Joel: Book Eight ~ The New Patriarch

Chapter Twenty~Four

I had just walked into the office and gotten settled at my desk, when the project leader for the new computer system that was being developed knocked on my door.

"Bad news, Mr. Johnson," Brian said.

"Just what I needed on a Monday morning. Come in and give me the bad news," I said.

"Well, it's the hardware we ordered. The supplier said they discovered a flaw in their motherboard. The delivery will be delayed at least 90 days. At least that was his best estimate. This really throws a wrench into the schedule."

"Are they the only supplier of the type of equipment that we're looking at?" I asked.

"No, the requirements are specialized, but still fairly basic," Brian said. "There are other companies that make a similar product."

"Get me a list," I said. "In the meantime, I will talk to the attorneys and see if we can cancel the order and go with another supplier. A lot will depend on whether there was a delivery date specified in the original contract and if there were escape clauses. Go ahead with the work as if the required hardware will be available. Thanks, Brian, I'll try to have an answer for you when you give me the list of alternate suppliers."

Brian left and I called the attorney that I knew in the legal department. I explained the problem and asked if we could cancel the pending order and go with another supplier. He promised he would check the contract and let me know as soon as he could review it.

I went about handling the mountain of paperwork, when Brian returned with the promised list. "Have you checked with these people to see if they have what we need and if they could supply it to us on time to keep us on schedule?"

"Yes," he said. "One said they could deliver a first shipment of about half within 20 days and the rest in 15 days after that. The other two, which I checked with, said they would take at least 45 days. These last two we could work with, but if they had any slippage in shipment, it would impact the project. We wouldn't be able to meet the projected completion date. We had solicited bids from these three suppliers at the start of the project, so they are aware of the hardware requirements."

My phone rang and I answered it. It was who I hoped. We spoke briefly before I hung up. "Our attorney just informed me that we can cancel the original purchase order for nonperformance as specified in the contract and issue a new order. He said he would take care of that."

"That's great," Brian said. "Should I have the first one on that list resubmit their bid?"

"Yes, and get it to purchasing as quickly as you can, but pass it by me first." Brian left and I retrieved the original purchase order from the project files so that I could compare it to the bid when it came in.

I had just settled back into dealing with the paperwork that seemed to have multiplied every time I turned around, when the phone rang. I thought at first that I would let my secretary answer it, but realized that it was my private line. Reluctantly I answered it.

"Crane, Carlos here, Gerald and I were wondering if we could meet for lunch today. We have worked up the figures on that place next to your horse ranch."

I looked at my watch before I answered. It was almost lunch time. "Sure, why not? It will probably be the most productive thing I've done so far today."

"Now you know what it's like to be a working stiff," Carlos laughed. "How about we meet at that deli a couple blocks south of your office?"

"If we can make it 12:30, I'll be there," I said. Getting an affirmative response, I hung up.

Gerald and Carlos were waiting for me when I arrived. We got our sandwiches and took a table near the window overlooking the street. As we were eating, Gerald handed me several sheets of paper with all kinds of numbers written on them.

"What am I looking at here, Gerald? You're the accountant, not me," I said, setting the papers aside and taking a bite of my sandwich.

"There are several scenarios based on what you plan to do with the land. All cattle ranching is one, all acreage in crops is another, and a combination of both. We have also made an assumption as to the sales price of the land. A higher price will influence the initial option selected. If you will look at the third page and assuming the sales price listed is close to what it will be, option three will produce a positive ROI the soonest. It also assumes that, with the addition of the ranch hand currently working on the place and your current number of workers is sufficient to handle the job," Gerald said.

"In your opinion, Carlos, how realistic is that sales price?" I asked.

"If anything, I think we estimated it on the high side, just to be safe. I would advise you not to pay any more than that," Carlos answered.

"Thank you, gentlemen, I will study these and let you know what my decision is in a few days," I said. "Oh, one more question. Any problem with getting a loan to make the purchase?"

"I don't foresee any problem in that area," Gerald said. "You have a lot of unencumbered assets to act as collateral."

I paid for the lunches and headed back to the office.

The rest of the day went smoothly. When it became time I left to go pick up the three musketeers from school. They were all excited when they climbed into the Lincoln. One of their friends was going to the Blue Man Group' performance on Saturday.

When we arrived at the house, there was a strange car parked in front of the house. "Okay, you stinky guys, it's off to the showers for you."

As I walked in the back door, I saw Carol Greene standing in the kitchen talking to Gilda. "Carol, it's good to see you again. It's been way too long since you've paid us a visit," I said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

"You do know that the road runs both ways, don't you?" she said.

"Yes," I said. "We get so busy with all the kids that it seems like we can never find the time to visit friends. Where's your husband?"

"He's in the living room talking to Donald. I was expecting to find Hildy in the kitchen when I got here. I had forgotten she had moved next door. I swear I'm getting more forgetful the older I get."

"Don't feel alone in the memory department. It happens to all of us," I said. "Excuse me. I need to go change into something more comfortable."

"Dr. Sam, how are you? I was just telling your beautiful wife that it's been too long since you paid us a visit," I said, shaking his hand. We chatted for a few moments before I went to the bedroom to change clothes.

When I came out of the bedroom, Hildy and her family had arrived and the new members were being introduced to the Greenes. I asked Donald if Kelly and Cary had been introduced. He said they had.

"Could we offer you a glass of wine?" I asked.

"Not for us," Sam said. "Not until we get the shots taken care of. Then I'll accept the offer. I think it would be best if we waited until after we eat to do the immunizations."

Gilda had prepared a wonderful meal that everybody thoroughly enjoyed. Afterwards, we gathered in family groups and Dr. Sam prepared to start the shots. I volunteered to be first in line. Carol swabbed my upper arm with a disinfectant followed by the injection by Sam. Carol placed a small cotton ball on the injection site and covered it with a strip of adhesive tape to hold it in place. Next my four oldest took their turns. When it came Peter's turn, he looked as if he was going to start crying.

"Come son," I said, sitting him on my lap, "it's just going to feel like a mosquito bite." He jumped when Carol swabbed his arm, but didn't seem to notice when the needle was inserted. "See, that wasn't so bad, was it?"

"No, but that stuff was cold," he said, jumping down from my lap.

It took a while for the rest of the households' members to receive their shots.

"Now you can pour me that glass of wine," Dr. Sam said. "It's been a while since I ran an immunization clinic."

"Thank you for doing this for us," Donald said. "It would have been a logistical nightmare for all of us to come to your office."

"Glad to do it," he said.

"By the way," I said, "have you talked to Mike recently?"

"Several times," Sam said. "Whenever he has a free day, he'll come to visit at the office and follow me around. I'm amazed at how quickly he can establish a rapport with my patients. I wish he could finish his training quicker. I'm looking forward to taking him into my practice. He's going to make one fine doctor."

Later that evening after all the kids were tucked in bed, I talked to Donald about the possible purchase of that adjacent ranch. As I was going over the three different proposals, he asked me how I was going to finance the purchase if the people were interested in selling. I told him I would probably finance about 80% of the amount.

"I would be willing to loan you what you need at Prime plus one for whatever length of time you would like. This would strictly be a business transaction," he said.

"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind."

We had just finished our wine when the phone rang. "Who could that be at this time of the evening?" I asked aloud to no one. I picked up the phone and answered it.

"Crane, it's Fenton. I hate to call you this late, but I wanted to let you know something you may be interested in."

Donald was looking at me as if to ask who it was. I mouthed Fenton Bigelow from Las Vegas. "What is it that we might be interested in?"

"I have been approached by an attorney for an unnamed party to inquire if you would be willing to sell your golf courses."

"Let me put you on the speaker. Donald is standing right here. Repeat what you said so he can hear it." He did.

"Do you have any more information about who it might be and how much they are willing to offer?" Donald asked.

"Not really," Fenton said. "I have heard a rumor that someone is sniffing around those two properties next to your development that you were offered. If I had to guess, it's the same party. I hear a lot of rumors in this business and the one that is getting the most circulation at the moment is that the Saudis are looking at Las Vegas to invest some of their billions. My best guess would be them."

"So no hint of what they might offer?" I asked.

"If I hear anything, I'll let you know," Fenton said.

"Ask around to some of your contacts and see if any of them have an idea what a golf course sells for," Donald said.

"I will," Fenton said. "And again, I apologize for calling so late. Goodbye."

"Well, that was unexpected," Donald said.

"That's for sure," I said. "If this goes any further, we need to get the courses and club houses appraised. We may end up not wanting to sell. The income from the properties is steady and predictable."

I was still mulling over what Fenton had said at breakfast the next morning.

"My arm hurts," Peter said, as he pushed under my arm for his morning hug.

"Mine, too," TJ said.

"Sometimes the shot will make your arm sore for a day or two, but it's better than getting sick. The flu can make you run a high fever and bad headaches. It can also cause other nasty things that you don't want," I said.

"Yeah, but it still hurts," Peter said.

"Dad, we don't have practice on Friday," Lenny said. "Coach said he would give us a map Wednesday of where we are supposed to meet on Saturday. You're gonna take us, aren't you?"

"Of course I am."

"And we're still going to the concert that night, right?" Chris asked.

"Yes, unless you guys get in trouble," I said. That got a laugh from the three of them. "Okay, everybody, as soon as you finish your breakfast, go brush your teeth and put on your school uniforms. Cary might drive off without you if you're late."

"Yeah, right," Larry retorted sarcastically.

"Kelly," Donald said, "what time is your tutor supposed to arrive?"

"When I talked to him, he said he would be here at nine," Kelly answered. "I forgot to mention that my therapist said I should start using my walker more and only use the wheelchair when I have to. He also said that by the end of next week, he wouldn't need to see me but once a week as long as I did the exercises he's given me."

"That's great," Donald said. "That means you're really making progress."

Manfred and his three arrived at the same time six boys and a girl came down the stairs. "You can tell Joel I didn't run the cart off the path," Luke said when he saw the three musketeers. That caused the three of them to take off running for the van with Luke right behind them. I was relieved that they were all giggling.

"Don't worry, I can handle them," Cary said, as he headed for the van.

By ten o'clock, I was making progress on the stack of paper in my inbox when my phone rang. 'What now?' I thought.

"Crane Johnson," I answered.

"Hi, Crane, it's Paul Coulter," the voice on the line said.

"Yes, Paul, what can I do for you?"

"Meet us for lunch," Paul said.

"Who's us?"

"Randy Wexler, Dr. Santos and me."

"Where do you want to meet and what time?" I asked.

"How about that Panera Bread on San Pedro? If we get there by 11:30 we would miss most of the lunch crowd."

"I'll see you there." I opened my briefcase and took out the papers concerning the new charity and reviewed them. It had been a while since Carlos had given me the new structure of the original charity I had established several years ago.

I left the office and drove to the Panera Bread and parked in an empty slot. As I was getting out of my car, Paul drove up and parked his car next to mine. Randy struggled a little getting out of Paul's car and a man I assumed to be Dr. Santos exited the back passenger door. Paul introduced us and we started toward the restaurant entrance.

Over lunch, I learned that Dr. Santos had spoken to the VA administrator, a Brigadier General Allen, and had gotten his permission to volunteer at least once a week in their prosthetics unit. Paul had obtained office space for Randy and had made up a job description for the receptionist to handle the paperwork.

"When will everything be ready to start helping Vets?" I asked.

"As soon as we get some office furniture and a couple of telephone lines installed, we should be in business," Randy said.

"You were able to get the office space next to yours weren't you Paul?"

"Yes, it's small, but there is some room to expand if it becomes necessary."

"Dr. Santos, are you satisfied with the financial arrangements?" I asked.

"Yes, I am," he replied. "I'm just happy that I can make a difference."

"Toward the end of next week, I will be able to start spending a few days every week at ASEC," I said. "That is, of course, if the new VP is up to speed on his new job and I become redundant. Randy, do you have anyone in mind for the receptionist's position?"

"Yes, I do," he said. "There was a staff sergeant in my old outfit who was wounded at the same time I was. His leg was so damaged that the doctors had to take it off at the hip. He can't be fitted with a prosthetic. He's either in a wheelchair or on two crutches. I spoke to him a few weeks ago. He's been in one of those programs that are supposed to transition you back into society. The way he talks about it, all their doing is busy work. It's driving him crazy."

"If you think he can do the job, hire him," I said. "Let him help you get the office set up."

"I'll get in touch with him right away," Randy said. "What do you think his salary should be?"

"Talk to Darcie," I said. "She is nominally in charge of both charities. Dr. Santos, do you have any questions?"

"When can we start?" he asked.

"Right now," I said. "All the paperwork for the charity has been approved and we're ready to start."

I paid for the lunches and went back to the office. As soon as I walked into the office, my secretary cornered me. Phillip Palmer, my replacement, had called and wanted to meet. "Okay, I said, "but shouldn't he really be meeting with Donald?" She shrugged and went back to her desk. I poked my head into Donald's office and asked him the same question.

"His former employer has released him and he's willing to start work as soon as possible," Donald said. "He's more interested in the nuts and bolts of the operation. If your schedule permits, why don't you have him come spend the day with you tomorrow? Maybe I can fire you early."

"Please," I said and went back to my office. I called the number my secretary had given me and invited Phillip to spend tomorrow with me as Donald had suggested. He agreed. I went back to the paperwork.

"How was your tutoring session this morning?" I asked Kelly when I got home.

"He's tough. I wish he taught some of my classes at UC Berkeley. He has a way of explaining complex concepts and making them easy to understand," Kelly said.

I went to check on the boys. They were outside playing with the dogs. I walked over to where Peter was wrestling with Joel's dog Sam. "How's your arm?"

"Still hurts a little," he said. "I don't want any more shots if they're gonna hurt."

After supper, the homework was checked and all the kids were in bed, Donald, Gilda and I sat down with our usual glasses of wine. Kelly and Cary, as usual, declined and settled for soft drinks.

"Tonight seems rather anticlimactic after last night," Donald said.

"Nice, isn't it?" I mused.

It wasn't long before all five of us were starting to yawn. We took our glasses to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher before saying goodnight.

For the rest of the week, I worked with Phillip Palmer to transition him into the job. By Friday I was confident that he knew all the key players and had the job well in hand. I left the office for that last time at five that evening and didn't look back. It had been a new experience, but not one that I wanted as a steady thing.

Saturday morning we loaded up the van with seven boys and five adults along with two coolers of snacks and drinks. Lenore had gone to visit Hildy and the three girls. Two year-old Penny held more interest for her than a bunch of boys running around in the woods.

"Hey, there's Jordon," Chris yelled as he was getting out of the van. He and the twins ran over to where Jordon was standing and I heard four loud greetings. "You ready to get your tail whipped?"

"Don't you think you got that backwards?" Jordon retorted.

The conversation among the four went on for several minutes before Jordon heard his coach hollering for him and the three musketeers looked around for their coach. They spotted him and hurried over to where he was standing.

There were four schools participating in the meet. The seven runners from each school were assigned their own marked off area at the start line. The course was 5 km (approximately 3.1 miles) in length according to the sheet of instructions that the coach had given the boys. When all the boys were set, the starter fired his pistol and they were off. No one false started and no collisions that caused someone to fall down happened in the first 100 meters, so there was no restart required.

The way the course was laid out, the runners were visible for around 50% of the time. The first runner entered the chute leading to the finish line with only 19 minutes elapsed. It was not Jordon, he came in second. Chris came in fourth with the twins in sixth and seventh positions. The other members of their team finished in tenth, twelfth, sixteenth and nineteenth positions. The team's final score was 74, which was good enough for second place. The last runner came in at the 31st minute, earning 28 points.

As they did the last time, Chris and the twins went to talk to Jordon and congratulate him on a good race, even if he didn't come in first. They also went to congratulate the first place finisher. He was a tall, skinny boy with bright red hair who looked to be seventeen or eighteen. They invited Jordon to come have something to drink and the obligatory snack.

"Is your mom coming to pick you up today?" I asked.

"No, sir, I'm riding back to the school with the rest of the team. My bike is there," he said.

"You ran a good race," I said.

"Yeah, I just couldn't catch that guy in the home stretch. I guess I need to get faster," he said. "There's the coach. He's waving for me to go. Thanks for the water and the snack. I'll see you guys at the next meet." With that he ran to where his coach was standing.

"Nice kid," Donald said.

"I tried out for track when I was in high school," Kelly said, as we were climbing into the van. "I wasn't very good. I couldn't run fast. I couldn't jump, either high or long. The coach finally suggested that I try a different sport."

"I played basketball my first two years of high school," Cary said. "I got to play a little on the JV squad. The last two years I was working after school and on weekends, so I didn't have time for sports. I wanted to earn some money so I could start college."

"What time do we have to go to the concert?" Larry asked.

"It starts at eight," I said. "I thought we might go early and get something to eat before it starts. If we do that, we should leave the house at around five. How does that sound?"

"Where're we gonna eat?" Chris asked.

"We'll find someplace," I said.

"When are we going to that fun place?" William asked his dad.

"Oh, we'll probably leave around three o'clock," Donald answered. "That way you guys will have time to try out everything and we can still be home in time for your bedtime."

"It's gonna be fun," Peter said. "I want to ride those cars where you run into another one."

"I'm looking forward to that as well," Donald said sarcastically. I look over at him and saw that he rolled his eyes. "Are you sure you don't want to trade me?"

I just laughed and drove on home.

At three o'clock, the Strasser family arrived minus Penny. "Where's Penny?" I asked.

"We got one of the young girls from church to babysit her while we're having fun," Hildy said, with a straight face.

"Okay, everybody, if you're going to go have fun, head for the van," Manfred said, then aside to Donald, "I'll drive if you want. I'm used to driving the van."

"Be my guest," Donald said. "Let's go."

We watched as the excited group of boys and girls headed down the driveway. Back inside, I said, "Kelly, I'm sorry you're going to be left here by yourself."

"That's not a problem," he said. "That concert you're going to is not to my taste. I've got some studying to do, plus I haven't done my exercises today."

"Okay, but don't do any of the exercises that could injure you and require help," I said. "I would feel better if you did them while we are still here, just in case."

"Yeah," Kelly said. "That makes sense. I'll go start them now."

A while later, Chris came up to where I was reading a book and asked, "Dad, is it time to go yet?"

"Son, I know you can tell time. What does that clock say?"

"Ten minutes after four. Yeah, but I want it to be time to go," he said.

"I tell you what," I said. "Get your brothers and go get cleaned up. You probably don't need a shower since you had one after the race. Then put on a pair of long pants, not jeans, and a buttoned-up shirt. You had better bring a light jacket. It'll be cool when we get out of the concert. When you're ready, we'll go and have an early supper."

"Yes!" he exclaimed and gave a fist pump. Off he ran, followed by his twin brothers.

Cary was listening and went to his room to get ready. I did the same. I added a sports jacket to my attire.

It was just after five when we arrived at the restaurant. It was surprisingly busy and we had to wait for about ten minutes to be seated. The service was a bit slow, but we had plenty of time to get to the concert. In fact, after we were seated, we still had over twenty minutes to wait before it began.

Surreptitiously, I slipped a set of earplugs into my ears just as the concert started. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, despite it being loud. The earplugs helped. I watched Cary and the boys and they appeared to be enthralled with the performance.

"Wow! That was great," Chris said, as we walked out of the venue. "Thanks for taking us, dad."

"I agree," Cary said. "It was all I expected it to be and more."

"If they come to San Antonio again, can we go?" Larry asked.

"We'll see when the time comes," I said. "Now it's time to get you guys home and in bed."