Welcome! This is my play page. Every week or so, a new post will appear on this page that you can interact with. It may be the beginning of a short story, the beginning of a poem, a chorus or verse to a song. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and you don't even have to swallow your computer when you've finished reading this) will be to ruminate on the piece offered and expand it. Please remember as you comment or write what you envision happens next, this is a family focused website and as such, our writing is G rated. Thanks, and have fun!
Silverius Kensy slid his gold-and-brown Cadillac convertible to a stop, dust from the unpaved parking lot swirling in a tornado around him. Rats!
Grit drifted down covering his hair, sunglasses, the comfortably-worn leather seats. The dilapidated shack in front of him announcedCrazy Ed's Gas-Eat-N-Go and looked deserted. Wondering what else could possibly go wrong, Silver, as his friends called him, reached for the door handle.
"Don't even think about lighting out of that there vehicle, city boy." The cold steel rim of what felt like a shotgun barrel pressed against his neck. Silver smiled. And just yesterday he'd been complaining to his wife that boredom ruled his life. "Have an adventure," she'd said, never looking up from her romance novel. "Just get in your Caddy and go. Don't plan a destination. Just go, Silver. Someplace you've never been, where you don't know anyone, and where they don't know you. Call and let me know when you get there."
Without another word, he'd stomped upstairs, threw some clothes in a duffle bag, grabbed some cash, and left, slamming the door behind him. His day had gone downhill from there. Now here he was in the middle of goodness-knows-where, about to run out of gas, hungry, dirty, tired, and best of all--some good ol' boy wanted to use him for target practice. Way to go, Silver, he taunted himself, chuckling ruefully. Way to go.
Let's see what happens to Silver, shall we?
"Okay, I won't light out of this here vehicle, uh, country boy. You going to shoot me? For what: Raising all this dust, needing a shower, some food, a cold drink? WHAT?" Silver's voice rose to a roar and he slapped the leather covered steering wheel, laughing, the sound more like a bark than laughter.
"Getting a mite smart for your britches, ain't ya, boy?" The gunman's voice drawled. Silver could hear the edge of laughter in the voice and he took a chance.
"Any way a guy could get a meal without getting shot? Oh, and this pony needs some fuel if you want me out of here."
Silver heard the metallic click of a hammer being dropped gently back in place, and the safety set. He let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Cautiously turning his head, he looked up at what he decided would be his newest best friend. The elderly man slung an old Marlin shotgun over his shoulder and grinned down at Silver.
"Looks more like a stud than a pony, boy. Follow me for the best ham hocks and beans in the county. Katy Mae's corn bread will melt in your mouth. I'll wager you a bet you ain't going to find nothing like it where you come from." Eyeing Silver up and down, the old man smiled through his long gray beard. "Gonna have to clean up a wee bit. The girl don't allow that kind of dirt in her kitchen. Get a move on, boy. Time's a-wasting and thinking about them beans has got me hungry all over again."
Silver opened the car door, swung his long legs out and stood up slapping dust from his designer jeans. Following the huge lumbering figure headed to a door in the side of the weather-weary building, he wondered what he'd encounter next. He supposed this Katy Mae character would be the female version of this old grizzly bear and he felt a small tickle of nerves in his stomach. The old man pulled open the screen door barely clinging to its hinges, held it for the younger man then let it slam shut behind them.
"How many times I gotta tell you to stop slamming the door? Pitiful thing is gonna fall right off the frame you keep it up, Grampa."
The woman turned from pulling a pan of golden corn bread from the oven in front of her and nearly dropped the pan on the beat-up linoleum. Silver's mouth formed a shocked "O" and his eyes rounded in wonder. Before him stood the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen.
Okay! Now it's your turn, folks. Who's going to write the next chapter? We're looking forward to your ideas so fire up your imagination and get to work!
Here's a fun submission.
"Who's that?" the girl asked her grandfather.
"Don't rightly know," he replied.
"What's he doing here?" Her huge brown eyes narrowed as she glared at Silver.
"Don't rightly know that, neither, granddaughter," the old man grinned through his scruffy beard.
"Excuse me," interrupted Silver, not used to being ignored, "I'm not deaf or dumb, so you can ask me whatever you want to. I'll try to answer in words you can understand." He felt a bit miffed at their excluding him from their conversation, behaving as though he weren't in the kitchen.
The lovely face before him turned pink and the long, raven black hair fell across her cheeks trying to cover her embarrassment. "Sorry," she muttered. "Y'all sit. Dinner's ready."
With that the beautiful creature turned on a bare, well-calloused heel and pulled a large pot of ham and beans from the top of the cook stove, setting it carefully on a hot pad resting on the old wooden table. Then came the large pan of cornbread. Silver and the old man didn't wait for a second invitation. Both sat.
Frowning, hands on shapely hips, she looked at the men. "Sure enough forgot to wash up, didn't you?" she grumbled.
"But girl, you told us to sit, didn't she, Mister--uh, I didn't catch your name."
"Silver. Just call me Silver, please." Silver replied, scooting his chair back, preparing to stand.
"Well, Mister Silver, from the looks of your vehicle out there, you shoulda been called Gold!"
Laughing at his own joke, the old man stood and shook Silver's proffered hand.
"This here sharp-tongued woman is Katy Mae, and I'm known around these parts as Jake Arnold. Reckon we'd best clean up if we ever want to eat."
With that, Jake shambled from the table to a door at the rear of the kitchen, Silver following close behind. When he turned to sneak a quick peek at the young woman, she still stood, hands on hips, staring after them. Silver nodded and followed Jake out onto a porch where a washstand stood waiting. The men quickly washed and headed back inside.
"Reckon it's cold and not fit for the dogs," snapped Katy Mae.
Silver moved to pull a chair out for her and startled, she plumped herself down, letting her long hair cover her face.
As the men sat back down, Silver wondered at the girl. Hides behind her hair a lot, he thought. Likes to act tough but I think she's really shy. His thoughts quickly went to the food before him. The aroma caused him to nearly drool in his bowl and when he tasted it, his eyes closed in appreciation. Katy Mae blushed with pleasure.
Well! I'm looking forward to what's next, aren't you? Thanks for your submission. All are welcome and I'll share one each week that they're submitted. Have fun using your imaginations!
Jake walked beside the young stranger, his stride long and purposeful. Silver, his long legs keeping up, thought the older man appeared tough as nails and he felt admiration for him. But, he could see something troubled him.
They crossed the dusty parking lot and headed toward a brick building that seemed to define the edge of a very small town. Looking down the unpaved road, Silver could see half-a-dozen buildings, all in various states of disrepair, strongly resembling a ghost town strung along what appeared to be Main Street. The sight reminded him of a shabby necklace missing several beads. A feeling of sadness and curiosity surged through him, surprising him.
Jake led them up to the brick building and pulled open the heavy wooden door.
"Got something to show you, somebody I want you to meet." His voice gruff and low, Silver strained to catch the quickly spoken words.
A desk, front-and-center in a shabby lobby sat like a lonely sentinel forgotten, abandoned. Dust lay thick on the telephone and exposed edges of the top of the ancient steel monster.
"Allie Lynn!" Jakes shout made Silver jump.
"Martha's room, Jake." A voice echoed from somewhere down the surprisingly bright, cheerful hallway.
Jake headed toward the voice, Silver following, his curiosity thrumming through his brain. He kept silent.
Stopping before a closed door, Jake tapped lightly. "Okay to come in?"
"Give us a quick minute and we'll be ready," Allie's warm and cheerful voice answered.
Soon the door pulled open and a large, sun-filled room spread out before the men. Silver's eyes were drawn to the exquisitely beautiful woman rocking gently in an antique rocker. There was no denying the older woman's familiar beauty. This would be how Katy Mae would look in thirty or forty years, he figured.
Touching her face, gently lifting her chin, Jake's voice became a mere whisper. "Darling, I want you to meet a new friend. Came all the way from the big city--not sure which one--just to see you."
Eyes void of any expression lifted to the vicinity of the younger man and the wisp of a smile flickered across her face like a mouse skittering across the kitchen floor. In less than a blink, it disappeared. Jake didn't think she even saw him. He took her hand, brought it to his lips and planted a kiss on the back of it.
"Pleased to meet you, ma'am," Silver smiled into the vacant eyes.
"Martha, this here boy calls himself Silver. He drove into the station in the biggest, fanciest, gold-colored contraption I've ever seen. Reckon if we talk fast, he might just give you a ride around town, top down, folks gawking. Just like when you won that there Miss Congeniality Contest back in '72--remember?"
Silver cleared his throat. Tears threatened to embarrass him and for the life of him, he couldn't figure out why he felt so emotional. He didn't know these people. They were nothing, no one to him. Why the sudden attachment? he wondered. He found a fierce protectiveness coursing through him.
"Miss Martha, I'm so pleased to meet you. If I may be so bold, you appear to be a sister to Katy Mae." Smiling, he took her small hand carefully into his large one, the flesh soft, pale and blue-veined. Silver felt sorrow tighten his throat.
Jake looked into his face and seeing the younger man's expression, patted his broad shoulder. "She hears you, but may not understand what you're saying. Don't know what she gets, or what just flits on through. She's blind--can't see you. Don't walk so good. Seems to have lost her voice. Stroke took all that nigh on ten years ago. Reckon she'd love a ride in your vehicle, though. Feeling the wind in her hair, on her skin--bring back some good memories for her. How much is it gonna cost me?"
"Another bowl of Katy Mae's ham and beans, and another slab of her corn bread. Never ate anything as good as that in my life--and I've been to some darn fine restaurants."
Jake smiled through his beard. "That granddaughter of mine is something. Learned it all from her gramma, here." With that, Jake kissed the softly wrinkled cheek and smoothed his wife's gray curls.
"Think we can bust her out of here for a spell, Allie?" Jake grinned at the middle-aged woman who'd been standing silently behind Martha's rocker.
"Not a problem, Jake. Give me a couple of minutes to get Miss Martha ready to go out. Meantime, I'm sure Curley would like a howdy-doo from you. Reckon he'd be interested in this here stranger, too. Not often we get someone coming through Stringville who actually stops to visit." Her laughter sounded like water skipping and dancing down a rock-strewn streambed.
Silver thought he must be dreaming. Places like this didn't still exist did they? He followed behind Jake as they exited the room to Allie's soothing, musical voice chatting to Martha about her upcoming trip in a fancy golden carriage.
After meeting the ten residents housed in what Silver learned was the Stringville Care Center, the two men headed back to the lobby. Jake stopped outside his wife's door.
"Fill that fancy vehicle with gas and bring it on over. I'll see about getting Martha out front." Then, with a sudden serious expression, Jake looked up at Silver, his eyes troubled. "Don't mean to take advantage of you, boy, but it would mean a lot to my Martha to ride in that there convertible."
"Not a problem. My pleasure, Jake. After all, I'm the one who's winning here. First I get a hearty welcome from you, then I get to eat Katy Mae's cooking, and now I'm going to have the honor of cruising through town with Miss Congeniality." There wasn't a hint of sarcasm in Silver's voice causing Jake to clear his throat.
"Go on, boy. Get gassed up and back here. We'll be waiting."
Silver headed back to his Caddy, filled his tank, and drove over to the small nursing home. To his surprise, he found Jake and Martha flanked by four of the residents, all whispering and laughing, pointing at the gold Cadillac sliding to a smooth stop before them. Excitement rippled through the tiny group. A huge smile split the gray bearded face as Jake nodded to Silver.
"Got room for a few more? Reckon they heard about Martha's ride and wanted to come along."
Laughing, Silver climbed out of his car and opened the back door. "The more the merrier!" And with that, the two men began to usher the four thrilled residents inside reserving the wide front seat for Martha and Jake.
Any idea of what's going on in Stringville? What's going on in Silver's mind? I'd love to hear your ideas.
Jake and Silver settled in their chairs on opposite sides of the kitchen table. Both sipped from tall glasses of sweet iced tea. Katy Mae worked at the counter rolling out dough for fresh rhubarb and gooseberry pies. Silver's mouth watered just watching her.
"What kind of businesses support Stringville?" Silver asked.
"Used to be a thriving small town 'til some giant company bought up all the surrounding woods and farm land--those that sold out willingly got a good price and most of them folks have moved on. Those of us who refuse to sell, well, we're under the gun, so to speak. Pressure's mounting."
Jake turned his moisture-beaded glass absently. "Entertainment Enterprises, Inc. promised a great hunting lodge and restaurant business that would employ most of the town, plus enable them to be local suppliers for them. Minimum impact on the environment, blah, blah, blah. Ain't seen a thing of them except when they come around to hassle those of us who refuse to sell out. Tried to put the moves on my granddaughter, one of them did. I introduced that fella to old Isabelle. He didn't stay long." He laughed without humor. Katy Mae never turned, but Silver saw her go still for just a moment, then she resumed constructing her pies.
"Entertainment Enterprises, eh?" Silver asked, something pricking his memory.
"Yep," Jake acknowledged. "We had one of the youngsters in town do some internet snooping and they're part of an even bigger company called SLK, Inc. Fit's 'em," he growled. "They're slick, alright."
Heat washed through Silver burning his face and ears. Small beads formed on his upper lip and he quickly sipped his tea.
"SLK, Inc.?" He stuttered.
"You know the scoundrels?" Jake's dark eyes bored into his.
"I am the sole owner of SLK, Inc. Silverius Lincoln Kensy. I don't recognize Entertainment Enterprises, though. I'm sorry, Jake."
"You're SLK?" Jake's face went stiff. "Not too sure I shouldn't use Isabelle on you, boy."
"Guess I'm not to sure you shouldn't, either, Jake. I know nothing of this. Unfortunately, SLK buys up many smaller companies and re-organizes them, dismantles them, whatever seems most profitable." He felt himself blushing.
"Boy, that sounds awful, even to me!" Silver looked sorrowfully at his newfound friend.
"Let me do some checking, Jake, and I'll see what's going on here. In the meantime, fill me in on what's happening. The town seemed vacant. Did everyone sell out? It looks like only the Care Center is operating. Any other businesses survive?"
Jake shook his head. "Old Willie Ecton tries to keep the mercantile open, but he told us at the last town meeting he couldn't make it much longer. He's the nearest thing to a grocery, hardware, and five-and-ten we got. He closes and folks are gonna have to drive a good twenty mile to the nearest store. Government's threatening to close the center--ain't been updated in a good long while." He looked at Silver, a light dawning in his eyes.
"Hey, boy, reckon we could call an emergency town meeting and you could meet and listen to folks first hand. Here what that dadblamed SLK did to them--to our town."
Silver nodded. Seemed like some kind of fate brought him to Stringville and he wasn't running away from it now. Katy Mae turned from sliding the second pie into the oven. Pushing her damp curls back from her face, she stared at him, waiting for his answer.
"Do it," he said to Jake. "If you have a place I can stay a few days, I'll contact my people and get some information to present. I promise you, Jake, I will get to the bottom of what's going on here, and who's behind it."
Nodding, Jake looked at his granddaughter. "Reckon you mind if he stays in Skip's room?" His voice grew soft and gentle.
Pain flashed in the young woman's eyes hardening her face for an instant and then it disappeared.
"If it'll help the town folk, Grampa, it's okay with me. He's to mind the rules, though. You make them plain to him. Seems like the kind of fella that don't feel the rules apply to him. You make him know they do." With that, she walked out of the stifling kitchen the screen door banging behind her.
Silver's heart twisted inside his chest. Who was Skip and why did the mention of him bring Katy Mae such terrible pain? He meant to find out.
Now what?! Anyone have an idea they want to share? Any questions, corrections (let's edit this story as we go), suggestions? Use the form below to send us your ideas!
Two days later, Silver watched as the town folks shuffled to the folding chairs he and Jake had lined up earlier in the day. His right eye began to twitch. Rubbing it, he breathed in slowly, blowing the air from his lungs in a whoosh! His board meetings didn't make him this nervous.
Jake walked by and patted him on the shoulder.
"Relax, boy. I made 'em leave their weapons at the door. Well, all except Beans over there," he indicated a tough looking young man sitting in the back of the room. "Got himself a coupla of black belts in something. Reckon I can't have him leave his hands at the door, now can I?" He chuckled at his lame joke and continued toward the podium.
"Come on, folks. Grab a seat and lets get this show on the road."
The voices droning around him sounded like a hive about to go viral. Silver felt himself blushing at the open scrutiny of nearly fifty pairs of eyes. What was he thinking when he agreed to this?
"Settle down, you all. Now Mr. Silver would like to hear you all out. Questions, comments, but folks, keep it civil. He's here to help us. Remember that."
Jake sat down next to Silver and nudged him with his elbow.
"Hey, boy, you're on," he whispered loudly causing the group to laugh.
Silver stood up and moved to the podium. Adjusting the microphone, wincing when it squealed, he moved back a bit.
"Thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen."
More laughter and one man tossed out, "Can't speak for anyone else, but ain't too many of them here. We're just plain folk getting a raw deal from a company that don't care a hoot about our town, our families, our businesses."
Many nodded their heads and agreed with the man.
"I appreciate you all coming tonight. Let's get started. Jake introduced me but he left out the fact that I'm the owner of the company who is trying to buy out your town. Hold on!" He held his hand up deflecting the curses and rude comments that began to fly in his direction. Looking down at Jake, he sighed.
"Glad you had them leave their weapons at the door."
Laughter began in the back of the room and caught on.
"So, what you want from us? You got most of our land and businesses. Heck-a-fire, you own us, mister." An elderly woman dressed in coveralls and a man's shirt, her iron gray hair pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head, called out.
"Look. I want to get to the bottom of this mess as much as you do. Help me out here. Tell me what's going on, what you've been told, and if there are any written contracts, I'd like a copy of them, please."
Papers rustled as they were pulled from pockets, murmuring buzzed around the room. An older man stood and collected the contracts, then brought them forward, handing them to Silver.
"These are copies they made for you. Jake gave us a heads up. Reckon you can stomach some hard questions, mister?" The man looked him in the eye and Silver felt his courage dwindling. His arrival in this town was no accident and he wasn't backing out now. These folks needed him. And then his mind stood still.
They needed him. It'd been a very long time since he'd felt needed, and he forced his eyes to take in each and every face before him. Silver knew he would do whatever it took to reconcile these people to their land and businesses again. Whatever had been done in his company's name, he would undo, if it needed undoing and if it was in his power to do so. With that promise made to himself, Silver cleared his throat and spoke into the microphone.
"I'm ready for your questions. Please, one at a time. I'll stay as long as needed."
Hands arrowed into the stuffy air, voices vied for his attention, and Silver knew that when the evening ended, his life would never be the same.
The back door opened and he looked at the late-comer. Katy Mae. Her eyes swollen from weeping, she still looked stunning in a cotton shirtwaist tucked in at the waist with a matching belt. Her long hair hung down over her shoulders and she stood silently in the back of the room, her eyes dark with sorrow. Silver shivered. Never had he seen such inward pain before. Pulling his eyes from her, he forced himself to focus on the meeting.
Before he left this town, he would get to the bottom of Katy Mae's suffering. Silver promised himself, if he could help her past whatever wounded her so deeply, no matter what it took, he would do it.
What's happened to Katy Mae? Any ideas? Who's Skip?
Silver sat next to Jake at the kitchen table. Just back from the town meeting, Katy Mae set two cups of coffee before them, then placed two plates of peach cobbler next to the cups. Silver watched her walk from the room never having said a word to them. He listened for her on the steps, but she climbed them to her room without a sound. Saddened by the grief that gripped her, he looked at Jake.
"What's happened to her? I know it's none of my business, but her sorrow has turned her into a ghost--like she doesn't live here--she's just existing. I don't know how to explain what I feel. It breaks my heart to see her suffering. What can I do to help, Jake?"
The old man pushed the peaches around on his plate. After a few minutes of contemplation, he made a decision.
"Silver, I don't know you from Adam, but for some reason I trust you--like something in me knows you want to do right by us--this town. My Katy Mae had a boy, named him Jacob after me. Everyone called him Skip. Couldn't keep that boy still. Skipping, running, hopping from the time he could stand on his two feet."
Jake stopped. Picking up his cup he swallowed some coffee, cleared his throat and stared at the table. His big calloused hands lay before him in surrender.
"The boy turned twelve two weeks before Entertainment Enterprises came to town. Skip took to following the survey crew, wanted to see what they were doing, how they were doing it--always curious. A bright boy. A good boy."
His voice broke.
Silver swallowed hard. He thought he knew what came next and he didn't want to hear it. Whatever happened to Katy Mae's son would ultimately be on his shoulders and he didn't want to be responsible for her sorrow.
"Don't," he started, but Jake shook his shaggy gray head and looked him in the eyes, his hands fisting on the table top, tears springing to life, spilling over into the old man's beard.
"Gotta finish this, son," Jake said, his voice ragged.
"Just before them fella's packed up their gear to leave, Skip followed them to Bally's Quarry. An old quarry filled with water most folks avoid. It's cold and deep and ain't a soul around to pull you out if you get yourself in trouble.
"Them boys finished surveying the land around the quarry and said they heard a splash and a terrible scream. Time they got to the edge of the quarry it was too late. He'd hit some underwater rocks and . . ." Jake's weeping took over.
Silver put an arm around the old man's shoulders and to his surprise, he felt his own tears falling. He couldn't remember the last time he'd cried. Unashamed, the two men shed their tears together.
Life would never be the same for Silver and he wondered at how a few days, and a few strangers could turn his life upside down. Would he go back to the way it was before he arrived in Stringville? To the foolish emptiness of his fast-paced, meaningless lifestyle? Feeling the sorrow and pain of this small town and it's simple country folk--what did it mean to him? The younger man pulled his handkerchief from his back pocket and offered it to the old man next to him.
What did all of this mean to him--he wasn't their keeper--was he? Silver felt his heart expand within his chest. The surge of feeling grew to a terrible pain of longing. This town, these people he'd just met. What did they mean to him? Amidst his sorrow, Silver felt the wonder of knowing what they meant to him.
Well, it looks like Silver's life has taken a drastic turn from his life of ease. Any ideas on what he'll do about it? Will he go back to his mansion and his business? If he does, how will he change his life? How about some editing ideas?
Silver listened as Sally went through her litany of why their mansion needed a total remodel. Erica Windom told her yesterday how she'd had her home and estate revamped in the latest fashion. The Windoms weren't near as wealthy, so she reasoned, they should at least have their mansion updated. Silver felt his anger heat up. His wife never seemed satisfied, no matter how much she purchased, how many cruises she took. It had to stop.
"Sally, hold on. Listen, we really need to discuss this when I get home. Trying to decide something of this magnitude can't be done over the telephone. I'll be home Thursday, can you wait until then, please?" He felt sick thinking about how shallow his wife sounded, and how he'd never noticed the incredible waste of money they'd spent on keeping up with the neighbors. Shame pushed his anger aside and he gentled his voice.
"I have to go, but I'll see you Thursday. We'll talk it over then. Love you." Silver closed his cell phone.
His words rang hollow, even to himself. How could he have been so blind to the extravagant way they lived, while there were so many people around them who had so little, who had suffered such terrible losses? Coming to Stringville had opened his eyes, and his heart. Silver knew his attitude on life had changed--he thought for the better--but what would his wife, his friends, SLK, Inc.'s board think? A wee bit of nerves twisted his stomach, but he shrugged them off. The emptiness that had frustrated him so much the day he'd left home, felt a little less. Determination filled him. He knew what he had to do, knew it wouldn't be popular, but a sense of peace washed over him even as he contemplated the battle ahead of him.
That evening, Katy Mae set their supper of pot roast with all the fixings on the table and left the kitchen. Even for the short time he'd seen her, Silver knew the young woman's sorrow ate at her. She'd lost weight, her beautiful eyes dulled with her pain, she rarely spoke, and he could hear her terrible weeping deep into the night. Fading before his eyes, he found the thought of her giving up on her life unbearable. For once in his life, Silverius Lincoln Kensy didn't have any answers.
* * * * * * *
"What are you talking about?" Sally yelled, her long, red-lacquered nails digging into the palms of her hands. "Are you crazy? Why do you think you're responsible for that town's demise? You've always said, 'Business is business', so why the sudden attack of conscience. We give to enough charities, you should feel validated, not sniveling over some stupid low-life town that doesn't have sense enough to read the small print."
His wife's fury splotched her face and neck. Silver waited. He knew from long experience, she wasn't finished.
"And furthermore, Silverius Kensy, our status in this community is vital to keeping its high standard. If we allow our property to fall into ruin, what will the neighbors think? Our property value would go down, why, there's so many reasons we need this remodeling. How can you even think of setting that aside for some town you just found? Have you gone mad?" Her green eyes narrowed and she frowned up at him.
"Have you been talking to your sainted brother?" The words dripped with contempt.
"No, honey, I haven't been talking to Peter. You weren't there. You didn't see the misery, the heartbreak all around those people, and yet, for all the times Stringville's folks have been knocked down, they get up again and keep fighting for what they believe in. What do we believe in, Sally? I keep asking myself that. What do we believe in enough to go through hell and still offer a stranger food and lodging--friendship." Silver's voice cracked.
Throwing up her hands, his wife stormed off. He heard her high heels clacking on the marble floor of the foyer as she headed for the stairs leading up to her suite of rooms. Heavy-hearted, he watched her go. He'd loved her--thought he loved her--when they married fifteen years ago. But, did he really know what love was? They'd never had children, and Silver knew that they most likely wouldn't. Children would interfere with their busy lifestyle, pregnancy would ruin her figure she worked so hard to maintain, they were messy: a few of the reasons Sally had given when he'd asked about having a baby. His mind went to Peter.
His brother and his wife had seven children. They struggled to make ends meet, and he'd never asked Silver for anything. Peter worked as a carpenter-custom cabinet maker and he was one of the best. With more offers than he could take, his brother refused to work his evenings and weekends, firmly holding to that as family time. And Peter loved the Lord. Making no apologies, he lived what he believed and never beat anyone over the head with his religion--he didn't have to. His life said it all.
Suddenly, Silver felt tears welling up in his eyes. What in the world was happening to him, he wondered? Never one to shed tears, he found them coming easily this past week. And he longed for his brother. For his steady sureness in his faith and in the love of his family. Picking up his car keys from the hall table, he headed for his car.
What do you think of Silver's life? What's up ahead for him? Any ideas? Feel free to share them and while you're at it, edit the story!
Silver sat quietly, his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. Peter touched his older brother's shoulder and asked, "What is it Silver? What's happened? Is Sue all right?"
He watched as his brother lifted his head and looked into his eyes. Silver's were dark with misery and confusion. What was wrong, he wondered. Everything! It seemed all he'd worked for his entire life amounted to what? A showplace house--not a home. Plenty of money in the bank, along with stocks and bonds. He had the American dream, and Silver realized with sadness, the joy in achieving it had turned to dust in his heart. Everything he'd accomplished, he was grateful for, but what did it all mean? Was he to go through life just buying more, gathering more?
The folks from Stringville came to mind. The suffering of the people living there, and ultimately it was his fault they were hurting--one of his companies had pulled the rug from under the town and Silver knew how it worked. The company wouldn't stop until they got what they wanted regardless of who or what they destroyed to get it. How could he tell Peter all of this?
But, tell him he did. Everything. He kept nothing out, not even his unknowing part in the town's economic downfall. Peter listened and watched his brother's internal struggle. He'd never known him to worry about what his acquisitions did to others. Praying for wisdom, he took Silver's beautifully manicured hand in his work-roughened ones and looked into his brother's face.
"I'm so proud of you, bro. You're right in hurting over what's happening to Stringville. I'll be praying for answers for you as you struggle to do what's right for the town. Sounds like you already have a pretty good idea what you need to do. Courage, Silver. It will take courage to stand up and change what needs to be changed. You won't be popular, you'll probably be ridiculed, but don't give up. You're in charge, you have the means to turn your company's policies around, and do what's in your heart to do." Patting his brother's hand, he let go and sat back in his chair.
"Thanks, Pete," Silver said. "I'm going to make a lot of folks unhappy and I have to say I'm scared. That's a new feeling for me and it's humbling. You're right. It's my responsibility to make the changes. I have the authority, but I want to be understanding toward the harsh feelings that are going to come my way. Compassion isn't something I've spent much time in my career dealing out." Shaking his head in wonder, he continued, "A few eye-opening days sure can mess up a guy's life, eh, little brother?" Ruefully laughing, he stood up and waited for his brother to stand.
"Gotta get back to the house. Sally's pretty upset with me right now, and she needs to be the first one I try to understand and show compassion to. Tomorrow is the board meeting. I don't understand or know your God, but I'm asking you to pray for me that I'll do the right thing and not back down. Maybe, one day, you can tell me more about what you believe? Right now I've got enough thoughts and decisions to chew on. I'll be back, Pete. Thanks for being there for me."
The men walked to the door and, surprising Silver, Peter reached out and gave him a hug.
"You'll do fine, Silver. Your heart is in the right place and you are gaining wisdom. Call or come over anytime. I'll be here or in the workshop."
Saying their good-byes, the brothers parted and Silver walked to his car. Climbing inside, he keyed it into life and headed into his first major battle.
It's been a while since we've heard from Silver. Here's a bit more of his story. Silver sat quietly at the head of the conference table and looked at the men and women in various stages of anger, shock, surprise. Some stared at him in disbelief, others stared at the table, their notepads, their crystal glasses of water. Silence washed like suffocating waves through the room.
"Bill, what do you think of halting the Stringville project until we can go over the figures and see how viable this lodge really is. Nothing has happened so far and it's been two years. I'm wondering why Entertainment Enterprises feels they must purchase the rest of the businesses in town, when in the contracts I've read, they are offering to send lodge business their way. Sounds a bit like double-dealing to me and I'm afraid it sounds that way to the folks of Stringville.
"And while we're at it, their methods of persuasion to get the owners to sell seemed a bit intimidating. Oh, nothing that could be taken to court, but I've had several people tell me the tactics being used on them, and their stories all pretty much agree. How much do you know about this, because, " and here Silver turned the paperwork in front of him around and slid it over to Bob Manse.
"Here is your name signed beneath PRESIDENT of Entertainment Enterprises, LLC."
Silver waited for Bob to look through the papers and respond.
When the man looked up at him, Silver noted the wariness in his eyes, the grim line of his mouth.
"All I can tell you is I know about the lodge project, I helped draft the contracts, but after my initial visit to Stringville, I've not set foot in the town. The team set up to handle this project, they are the ones who have personal contact with the town. I've not seen one complaint or received one negative phone call. This is all news to me, Silver. I'll look into it and get back to you as soon as possible.
"As far as halting the project, returning the properties, and making restitution to the town for lost revenue--that's pretty far fetched. You've been in this acquisition business long enough to know the ropes, I don't need to tell you this idea of returning everything to Stringville is--well--ridiculous."
Silver smiled. "Thanks for your honest opinion, Bob. No, really, I appreciate your candidness. I actually agree with you on most of your points. There are those who've sold Entertainment Enterprises their property who will not want it back. But there are several who do, and I have their names here. The monies paid to them has been put in an account at First Bank of Stringville, and until there is some resolution that both sides can live with, it will remain there. Those folks need that money, Bob, so this is a sacrifice for them. They felt coerced into selling in the first place--some used the word intimidated. I'd like to do a bit more research on EE, LLC and I'm hoping you'll be my guide."
Bob rubbed his chin and stared at the wall across from him. He lifted his glass of ice water, sipped and replaced the glass on it's coaster. Looking up at his boss, he nodded.
"Okay, I'll be free tomorrow afternoon. We can review anything you want to know and go from there. It'll take my staff some time to gather the paperwork on the lodge project, but we'll get it done. I may be president of Entertainment Enterprises, or EE, LLC, as you call it, but in the end, you own it all. We're just a finger of SLK, Inc.'s very large hand."
"Good," replied Silver. "I'm glad to know that I still have final say in all this. I value your input, as always," here he looked around the table at the silent faces staring back at him, "and I'm available to anyone of you who has questions and wishes to speak to me in private. The changes I'm contemplating making to SLK, Inc. are wide sweeping, and perhaps seem extreme, but I think we can work out any issues that arise and have this company going in a more humane direction.
"Thank you all for your input. I'll set up another meeting as soon as I have more concrete information to present. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in a trip to Stringville I plan on visiting there next week. There is a nursing home in dire need of updating, and it will be SLK, Inc.'s top priority until it's up to state regulations. I welcome anyone who is willing to wield a paintbrush, hammer, mop, you name it--it's needed!"
Silver's voice faded, and his board members scooted back from the table and stood, no one saying a word, a few nodding but not looking Silver in the eye. Watching them walk from the boardroom, he realized there were few who approved of changing the status quo of SLK, Inc. Sighing, he lifted his water glass, leaned back in his chair and sipping the icy liquid, he let his thoughts drift back to the little town with it's homey folks who'd captured his heart.
Silver re-read the letter. Tossing it to the top of his desk, he stared out the window at the city rushing about below him. His office muted all but the loudest street noises, and he sat in the near silence digesting the words that had stabbed like a traitor's knife deep into his soul. His wife and his partner were attempting to have him declared incompetent, removed from the board, his controlling interest in SLK, Inc. put in Sally's hands, with Bob as her second in command.
The letter stated that he must appear before the court after a thorough mental and physical examination by court-appointed physicians. Silver rubbed his eyes, weariness settling over him like a wet wool blanket on a hot summer day. He struggled to breathe. His emotions tumbled from anger, to fury, to sadness, back to anger. His own wife, and the man he'd taken in so many years ago and made wealthy through SLK, Inc. were out to destroy him. Peter. He needed to talk to Peter. Pushing back from his desk, Silver walked as though a great weight hindered him, which it did. The weight of betrayal.
Peter listened, his eyes never leaving his older brother's face. Silver finished his story, looked him in the eyes and said, "So, Peter, what do you think? What should I do? Maybe I am incompetent to run the company--at least the way it's been run. I think we can still be profitable without being predatory. I just want to try, but it appears this idea frightens Sally and Bob enough they are willing to destroy me, take everything I've worked for. Yet," Silver hesitated a moment, "yet, I really don't want to go after them. I don't want to win by destroying them. Guess I've lost my edge, eh? Perhaps they're right after all."
Smiling, Peter patted his brother's knee. "Listen, Silver, you are so right in your thinking I'm about to jump up and dance an Irish jig!" That brought a weak smile to Silver's lips. Peter continued, "Take the steps you must take to answer the allegations of incompetence, but go one step further. Have a plan ready. Share a plan with the court on just how you intend to turn the company around, and how you intend to grow it humanely: good for business, good for communities. If I remember, SLK, Inc. hosts the basic charities--just what's necessary to look good." Holding up his hand as Silver began to protest, Peter went on.
"I'm not criticizing you, just laying out the facts. Have a plan ready to show how changing SLK, Inc. will not only prosper the company financially, but will open new jobs, provide funding for--what was it you were telling me about in Stringville--some nursing facility that needed re-vamping, financial backing? Show them, Silver. Give concrete facts on your future plans for your business, offer it in a calm, professional manner, and leave the rest to God. You know, Silver, He's for you, not against you. He wants to build us on a firm foundation, not tear us down."
Silver ran his hands through his hair, rolled the tension from his shoulders and eyed his brother. "Peter, I need to know more about this God you are so enthused about. I want what you have, little brother. I want that peace and contentedness that seems to spread like an aura around you. I want it. How do I get it?"
Tears sprang up in Peter's eyes. "You've taken the first and the biggest step, Silver. You've realized you can't live this life with any true peace and joy without God." He went on to share the gift of salvation with his brother and then the two of them knelt there in the den, where Silver asked Jesus Christ to come into his heart. Afterward, the brothers hugged and went to the kitchen for iced tea and homemade banana bread.
"How long before you have your doctors' appointments?" Peter asked.
"Two weeks," Silver responded, his mouth full. He took a large swallow of tea and smiled happily. "You know, I think I'll take a road trip and go somewhere where I can draw up that business prospectus, little brother. And I know just the place."
Where do you think Silver is going? How would you react to the kind of betrayal he's experiencing from those closest to him?
Silver drove up to the familiar run-down gas station roosting at the intersection of highways on the outskirts of Stringville. To him, it felt like coming home--dust and all!
"Couldn't stay away, eh?" rasped the voice he was waiting for. "Just in time for Katy Mae's meatloaf and mashed tators. If that don't start your mouth to drooling, something's mighty wrong with you, boy."
"Oh, I'm drooling all right," laughed Silver. "You'll see streaks of mud running down my chin any minute now. You going to let me out of my car so we can get washed up?"
Jake chuckled, "Getting a might sassy for a fella that's about to go broke, ain't you?" He grinned at Silver's surprised expression. "I might sound like I was born in a barn, but I can read, Silver, and you are all over the newspapers." His voice went soft and serious, "I'm sorry for your troubles on account of Stringville, Silver, but I'm proud of you for what you're trying to do for us."
Silver waved the words away, embarrassed, "Enough already! Let's go eat and then we'll talk." Slapping dust from his shirt and jeans, he drawled, "Before I go broke, I'm fixing to get this parking lot paved!" Laughing, the two men headed toward the side door to wash up.