The Millionaire Next Door
Copyright© 2007 by Lazlo Zalezac
Granny Parker opened her eyes feeling like she had been hit by a truck. She had gone to sleep while the doctor was discussing putting something in her chest to open up her arteries. She remembered them saying something about her going to surgery later. She looked at the face watching her and said, "I must have died and gone to hell."
"Nope. It's me, Granny Parker," Ernie said with a smile.
"What are you doing here?" she asked staring at him. He was absolutely the last person that she expected to see at the hospital.
Shrugging his shoulders, Ernie answered, "I wanted to see how you were doing. I can't have my best critic croak on me."
"What time is it?" she asked.
"Eleven thirty in the morning. You've slept a lot since they brought you in. At least that is what I heard," Ernie said looking at her.
"Seriously, what are you doing here?" Granny Parker asked.
"I'm worried about you," Ernie said. Tears welled up in his eyes as he said, "We almost lost you. Mr. Parker saved your life."
Seeing the tears in his eyes, Granny Parker said, "You're serious."
"Yes, ma'am," Ernie said, "I know that you don't really like me, but you're honest with me. I realized I needed that in my life. I need you. I don't want you to die."
"Thank you, Ernie," Granny Parker said feeling a little choked up. She had no idea that he had felt that way about her. She managed a weak smile and said, "I don't want to die."
Ernie sniffed and rubbed his nose. He said, "There are a lot of kids back at the pizzeria that are worried about you. Is there anything you want me to tell them?"
"Tell them that I'll be okay," she said.
Nodding his head, he asked, "Are you really going to be okay?"
"You never know," she answered deciding to tell the truth.
"I know what you mean. Nothing in life is certain," Ernie said. He sat there for a minute watching her and said, "I met your son. He's a nice man."
"Mr. Parker," Ernie answered realizing that didn't tell her anything.
"You've got to learn to pay attention to those little details, Ernie. How are you ever going to know people if you don't take the time to learn who they are?" she asked gently.
"Yes, ma'am," Ernie said with a smile. He said, "Your son said he flew in from Nashville."
"Ah, that would be Joe," she said. It was nice to know that he had made the trip to see her. She wondered if he brought the wife and kids with him. It would be nice to see her grandsons again.
"Well, I better go. I don't want to tire you out, Granny Parker," Ernie said. It was hard looking at that feisty woman hooked up with tubes coming out of her arms. The plastic oxygen feed under her nose looked uncomfortable.
"Okay, Ernie," she said.
"I'll tell Mr. Joe Parker that you're awake. He was off looking for someone to tell him about your condition," Ernie said.
"Thank you, Ernie."
Downstairs in the same hospital another woman was dealing with her doctor. Nervous, she listened as the doctor said, "There's a lump in your left breast."
Hearing the words that no woman ever wants to hear, the room started spinning. She took a deep breath and, through will alone, forced the room to stop. Feeling sick to her stomach, she asked, "Is it ... cancer?"
"I don't know. We'll know more after a biopsy," the doctor answered.
She sat there for a few seconds staring at the floor. The room kept tilting from one side to the other. She said, "I think that I'm going to be sick."
She realized that she was about to lose the fight to keep her food down. She stood up and rushed out of the room in search of a toilet. Feeling a little off balance, she careened off the wall. She found a bathroom just in time. It didn't matter to her that it was the men's room.
After looking at the numbers that Dan had brought in, Mr. Harrison looked across the desk at Dan and asked, "What are you going to do with your profits?"
"I'm not sure," Dan answered. He had been a little surprised when he had looked at the business numbers at the end of the month. He had passed the twenty thousand dollars a month sales level and sales were still increasing.
"You can give them away to the government," Mr. Harrison said with a smile.
"I'd rather not," Dan said with a smile. He knew what Mr. Harrison was going to suggest that he could do with the money.
"You can give yourself another raise," Mr. Harrison suggested.
"I was thinking about giving myself a nice little bonus," Dan said.
Nodding his head, Mr. Harrison said, "You should definitely give yourself a nice big bonus before your business year ends. The difference in tax rate between what your business will have to pay and you will have to pay is pretty significant. A bonus will let you keep as much of your money as possible."
"My CPA suggested the same thing," Dan said glad to hear the advice echoed by another person.
Mr. Harrison said, "Let's assume that your sales figures level off at a thousand a month more than what they are currently running. I figure that over the next year that will bring you somewhere between fifty and sixty thousand a year in profit. What are you going to do with that money?"
"You've already suggested that I open another pizzeria," Dan said casually.
"Or two," Mr. Harrison said watching Dan's expression of disbelief at the suggestion of opening two more pizzerias.
"I couldn't handle two," Dan said with a frown. He would still have to get a loan to cover the build out of another pizzeria. They would have to be in different parts of town so that they didn't steal business from each other.
"You're probably right if you run the business the way you've been doing it," Mr. Harrison said.
"I'd have to train three people to be managers," Dan said.
"That's true. You'd also need to set up your bookkeeping a little differently," Mr. Harrison said.
"What do you mean?" Dan asked. Keeping track of the accounts and paperwork was already consuming a major portion of his time.
"Well, you'd need to set up a set a pair of operational books for each individual pizzeria and then a set of books for the overall business," Mr. Harrison answered. He was pretty sure that Dan already understood that. Dan had taken the accounting course from his wife.
Dan wondered who he could find that would help him. It didn't take long for him to think about Terry. He said, "I'll look into the matter. Would Professor Harrison be interested in looking over what I come up with?"
"I'm sure that she'd love to see what you are doing."
"Great," Dan said. If he was going to do this, then he needed to start planning. It had taken him two years to put together the first pizzeria. There was no sense in rushing into the second one.
"Who are you?" Granny Parker asked the bright eyed young woman who had entered her room. She was dressed in clothes that screamed hospital employee, but it wasn't the same as what the nurses wore.
"Are you here to take some blood or something?"
"No. I work here at the hospital over in respiratory, but that's not the reason I'm here. Dan wanted me to check up on you and let him know how you're doing," Sally answered going over to the bed.
Sally said, "I'm his girlfriend."
Granny Parker frowned on hearing that. She didn't know what to say. Ann had been introduced to her as Dan's girlfriend and Alison had made the same claim. She finally managed to croak, "That's nice."
Sally laughed at the expression on the old woman's face and said, "You're wondering if I know about Ann and Alison."
"Yes," Granny Parker admitted.
"All four of us live together," Sally said, "There aren't any secrets there."
"So he has three girlfriends?"
Fluffing the pillow, Sally said, "We prefer to say that the three of us have got one boyfriend."
"That's interesting," Granny Parker said not quite sure what to think of the matter.
"You know Dan. What young woman could possibly resist his charms?" Sally asked with a smile.
"Very few," Granny Parker admitted. She could think of only one and that was her granddaughter.
Dan gestured to the seat across the table and said, "Have a seat, Kevin."
"Sure," Kevin said sitting down. He looked across the table at Dan and wondered why he was so serious. Concerned, he asked, "Is there anything the matter?"
"No," Dan answered with a smile, "How is your leg doing?"
"Fine," Kevin answered.
"Are there any health problems looming on the horizon?" Dan asked.
Wondering why Dan was so interested in his health, Kevin answered, "No. Why do you want to know?"
"Would you be interested in becoming the assistant manager of this pizzeria?" Dan asked.
Kevin nodded his head and answered, "Sure. That would be great."
"This afternoon I'll start training you on your new responsibilities," Dan said. It was hard to believe how unsure he was about this decision. It was hard giving up control over the business, but he had become convinced that it was necessary. He had come to the conclusion that Mr. Harrison was right. If he didn't start delegating the day to day operations of the pizzeria he wouldn't be in a position to open another one.
"Excellent," Kevin said thinking that what he had initially considered a job of desperation had turned into something more than that. It had suddenly become a career. He was silent for a moment and then asked, "Is there is raise?"
"Yes, there's a raise," Dan answered with a grin. He looked down at the table and said, "I've been thinking that in a year's time I'll open another pizzeria. I'm going to have to train you to be an assistant manager. If it works out, I'll promote you to manager in time to prepare you to run the new store."
"Great," Kevin said. He looked at Dan thinking that he hadn't seen that much of a future cooking pizzas when he had first entered the pizzeria. He had been searching for a way to make a living until his medical problems had cleared up a bit.
At a loss for what to do next, Dan said, "I've never trained anyone to manage something. I guess we ought to start with all of the lists that I've compiled since I opened the pizzeria."
Having seen all of the lists that Dan used, Kevin realized that he was in for some work. Nodding his head, he said, "That sounds like a reasonable place to start."
Dan held up the first list and said, "This is my master list that covers the basic operations of the pizzeria. You'll notice that the first item on the list is the check list for opening in the store. You're going to want to make sure that everything on that list has been done in the morning."
"Uh, how many lists are we going to cover?" Kevin asked.
"A couple dozen," Dan answered shuffling through the folder that held the lists he had compiled for everything from opening the door of the store to getting the papers to the tax preparer.
"Would you like me to get us some root beers before we start on them?" Kevin asked. He was going to get something for the headache that was threatening to descend upon him.
"That's a good idea," Dan said shuffling through the papers. There was a lot of stuff to cover.
Having seen him enter the room, Granny Parker watched Dan make his way to her bedside. They had operated on her the previous evening and her she was feeling very weak. When he was close enough to hear her, she said, "Yes."
"How are you feeling?" Dan asked looking down at her. She looked very old and frail lying in the hospital bed.
"Much better," Granny Parker answered pleased to have a chance to actually talk to him. It seemed that every time she had taken a nap, Dan had chosen that time to visit. She'd heard about him stopping by from her sons, but he had always left before she woke up. It bothered her a bit that no one would wake her so that she could talk to him and thank him for saving her life.
"That's good," Dan said. Looking around the hospital room, he noticed that there were flowers, stuffed animals, and cards wishing her well. They contrasted with the stark sterility of the rest of the room. Winking at her, he said, "This doesn't look to be too bad of a place to rest up for a while. Of course, my friend Tom would probably hate it here. Any place where you can't get root beer is hell as far as he's concerned."
Granny Parker laughed at the comment. She said, "That's as lame of a definition of hell as any that I've heard."
"I'll admit that Tom's view of the world is a little simplistic at times," Dan said with a grin.
She looked at him for a second and then said, "I heard that you saved my life."
"I don't know about that. The paramedics restarted your heart," Dan said shrugging his shoulders.
Recognizing that he wasn't going to take credit for his actions, she said, "Ernie was quite positive that you saved me."
"He was quite upset when you collapsed," Dan replied changing the topic of the conversation over to Ernie.
"That boy really surprised me," Granny Parker said looking over at the bouquet of flowers that Ernie had brought her. He dropped by before and after work to check up on her. She said, "Did you know that he's been by here every day?"
"I kind of suspected that," Dan said. Ernie had suddenly taken a lot more interest in the people around him. He listened more than he talked. He helped when there was any opportunity. It was an amazing transformation from the sullen young man who didn't care about anyone or anything.
"I didn't know he cared," Granny Parker said. She thought that after living such a long life that she understood people. This was the first time in years that anyone had ever surprised her like that.
"Maybe you should talk to him about that," Dan said.
Startled by the suggestion, Granny Parker looked at him and asked, "Why do you say that?"
"It just seems to me like he listens to everything you say to him. The more critical you are of him, the more he listens. I think that he wants to be a better person and feels that you are the only one who tells him what he's doing wrong," Dan said.