A Short Story by Adam Schwankl. Accompanying photo by Eleanor Bennet.
The meadow on the other side of the ranch was placid and calm. The sun was shining bright which made the deck on the side of the large log house too hot for bare feet. The white haired man, and the other man were sweating in their suits. Their jackets were most likely inside. They were sitting under an umbrella at a small table which provided just enough shade for the two men, the table, and their icy, but burnt, mixed drinks. A dog named Ella May, who was biting at flies, sat panting in the heat.
“Must be miserably hot out there in that sunshine.” Said the white haired man as he dabbed the sweat off of his brow with a napkin.
“Nah, it must be used to it.” The other man responded before waving his hand in the direction of Ella May, and slurping another sip of his icy beverage.
“Yes. I suppose you’re right. She’s just a dog and must be used to it.”
Ella seemed to look pleadingly at the other man, and barked.
“See she’s just fine.” Said the other man.
Then with a whimper Ella lied down on her side and gave up on getting inside the cool log house. Both men looked at the dog with fleeting disconcerted looks, and turned toward one another so as to no longer look at the thirsty animal.
“So, please tell me you have finally found your reason and will join us. I know you have been thinking about it.” Said the other man.
“I have indeed been thinking about it very much.” He set down his drink, and then immediately picked it up, was about to take a drink, hesitated, and then said, “Don’t you think there is something seriously unethical about it?”
“Heavens no!” the other man replied, “What is unethical is us not moving ahead with it. Ugh, the laziness! The longer we wait the more regulations we’ll have to deal with, and you know you don’t have to worry about the public finding out. We can make sure it never makes it past the conspiracy nut’s opinion column. I know you hate filling out paper work as much as I do.”
“Sure, sure, but what about the people?”
He rolls his eyes. “What about them?”
“Well, I just don’t know how it’s going to affect them.” Said the white haired man. “If I could be assured that they wont be hurt by it I would be much more inclined to get the boat on the road.”
“On the road… It’s ‘show on the road.’ You said boat.”
They paused for a moment. The white haired man took a breath, and said, “This is just a game to you isn’t it?”
“I can assure you.” Replied the other man. “I was there for a day a few months ago. We’re all ready to go but we need you on board. You’ve got to think about what really matters.” He said while pouring himself another drink.
There was another pause. The man with the white hair sat back, finally took a drink, and looked out at the mountains to the East. There was a sudden, but subtle breeze that moved the leaves on the cottonwood trees that were in a long row extending from the side of the house, past the deck, and out towards a small pond. There was an old weeping willow tree casting a shadow over the edge of the water.
“That feels nice.” Said the other man. The white haired man looked at him, and smiled. “My family.”
“What?” Asked the other man.
“My family.” Repeated the white haired man. “That’s what really matters.”
“Yes,” Agreed the other man, “and you wont be just helping them. There are a lot of people who depend on this kind of thing, even people over there. We’re really doing them a favor you know.”
The white haired man began to respond saying, “Well, I don’t know about…”
“Out of sight out of mind.” Interrupted the other man. “There’s no need to worry. It’s a completely different world over there. They haven’t kept up with the times. They’re savages really. Just think about your kids, or how happy your wife will be when you surprise her with another trip to the opera house in Paris. La Samnambula is playing for the next couple months, you know.”
“Oh, that’s her favorite!” said the white haired man. The other man continued,
“And besides, we were down more than we can afford last quarter. We need to make adjustments now, so we can afford to expand next year. This is big, real big.”
“Yes I suppose. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?” Added the white haired man. They both laughed.
“That’s right! It’s good to know you’re on board. I was afraid I was going to have to tell you to shape up or plane out.” Chuckled the other man.
“Ship.” Corrected the white haired man.
“Nothing. You said plane. It’s ‘shape up or ship out.’”
“Ah, you know what I mean.” The other man laughed, reached over, patted the white haired man on the shoulder, and said, “C’mon lets go inside. You can pour me another drink.”