By Cindy and Walt
After a few more weeks the work was moving along. Buddy and I made small sample batches of the Tea, while local men worked on the building across the street and were supervised by Buddy. They worked on restoring the building under the watchful eyes of various government inspectors. We got inspected once a week it seemed. The various government agencies wanted to be sure they didn’t miss anything, which we might cover over, if left to our own devices.
During those weeks I used the Aluminum walker on wheels to make the walk of a half block to the Cafe. I was very proud of myself for being able to hop that far, since at first I couldn’t put any weight on the leg at all. The pain was too great without the narcotics.
Toward the end of the renovation I stopped the narcotics after the ten day regimen. I was doing pretty well and walking much better. I still needed to sit after less than fifteen minutes but I was making it work. Since the walker had a built in seat I could go longer distances.
Even so Buddy got tired of my bitching. After the formulating then cooking tea experiments, Buddy would take off on my trike. First he made sure I had everything I needed, then he just left. He stayed gone two or three hours. It was usually in the afternoon. He always stopped by to see how the contractors were doing before he returned home.
After the first week the mechanical contractor had the boiler working, so that we had hot water and radiator heat in the old building. The boiler had already been converted to gas, so it required no more than a good cleaning and testing of the relief valves. Buddy got the job of going into the basement once a month to check then fill the boiler’s closed water system.
“Well I now have a job,” Buddy said. “I’m going to be the water boy.”
“I’m going to have to call you Gunga Din,” I suggested gleefully.
“Easy on that tea Rose,” Buddy said with a laugh. “Well I checked on our paint contractor,” he said after three more weeks, “They finally have all the interior painting and sealing done. All we need now is to get the equipment in and the materials warehoused.”
“We need to talk about that,” I said. “Cause we also need to start an advertising campaign.”
“Yeah what do we need to do first, in your opinion that is?” Buddy asked.
“First of all you and I need to come to an understanding. You have been doing most of the work, but I’m getting better. I can walk across the street and into the building, so I can supervise workers. Okay maybe not tomorrow but someday soon. So we need to decide on the division of labor. That is if you are staying,” I said.
“Are you sure you want to have this discussion now?” he asked.
“Yes, I am not sure that I can get this operation up and running as efficiently without you. Certainly not as quickly but if you want to leave, I can make it happen,” I said. “I owe you big time, don’t get me wrong.”
“Okay are you through talking?” Buddy asked.
“Yes Buddy, I’m through,” I said.
“I don’t want to stay and help you for nothing of course. And I can go back to my old job if it’s working for wages you have in mind. I will stay and help out for twenty five percent of the profits, if there ever are any. That is option one,” he said.
“Okay what is option two?” I asked.
“Option two is I give you half of everything you have invested here, and provide half the capital going forward. In exchange you make me a forty eight percent owner,” he said. “You keep control since it’s your vision.”
“Okay I have about a hundred grand in it so far. You are telling me you will put up fifty now and put up half the operating cost for a forty eight percent ownership stake and half the profits when there are some profits?” I asked.
“Exactly,” he said.
“Tell me how deep are your pockets?” I asked.
“I will match you dollar for dollar up to two hundred grand,” he said. “But by then it has to show a profit or I’m going to sell my share.”
“Give me first option on your share of the business, then we are a go,” I said.
“Would you mind if Rita draws the contract?” he asked.
“Your excuse to have her fly back to see you?” I asked.
“Yeah, she is good in bed, what can I say?” he asked.
“I am not going to touch that,” I agreed. “Just to change the subject, I have been negotiating with a restaurant equipment distributor in Mobile. There is a five thousand dollar grinder he is about to repossess. It sounds as though it will chop half a bale at once.”
“Considering the chopping is only a two minute job, sounds like too much capacity,” Buddy said.
“Well we can use it once a day for now and grow into it,” I suggested. “If we go pick it up, he will give it to us for two grand as is.”
“So you were going to buy it sight unseen?” Buddy asked.
“No we go down pick it up for him then take it to his shop and do the final negotiations. There shouldn’t be much to it,” I suggested.
“If nothing else, I force him to pay us for repoing it,” I explained.
“What is the guy who has it now doing with it,” Buddy asked.
“He is making fish meal,” I said.
“Do you have any idea what kind of condition this thing might be in?” buddy asked.
“Yeah, but it can be cleaned I’m sure,” I said.
“If we have to whoop his ass, you are going to be less than useless,” Buddy stated flatly.
“I think I can still hold a shotgun,” I said.
“How much does the thing weigh?” Buddy asked.
“Details, details,” I replied.
Long as you know someone has to help me load it,” Buddy replied.
“The man said to take a tool kit. It comes apart each of the three pieces weigh less than a hundred pounds,” I explained.
“Okay, I’m in, but do you think you can ride that far in the truck?” Buddy asked.
“Only way to know is to do it,” I suggested.
“It’s at least a couple of hours in a bouncing truck. But if you are up to it, we can carry your walker in back. You are doing a little better with it now, so maybe we can do it,” Buddy said.
“Buddy, we need to stop by and get the paperwork on the way. It’s only a few miles from the office park where the fish meal plant is located,” I informed him. “Well partner we have one more thing to discuss before I go to bed.”
“Oh what is that?” he asked.
“Unless you want to sweep the floors at the plant we need someone to work there doing that much at least,” I informed him.
“There are probably a lot more things he or she can do for us,” he said. “I’m talking business here. We are going to need someone to be the handy man or woman while we manage.”
“That is what I’m thinking as well. So I was also thinking why not hold off on the trip till we have someone who can help you load the damn thing. My truck has those jump seats,” I said. We could take one more person along to help you get the machine out of the building and to take it apart. We just might have trouble with the present owner as well.”
The truck I bought had a hell of a lot bigger cab than anything I had owned previously. It also had a short bed so it was still maneuverable on the back roads around Mossberg.
I bought it from an old woman, whose husband had died. They bought the truck because that’s what country folks did when they retired. It had 60,000 miles on it. Except for a few dings in the bed it was perfect. Of course the paint was ruined from constant exposure to the sun for five years. It also had lost a lot of paint due to red dirt that blew like a sandblaster whenever a strong wind came through. My point was that it was a good size, and in good shape, but it just wasn’t especially attractive’
“Do you have someone in mind to hire?” Buddy asked.
“Maybe I can get someone tonight with a few phone calls,” I said. “But we need to start making them now,” I suggested.
“Why now since it’s 7 PM?” he asked.
“Miss Sadie has a hundred nieces and nephews. If she recommends one of them, we will know all about them before they start work. We can also try them out before we actually hire them to work in the plant,” I explained.
“Okay, make the call, we shouldn’t need him more than for the morning. Say a hundred bucks absolute maximum,” he said.
“I was thinking ten bucks an hour cash in their pocket,” I suggested. “We can call it casual labor.”
“Do it,” he suggested.
I called Miss Sadie. She called one of her sons. “He has a teenager who can’t get a job, even with his high school diploma. He was working odd jobs till something in Mobile comes open,” she informed me.
“Well let me know if he is interested in a few hours work tomorrow at $10 an hour. It’s mostly going to be riding in a truck over to Mobile then loading some machinery. I’m still not able to help Mr. Baker with it,” I explained. “If he is interested tell him to be at my shop no later than 8 AM tomorrow but I need someone.”
Miss Sadie called back a half hour later. “I got you a body, but it ain’t my grandson. It’s a cousin’s daughter. I know you need someone who can lift. She works on her daddy’s farm in the summer loading hay and stuff. She is a senior in high school but has tomorrow off. Some kind of teacher work day or such. Should I tell her she is hired?” Sadie asked.
“Sure, long as she is used to hard work,” I agreed
“We got our body,” I said to Buddy. She is going to be here at 8 AM, so we can be in Mobile sometime after 10 AM.”
“Let’s do it then,” he said.
“Sounds like a plan,” I said before laying on the sofa bed. The one Baker had wrestled down the open stairs for me. I wrapped myself in the blanket and fell immediately to sleep. I didn’t even start the computer that night.
The next morning, I walked out to the car with some help from my walker. I found myself leaning on it and listing to the right. I seemed to be lugging around an aluminum room just to lean on one wall. It was time to trade the walker for a single crutch or a cane. Something to make me even more mobile. I vowed to look into it while in mobile since they would have more options.
We had a sausage and egg biscuit at the Dairy Queen, then returned home where I sat on the sofa until Hannah came. Hannah on first sight might have been the least attractive woman I had seen in years. She was even less attractive than Sylvia Porter. She also struck me as being a stone cold lesbian. Her short hair and stocky muscular body just screamed “Dyke”. I didn’t feel threatened, I just wanted to be sure she could handle the heavy work that we had planned for her.
“So Hannah you ready for the drive to mobile?” I asked.
“You want me to drive?” she asked.
“I don’t know what Buddy wants, but I’m going to be in the back seat with my leg up on a pillow, so you two work that out.” Loading me into the truck took a few extra minutes while I worked my way onto the jump seat. Buddy loaded the new, but old style, milk crate into the space between the two jump seats. I managed to fight my leg onto the crate even though it was a little painful. Once I had it up, I figured I was good for a thousand miles unless I had to get out to pee. In which case I might just put Hannah in the rear jump seat.
We were off for Mobile by 8:30 AM. The drive wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated. I rolled with the punches and arrived in pretty good shape. I could never have lifted my share of the 300 pound machine, but I could walk in and take care of the mother fucker in the shop, I decided. I had brought along the short barreled pump shotgun just in case.
We found the old warehouse used by Industrial Kitchen Supply Company. The GPS was a very valuable tool for such things. Buddy went into the office to pick up the court order for the present owner to release the equipment. If all else failed, we could call in the cops to hold the owner at bay. Of course I planned to reason with him first.
When we got to the industrial park which held the fish meal plant, I got out of the truck with the walker and went inside alone to serve the papers. Buddy didn’t like it, but he saw the wisdom in letting a cripple take the lead.
“Hello there are you in charge?” I asked the man in the white shirt and tie. He was sitting behind the desk in the office.
“Well I’m Roy the owner/manager. I guess that makes me the man in charge,” he said.
“Well Roy we are here to pick up this grinder,” I said handing him the papers.
He looked through them, then he gave me a hard look as well. “I’m not going to give it to you,” he said.
“Then I suggest you call your lawyer because I’m going to call the police and take it,” I said. “You can order me off your property and I will move to the parking lot across the street where I will call the cops. We can do this and stay friends, or we can get the cops involved. That is up to you Roy. If we call them you will more than likely wind up in jail, if you stay with that ‘you can’t take it’ attitude.” I stood down to try to make it less confrontational.
“Shit take the fucking thing, it is a piece of shit anyway. That’s why I stopped paying for it,” he said.
“Okay we have to assess the condition as well, so is it in use now?” I asked.
“Last time we used it, it worked okay, but it is broke down more than it’s working,” he said.
“I have a couple of people with me. They will move it out in the parking lot where we will load it up,” I suggested. “Would you show me where it is, so that we don’t interfere with your operation any more than necessary?”
“Sure get your people and let’s go out into the plant,” he said angrily.
Once we got in the plant proper, I noticed how bad it smelled. The government worried about me, but evidently paid no attention to the fish meal business, I thought.
Buddy and Hannah made short work of the machine. In the parking lot Hannah was the one who figured out how to take the bastard apart. She was also the one who noticed the blades were ruined. Neither Baker nor I would have caught that. Hannah was seemingly a real asset.
We had the machine in the truck in time for a slightly late lunch. I chose to bring up the subject of a cane over pizza.
“You should get one of those with feet,” Hannah suggested.
“Why do you say that? They look really clumsy,” I suggested.
“For one thing they make one with a small base and weighted so it will stand up alone. It is a lot easier to manage than one that fall on the floor a lot. Also the weighted bottom is good for self protection if you need it,” she said with a most unattractive smile. The smile made her look like a Hollywood special effects evil doll.
“You are quite mechanical aren’t you?” Buddy asked.
“Yeah on a farm you have to be. I’m an only child and my dad is getting up there in years. So I do most of the repair work,” she informed him.
“Can you overhaul this machine?” I asked. She had explained to the Industrial Kitchen Supply man what was wrong with the machine, so he came up with the repair parts as part of the deal. Then he cut five hundred bucks off the price as well. So we had fifteen hundred in a $5,000 grinder.
“I could do that. It will take a few days cause I can only work after school and weekends,” she said obviously hinting for a job.
“We can probably work with that,” I suggested. “So lets go buy me one of those canes.” I considered myself fortunate that we found Hannah. I wasn’t sure how Buddy felt, but I wanted to work out something with her.
The cane was all Hannah had promised. It was a fine cane that didn’t fall over and it was weighted on the bottom, so it would make an ideal club when swung with enough velocity. It was also easier to get into the truck’s rear seat for the ride home. Once I had my leg up I felt all was right with the world.
Hannah helped to unload the truck before we settled up. Her agreed upon pay would have been ninety dollars, but I gave her a hundred dollar bill. I also insisted she sign a receipt. Since I had Buddy as a partner things were going to be a little more complicated. I wanted to be able to prove what I spent on the business. Even though it was a business based on trust. It was going to be trust that was verifiable if anyone wanted to do it.
We had filled the truck’s gas tank for which I also demanded a receipt. This record keeping might prove to be a bitch but I would give it a try before we make the final commitment.
“Well we have a grinder that was quite a deal,” I suggested. “We can use it as is but I will feel better when Hannah gets it overhauled.”
“Do you think she is as good as she says?” Baker asked.
“If we were walking into a deserted building looking for Roy back there, I would rather have you, but tearing that machine down, I think I will go with her. That is my first impression but I could be wrong,” I admitted.
“Well she is going to start work on it tomorrow afternoon. School takes up most of her day. She still has chores at home, but she can put them off for a couple of days. We are going to have to play it by ear,” Baker said.
“You know I call you Baker and Buddy, but I’m not real comfortable with either. I also know that Hagar the Horrible is out of the question,” I said. “Is there some other name you could answer to?”
“I always liked Bart Simpson. How about you call me Bart,” he suggested.
“Let’s give that a try,” I suggested. “Bart Simpson huh?” I laughed when I said it.
“If you tell anyone I said that, I will deny it,” Bart said. He paused a moment, then changed gears. “We need to try the coconut oil and mint mixture tea and work on the proportions.”
“Damn you are all business,” I said smiling. Why don’t you fly up to see Rita? I think you are too anal when you are horny.” I had a second thought a moment later. “You know Hannah is almost eighteen?” I left it just hanging in the air.
“I think she is more your type, than mine,” he said with a smile.
“Bitch,” I said then laughed. “But the truth is you need a girlfriend a lot closer than six hundred miles. I can’t have you gone three days just to get laid.”
“So do you, but I don’t see us ever being together that way. We are too much alike.” he said.
“Yes I agree. Besides you don’t crap where you eat,” I suggested.
“So what do we do? Put an advertisement in the paper?” he asked.
“Sure on Craigslist. Wanted sex toy for Ex-Legionnaire for no strings relationship. Married professional preferred.”
“If you weren’t a gimp we could go to a club and get a couple. That would be the most efficient thing to do,” he suggested.
“Maybe we should try to find a mother with a college age son,” I said. It was a definite dig at the age difference between us.
“Talk about bitch talk, you are the master it seems,” he suggested.
“That is Mistress,” I said then added. “I’ll bet Hannah has a friend.”
“God you really are a bitch,” he replied.
One of the things I liked about Bart was that he, like me, had very little interest in food. Sure we ate well, but it could be a pizza or a frozen dinner, it didn’t much matter. We did eat one real meal a day at the diner or at the Dairy Queen otherwise it was maybe a bowl of cereal or maybe a meatloaf frozen dinner with lots of hot sauce on top.
After dinner Bart stayed downstairs to watch me on the computer. I mostly watched TV shows because he was there. When he went up to his part of the building after 11 PM, I switch to an adult chat room. He walked through to check the doors. I noticed he looked over my shoulder for a while. He seemed to not really be paying attention, but I knew that nothing slipped by Bart.
After breakfast the next morning Bart suggested, “I’m going to Williamston on the trike. I want a buy a computer and I have wanted to do a longer ride anyway. I can kill two birds with one stone,” he suggested.
“Then I will see if I can make a new blend based on the feedback from our sample tea.” For the most part the samples were a waste. People seldom gave honest feedback. I tended to ignore the ‘that was delicious’ comments and zero in on the question, ‘what could we do to make it perfect’.
The suggestions were all over the place but the women mostly said that Miss Sadie’s tea was a little bitter. The men thought the boxer tea was a little mild tasting but had a good kick. To remedy those two suggestions we were going to try different blends of tea to mix with the weed in the both of our tea blends. Then we might need more or less coconut oil and the same with the oil de mint as well. Everything changed the taste.
After breakfast each of us set off on our own project for the day.