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American Friendship Inspirational

“We’re gonna do big things,” said Graham as he shook hands with James, the shop-keeper.

James smiled, but did not look happy.

Martin watched them talk. You could hear the wheels turning in his head. James glanced at Martin with anxious eyes.

Martin said, “Graham’s my point man, Jim. I’ll be traveling more. Graham will always be accessible.”

James nodded. “Safe travels, Marty.”

Martin guided Graham toward the door.

“Come on. We’ve got things to do.”

Graham spoke over his shoulder. “I’ll come in. Update your paperwork. Answer your questions…”

James settled onto a stool.

As they walked to Martin’s big pick-up truck, pedestrians on Graceville’s main street waved. Martin smiled and waved back. They climbed into the truck.

The humongous truck ‘came with the territory.’ Larger than some people’s living quarters, the vehicle left good taste in its dust. For the richest man in the state, driving anything less would be seen as ‘poor mouth.’ Martin lived modestly, but this was expected.

He backed out of the parking space and drove.

“Tone down the grandiose rhetoric, Graham. My tenants want to live in peace. Let them alone.”

“I just meant…”

“I know what you mean. But any changes we make are on us. I don’t want people afraid for their families.”

Graham shrugged. “I guess… You know… want to make a good impression.”

“Of course.”

“You know… gotta spend money to make it. Right?”

On paper, Martin checked all the boxes for anyone’s resentment. He had it all. Richer than God, one would expect envy or even hatred from others. He inherited vast wealth. He excelled in every endeavor, from athletics to business. What was there to like?

What child never felt envious, living in the shadow of some golden boy, favored by the gods regardless of merit?

But, rich or poor, those who knew Martin admitted he defied expectations. By all accounts, he was a good guy. Everyone found him trustworthy, approachable, and kind. His knack for remembering the names of each person he met endeared him to all.

Founded by his great-grandmother, Graceville wasn’t merely Martin’s home. He owned it and practically the whole county. Its citizens thrived under his stewardship.

A small community amidst rolling, rich farmland, Graceville’s tallest buildings were grain silos. Major state highways intersected there. As did railroads.

Recently hired, Graham was Martin’s newest employee. He would manage things locally while Martin traveled.

Armed with his freshly printed MBA, Graham planned to make his mark. The first in his family to finish college, he needed to. Diamonds may be forever, but college debt can last a lifetime. His motto stated, ‘It’s all about the money.’

Martin introduced Graham to each tenant farmer and businessman he’d work with. Some of their leases went back generations.

That night, Martin flew out of Graceville’s small, local airport. He arrived in Chicago in time to sleep before a meeting in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. All went as planned.

Meanwhile Graham renegotiated all Martin’s leases.

Several days later, home again, Martin disembarked from his private jet. In his absence, the landscape of his holdings had changed beyond recognition.

Loading his drag-along into his truck bed, Martin saw George signal from one of the hangars. Unloading his truck, George was making a delivery. Martin and George were lifelong friends. They played together when kids.

Martin strode across the tarmac toward his old friend.

“Georgie boy! How’ve you been?” Their handshake became an embrace. “How’s Margie and the twins?”

“Everyone’s great Marty. Margie still talks about how you drove her to the hospital when her water broke while I was out wrangling that broke down tractor. She wishes she could have named both of them after you.”

“Yeah, but even if they weren’t twins, one’s a girl.”

They both laughed.

“They’re about to graduate and head off to college… I hope.”

“That’s great. They’ve got the grades then…”

“Yeah, no problem there. But…”

Martin noticed George’s awkward pause.

“What’s up?”

George looked over his shoulder. After a long moment, he spoke. “I need to ask… about your guy.”

“Graham?”

George nodded. Martin waited.

“He came over after you introduced us… to… renegotiate the lease.”

“Re… what do you mean? That’s been our standing agreement since I took over from my Dad. Never raised…”

“I know. I didn’t think you did it, but…”

“What then…? Just tell me, George…”

“He threw out the old agreement and… you know what bitcoin is?”

Martin scowled. “What about it?”

“The new terms of the lease are…”

“You’ve gotta be kidding.”

“I don’t know, Marty. Marge is frantic. Don’t even know what a bitcoin is… Kids might not be able to…”

“No, no, no… And if he got you, he probably made the rounds…”

George’s expression said it all.

Martin paced. “Thanks for telling me, George. Sure misunderstanding.”

“I figured it must be. Hoped I could be frank…”

“Of course. Don’t lose any sleep. I’ll straighten it out.”

They shook hands and Martin returned to his truck.

Graham answered his cell. “Martin? You back?”

“What are you doing, Graham? These are my people. Known my whole life. My folks knew theirs. And bitcoin?”

“Let me explain, Martin. It’s going to be great…”

“Listen up. I never authorized changes to the leases. If you’re going to mistreat my people, you’re gone.” Martin hung up.

Graham looked at his phone. “What have I done? I lose this, I’ll never…”

He grabbed his client list and ran out.

First on the list was Martin’s friend, George. He knocked on their door. When Margie saw him, her face fell.

“Hi, Margie. Is George in? Something needs fixing.”

Graham found George going over their finances.

He let Graham talk.

“Hi George. Sorry to keep barging in. Need to adjust things. What’s your contract say?”

“Ten bitcoins. But I don’t…”

“Forget that. What’s your old agreement say?”

“A thousand bushels of corn. But…”

“Good. Hurry. Scratch the BCs. Make it five hundred.”

“Bushels?” Graham nodded. “You sure? I…”

“Yeah. I gotta go. Trust me. It’s fine.”

George looked at Margie, who nodded. George made the change.

Graham said, “Pleasure doing business with you.”

Margie said, “You’re always welcome here.”

Graham initialed the amended bill and left. “Thanks, guys. Gotta go.” He had many people to visit.

Graham visited each tenant and leaseholder. He restored their contracts to the terms Martin had established. That done, people sang his praises.

Martin called him. “Sounds like things are back on track. Good job.”

“Thanks for setting me straight. I didn’t mean…”

“Little things, Graham… Tend to the little things.”

August 18, 2022 21:25

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6 comments

Tommy Goround
20:47 Aug 24, 2022

I like it.

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John K Adams
22:20 Aug 24, 2022

Thanks Tommy.

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Bonnie Clarkson
19:07 Aug 21, 2022

Good story. I posted a story about a farmer in a drought. I was a little confused at first. A 3 or 4 word description of Martin after his last name would have helped. After reading the whole thing, I can see James as just another of Martin's customers. When I saw James in the first sentence, I assumed he would be a main character, but he isn't mentioned later in the story. Have you checked out Reedsy's YouTube channel? They have videos of an editor analyzing a story's first sentence. The video is called First Line Frenzy. They are real...

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John K Adams
22:32 Aug 21, 2022

Thanks, Bonnie. I'll check it out.

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John K Adams
14:00 Aug 19, 2022

A reference to those who can be trusted with the unimportant, can be trusted with the important. Maybe it needs work. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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05:13 Aug 19, 2022

Loved the first two sentences! Made me want to keep reading. Ill be honest though, I didnt fully get it at the end.

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