Sometimes I wonder how he could even be my son. Stu, god I hate that name and although I'm happy to be rid of his mother who insisted on naming him, every day I am reminded of the silly cow and the years of frustration and water treading I wasted with her. I am alone now, happily single and thriving, thank you very much.
I own my own business, nothing large, mind you, but I employ several workers and sales people, to get my little invention onto the store shelves of hardware stores nationwide. After divorcing Stu's mother, settling up costs and distributions, I scrimped and saved and then put my business plan into action. Ruthless? Cold? I would like to think of myself as prudent. I of course had come up with the idea while I was married, but Ingrid, my wife at the time, and Stu's mother as well, had smashed my dreams of climbing the financial ladder immediately. Apparently my hard earned money had to go towards the household and Stu's tuition, far be it for him to go to public school like his old man.
So I waited, developed my plan in my own rare free time. I had everything thought out and anticipated, so that when the time was right, I could strike with my plan and get the loan, get production up and running and also get the patent and contracts.
It was tough for the first couple of years. I lived in a studio apartment in the rough part of town. Hell I was even mugged a few times, until word was spread that I didn't have much to steal. And what of Ingrid? My Scandinavian she-demon, continued to pressure me for money for alimony, and tuition for poor baby Stu, who was now attending a very expensive college.
All that money spent on them and yet I was still able to rise from the ashes of my former life and actually move out of the neighborhood of despair and into a decent home.
My business grew by leaps and bounds as I hired on people to help and sell my product. My product was a simple device really. It replaced a faulty design in plumbing fixtures. Turns out, the fixtures would break down and leakage would occur until the entire unit needed to be replaced. My little stop-gap fixed the faulty fixtures. The day I secured the deal to have one of the largest manufacturers to implement my little device in all their models, was a banner day. Sales and profits exploded a thousand fold and my business grew again to keep up with the demand.
I had hoped that Stu, now known by everyone but me as Stuart, would have shown some interest in coming to work for me and learn the family business, but much to my chagrin, the little toad studied art in school. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars in tuition and my son chose to get a useless profession. Hell he could have gone to State instead!
One good thing came from that one hundred and fifty thousand dollar investment. Maybe the best investment I ever made: Donna. Stu met Donna at college and the two of them, after graduation got married.
Donna was slim, small and classy. Her parents knew the value of a dollar and had sacrificed to send her to a good college to get an education she could "fall-back on". Why fall back? Because they really sent her to meet a man.
Not just any man, but the future captain of industry type that would normally be sent to such an expensive school like the one the attended. The joke was on them though as Stu was shocked to discover that there was no job awaiting him after college. There just didn't seem to be a market for Fine Arts majors in the real world.
I offered Stu a position in my company, working the factory floor, so that he could get a full comprehensive understanding of the business. He was my son after all. He sniffled and refused. I was disappointed, but not surprised. He felt it beneath him and questioned me on why I didn't make him VP. It was high time for Stu, who had everything handed to him, to learn how the real world worked. If he wanted to starve, so be it.
It was two months later when Donna came to my house alone. Dressed in threadbare clothes, her sweater barely kept her warm, and I noticed that her dress had been mended a few times. I ushered her to the den where the fire was lit and soon she and I sat together sipping some warm tea.
Donna looked tired and a bit drawn. Her face betrayed the first signs of worry lines that a person her age should not have. She was a pretty thing, brunette hair that contrasted to Stu's and his mother's golden locks. She had always had a very gentle face to go along with the inherited charm and grace that flowed through her body. Stu was lucky to have married her, I wondered to myself.
"Mr. Swift," she began.
"Donna, you know you can call me Jason," I interrupted. "Or Dad..."
"Jason ... Dad ... Mr. Swift ... I need your help."
I leaned forward as Donna began in a whisper. This was very hard for her.
"I know that Stuart turned you down for a job in the factory ... but I was wondering if maybe there was a position for me instead?"
I was surprised for a moment. But this was Donna, not my brood.
"Donna, this is sudden. I thought that Stu and you decided that my business was of no interest to you?"
Donna choked down a sob.
"Dad ... I only found out after Stuart refused your offer. I ... we've had some very intense discussions about it."
"I thought that Stu was not interested in you working, didn't he want you to stay at home?"
She nodded. "Dad, things have been hard for us. I'm afraid Stuart is not able to find a job and the bills keep piling up. If we miss another rent payment, we'll be thrown out onto the streets."
She broke down and cried now. I held her while she tried to put herself together. I felt her bones point through her back. She had not been eating as well. Quietly I cursed my son. Such a pig-headed stubborn fool; just like his mother. Poor Donna had chosen wrong and now was living to regret her decision.
I liked Donna. She was always kind to me, and tried to mend the fences between her husband and me. The two of us were just too different, so son and father never really had any common ground to bond with. Donna kept trying and forced herself and Stu into my life, whether I liked it or not.
Stu had burned his bridge with me, but poor Donna was stuck in the middle. If not for all her effort and kindness, I would have wished her luck and sent her on her way, back to the cold ratty apartment she and her husband shared. Seeing her like this, my heart wept for her.
"Donna," I pulled her out of my chest and she tried to stifle the sniffles. I handed her a box of tissue and she blew her nose and wiped her eyes.
"Donna, I've been thinking for a while now that the business is getting to be a little too much for me to oversee by myself. I think I need to find myself a good personal assistant. One that I could trust of course, and one that could look out for me and my best interests."
I smiled at her and lifted her chin to face me, like a father would to his child.
"Might you be interested?"
She smiled back, sniffled and then nodded. "Yes, Dad, yes!" She hugged me, and I held her for quite sometime. I smelled her hair. It was sweet, like honey.
I drove her home, she had taken a bus, and in this weather with her light sweater, she would have caught cold. As I parked in front of her building, I pulled out my wallet, and handed her my AMEX card. She looked at me in confusion.
"Money's a little too tempting for Stu. This card is for you to go tomorrow to the stores and for you to get a business wardrobe together. You represent me now, and I need you to look professional, not like your clothes came from Goodwill."
The look on her face told me that indeed her clothes had come from Goodwill.
She kissed me on the cheek and opened the door to leave. A blast of cold air came in and we both shivered.
"Donna, make sure your first purchase is a good coat."
She turned to look at me and mouthed to the words: Thank you, to me, unsure of her voice, and then hurried into the apartment.
I never received a thank you from Stu. I heard nothing from him and suspected that he was angry with Donna for overstepping his bounds and asking me for assistance. Donna showed up bright and early two days later, ready for work. Gone were the used dresses and in their place was a smart looking young woman in a tight business suit. It was a little awkward at first as I didn't really have a spot for her. She wound up sharing my office as I cleared away a small desk and had a phone line installed for her to use.
The first week we toured the entire business, as I showed her everything. She soaked it up with keen interest and I must admit that I was proud to finally be showing someone in my family my success. No one else had shown any interest, and I realized that I was starved for attention. Donna seemed proud of me and what I had accomplished. Her family was poor but they were honest hard working people and she had learned to appreciate success in small measures.
By the second week, Donna had entrenched herself quite formidably into the business. Her degree had been in accounting, a useful "fall-back" and she had already started to identify areas that needed improvement. First off was the filing system of which she and I spent the weekend while everyone else was off, reorganizing the entire system. Files were strewn about the entire floor as she and I were on hands and knees crawling over all the files.
.... There is more of this story ...