A Moment in Time

by Barneyr

Tags: Ma/Fa, Fiction, Slow,

Desc: Flash Story: Steve is dropped into a mess and has to try to make sense of the new life he has thrust upon him. Can a man who is an uneducated laborer make it in the big world of the construction business?

As I sit here on this bar stool in the Dew Drop Inn, I come to realize that my life has become a bad country song. I'm trying to drown my sorrows in beer and doing my damndest to forget the hell that my life has turned into. My name is Steven Cooper, and I have a real problem that I just can't seem to fix.

Why you ask; it all came about because of a woman. Not like you think, she didn't cheat on me like you would think. The woman was not my wife, but my boss. I work construction and my boss; Cal died of a heart attack a year ago. I had worked for Jase and Cal Hoover for almost 20 years and was now a construction supervisor. My next step would be inside working at a desk, but that is something I really didn't cotton to. I loved the outdoors, and I knew that as soon as I went inside I would not be getting the exercise that I did now. At six foot two, two-forty-five and at forty-two years of age, I could just see what I would be like in a couple of years. Exactly like Cal, I would have put on forty or fifty pounds and would be a heart attack waiting to happen.

That is not something I want to happen to my family. Cal was only five years older than I, and I could be sure to see my future, if I left working with my hands and had to sit on my ass all day. Cal was where I was five years ago as the construction supervisor when he took over from Jase Hoover, his dad.

Jase retired to south Texas at first and then moved to a villa on the West Coast of Mexico overlooking the Gulf of California. The place was on a high hill north and west of Gayamas. He swore he would not come back to run Hoover Construction. That needed a younger man, like me.

I refused and therefore, Gloria Hoover, Jase's daughter, took over. Actually, her married name is Gloria Allred, but in the business, she uses Hoover. She has run the office since before Jase retired; so as far as knowing what to do and how, she was very capable.

Things were fine for the first couple of years, but I guess Gloria got lonely and overwhelmed with the workload, so she started shoving more of her workload on to me. It started out with just two days a week when I had to go into the office and do paperwork. Next, after six months, it was three days a week and subsequently four days a week a couple of months later.

I had a good site foreman, David Chase, but he was just not quite ready to take over for me. He was still a young kid to me, even though he was thirty-five. He worked his way up from a day laborer to site foreman in the last seventeen years. He had no college degree, just like me, but he was working on that and had two years under his belt so far. However, he was at the point that he would now be getting all the tools he needed to be able to take over my job, once he finished. Even so, with me gone so much, he had to pick up more of my load on the sites. When he was gone from one site to go to another, things kind of got dropped by the wayside. Things like his education, things forgotten and sometimes some sloppy work. I told Gloria that she had to hire someone to come in and do what I had been doing in the office or hire a new construction supervisor. I couldn't do both jobs and still have quality work be done either in the office or on the sites.

Gloria said that she would take that under advisement, and for me to get back to work. That was on Tuesday morning. By Friday, I was by myself in the office and no Gloria. I called her home and got no answer. I called her husband Stuart, and he hadn't seen her since Wednesday evening. He figured that she was working late and going in early. Gloria had come in for a while on Thursday, but I had to leave to take care of a problem on a second building site and didn't get back to the office until after six in the evening. The place was locked up tight, and no one was there. I figured that Gloria had gone home, and since it was after six, the rest of the staff had gone home too.

This is where we come to my sitting in the Dew Drop Inn, trying to drown my sorrows. My wife is pissed at me, my kids I never see, and I'm working my ass off and I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm trying to do two jobs and I go to work at six in the morning, and by the time I finish up all the paperwork, it's nearly nine at night. I can't sleep for shit with all the worrying over the payroll, the purchasing and getting the buildings done right; my mind is mush.

Then two months after Gloria left comes the next bomb, just when I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel; I find out it's the damn train speeding my way. I lumbered into the office on a Monday morning and found a voice mail on my phone.

"Steve, I've had enough. My lawyer should contact you sometime on Monday and go over everything. I made you a full partner in the company with a majority percentage of the company so you can run it just like it should. I will get my part of the profit in a monthly stipend. I'm really sorry about dropping this on you, but I had to leave or go crazy and do something really rash. I know that the company is in good hands now."

That was it; I was currently the majority owner of Hoover Construction Company. Great, now I could look forward to about another three to five years or less, and then death by heart attack.

First thing I did was call the company lawyer, Dennis Feinstein. He confirmed that I essentially owned the company and was CEO and COO of Hoover Construction. Once that sunk in, I sat in my chair and just vegged out for about half an hour until Britney Foster, my secretary came in and asked if I was okay.

She found me slumped over my desk on my folded arms and appeared to have had a heart attack, just like Cal. She was a fairly new secretary for Cal when she came in one morning and found Cal slumped over this very desk. At first, she screamed and panicked and when I rose up, she almost fainted. She did drop into one of my conference chairs by the door.

"For God's sake Steve, don't ever do that again. Once was enough, if you do that once more, I will quit so fast you won't even know I'm gone until the door slams in your face. Now what has you in that mood this morning?"

I looked into her eyes and said, "I'm the new owner and boss."

I guess the way I said that it was like someone issuing a death sentence. She stared at me for a few seconds and then said, "So that means I'm promoted to the executive secretary for the new boss, right? So, does that come with a good raise?" Her voice was full of glee as she said that.

"I guess so, but I wouldn't count on that. I need you to get me Charlie Goodall on the phone. Maybe he can recommend someone for this job, and I can go back to work in the field."

Charlie owned Goodall Construction and was a good friend. He could possibly help me find either a decent replacement for me in the field or perhaps someone to run the company, so I could go back outdoors where I wanted to be.

"Line one Steve," came from my phone and faintly from the open door to my office.

"Hiya Charlie, how's tricks in the big building business?"

"Steve, you old horse's rear, I heard some of what you need from my secretary. I guess yours talked to mine to see about me helping you out."

"That's right Charlie. I find myself in a fix. I'm now the majority owner of Hoover, and I really am in over my head. I would like to find someone to take over here in the office for me, so I can go back out to the field where I can do the most good."

"Now Steve, how can you say that. I thought that you were perfect for the inside man."

"Charlie, how can you say that with a straight face, you remember what happened to Cal. Well, I can just see that happening to me in a few years. I don't even want to think about that prospect."

"Steve, please settle down. For one thing, you aren't Cal. You are a lot more level-headed and, I'm sure that you would understand how important exercise and discipline are to your continued good health. Cal was never one to exercise after he took over for his dad. He really should have given that job to you to begin with. Cal was the brawn and you were the brain of that duo. Jase should have known that, as I told him enough times, but he wanted the company to stay in the family. So he got what I expected."

"What are you talking about Charlie? Me being the brains, hell, I'm more brawn that Cal, and he had the college education to go along with it. Me, I just rose up through the ranks from a gofer in high school to the construction supervisor when Cal went into the office. I can't run a company. I don't have the education for it."

"Nonsense, Steve: you are more qualified than just about anyone I know. You know that business inside and out. Sure you might need some help with some of the heavy engineering, but that's why you have engineers and architects to do that part. But, as far as knowing the ins and out of construction, you are the best Steve."

Charlie then quizzed me on a few things, and I rattled off the answers right off the top of my head. I didn't think about the question; I just answered. When he finished, he said, "See what I mean Steve, you know that business inside and out. There really is no one better qualified than you to run that business.

"Now what you need is a clone of you to work the field. I have just the person in mind. They're a little younger than you but have the education and the experience to be building supervisor for your people. I want to send someone over to you later this afternoon. You can interview them, and you can see what I mean. However, until then, just chill out Steve, you'll get through this and come out the other end much better than you are now."

"Okay Charlie, I'll chill for a while, but this guy better be someone special."

"Believe me Steve, They're special alright. Talk to you later, Steve."

By now, the rest of the staff had come in, and I decided to call a meeting and let everyone know what happened to the company. We had our own accounting department, well three people, one CPA and two accounting clerks, one for payroll and one for everything else. Then purchasing was two people. Overall we had twenty people in the office, counting me and Britney, to take care of everything. We had five engineers but no architect. We depended on the architects to provide us with the overall building concept, and it was up to us to make the concept a reality. We did everything from strip malls to high-rise office apartment buildings. We were a small company compared to Goodall, but larger than most others. We normally didn't have more than three projects going on at once. Right now, we only have two, but another one should start in a couple of weeks, and then one of our projects would finish up next month.

At the meeting, I got a lot of congratulations and a few condolences, but overall it went well. I had no longer sat down at my desk when David came in and said, "I have some paperwork for you to sign Steve. Once we have this done then you are officially the new majority owner of Hoover Construction LP."

"I keep hearing majority owner, what does that mean, as well as the LP, David."

"Well the way it works out, you are currently the general partner and at the moment owner of forty percent of the company and get forty percent of the profits. Jason, Gloria, and Henrietta each is limited partners and can't tell you how to run the company, but they have a twenty percent interest in the company and get twenty percent of the profits and are not legally responsible for any debts incurred by the company. As general partner and chief of operations, you are in the unenviable spot that you are liable for one hundred percent of all losses. I know this sounds like you are stuck in a bad position. However, you have the ability to do anything you want with the company. I mean you can sell it, drive it into the ground, and bankrupt the company and yourself. Even so, you also can turn this around and make it a bigger business, and your profits go up. You can even buy out the other partners and become a sole owner. So there are really a lot of options as far as what you can do.

"You could even run the company for a few years and then sell out to Goodall or even Schuster and Schuster up in Dallas. That way, you could retire and relax for a while, travel, or just stay home with your wife and kids. It's all up to you now."

"Now that retiring thing doesn't sound half bad; however, that hundred percent liability would put a real crimp in my brain, if that were to happen. I mean I could lose everything I have now and be in debt up past my ears, right?"

"That would only happen if you were to run this company into the ground. I for one know you are way too smart to let that happen. So just forget about that part and concentrate on growing the business so you make it attractive to bigger organizations so that when you are ready to retire you can leave with a clear conscience."

"Yeah, but in the meantime I am swamped with doing my job, Gloria's job, and everything else."

"Not to worry Steve, you can handle it. If your partners didn't think that you could, do you think they would have saddled you with the job? Certainly not Jason; he might be old but he is one crafty SOB, and he would come up here and run this place if he didn't think you could do the job. Now I have to get back to my job so you can do yours. See ya Steve."

And David left me sitting there not knowing what to do next.


I had Britney send out for something for lunch and about two, I was buzzed and told that my two o'clock appointment was here.

"What two o'clock appointment? I don't have anyone on my calendar."

"Yes you do; Charles Goodall made the appointment for you, remember he was sending someone over?"

"Okay, send the guy in, maybe he can help me with this mess I'm in."

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Fiction / Slow /