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When he got to the Pub, he noticed that Johnny's Café was closed. He wondered if Johnny was okay. He usually closed a little bit later in the day. Sam's concerns were allayed when he saw Johnny sitting at the bar, with a stack of his locally famous Burgers on the bar top.
"Bosses, I hope a couple of those are for me. I haven't eaten all day." Sam said as he sat down on a bar stool and nodded yes to the dark brew Michael poured.
"Sammy, if you must eat them all, I will go across the street and grill up more for me and Mike. Don't you worry, you help yourself."
Sam smiled and did help himself, while Michael tossed a plate down and the frosty pint next to it. Nothing was said as the three enjoyed the sound of rain, the Burgers, and the ale. It was often like that. Sam had never trusted two people more in his whole life. He loved them both, as the Uncles he never had, and would do anything they asked of him. They saved him, nothing less, and he felt he owed them his allegiance, and his affection. All was, after all, well in the world.
Then, a stranger walked in and sat brazenly on the stool right next to Sam. He was too tall and too lanky. His fingers were twice as long as his palms, his wild mop of fiery red hair, and goatee was startling. The stranger wore a work uniform with a logo on the back 'AAA Exterminator and Pest Control Company'. Above his pocket full of pens and thin metal objects was the name Adam. Sam was disturbed by the fact that he sat right next to him, in an empty bar, and Johnny got up and sat at a table by himself. Michael brought over a bottle of some German beer, sat down a plate with a burger on it, nodded to the stranger, as if he knew him, and went to sit with Johnny.
"Did you know, Sam, that the whole termite business is kinda a scam?" The redheaded man said as he brought the bottle to his lips. "Truth is, there are termites in every piece of wood, and a colony might accidentally pick a support member for a home, in a home, for a time. They are fragile creatures, termites are. Old timey Carpenters used to just give each piece of timber a sound whack with their hammers. The little buggies would just blow up from the shock of it. Now, they will get back in from the dirt or air, but it will work for years."
"I did not know that." Sam responded quietly.
"No, Sam, in fact you did know it. It was a big frustration to you to have to pay the bastards so much as a penny for the frauds they were. It made you mad as hell. You had to put the time in, build good credit, achieve the skills and know-how, pass a test, pay for a bond, and a licensee, buy Workman's Compensation and Liability Insurance, even to be in business. While, any fly-by-night, termite outfit - sin-credentials can send an unskilled yahoo, not unlike me, out and write out a bullshit report about structural damage and get to do the work. Yea… come in, claim to find the problem, fix it, or if you fix it, we have the insulting authority and audacity to inspect your qualified work. It was bad enough being hung out to dry anytime something went wrong, huh? City and County building departments illegally restraining trade, extorting building fees “Money for nothing'," He sang in a high pitched voice."… and usurping property rights… Architects charging outrages fees and taking no liability for the product they designed… Lawyers lobbying for laws that make the Builder responsible for everything-always and forever. Then, the very same son's of Satan filing frivolous lawsuits in courts, with judges that don't even know how to spell Business Law 101. Never you mind even knowing that a bi-lateral contract is not an ultimately negotiable instrument for a bastard, who has already has got the work done, and just doesn't want to pay the agreed on amount. Or, how about, the 123 different Agencies having the right to close your doors and look at your books on a whim? In any downturn of the economy what industry is hit first – construction. The entire economy depends on guys and gals like you – and you are given not one break. You handled all that in stride didn't you Sam? But it's the termite guy that really pissed you off. He's the one that you felt the most powerless against. Why lie about it, Sam?" Adam took a bite from his Burger and chewed very loudly.
"I'm not in that business any more…" Sam was steaming.
"Termite colonies are sealed and pretty small. They are productive for years…we show some Termite shit to a customer, from a long gone colony, and the checkbook comes out. Hell, it's become a consumer protection law. It's a conspiracy…ever wonder why?" He sipped his beer.
"I'm not in that business any more." Sam repeated trying to not flatten and bloody the redhead's nose for being a pain in the ass.
Adam took a bite of burger and there was silence for while. Sam looked back at his bosses for some assistance that apparently was not forthcoming. The two seemed in a deep and quiet conversation.
The silence stopped.
"Ants are a thing…they leave slime, a scent trail all over everything. Disgusting! They come in when it's too wet outside …they come in when it's too dry. Just like us. Do you know how many little critters live around your bed that can smell the increased CO2 output we let out when we fall asleep? They come out and feast on our blood. We don't feel the bite because they give us a little nerve deadener before the suck on us. Don't let the bedbugs bite, indeed! They live in every crack. Now, Cockroaches are the rulers. The Kings of survival, masters of living and they are everywhere and in everything …one female can lay 300,000 eggs in her short life. Damn, we don't have a chance. We control and exterminate nothing. - St. Peter in Rome! Flies, misquotes, bedbugs, mites, lice, silverfish, fleas, worms, beetles, moths, we are never out of business." He turned to Sam and acted as if he were waiting for a response.
Sam took a deep swallow from his mug. He looked at the man closely for the first time. He wasn't what he appeared. He looked back at Michael and Johnny.
"You either work for my bosses, or you own the company, and they work for you."
"Now rats and mice are interesting." Adam spoke as if Sam said nothing. "There are a lot of myths associated with them. A dirty rat is bad, just like a dirty person. A clean rat is a pet, a clean person… well…you get the idea. Mice are everywhere, love to live where people live, and do a good job of keeping out of the way. I don't like killing them. It's a personal thing."
"That's my new business." Sam smiled and took a bite of his burger.
Adam was taken aback. " I beg your pardon?"
"I work very hard on removing dirty rats." Sam saluted Adam with his mug.
"Droll, that’s wonderful. You'll need a sense of humor when we get a bit deeper in this conversation. Taking out the rats…good! 'Tis because you are a big man of violence, is it? Served you well to this point, has it?” He yelled.
There was dread in the unexpected volume of Adams voice that made Sam uncomfortable. He looked at the man again. He was wiry and seemed very assured for a guy that worked, or owned a termite company.
"What makes you think that I would care about this conversation." Sam stood up, deciding that it was time to test this nut.
"Sit down and listen my boy." Johnny's hands were on Sam's shoulders. "This is important and trust us that we need you to listen." Johnny turned to Michael and said. "It's due time we close up and take this upstairs, before our apprentice lets his instincts take over." He turned back to Sam who had sat down as asked.
"No, insult here, my boy…your instincts, as always, are impeccable."
Michael went to the front door and locked it tight. He then activated the sensor alarms.
Johnny said." Pick up those burgers. Micky's got a tap up stairs and maybe a spot of something stronger. We'll toast the Good Lord and thank him for our Blessings, before His day is done.
Sam relaxed. It was clear that this was, after all, a business meeting, and a big one by all the ceremony. Johnny never invoked the Lord, lest it was something he felt he couldn't handle himself. It's good to have a little heavenly help in tight spots. Sam wondered what was up.
As they walked up stairs, Sam said, "Adam, I had a nest of mice home up, under my dresser. It smelled - terrible-musty. I moved the whole lot into an empty cupboard in the hall."
"Damn decent of you. The smell is piss and musk, rats do that. It's like saying 'How do you do! I'm so and so'- 'I'm a bad ass!' or 'Come up and see me big boy.' or just maybe a name. They felt comfortable with you and your dinning choices. They piss while they walk makes a trail to follow…like a road map with messages. "Here's the track - for the pack - don't look back - could be a trap…Burma Shave." Adam let out a loud guffaw. Everyone else just grinned.
Michael unlocked the door to his apartment and they all moved into the impeccably furnished digs and found places to sit down. Johnny got up and went to the kitchen, putting the gathered burgers, from downstairs, on a plate and poured everyone a beer.
Sam noted that all the furnishing was a foot away from the wall, and a red laser beam ran from one corner to another. It was funny that Sam didn't notice it before. Perhaps the system wasn't on. I felt a tickle in his head. It felt as if something was amiss.
Adam continued. "Forgive my outburst. I was trying to make a point. Let's get back to termites." He took a mug from Johnny, sipped, and put the mug down on a coaster Michael had provided everyone.
"We could just as easily pound on the wood but the customer wouldn't pay. We do use those microwave devices, they work great, but then we would have to be damn sure to show the customer blown up bodies of termites, after we dig out the colony. You see there ain't many. If we don't show pulp we don't get no money, and your right to think that the guys and gals we send are not that well trained. So how we fund …."
"Fund?" Sam asked with renewed interest,
"I told you he was sharp." Johnny says to Adam.
"The tenting is the thing…big money. Stupid really, people are gullible and will believe what you want them to believe. Big flurry, lots-o-work and time - kills everything, including the crickets and spiders that do a better job of pest control than we ever could. See, if you think on it, the colonies are sealed in because the very air dries out the little water bags, no gas is gonna permeate into the wood. But it is a grand thing to watch. In no time at all the critters will be back, suck your blood, eat your grease, invade your walls, get in your oatmeal and flour, setting up housekeeping like nothing ever happened. We get the big check and all is right in the world." Adam took a bite of burger.
"Let's get back to the funding thing." Sam says.
end part one
ken lehnig(c) 2010
Why is doing what you love the hardest thing to do? Is it because failing what you thought defined you would be too devastating a thing from which to recover? If so, we stay where mere accident has left us.