it so happened that he’d given me a wonderful gold necklace for my birthday a few days before that night – do you know the one I mean? I wear it regularly – and this was going to be the first time that we’d be making love since then and so I decided to show him how thankful I was by trying to provide him with the maximum amount of pleasure that’s possible for a man with his – uh – let’s say ‘inclinations.’
“I began to undress provocatively in front of him while talking really dirty – I followed a theme that I’d put together for the special occasion – and then I, uh, I had to stop talking for a while to get him good and ready and when I’d succeeded I started up again with the dirty talk and I got into position for him and then, when he’d, uh, entered me, I reached over and pulled out his favorite book – I’d slipped it under his pillow earlier on – and I opened it to the pre-tagged picture that he liked the most and I arranged it just so where he could look over and down at it. And then, as he was – uh – going at it, I writhed my hips for him, using the rhythm that he liked best, and I used both of my hands to give him his favorite massage techniques.
“Well, here’s the sad part – the combination was too much for his heart and it gave up on him there and then! One second he was pounding away for all he was worth and the next, well, he was just a dead weight pressing down on me.
– – – –
“Poor man! I felt bereft for months.”
– – – –
“However – and please listen to this because it’s funny now that years have gone by since, uh, since then – I found a good deal of comfort in what the doctor who signed the death certificate told me. He said that my husband was one of the lucky few who come and go in the same instant!”
– – – –
“Well, we all have to go some time. Don’t we?”
– – – –
“Ah well, enough already. Shall we – – – Oh, but wait! I want to say one more thing about him if I may – he was a good, loving husband and he was thoughtful and prudent too which is very evident because he took out a two-million dollar insurance policy on his life and so I’ve really benefited from it.”
No. 2 – INEXACTITUDE
Frank Bevan was his company’s most trusted trouble-shooter and all-round best mechanic. He was ear marked for a higher position and was being coached for it. His company was in the oil and gas-burning furnace business and it designed and built and installed and maintained them.
His boss, Jack James, was the General Manager and he was both a fine engineer and an efficient executive. He often told Frank, and just about everyone else, that while in engineering the answers to all problems have to be precise and exact with business problems the rules change radically and you have to keep a sense of proportion.
One day Frank had a problem with a modification that one of their customers had asked for and, as usual when he wasn’t sure of himself, he took it to his boss.
He’d thought that he’d have to change the whole unit for a new one but Jack knew a way to modify just one part of it and still get the required result.
He opened up the lay-out prints that Frank had brought with him and he went through the procedure for him and then he wrote up the list of material that would be needed and said that it should take one day’s work for a team to get it done.
Frank gathered up the prints and the list of materials and he said, as he was leaving, that it was always good to see him come up with the perfect answer to a tricky problem in a matter of minutes.
“Well, thank you Frank, but remember that when the problem is purely technical the answer can always be exact and precise.”
Frank did the job the next day and it went smoothly and was finished on time.
The day after that he went back to his boss for help with the paperwork which included writing up the invoice for their customer.
Jack was a busy man but when anything related to the profit of his company was concerned, and especially when his star mechanic was involved in it, he’d push aside what he was working on and give his whole attention to the new job at hand.
He fished out an estimate pad and then he asked Frank how much time the job had taken and how much travel time and what the parking and tolls had cost.
He wrote down –
6 hrs. (team) @ $100 – $600.00
2 hrs. (travel time) @ $100 – $200.00
Parking – $18.00
Tolls – $7.00
Subtotal (labor and trans.) – $825.00
He then asked for the list of the materials used and their cost and he wrote down –
1 PBY valve – $96.00
12’ tubing – $36.00
6 nipples – $18.00
6 bushings – $12.00
1 relay – $140.00
I mount (for relay) – $32.00
Misc. – $25.00
Subtotal (material) – $359.00
Labor (see above) – $825.00
Material (see above) – $359.00
Subtotal – $1,184.00
Burden (33%) – $395.00
Profit (50%) – $592.00
Grand total – $2,171.00
Price to customer – $2,250.00
He then asked Frank for the job number and the name of the customer and Frank answered – “Job number – 47182. General Motors Building.”
Jack sat up straight in his chair and then he ripped off the top sheet of his estimate pad and he balled it up and threw it into the wastepaper basket.
He then wrote on the next sheet –
Job Number – 47182 – General Motors Building.
Price to customer – $3,750.00
“Always remember Frank,” he said as he handed him the amended invoice. “In business you’ve got to keep a sense of proportion.”
NO. 3 – DUBIOUS DISCOUNT
Many years ago Alfred (Al) Harris made a firm promise to himself that he’d never work for anyone ever again after having suffered through a full year of a three year apprenticeship to a plumber who was not only a tight-fisted taskmaster but who was also small minded enough to send Al away to buy coffee, or some such, when he was about to do a tricky part of whatever job he was working on because he wanted to be sure that Al would never be in a position to take work away from him.
Al got himself several jobs that were semi-entrepreneurial and barely-profitable and so, over the years, he resigned himself to knowing that he’d have to keep on living with his parents if he wanted to eat regularly and have a roof over his head.
His long-suffering parents put up with it for years, although they frequently hinted that it was time for him to leave the nest, but when he got to be twenty-five years old, and still showed no sign of moving out, his father realized that to get rid of him permanently he’d have to make the effort to find his son a job where he’d be his own boss and be able to afford a place of his own.
He let his problem get to be known among his friends and it so happened that one of them, a man named Brian Humphries, wanted to sell and retire and relocate to Florida. He was the owner of a small Radio Repair shop that had a little display window to one side of its front door and was located on a road that was just off the High Street of his town.
Also – and a big ‘also’ – it came with a studio apartment on its second floor that had all the necessary utilities and was perfectly adequate for a single guy whose standard reply to his mother’s pleas to clean up his room was, “But Ma, why? Dirt is my friend.”
Al’s father paid one half of Brian’s asking price for the business (he’d only made a poor living off it so the total amount was very reasonable) and Al agreed to pay off the rest over three years.
A part of the deal called for Brian to stay on for a few days to show Al the ins-and-outs of the business, which, it turned out, weren’t difficult to master. Back then radios all used large vacuum tubes and they were powered by lead-acid batteries and Al soon became an expert at the steady-money producing part of the business which was re-charging batteries and he gradually became proficient at two more of the ‘arts’ that he’d been shown. They were – how to test the six individual cells of each failed battery that was brought in to be swapped for a new one and how to replace the bad cell, or cells, with ones taken from the stock-pile of batteries that Brian had built up – by rescuing discarded ones – and then refill it with recycled acid and then recharge it and, after all of that had been done, how to best clean and polish it up to look like new and then, finally, how to sell it as such. The other ‘art’ was for use when someone brought a radio in for repair and the procedure was to swap each vacuum tube, in turn, with similar ones that had also been stock-piled – Brian had had an ‘understanding’ with several junk dealers and garbage men – and then charge the customer five times – more than that if he was well dressed or was driving an expensive car – what a new tube would have cost him.
When the simple, large vacuum tubes and the lead-acid batteries were superseded by sophisticated circuitry that was powered by rectified AC Al had no other recourse than to go to night school and study up on rectifiers and electronic theory and the like.
Radios became ubiquitous at around that time and because he had become competent at repairing ‘modern’ ones his shop generated much more profit for him than before and that encouraged him to start being more sociable and he soon found himself a wife and they began having children when he’d found a nice apartment for them to live in.
When television came along Al bowed to the inevitable and he went back to the hated night school for more courses.
After a year of that he felt competent enough to advertise his newly acquired skills and because most sets needed a whole lot of servicing back then he got to be swamped with work and he never had to do any more advertising.
When his home life became impossible for him, due to his children’s constant crying and demands for attention, he began to spend much more time that was necessary at his shop and, because he had to do something when there were no sets that needed repairing, he began to read up on manuals and he immersed himself in the technology until he knew several different brands’ circuitry well enough to be able to amend and improve them in small but useful ways.
More years went by and when solid-state equipment became standard Al threw up his hands in defeat because he couldn’t get his head around the ultra sophisticated circuitry with its tiny components and the manual’s use of words that meant nothing to him and that, in fact, made his brain balk.
He had to stay in the business because he knew nothing else and he felt ashamed knowing that he was reduced to having to look intelligent and all-knowing when someone brought him a modern TV set for repair and he’d take off the cover and then he’d poke around back there with an orange stick and then he’d trot out some gobbledygook like, “Ah yes, the RPT rectifier has blown along with its limiting resistor. Well, I could replace both items but they’ll probably blow again in a few days, or weeks at best, so you should leave it with me so that I can check out the complete circuitry and find out what’s really wrong. What do you think? You surely don’t want to have to lug the thing back here over and over again, do you?”
When the customer had resignedly agreed and had gone away he’d shut up shop and then take the set to a branch of its OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturer) repair department and he’d leave it with them and when they called him to come and collect it he’d pay whatever they asked and then he’d take it back to his shop where he’d make out an invoice that was 40% higher than what he’d had to pay and he’d wait a couple of days – to make the customer think that the repair had been difficult and needed a lot of time to fix – before calling its owner to come and collect it.
From Al’s point of view the chances of giving his customers rapid and cheap repairs of their TV’s and Radios had ended when vacuum tubes had been made obsolete.
From his customers’ point of view the chances of getting rapid and cheap repairs of their TV’s and Radios had ended at that same time.
By at least three days and by exactly 40%.