The following is fiction and not to be taken seriously. It has no graphic sex but a very adult theme. You have JMC, who wrote and volunteered, to thank that most if not all the grammatical mistakes have been fixed. Please write and tell me what you think. Good and bad, I love to hear from the readers. As to the voting, I don't pay any attention.
The bridge was neither long nor wide. A simple wooden structure spanning the narrow but deep gap between the disappointments of the past and the uncertain future. To introduce myself, I am Lyle Jedermann, now thirty-eight years of age. A man formerly distinguished from other men only as the husband of Gloria, thirty-six, and the father of Robert, age twelve, and Anna, age eight. A very satisfying family situation but having a weighty set of obligations. To meet my obligations as a husband and father, I had been working for Countryman Real Estate for five years before Gabriel Zilo purchased the company from Bernie Schleifer.
Real estate was not my original career, or even my preferred choice. I began my working life after graduating from Law School. I was by then married to Gloria for three years. She was pregnant as I exited Law School. It was not a very promising job market for young lawyers, but Gloria's pregnancy gave me a strong incentive to find a job capable of supporting a family.
My first job offered was working for a law firm that specialized in representing banks in closing residential home loans. It wasn't the job I had dreamed of but it was a job. While I was at Law School, Gloria had slaved away as a bank teller to support us both. She had earned enough to pay the rent and put food on our table. I worked a few part time hours doing whatever I could get, to supplement her income. Loans and scholarships paid my tuition. But I had indentured my future to the Department of Education. With Gloria decidedly pregnant at my law school graduation, I took the job that was offered. It was but the first of many concessions to the strict requirements of married life.
Back in those ancient days, banks lent money to individual home buyers to purchase houses. Looking back, it was a gentleman lawyer trade. I sat at a house closing table to represent a lending bank on the closing of a mortgage. The buyer paid the bank a fee of around $500.00 for my services. The law firm received that amount plus another $500 from the title insurance company. All told a nice thousand dollars earned every time we shook hands at the end of a home closing. The firm, of course, received the money and I got a minuscule proportion of it as salary.
I guess all good things must end and honest avarice must be replaced by the bad and the purely greedy. All too soon after my wife, Gloria gave birth to our second child, the little banks were swallowed by the large banks who were in turn consumed by the big banks. Retail loans became a thing of the past. Banking became a wholesale trade. Everything was scaled up to an industrial level. I came to work every morning to find a stack of files for home loans that were to be closed that day.
I assume the profits were enormous but running between rooms where simultaneous house closings were taking place left me with a disturbing feeling that things could not continue at such a rate. Seven years into my legal career I had advanced, not to a partnership, but to the eminent status of a private contractor. I earned my income on a piecework basis. At $75 per closing I earned a good income, when you consider I closed seven or eight loans a day, five and sometimes six days a week. But could this last? I had this nagging feeling of impending doom.
Bernard Schleifer approached me. Bernie, as he preferred to be called, was looking for what he termed a smart kid with a law degree to join his company. His principle contract closer was retiring to the Sunbelt just when Bernie was looking to expand.
Bernie's Company, Countryman Real Estate, held the deeds to the Scarlet woods development. This development was a hundred approved sites, with a site plan proposing four hundred more. It was two miles from the Tech Park with the International Foundries chip plant. Two thousand high tech jobs were on the drawing board and Bernie was ready.
Schleifer was a builder/developer. He was not a salesman or a financier for the small scale. If you needed to raise a couple million by selling a banker your development dream, then Bernie was your man. But he could not sell a housewife on adding real stone counter tops or her husband on a variable rate mortgage.
Oddly when Bernie and I got together it was a perfect fit. I loved the home sales, and I was a details man. It was all those paper shuffling closings. I had also learned the value of profit centers from my former employers. I sold Bernie on the value of owning his own title company, home insurance agency, movers, gardeners, and you just name it. We quickly became a full services agency with a single purpose. Our function was to sell more homes and to get everything we could from all that goes with them.
Bernie started building and doing it in a big fast way. I ran the office and everything else. Bernie did the big deals and I the small. He made the big money and I was his well-paid employee. He saw the crash coming. Bear Stearns was the tip of an iceberg. Lehman Brothers Investment Bank was the ship that actually struck the iceberg.
The day the roof caved in Bernie was smiling. "What goes up must come down, but real estate will always go up again. If we can survive this in reasonable shape, we'll be set for a great expansion."
Bernie bet the market would come back. I buckled down and squeezed out every nickel which he then invested in a bigger, better Countryman Real Estate. Bernie had only one problem with this - he was a big fish in a small pond, and he wanted to go swim in the ocean.
One evening over an after work drink he delivered the news.
"I've sold out," he said.
"Take it easy. The new owner will make no changes. At least not right away."
Bernie was right again. When I met Gabe Zilo, my first impression was of his youth. He was not yet thirty and had managed to buy Bernie out. He had both height and youth on me, and he was a handsome blond Adonis. The very image of a boy wonder business superstar. I guess I should have been jealous of the younger man but he was too charming and affable to resent. He was also great to work for.
Bernie was a man in his late fifties. He was ambitious but he was essentially cautious. In contrast, Gabe loved putting it all out there. Everything on the line, all the time. It was apparent from the beginning that his deal to buy Countryman Real Estate had stretched Gabe's resources. Gabe was more finance than a builder, more manager than a salesman. He loved the quick buck and, as the real estate market came back, his gamble on Countryman was clearly paying a dividend.
Bernie was taking off for Florida, the big casino of the real estate game. I wished him luck on the night before he left.
"Come with me kid," he said.
"No, because I'm no kid anymore. I have a wife and two pre-teens to support," I said.
"Ok, but some day you may live to regret it."
I hoped not, but I did check the job market. What was left of my old firm was not much. Steven Pender, one of the younger partners, had managed to hold on through the crash. He was happy to hear from me, but he was paying a third of what I now made. So I put my nose to the wheel to make sure that Countryman stayed afloat. But all in all, I was happy working for Gabe, as we called him. He treated me well and let me pretty much run the day to day of the office. Did I have my doubts about him? Yes, but the only grievance I had with my boss was minor.
Bernie's never sprang for a formal company Christmas party. Gabe went to the opposite extreme. He hired one of the plusher Saratoga resort venues. Admittedly in their offseason, but still at considerable expense. The ensuing party on the first Saturday night in December was for the staff, the contractors, bankers, and realtors. It was a big plush party, and one heavily attended.
Gabe presided over it like a King. Well, it was his money and maybe there was a legitimate business purpose to all of it. My grievance came about midnight but had been building all night. You see I had arrived with the hottest woman in the place on my arm.
I married Gloria straight out of college. We were both barely twenty-two. She worked at a meaningless job to support us all while I was in Law School. I will be eternally grateful for that, but she sprang the pregnancy on me. Going off the pill as, I studied for the bar exam. The pregnancy may have been for the best in the long run. We were good parents and we still are.
As I struggled closing houses, Gloria raised our toddlers and went nights to get her Ph.D., in child psychology. When our youngest child went back to school, Gloria went back to work. She found a job with the State DSS. She also began what I now refer to as her running career.
Gloria was what might be called plump. She was only fat if you compared her to some starving runway model. But at thirty, she went from two days a week swimming at the YWCA pool and running only after our kids to the loneliness of the long distance runner.
Each morning my wife rose early to do five miles cross country. Each evening she would do a half hour of sprints. She has the best times of any of the local women runners. Only the national competitors beat her times in the local 5K and 10K races. She has been three times to the New York City Marathon finishing in the top one hundred women.
.... There is more of this story ...