Teaser 303: Some Things Never Get Out of Hand

Ranjit was his usual blustery self and a true joy to work with when it came to renovating the apartments. We had a crew of six working full-time and once the renovations were complete we intended to add solar panels and structures built to accommodate wind turbines on the roof, completely enclosed as we had done at Hotel Shanti. Little ones couldn't slip their fingers in there, thus having them severed, and birds, bats and other critters couldn't get inside where the blades spun either. In America, they've been pondering why bats keep flying into spinning wind turbines. No one really takes any precautions to prevent it. It's still under study. A lot is still under study in America when it comes to unintended but harmful consequences from business. More talk, no action. It seems to be the national motto for the U.S. of A. When it comes to business, it's time to act if it means making a buck. If there are unintended but harmful consequences, it's time to talk...and talk...and talk...and talk. Eventually critics get tired of talking...and go away. Gee!! Do I sense a purpose here? They're not that callous, are they? Business people I mean. They've been talking about Georgia Pacific's pollution of the Arkansas river near Little Rock for years, directly contributing to the deaths of four innocent human beings, though it hasn't been clearly established the pollution from the river killed these people. For centuries sailing ships disappeared, never to return. Most thought they fell off the end of the earth, it being flat of course. “Don't go so far next time.” “Don't live so close to a putrid river next time.” Who can argue with such impeccable logic? Unless you're dead. Easy enough. Now there's no argument.

The following day I was up early again, but so was everyone else. Before I could even get out the door I heard it from all. “We're coming to help, too.” Sitting in our expansive dining room at a breakfast prepared by Lena, Carla and Serena, I stared from one to the next, dumbfounded. Each smiled deviously, Lena, and Heinz to my left, Serena, Sofia and Carla to my right.

“What if I said I only work with Omar and Ranjit? What would you do then?”

I'd tell you to change your work requirement because it's far too arbitrary and meaningless,” Serena stated with severity. She crossed her arms like dear old Mom.

“Well, Mother,” I began, glancing at Serena's crossed arms and prompting a punch to my right shoulder, “'arbitrary and meaningless,' huh? When have you been practicing English enough so you can use these English terms I never hear you say previously? When it's you and Esperanza separately, it's Spanish. When it's you and Sofia separately, it's Spanish. When it's you and Carla separately, it's Spanish. Where and when have you been practicing English?”

“I practice English with you every day, bonehead!” Since I had never heard Serena say that either, I looked to her in total disbelief. “I have to! Since you refuse to learn my language!” Serena stared defiantly. “How often do I ask you to explain a word or a phrase? How often, Al-Barrak?”

I was regaining my senses. “Well, almost never,” I humbly conceded.

“But you often tell me words and phrases I don't understand. Haven't you wondered, or are you just now starting to put it together?”
“I assumed-”

“And make an ass out of you and me? I'll let you be the ass, if you don't mind.” All enjoyed that one. I think I was looking embarrassed. My face may have blushed. Serena, after her laughter with the others, turned serious again. “I hold onto them, Al, and I ask Lena, or Carla, or Sofia, or Esperanza later and they explain it to me.” Suddenly, Serena displayed victory. “I do my own research. That's how I practice English. I'm learning I can keep up with you, old man.” More laughs.

“And you want to help me today?”

“I can work! I'm not old and feeble.”

“You know what 'feeble' means?” Serena shot me a glance that, if looks could kill, I'd be dead. Foolishly, I proceeded. “You can even lift a hammer?”

“Do you want your entire right arm one big bruise?”

Back to my senses. “No.” I smiled looking around to everyone. “You all want to work today?” Nods all around. “Even you?” I stared at Carla. “You're the nanny!

Carla laughed. “I can help some. You'll see.”

“So you all wanna be on my crew, huh?” Nods and smiles all around, even Heinz. “I'm wishing Lance came with us. I think that man can do some serious labor with this much cooperation.”

“Don't push it,” Serena warned me. “Take it in the spirit it's given.” I focused on Serena's black pearls, raised my right arm and wiggled my finger. We both leaned toward each other and I kissed her. When she leaned up straight Serena added, “Finish your breakfast and let's go.”

We had two crews working this day. Omar and Ranjit had their crew and I had mine, though I borrowed a couple from their crew every once in a while. Everyone got reasonably dirty, most had many paint smears, even on faces, and we made good progress. We were down to single figures for apartments left to renovate, which included Omar's apartment and our manager, Walid. We would be close to full occupancy in a matter of weeks from barely half when we took possession. Ram had performed his research and had all the requirements for subsidizing low income students and we had nearly two dozen apartments rented to as many as four tenants in each, all significantly subsidized by the housing agency for Punjab. They were all respectable and respectful tenants. The many families living at the complex were mindful of the many students living there but there were no incidents of any concern. I would have heard about it from Omar and Walid. Occasionally there was some boisterous activity but before it could get out of hand, there was Omar, there was Walid, or Ranjit or some of the crew. It never got out of hand.

- Just Desserts, Segment Thirty-EightAwards and Rewards” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com