Life itself is a calculated risk. You never fully know the consequences of your actions or inactions until after the fact. Those with honor do their best. Those with the heart of a snake become corporate bullies, psychiatrists or politicians. They do not kill before they eat. They simply poison and swallow you whole.
That is what happened to Berlinski’s Hardware. Ned stood and tried to fight the snake when he should have run. It swallowed him. He could have sold the property for half a fortune when Home Depot wanted it, but Ned hung on because he loved his business and its place in the community in which he had invested his life.
He was also stubborn.
“I don’t need any of your charity, nor do I want it,” he said shaking his head.
“It is not charity I’m offering. We can make good use of the property and I also need your help,” I consoled.
“Bullshit right back at yah. Look, I got accosted by those little punks. You know as well as I do it’ll happen again. If it hadn’t been me things would have turned out badly.”
Ned stared at the floor.
I pressed on.
“We can make something of this, Ned. Let go of the past. It’s time to move on.”
“You built something once, you can do it again. I believe in you and I believe in myself, and that’s not bullshit.”
“Okay! Okay, I’ll listen. I ain’t saying yes and I ain’t saying no. I’m just saying.”
“Good enough for me,” I said. “Let’s walk it off.”
Ned had grown accustomed to my hikes. He was even beginning to enjoy them as much as I did. We were loitering in a grove of eucalyptus looking down at the parking lot of the Home Depot and I was pointing at the array of buildings that had been his empire. It looked beaten and pushed into a corner by the corporate bullies.
“We can put in a new entrance off Biscayne,” I said. “There’s plenty of room for parking and expansion.”
“You know what she looks like to me?” Ned chuckled. “She looks like that hooker with the green wig and Beatle boots that hooks down there by Larry’s. She looks used up.”
“Used yes, but not used up,” I said. “We don’t need the current structures. we can start from the ground up and the wood from the buildings can be reclaimed for a lot of our interiors. Even the graffiti can be used to add some character. The kids will like that.”
“You really think this is a good idea?”
“No. I think it’s a great idea. With my money and your leadership, we can’t lose.”
Ned chewed on his lower lip for a few seconds and then smiled. He looked me straight in the eye and stuck out his right hand. I greedily grabbed it.
Ned let out a laugh. “Alright!” he exclaimed.
Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®