Charlie’s Last Stand pt.5

As the Shimek family sat down to an uneventful meal, Renee brought up the truck racks. “Are you going out tonight to see about finding a builder,” Renee asked? Zane responded in the affirmative as he mindlessly tore a slice of buttery garlic bread from a steaming loaf. “I have an appointment to meet him at 6:30,” Zane said. He went on to explain that Curtis was a welding student, and how he would borrow Charlie’s trailer to deliver the raw stock. Renee correctly realized that her husband dreaded seeing his father in such a frail state, so she asked him, “How are you feeling about seeing your Dad again?” In his mind Zane was dreading it. Images of Charlie’s emaciated frame danced upon the screen of his haunted mind’s-eye as he slurped at his pasta. The words, “It’s just so hard to see him like that,” flowed from Zane’s mouth before he could sensor a response. Renee’s husband wiped red sauce from the corner of his mouth and flushed some bread down with freshly brewed Iced tea. “I can’t pretend to know what you’re feeling towards your father,” Renee said in a helpful tone, “But I do know that I love you,” she continued. With that Zane glanced at his watch. Renee told him, “You go on and get going now, me and the kids will do the dishes while you’re gone.” Zane grunted and nodded while motioning to the front door with his elbow. With his mouth full of half-chewed garlic bread, he muttered the words, “yeah, I don’t want to be late!” Without as much as a goodbye kiss or an “I love you,” he strolled out of the front door into the hot evening sun.
Zane jumped into the Truck with the intention of meeting Curtis at 6:30 that same evening. While Zane was in transit, Curtis reviewed the correspondence. The email spoke of tall racks, but it would be extra work to follow the specifications to the letter. “It’s going to cost him a little extra if he wants the extra two feet,” he thought in a calculating manner. Curtis, who was hoping to make a quick buck, resisted Zane’s initial plans because it would be more lucrative if he could just use his existing apparatus to carve out a set of standard racks. He had fabricated his own welding jig which was set up to secure loose stock as it was skillfully tacked into place. Curtis preferred to build racks that were uniform because it takes valuable time to configure a jig to accommodate a custom order.
Zane arrived promptly at 6:20. He was taught it’s better to be twenty minutes early rather than two minutes late. Upon arrival Zane knew he was at the correct address because an open garage door revealed a man in working attire who was mulling about in a dimly lit workspace. Curtis ran his welding shop from right out of his garage, using the sun-bleached driveway as a makeshift factory floor. Zane exited the Truck while striking up a conversation in the process. Curtis was a young man in his twenties, and he proudly wore an officially sanctioned baseball cap with an embroidered patch depicting the mascot for the Cleveland Indians. Zane considered this to be a potential conversation starter as he internally gauged the situation, but he was more interested in welding than Major League Baseball.
The men exchanged a hearty handshake and their eyes locked because they were engaging in the time-honored tradition of ‘hashing out a deal.’ The men stood in the hot driveway as they quietly sized each other up! Initially, Curtis pigeon-holed him as being academic, but up close and personal Zane presented as a working man. It would make the negotiations a lot easier if that were the case, Curtis surmised as he drank in Zane’s rugged persona. To keep the mood flowing, Zane motioned towards an acetylene bottle and said, “It takes a lot of skill to weld with a gas rig!” Zane confidently mouthed the words as if he were a fellow welder. Zane knew Curtis would use his 240-volt arc-welder for the project, but he had a penchant for gas welding just the same. Before Curtis could inquire about his welding capabilities, Zane added, “I’ve tried to weld with acetylene, and I can strike a good-looking bead…the only problem is I could never get the weld to stick!” Curtis was sold. In the art of the deal comes a moment when two parties come together and agree to proceed with mutual benefit in mind. Curtis was instinctively captivated by the charisma, and he correctly assumed Zane possessed an integrity that would ensure a smooth transaction. Zane silently took stock of the operation as they were getting acquainted. The visible equipment consisted of random jigs, sawhorses, and assorted clamps of various sizes. Once again, Zane’s attention was drawn towards the acetylene bottle. It was a large green cylinder measuring six feet tall, and twelve inches in diameter. The acetylene was accompanied by a smaller cylinder which contained pure oxygen. The individual gases were contained via regulators and corresponding valves, and they were fed to a torch via color coordinated hoses. The built-in pressure gauges were engineered to thwart looming catastrophes! The unbridled fire had to be tamed via a pair of bronze knobs, and the torch came equipped with a lever that opened an orifice which was designed to introduce pure oxygen into the gaseous mix! Upon achieving combustion, a gentle blue flame would be accompanied by an inefficient orange flicker. Plumes of black smoke indicated an overly rich burn. Once the mixture was properly dialed in, the operator could then squeeze the lever which would introduce pure oxygen into the mix! When the oxygen was administered, an angry whoosh came into being which yielded to a sustained deep roar that was peppered with spontaneous spits, and an occasional popping hiss! The sights and sounds conjured up smells of smoldering brimstone! The fire created a sound that mimicked that of a scaled-down miniature hurricane! When called upon, the gases combined to produce an angry blue flame capable of transforming stubborn iron into molten liquid with ease. Zane was impressed with Curtis, and he decided to move forward with his scheme by pursuing a transaction.
Turning back towards the matter at hand Zane asked, “How long does it usually take to make racks from scratch?” After some considerable contemplation, Curtis unconsciously removed his baseball cap and wiped the sweat from his brow with the long sleeve of his button-up work shirt. After repositioning his cover Curtis boasted, “If you can provide the raw steel, I can most likely have it all sinched together in an afternoon.” This was exactly what Zane wanted to hear and it encouraged him to start haggling over the production costs. Curtis needed to clear a profit of at least $150 and the amount would be tacked onto whatever Zane paid for the raw stock. In attempt to gauge the situation, Curtis asked, “how much are you willing to spend? It was Zane’s time to shine. He knew he could go as high as Five Hundred, but he told Curtis that he could buy ready-made racks for as little as Two. “I’ve been shopping around on Craigslist,” Zane said. He went on to explain how he needed something robust enough to move household items, and how standard racks just wouldn’t suffice. Curtis was also a skilled negotiator and he immediately proclaimed, “You’re just wasting your money on those factory-made jobs.” By this time he understood Curtis was a ‘wheeler-dealer,’ so Zane asked, “What do you mean by wasting my money?” The welder briefly explained the difference between heavy and light grade square stock. In doing so he rummaged through his scrap pile and dug out two samples for comparison. “Do you see the difference,” Curtis asked? He produced the first sample and said, “look at how thick the steel is in comparison to the cheap stuff.” He went on to explain how the various thickness of the steel was proportional to its cost. “I don’t want you to think I’m hustling you,” Curtis said with a charming half-way grin. “It’s just that the steel they use is so thin you can almost bend it like candy!” Curtis was making a valid argument and Zane had no rebuttal, so he gave a discerning nod instead. A quiet moment passed before Zane asked, “So what you’re telling me is that I can spend as little or as much as I want, depending on the quality of the metal?” Curtis knew he was making headway, and he quickly replied, “You get what you pay for in this world…am I Right?” By this time Curtis was ready to get the ball rolling. “I’ll make it easier on us,” he said. “All I need is $150 Bucks on my end.” To seal the deal Curtis added, “Hell, I’ll even paint them Black for you to sweeten up the pot!” A baseline for negotiations had been established, and so the two men went about the task of mental fabrication. There weren’t any blueprints, only sketches on loose printer paper that had been prepared. It was the moment Zane had been waiting for! He was so excited to exchange ideas with Curtis that he could hardly contain himself! In fact, Zane was as eager as a little puppy dog! Curtis stood by in a state of silent bewilderment as he struggled to keep up with Zane’s amiable body language and rapid speech. Zane was talking with his hands; and his arms flailed about in mid-air! Zane’s tone of voice was deep and seemingly aggressive, but his body language invited playful engagement. “I want these racks to traverse the length of the entire truck,” he explained as Curtis listened in silent disbelief! Zane occupied the rugged body of an Alpha, but he was presenting as a small boy who had suddenly gained access to Santa Claus for a day! Curtis, who was an Alpha male himself, didn’t know what to make of it. In a respectfully helpful tone, Curtis explained how the scheme would make it difficult to open and close the hood. He posed the question, “How are you going to be able to check the oil? You won’t be able to get at the engine with all of that steel in the way!” Zane pondered for a bit, then gleefully suggested they could fabricate removable posts which could be secured with large cotter pins! “Oh, I don’t know,” Curtis said in a solemn tone. “If we could weld some gussets to the front bumper we could install removable uprights,” Zane insisted! “It was possible,” Curtis quietly surmised, but it would require a lot of fabrication, and he wasn’t in the mood to spend an exorbitant amount of time on the project. He liked Zane and didn’t want to ‘bust his bubble.’ Because of this Curtis instinctively directed the words “eye-sore” into the bottom of his cognitive depths. He realized the project was going to take considerably more time than he wanted to invest. More importantly, Curtis was slowly concluding he may lose money on the job.

…to be continued

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