The Story of Ray Markman – Part 1
by John Jonelis
“What he says is—” I pause to confront the two men across my battered old WWII Air Force desk. “What he says is this: ‘I never worked a day in my life.’ Far as I can tell, Ray Markman never stopped working a day in his life. Should’ve retired years ago and he’s still working. Day and night he’s working.”
“It is merely a paraphrase from ze great inventor, Thomas Edison.” Alexander Harbinger PhD, sits erect, speaking in his German baritone. “Most likely, Mr. Markman does not intend such a statement to be taken seriously.”
Loop Lonagan slams his fist on the scarred maple desktop. “No. I heard ‘im say it. Two times I heard ‘im. That guy always says what he means and I believe him.”
I smile. I believe Ray, too. I glance at my notes and read Ray’s words: ‘I loved what I did. To me working was the greatest things in the world. I still average twelve hours a day. I never felt I worked a day in my life.’ How can you argue against that kind of heart?
Again the baritone from the tall man, but more animated: “Voicing such an outlandish opinion does not make it fact. The very idea iss… what is ze word…” He pauses. “Vimsical. It iss vimsical.”
It tickles me to hear Alex’ accent thicken when he gets excited.
“Proof,” he says. “I cannot accept it vithout proof and I do not believe that you can produce evidence that vill convince an educated person that such a statement is…that it iss justified.”
“Waddaya mean educated? You callin’ me illiterate?” I don’t like the look Lonagan gives Harbinger. Dangerous. Personally, I never want to find myself on Lonagan’s bad side.
For a moment, the tall PhD appears nonplussed. Then he stammers, “No—no. Present company excepted, of course—of course.” An amazing concession from the tall, cold scholar.
I roll my chair out of the way, stoop to the floor and work my fingers under a cardboard box, remembering what I learned working in factories as a boy—lift with your legs, not your back. The massive old desk shifts when I drop the first box on the scored maple top. I dump the second next to it. Then the third.
Still standing, I heave a sigh. “Glad you’re taking it that way. This is everything I have. I’d appreciate each of your perspectives. It’s short notice but I need your opinions by Friday. Will you take it on?”
The room goes silent as the three of us stare at the bulging boxes, each with the name, RAY MARKMAN, printed in neat letters. I know I’m asking a lot. Gazing down at Alex and Loop I am unable to read their eyes.
Loop is first to speak. “You want I should dig through all this stuff by Friday?”
I lean forward on my fists. “Listen—you are two of the smartest guys I know. Loop, you traded huge money on the floor of the CME and later funded a lot of winning companies. Your street smarts and business savvy make your opinion beyond value to me. Alex, you’re academic credentials are legendary but at the same time you keep your feet solidly on the ground. I trust your judgment—trust it thoroughly. I’m hoping we can put our heads together on this.”
After a pause, Harbinger stands tall. “I vill begin immediately.” He turns to Loop. “I meet you here Friday.” Then he lifts a box of documents and ducks as he marches out the door.
Loop grunts when he hefts a box. “Lug dis. Lug dat.” Leaning well back, he steps out of the room with the heavy burden.
I park my duff in my chair and stare at the remaining box. A lot of documents to examine. But I link my fingers behind my head and lean back into the plush leather, lifting my feet to the desktop, smiling to myself. I’ve just succeeded in lighting a fire under two divergent thinkers. I wonder what they’ll bring back with them.
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Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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