A Surprise Meeting chapter seven

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Cover image courtesy of Nina
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Steven Baker and Walter Denton were sitting on a sofa, in Janet’s living room. To their right, on another sofa, were Spencer Tilden, Peter Marvin and Oliver Bentley. To Steven’s and Walter’s left, on a recliner, was Luke Marvin. In the middle area, Harold Goldman sat in his electric wheelchair. Zachary Norman was invited but he declined because he was uneasy about what everyone was planning.

Steven felt uncomfortable with Harold attending the meeting. However, oddly enough, Harold was responsible for most of the money invested in the project. Steven said, “This is one of the strangest legal proceedings I have ever dealt with, if it can be called either legal or a proceeding. I’m glad I’m giving this one to Janet. She has her head in the clouds and won’t question anything.”

Harold shook his head. “This had better work. I invested a good chunk of my father’s money to get the ball rolling… which reminds me, I’m still not exactly sure what’s going on.”

Spencer winked. “I can explain everything to you tonight in bed. All you need to know now is your money is getting put to good use.”

Oliver said, “I think it’s only fair we tell Harold a little bit of our plan. Even if he is simple-minded, without him, this wouldn’t have occurred.”

Steven said, “Yes, Oliver… you’re right… but look at the guy. We all wore clean clothes. I’m not even talking fancy clothes. Oliver, you have on your farmer’s overalls and plaid shirt and Spencer is wearing a plain T-shirt and jeans but we all smell nice. Harold is wearing the same filthy sweatshirt and sweatpants he’s worn ever since I’ve known him and that would have been okay if he had washed them occasionally but I very much think he never takes them off. Look at the red splotches of tomato sauce.”

Harold said, “That’s blood on my sweatshirt. I bumped into a wall this morning.”

Walter laughed. “You bumped into a wall? That’s the sort of thing the patients would do at the hospital when they were so drugged up they tried to escape.”

Harold yelled, “I’m not losing my mind! I did it on purpose! I have absolutely nothing in my life. I have to feel something! I’ve lived as a failure. Do you know what the kids in school called me? Frog Face. I had glasses that were oddly shaped and it made me stick out.”

Spencer said, “I still see a bit of the frog in you. It isn’t because of the glasses. You have a certain physical shape to your face which, if I had to be purely technical, would be considered extremely repulsive.”

“Thanks a hell of a lot!”

“Oh, no. I wasn’t finished. I was going to tell you that it makes you attractive to me. I don’t know if it was my culture in which I was brought up or if I have a sick and twisted sexuality but I feel like God made you specifically so he could make fun of you.”

Harold screamed, “How the hell can that make me feel better?”

“If you stop interrupting, I’ll tell you. God gave you a certain look as a way to make fun of you. God was saying, ‘This man shall not be loved.’ For some reason, when God made you, he was angry. Maybe he attended a party with the angels and they wouldn’t refill his wine cup. I don’t know. But, for whatever reason, he took it upon himself to make you an example of who not to love. It was meant as a challenge and that sort of thing drives me wild. I don’t see ugliness as ugliness. I see ugliness as beauty. The odd shape of your face, which is only just a hint frog-like, is something I find very attractive. I prefer people who look like you. Why do you think I’ve been going out with you these last few weeks?”

“I think you’ve been going out with me because I’m supplying you and Oliver with money.”

“Let’s not get into that, Harold.”

Steven said, “On the contrary, the whole reason we’re here is to discuss it.”

Spencer nodded his head. “I know. I’m just saying I don’t want to discuss the personal elements involved between Harold and I.”

“Thank goodness.”

Oliver said, “I want to quickly add that I do not feel I am taking advantage of Harold. The money issue is another thing entirely. I like Harold because he’s more my age and we have a lot in common as far as where we grew up and the things we’ve experienced. Plus, he hasn’t admitted to his forays into the gay world when he’s with his family or when he’s out in public. I haven’t, either. Both Harold and I had families. He still has his. I left my wife when my son was two years old. I know I wasn’t meant to live the life of a normal married husband but the people from my past, who knew me then, assumed I was heterosexual and I never corrected them. I haven’t lied about anything but I haven’t told the truth, either.”

Walter pointed at Harold. “Don’t worry about what Oliver’s telling you. I’m happy you decided to throw away the shackles of your fake healthy diet. You’ve become as large as me. I commend you. What have you been eating?”

Harold patted his stomach. “I haven’t gained any weight. I’m still only three hundred pounds.”

Oliver said, “Don’t worry about revealing the whole truth. People don’t understand.”

Harold frowned. “You’re not fat, Oliver.”

“My point is people don’t need to know every bit of your truth. Don’t consider this to be denial. You have the right to tell people whatever you want them to believe.”

Harold yelled, “I’m not lying to anybody!”

Walter shrugged. “Hey, I’m sorry to need to tell you this but you’re four hundred pounds. It’s beautiful. You must have decided to eat some of the things I mentioned to you.”

Harold pouted. “I try not to but that damn Peter Marvin forces caramel popcorn and Cool Ranch potato chips in my mouth whenever I visit him.”

Peter held up his hand. “Please don’t add me to this conversation.”

Spencer laughed. “Oh, can it. Everyone here knows everything about what’s going on.”

Peter nodded. “You’re right.”

Luke said, “I’m not sure, though, how much Janet knows.”

Steven nodded. “This is true.” He remembered the day he visited Walter to mention how happy he was about his daughter acting accordingly to his expectations. She had previously been friends with various local artists and musicians and tended to talk about philosophy. Steven used to like philosophy but later realized it generated no money. He was surprised Janet listened to him when he suggested she attend law school. One day, he talked with her teacher, Professor Rusev. His intent was to bribe Rusev into giving her a good grade. Rusev mentioned she was an excellent student but he would not turn down a gift. Steven gave him a decent amount of cash. He did not care about repercussions. He thought his actions were reasonable.

When he told the story to Walter, Steven added, “Some of my clients have been difficult to work with. I’m hoping to pass some of them to my daughter so I don’t have to deal with them anymore.”

Walter asked, “What clients do you have in mind?”

“I am thinking of when I dealt with the inheritance of Sherman Goldman. I knew him when he was really old and about to die. He asked me to advise him on whom of his children in which he should leave his money. I said that I never met his children and I didn’t know who may need it most. I told him he could leave it to charity but he dismissed that idea. He said he did not want to give anything away to a bunch of people he did not know. He figured that his son, Harold, who worked in a hospital, might be the most responsible even though he was a little bit strange.”

Walter shrugged. “Did he elaborate on why Harold was strange?”

“He did not but I figured that I ought to see for myself how his children behaved. I needed to know the circumstances in which I would be dealing. I visited Harold’s sister, Rose, who lived next door. Her place was a mess. She had tons of empty cans littered on the floor and a mountain of newspaper coupons and grocery receipts spread everywhere. She apologized for the cans but said she was saving the coupons and receipts in case she won some kind of contest. I said I was a friend of her father’s and I wanted information to give to him because he wanted to finalize his will.”

Walter said, “I’d like to know what she said.”

“She said her brother was basically a responsible and conscientious man even though she thought he had a quirk. He was apparently collecting catalogs that showed a lot of pictures of men in underwear. She thought that was strange because he never ordered anything from a catalog and it was all clothing way too small for him. She said he would be home and staring at the men. She would ask him what he was doing and he would say he thought his wife, Thelma, would like to see him in that type of underwear. But Rose said that Harold was otherwise a regular person who sometimes indulged in too many sandwiches with unhealthy fruit jam and peanut butter with salt in it but tried to watch his diet somewhat.”

“Did Rose mention Harold’s family?”

“How did you know Harold had a wife and daughter?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute.”

“Rose said that Thelma was way overweight. Thelma is Harold’s wife. Also, supposedly, the daughter, Christine, was also very heavy set and not about to lose weight anytime soon. Thelma liked to snack on junk food and watch television. She usually would not say much in conversation and would merely nod her head as if she heard you but was not quite able to convince you of it. Christine was more talkative but kept contradicting herself. One day she would say she hated junk food and the next day she loved it. I couldn’t assess who might be best to handle the inheritance based on Rose’s description of them. I figured they each deserved some money. I told Sherman he should divide it equally among them and he did that.”

“Thank you. I know Harold. He works at the hospital where I stayed a couple of weeks.”

“He doesn’t work there now.”

“I didn’t know that. Anyway, I invited him to my party, which he attended. I’m sorry you couldn’t make it.”

“I heard about the party. Janet told me there was a fellow she desperately wanted to meet. His name was John. She said she had to connect with him and there was no way she could feel complete until it happened.”

Walter smiled. “Rose’s son is named John.”

“That’s interesting. I finally knew about him when I handled the finishing touches on Sherman’s will but I would have had no clue Janet met him.”

Walter nodded. “She can be unpredictable but I think she is also too much of a perfectionist. She seems to need everything exact according to her way of how things ought to be or she can’t cope. I remember when she visited me a couple of days after I left the hospital. She wanted to know if I was feeling better. I said I was. I told her I was self-conscious and vulnerable when the nurses came in and changed my underwear. She said she would feel the same way if she wore her shirt loose. I took out a stack of money and said I would pay her if she could wear it that way even if only for a split second. She pulled at some of the material but acted like her shirt was stuck. She shrugged and said it was the best she could do. I kept trying to coax her but she apologized and said she just did not have the courage.”

Steven nodded. “Well, there’s a situation I think would be great for her. Two friends of mine, Spencer Tilden and Oliver Bentley, were technically homeless for a while, for reasons having to do with not paying rent and spending their money on alcohol, but I bought each a house and now they act more responsible. For a while, Spencer sang in a band that played at a local bar and Oliver liked their music and became a fan of Spencer’s. They told me about something so twisted it could work. I’m getting older and law stuff is less interesting than it once was so I decided to be a part of the crazy scheme. I figured I would get Harold Goldman involved so, in case something terrible happened, the weight of everything would come crashing down on him. I want Janet involved so I can cover my tracks in case word gets out I’m a part of it.”

Walter said, “I’m interested. After I left the hospital, I felt like I needed to change my routine. I’d like to be included in this, if I can.”

Steven agreed to let Walter join the fun. Now, as he sat in Janet’s living room, waiting for her to come down for the meeting, he thought about Walter’s knowing Harold and Janet’s interest in John. Steven felt the whole thing was surreal. To Luke, Steven said, “That’s why you’re involved. If Janet knows more about this than what we planned for her to know, you have to pretend you don’t like Oliver Bentley.”

Oliver frowned. “Why does it have to be me?”

Steven shrugged. “I thought of it at random. But, it does make sense. You have a farmer’s style which could tick off a city dweller.”

Oliver said, “I wear overalls because they’re comfortable. They have nothing to do with me being anything, let alone a farmer. I grew up in San Francisco on 20th and Connecticut. Where are any farms there?”

Spencer smiled. “I’ve been in that area, recently. It’s very nice. Everything is upscale. I remember when it used to be just lower working-class places and a lot of it looked like a dump.”

“That’s how things were when I lived there.”

“It’s not like that now.”

Steven said, “I’ve been there this past year, too. Spencer is right. The place has improved. However, let’s stick with the reason we’re here.”

Harold said, “I’d like that, also. I’ve been putting money into this and I’m still not sure what you’re doing.”

“Harold, I thank you. I’m sure you’ve missed that money but we’re going to get it back.”

“Of course I want my money back but I really want to know what’s going on!”

“You will know.”

*When?”

“As soon as we tell you.”

“Are you going to tell me right now?”

Steven shrugged. “That depends on your interpretation. If you feel we’ve not told you enough, that’s on you.”

Harold made a fist. “It sounds like you’re not going to tell me one damn thing.”

“That’s possible.”

Peter said, “Harold, this is your first time in a situation like this. Some of us are lawyers and some are not but most of us have dealt with situations involving complicated things and we know how to discuss issues. You haven’t had as much experience in reasoning or planning so I think you would be wise to just listen.”

Harold asked, “What the hell are you really trying to say? Are you asking me to shut my trap?”

“I am.”

“Well, I won’t.”

Peter nodded. “I can call a few people I know to come over and join us. They’ll be standing next to you, making sure you behave appropriately. You’ll want to comply.”

“What kind of an asshole are you?”

Luke said, “I agree with Peter that we should have someone make Harold relax but I also understand why he’s upset. I don’t think it’s wrong to let him know that this involves a property scandal.”

Harold sighed. “I already know that much.”

Steven said, “Harold, you’re really too simple-minded to grasp what we’ll be talking about. That’s why I said it’s possible we won’t be telling you everything. It’s not that we’d be holding anything back. It’s more that I believe you won’t retain any of what we say because you won’t understand the words.”

Harold pouted. “I’m not a simpleton!”

“I’m afraid you are. Don’t be angry. It’s not a value judgement. You were just raised by simple people. Your father worked at the public transportation system and your mother spent most of her time cooking food. That’s very nice. I wish my mom had cooked good food. But you spent most of your life in San Francisco.”

“I went to Las Vegas when I was seventeen. I spent my summer there.”

“Okay. You’re one percent more complex than I thought.”

Harold shook his head. “I guess my simple ways and my simple money can leave right now.”

Oliver said, “I still think of you as a friend. You can come over and visit me anytime.”

Spencer said, “Just bring a load of money when you come back to my place, pops.”

Walter held up his hand. “I’m mostly just here to witness everything so it might not be my place to say anything but Harold is my friend and I’m getting the feeling the rest of you are teasing him. Some are using more subtle tactics than others but I agree with Harold that you haven’t yet really explained to him what this is all about. I’ll make it as concise as I can. Spencer is allegedly suing Oliver for ten dollars. I say allegedly because Spencer is only appearing to sue Oliver. There is no real lawsuit. But, because of a piece of paperwork that misprinted the amount, Spencer is allegedly now suing Oliver for ten thousand dollars. As a countersuit, Oliver is suing Spencer for one hundred thousand dollars. Steven bought Spencer and Oliver a couple of houses which, if this thing goes to court and someone wins, one has to sell his house or give it to the bank in exchange for the money. Peter works at the bank and will be in charge of the sale. To keep this short, Peter will pocket the money the bank gets back and it will be enough to divide equally among everyone involved, including you, Harold.”

Harold nodded. “I understand that. I’m not so stupid.”

Oliver said, “I want you to know, Harold, that, regardless of whether or not you really understand what’s going on, it does not affect the way I feel for you.”

Luke said, “My main concern isn’t Harold. My concern is Janet. She is very smart and she’ll want to investigate everything.”

Steven said, “I believe that my daughter is in a different mental area right now. I can talk about it later when the time is more appropriate for a discussion about her but I don’t think she’ll give us any problem.”

Harold asked, “My one question is, if you’ll be getting all that money from the bank, why did you need my funds?”

Walter said, “That will be for the judge we pay to play along.”

Harold nodded. “Okay, that’s fine. I thought it was something serious.”

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