Terry Power sat on the back porch of his home contemplating the area where he and Wendy had decided to construct a swimming pool. That would have to go on the back burner now along with their planned trip to Europe a year from now. He was a methodical man and needed this quiet time to think through the impact of shock news delivered him by his boss after Christmas.
His boss had shown a certain reticence when he called. It was so unlike Andy Ryder who was a gregarious and often generous friend more than a boss. They went fishing together and Wendy and Andy’s wife Merle got on very well together attending barbecues and special occasions at Merle’s home well set up for entertainment. Other employees and their families were often invited there too.
Terry wondered how much Andy was worth. He didn’t give that kind of information away even though they were close friends, or at least Terry thought they’d been.
So, there’d been something about the initial approach on that phone call alerting Terry this was not the usual friendly inquiry about a mutual fishing trip in Andy’s boat. No, the news hit him hard and it had taken time to recover and whisper a quiet why? Andy waited for Terry to recover his composure and asked him to come to the office and discuss the situation as soon as he could. He assured Terry he’d be settled with generously.
There’d been nothing said at the Christmas party where all workers of Ryder Lumber were in attendance. What kind of friend acts like there’s nothing on the horizon and then drops a bombshell after Christmas. Terry remembered slowly increasing in anger as he made that quick drive over to the timber yard where Andy sat waiting for him at the office. To his surprise the collection of worker vehicles told him it was not only Terry involved in this shock announcement. The whole gang were assembled there milling around waiting for him to arrive. Terry was the foreman of the complex while Andy and Merle ran the business part of the yard. Andy had other business interests too.
They all trooped into the office on Terry’s arrival primed for confrontation but were surprised to see Merle was there with Andy. That was unusual on a holiday. Both Andy and Merle looked uncomfortable and it was obvious Merle had been crying.
Andy motioned to Merle who stood unsteadily.
“I asked Andy to let me come to this meeting today boys as it’s really because of me Andy took this decision. I know he’s hurting probably as much as you are right now, and he’s always been a softy about these things.” She turned to look at Andy who sat moving papers around on his desk.
“Two weeks before Christmas I went for my regular check up and the doctor was not too happy about some of the things I was complaining about so sent me to specialists for the old once over. I was not worried then, but our doctor phoned and booked me for an urgent appointment. I’m riddled with cancer boys so have a year at the most. Andy wants to take me for a cruise before things get tough and as we’ve worked together over the years he now wants out of the business to spend time with me and then retire from active business. He says age seventy-three entitles him to that” Merle smiled grimly.
The workers sat stunned. They’d come to do battle but loved Merle too much to do that now. No one else would get away with calling them boys!
Andy cleared his throat and rose to look at the group. Tears formed in his eyes. “I’m sorry guys, I just can’t handle it without Merle. I don’t know how our competitor found out, but he did and phoned with an offer its pretty hard to turn down, but he wants to choose his own men so technically all of you would lose your job though it’s possible some may continue here if he needs you. Of course, you’ll be very liberally settled with by us. You’ve served this yard for more years than I can remember so this is hard for me. Losing Merle, then letting you guys down is almost too hard to bear. I need to resolve this quickly, so I can be with Merle these last precious months.
The mood among the men. Merle’s boys, had changed from confrontation to sympathy. They gathered around expressing their sympathies and took leave. They’d be employed until a new owner took over.
Andy motioned Terry to stay behind. “Merle won’t be able to handle the books from now until the business is sold. I know you’ll be upset about this news, but I need help. You need to continue to keep the business going until a sale price is agreed to as I’ll be driving Merle around to different medical appointments. Do you have any suggestions as to who could handle the accounting side?” Terry shook his head and Andy sighed.
“OK, just thought I’d ask!”
Terry’s head was in a whirl as he drove home. Wendy would not handle this well. Merle was like a second mother to her and she’d be equally distressed at he not having any guaranteed work for the immediate future. Her heart had been set on the swimming pool in the back yard and the trip to Europe next year. Oh well, the business was closed for vacation, so he had a few days to think things through before sharing this news.
But Wendy like any woman was tuned into changed moods in the family and she studied Terry carefully over the next few days. Was he sick? She decided to bring it to a head.
“OK Terry, out with it! What’s eating away at you? Is it something I’ve done or are you sick? Is it something Andy said when you made that quick trip over to the yard on holidays?”
Terry recoiled in surprise!
Wendy eyeballed him. “Out with it!”
So, it all came out in a rush. Wendy cried when she heard about Merle and scolded him.
“Why didn’t you tell me immediately. I should be over there to help her through this. You men are so callous!”
She ran down the hallway picking up the car keys as she left slamming the front door.
Later that evening Wendy had cooled down after spending time with Merle. “She was so calm, I can’t believe it. I’d be having a meltdown over news like that.” She smiled tentatively.
“Sorry I blew your sox off Terry. It was a big shock. What will we do about your job?”
“I don’t know Wendy, that’s what I’ve been mulling over these past couple of days. We’re well enough off with the money from my Dad’s will. The house is paid off and we have more than enough money in the bank to tide us over for a while as I look around, and you have your accounting job at the Real Estate office down town. Not sure how this will affect our proposed trip to Europe though.”
“Oh, that’s no big deal Terry, I’m more concerned about Merle right now. It could be more difficult for some of the guys at the lumber yard though.”
Terry nodded his head soberly. Some of them had mortgage payments to meet on their homes and needed all the work they could get.
The mood around their home was sombre as they reached the last day of the year and thought of changed circumstances. It was three in the afternoon when Terry’s cell phone chimed, and he looked at the screen to see who was calling. It was Andy.
“Could you and Wendy pay us a visit?”
Wendy had just returned from visiting Merle, so Terry was puzzled. He shouted to Wendy.
“Wend, it’s Andy. He wants to know if we can come over for a while?”
Terry looked at his wife suspiciously, what had she been up to now? But the look of genuine surprise was for real. She picked up the keys again and motioned toward the door. They sped over to Andy’s place apprehensively. Had Merle taken a bad turn?
But the two who met them at the door looked happy.
“I’ve got a proposition for you two!” Said Andy with a return of his gregarious style. Merle looked pleased about something so their curiosity was aroused.
“Look Smith’s Timber is offering me a million dollars for the business, but I’ve been talking it over with Merle and she’s made a great suggestion which we hope you can see your way clear to accept. Would you be willing to come up with seven hundred and fifty thousand to buy us out? If you can we would let you have it at this huge discount. The business is worth more than Smith’s are offering but it would make them a monopoly in town, and that’s not healthy. There would be a condition though, all the guys presently employed should have their jobs guaranteed.”
“We’ll take it!” Wendy said quickly.
Terry looked at her incredulously. “We don’t have that kind of money hon, let’s talk this over first,” he stammered.
“Wendy’s account brain had clicked into action. “We have deposits of four hundred thousand left over from your Dad’s will, we can mortgage our home for at least fifty percent of its value!”
“Depending on how much we can raise immediately, can we pay off the rest over time Andy? We don’t want to clean out our bank accounts and leave nothing for emergencies.”
Andy looked at Merle and both burst out laughing. “We had no idea you could raise so much money quickly. How much time do you need to come up with the balance?”
“What about two years?” Wendy couldn’t believe she’d said that, now it was her turn to look apprehensive as she realized what she’d be committing to.
Merle looked at Andy nodding her head and he turned and spoke. “OK, if you’re sure you can do the balance in two years we can sit down and draw up papers as soon as businesses open up in the new year.”
“Now I need to know for sure, do you have the resources to buy out the business and keep Merle’s boys employed?”
“Go on,” said Wendy nudging Terry. “I’ll do the accounting for the business along with my present job and if there’s too much work I’ll quit my job and do your work full time. If we work our tails off for the next two years and are economical with our lifestyle we can do it!”
Andy and Merle beamed with pleasure. “OK, with that assurance I’ll tell old Smith no deal, and it will be a pleasure to inform the guys they’ll have a job if they give you their full support. I guess we’ll be able to wish everyone a genuine happy new year tomorrow won’t we Merle?”
Wendy gave Merle a hug. “I guess it will not be a happy year for you folk?”
“Oh yes it will, I get a cruise out of it and my husband’s exclusive attention for the rest of my life, so Happy New Year.”
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