Hello! My name is Dr. Ron Kaiser. I am the administrator of Short Story of the Month. As we progress with this idea, I will keep you up to date on new ideas, findings and other things.
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Dr. Kaiser 1/28/09
PS Here is the first story ever chosen:
THE TOWN THAT WENT BROKE
By Luke Warm
Horace Hucklebee woke up and fell out of bed, as was his normal routine.
“That damn bed is just too small,” he would exclaim, to his sleeping wife, every morning.
Being six foot five and 385 pounds and sleeping in a full-sized bed caused this recurring event, but Horace was a stubborn man, and would not buy a bigger bed. Growing up in a small west Texas town, the youngest of 6 children, and living with a “cauliflower” ear caused his stubbornness. Every little thing he achieved in life was achieved with great effort.
As he picked himself up from his dirty, gray carpeted floor, he thought of all the money people owed him. In any other town, his plumbing company would be flourishing. In Heath, Texas, it was failing, as was every other business in town.
Horace was looking forward to today’s events, which would include fixing Mrs. Hudson’s septic tank and a meeting of all the small businesses. This meeting was to discuss the acceptance of a proposal from an oil company to buy Heath. Of course, no one knew what to expect and nobody questioned why the offer was being made. They were only looking for a way out of their predicament. This oil company went by the name of Enron.
Horace waddled to the bathroom and proceeded to perform his morning constitutional. After successfully filling the toilet, he proceeded with his routine of shower, shave and shine. Not much hair on old Horace’s head. His 58 years had been kind to his belly but not his head.
“Harriet, get your lazy butt out of bed and fix me some eggs and grits!” he growled. “And don’t forget the damn coffee. I need to be wide awake this morning.”
Unfortunately, the idea of credit had gotten out of control. Residents of this town forgot what paying bills meant and were living the “American” dream, at the expense of every Heath business.
It all started two years ago, when Mayor Hissle proclaimed that Heath Texas would take care of its own and loan out $5,000,000 equally, to the 3500 residents. This was the total amount in the city coffers, after a settlement between Heath and Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart had planned to open a new store, but the town’s small business owners did not agree with their plans. A skirmish broke out, between Wal-Mart brass and a small business owner by the name of Henry Hawkins. Henry ended up in the hospital with a broken hand and lacerated liver, after the “brass” gang tackled him onto the front of one of their Hummers. As they tackled him, the Hummer somehow lurched into reverse and backed into the local sewage treatment plant, causing an eruption of epic proportions. The plant was conveniently located next to the now well-fertilized vacant lot Wal-Mart was interested in purchasing. This “shitstorm” ended with the $5 million settlement and an agreement that Wal-Mart would not attempt to open a store within 50 miles of Heath Texas.
The money was supposed to be paid back with 6% interest in 48 payments. However, Harry Harky, the town “idea” man came up with a great scheme of a small excursion to “Vegas” for “investment” purposes. His grand plan was to win enough money to cover the interest and build his own version of Wal-Mart. As luck would have it, 2,500 of Heath’s finest residents (the others were minors and could not go) had the same idea. The end result was disastrous. The roulette wheel ended black when 2,500 Heath residents bet red. Not just once, but for a record tying 43 times. This unbelievable stretch of bad luck led to an extension of the loans, for twelve months. The citizens, realizing that the city would always be there, felt that the extension was not good enough and took it upon themselves to extend their loans even longer- to the tune of 20 years. This was an ad hoc referendum, which passed unanimously in a special city election.
Local businesses were feeling the crunch most of all. The townspeople’s once trusted line of credit had turned into pure neglected debt. It seemed everybody owed someone else money. Businesses were paying their payrolls with promissory notes. Individuals were calling 1 800 numbers for bankruptcy assistance. The town turned into a cesspool of negligence. Only the welfare recipients were getting paid and inclusion in this “club” was growing exponentially.
Good old Harry Harky once again devised a grand plan for a recovery. He found a Ponzi scheme on the internet that was promising a 100% daily return for an investment of as little as $5. Word of this “savior” program spread like wildfire, and once again 2500 residents sent their meager savings and food money to hell. The promise was squashed when the website was attacked by a “so-called” hacker and never worked again.
Horace’s entrance into the law firm of Harbaugh and Hannerty was anything but subtle. He did not have time to change clothes after mending Mrs. Hudson’s septic tank. Needless to say, his appearance was disheveled and he reeked of 10 year-old sewage. The folding chair he tried to mount did not hold his girth. 385 pounds of bald plumber crashed to the ground, slinging questionable brownish material onto many unlucky bystanders.
Harbaugh and Hannerty was the town’s only law firm and had been solvent till the Vegas excursion. The former plush furnishings had been replaced by camping furniture and secondhand chairs, from a flea market in Houston. The only original piece of furniture was an opulent, mahogany table that had been handed down to young Hannerty by his father. This table stuck out like a sore thumb and only added to the ambiance of modern day failure.
The thirteen Heath business owners’s crowded into the law office and awaited the arrival of Thomas Timmons, the Enron lawyer who would present the deal. The heat was stifling and Horace’s stench mixed with the aroma of nervousness, creating a fragrance that would attract a flock of buzzards. They were all silent until a small, whine escaped from Hortense Harris, the owner of the town’s only convenience store. A new odor followed.
“Damn microwave, bean burritos,” she muttered.
At that moment, Thomas Timmons burst into the office talking on his cell phone. The tang of the room and the heat caused his “shit-eating grin” to ironically turn to a frown of feces-smelling disgust.
“Let me get back to you, Terry,” he exclaimed, closing the cell phone quickly.
Thomas Timmons was on a fast track to the top. He had latched his wagon to this oil giant but had more ambitious goals. An even bigger company had been courting him. They were offering a larger, progressive salary and new surroundings outside the country.
He knew that this deal for the purchase of this town was merely speculation. The engineer that “discovered” the possibility of a huge oil reserve, under the town, had just graduated from Tarleton State. His degree was in geography and his uncle was CFO of the corporation….so no arguments were to be found.
“My company is ready to offer, the people of this fine town, $4,000,000 in stock options for all the property inside the city limits,” he pronounced.
“Any debts will be absorbed by my company, as well,” he continued.
Now, even though he had not introduced himself and his offer seemed off-the-wall, many of the business owners were already doing the math in their heads. They would be debt free and have money in their pockets. The once proud town of Heath Texas had been pummeled into submission. The offer seemed like their only choice.
“When do we get paid, if we accept your offer?” questioned Harvey Hampton, the owner of the Heath supermarket.
“You won’t get paid in cash, but in stock options,” Thomas explained patiently.
“How does that work?” asked Helen Hand, the owner of the Heath beauty shop.
“You will all receive stock certificates, divided at your discretion. These certificates are worth a certain amount of money at the time of dispersion. The beauty of the offer is that these certificates will only increase in value and make all of you very wealthy,” Thomas embellished. He knew that he had these “hicks” in the palm of his hand.
This explanation caused quite a fervor. Helen Hand, who had a problem with incontinence, felt a mild wetness in her panties. Harry Harkey crossed himself several times, counting his blessings that such an opportunity was presenting itself. Harvey Hampton was already calling his wife and telling her to pack her bags. Hortense Harris was quietly crying, between burps. Mayor Hissle was on the phone to the mayor of Hye Texas, bragging about the “generous offer”. Other business owners were “high fiving” and “slapping skin”.
Only Horace was reluctant. He just didn’t feel right. Maybe it was the reek emanating from his clothes or the sudden strange offer, but he was suddenly violently ill. Projectile vomit issued from Horace all over Thomas’s $2,000 Armani suit.
“Sorry I puked all over your duds,” apologized Horace, wiping green ooze from his mouth.
“It’s okay. I needed a new suit anyway,” Thomas lied. He needed to end this meeting before these victims came to their senses.
“Here are the papers for you to sign,” Thomas explained as he choked back his lunch. “My assistant will notarize them, just as soon as you sign them.”
Mayor Hissle stepped around a puddle of vomit and pronounced, “I’ll be the first to sign!”
All the others followed, except Horace. He wasn’t sure if it was his compromised state or the fact that he didn’t want any part of Thomas’s proposal.
“I would like to sell my plumbing company for $15,000 to anybody interested,” he yelled. “You will get my share of the stock options.”
Horace wasn’t sure if his offer would be taken seriously. Abruptly, three punch-drunk Heath owners slid through the puddles of vomit to bid on Horace’s business. Horatio Headdress was the only one with the monetary resources needed to purchase Horace’s plumbing business. He was part Apache Indian and his tribe owned a casino in New Mexico.
“I’ll pay you $30,000 for your business,” Horatio proudly exclaimed. “I know I will get five times that much from you shares.”
“Sold!” Horace bellowed, causing some greenish-brown slush to fly from his t-shirt.
Thomas smiled. He had his signed agreement and it had only cost him a new suit and the possibility of Hepatitis. His cell phone vibrated. It was his dream company – Worldcom.
- Short Story of the Month
- 1) “Who is Dr. Kaiser and why is he doing this?” Dr. Kaiser is an Optometrist that practices in Del Rio, Texas. He owns Kaiser Eye Care and House Call Eye Care. He started this website to give new writers more exposure and readers a source of income. Times are tough and this is a simple way to supplement one’s income.