Tag Archives: loan

2.60 Tea For Two

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Mr. Ikeda regarded me steadily for a full minute before breaking the silence.

“Would you like ginger lemon or brown rice?” 

Jumping slightly at the sound of his voice, my eyes flew up to meet Mr. Ikeda’s. “Um…”

“Tea, would you like ginger lemon or brown rice?”

“Ginger lemon?”

“Good choice.” Pulling a tin out from under his bench, he set it atop with a soft clink. “Now, if you’ll make the hot beverages, I’ll grab some plates and forks for the cake.”

Dizzy at the turn of events, I concentrated on not dribbling hot water onto Mr. Ikeda’s workbench as I rehydrated bits of ginger root, lemon peel, and tea leaves. By the time he rejoined me, I’d already removed the bags from two perfectly steeped mugs of tea, the cover from the cake, and been able to study his HO scale replica in some detail.

Distracted from the discrepancy I’d discovered in the pocket-sized version of Rye, I returned Mr. Ikeda’s genial smile with a wane one of my own when he reentered the room. “Sorry to make you wait, it took longer to figure out where my wife stored the cake knife and server than I’d thought it would. Well, that and I fed the disreputable three an early lunch so we could enjoy our treat…” He let out a low whistle as he looked over the intricate icing, strategically applied powdered sugar and sugar work. “…in peace. That looks too lovely to eat.”

“Thank-you. I wish I could say it’s nothing, but that would be a lie, it took forever to frost.”

Picking the base of the cake carrier up, Mr. Ikeda slowly turned in his hands, taking in the details of the house. “This really is splendid.”

“Well, here’s to hoping it tastes half as good as it looks, one never knows for sure.”

Setting the cake back onto the bench, I declined his silent invitation to perform the honors, so he took up the knife and shaved off two equal measures of gingerbread. Handing me one, Mr. Ikeda set his piece next to his mug of (now) tepid tea and retook his seat. Following his lead, I sat across from him as before. Though I left my plate of cake untouched, as the inscrutability of his expression caused grasshoppers to ricochet uncomfortably about my insides. 

“So tell me, have you decided to terminate just Western Mutual’s lease, or are planning to cancel others as well?”

Taking a deep breath, I answered on the exhale. “We need to terminate all of them. It’s the only way to obtain enough square footage to satisfy the conditions of the loan.”

Nodding to himself for a moment, he gave me an affable but shrewd look. “But you came to me first, hoping I’d rescind the loan call. Correct?”

Firming up my shoulders, I looked the Chief Financial Officer for Western Regional bank squarely in the eye. “I can’t lie, it’s exactly what I’d hoped.”

Initially, Little Ben and I planned to go on bended knee to the bank branch he applied for the loan at – but then Beatrice and Ira found a Hail Mary. 

Stashed in Big Ben’s safe were deeds, with accompanying leases, for various pieces of real estate around Rye. Sifting through the boggling number of rental agreements, which included some of my favorite spots, dives, and joints – we discovered one for the headquarters of Western Regional Bank, signed by their CFO. We decided to appeal to Mr. Ikeda directly, hoping he’d listen and ignore the grand opportunity to acquire the land lying underneath his business’s main building.

Washing down his last bite with a sip of tea, he set aside his empty plate and fork. “I appreciate you bringing this to my attention, I will raise this issue with the appropriate parties tomorrow morning….”

Wetting my lips with a sip of tea, in hopes of banishing my sudden bout of cottonmouth, I tried to clarify his words. “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what that means exactly.”

Peering over the top rim of his glasses, Mr. Ikeda gave me a sympathetic smile. “It means you are more than welcome to stay and help me build a new house form my miniature, but our discussion on the loan and the bank’s lease are finished.”

A wave of panic washed over me. 

Flipping open my folder, I started scrounging thru the documents. “Please, Mr. Ikeda, hear me out. I’ve nullified all the factors listed in the loan call….” (And let me tell you that was a job of work.) Holding out two sheets of paper, I waited for Mr. Ikeda to take them. When he gave me another kind smile, I returned them to the folder sitting in my lap and summed them up at a pell-mell pace. “….At noon today, the Historical Society and Naturalists issued a press release formally ending their protests…”

Cutting in, as my lungs demanded air, the unflappable Mr. Ikeda stuck to his guns. “Exemplary work Ms. Arden, truly. But nothing you say will change my mind.”

In response to my rising frustration, my neurons started firing unhelpful instructions to my extremities, leading to a faint tremor in my left hand and a frantic bounce in my right knee. “We’ve also sent letters to KARB and ‘Rise and Shine Rye’ asking them to post corrections and clarifications for the errors made in their coverage of Nevermore’s troubles. Which will help rehabilitate Nevermore’s reputation in Rye. Plus, we’re working on a deal to supply a local food bank in Rye with fresh produce, a new green initiative, and low-cost art spaces…”

Using a fork full of gingerbread from his second slice to emphasize his points, Mr. Ikeda skillfully removed the wind from my sails. 

“Ms. Arden, have you ever heard the term, Mutuality of Obligation?”

“No…” 

“Are you an expert in contract law or possess a degree in finance?”

Worried any words issued from my mouth at this moment would reflect only my emotions – I shook my head no in response.

“Then, this topic is closed. Now, if you’d like to stay, I’d be more than happy to teach you the right way to weather a post office.”

2.58 The Proverbial Fork

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(I will celebrate properly later…but this is how I feel on the inside!)

I did not manage to thrust my left foot into a tangerine sneaker before Mr. John Dupree arrived at the Lavender Lady. Nor did I accomplish the aforementioned feat soon, or even soon adjacent, after his arrival.

Mr. John Dupree’s casual Saturday attire constituted a lopapeysa in shades that reminded me of the Colombia Basin in summer, soft chocolate tinted trousers, and shiny mahogany hued shoes. In other words – he looked just as dapper dressed down as he did suited up.

(In case you, like me, never heard the word ‘lopapeysa’ before – it’s apparently a traditional Icelandic sweater with a distinctive pattern knitted into it. After I compliment its craftsmanship, Mr. John Dupree happily told me the history of his wooly jumper, purchased while on vacation in Reykjavik.) 

My non-traditional twosome, of black sock and bright shoe, did not go unnoticed. In fact, it received a swift arch of Mr. John Dupree’s eyebrow, a split second conversation pause followed by rapid dive down to brass tacks. 

Which included: a set of speedy introductions, a posthaste hiring of Mr. John Dupree to represent Nevermore, a bare-bones outline of our initial needs, a match set of brisk phone calls to Ira and Leo, a teeth-gnashing wait for their arrival, another set of quick introductions, an interminable wait as Mr. John Dupree penned a clause Ira insisted on including in the contract, some signatures, a fair bit of countersigning, one stamp and then step two was finished.

I am – officially – Nevermore’s Caretaker once again.

And I’ve still failed to carve out a pair of seconds to rectify my deficiency of shoes. Which presently is least of my problems, a point Mr. John Dupree was making enormously clear over some celebratory cups of coffee.

“The language is simple. If Nevermore defaults, the collateral is forfeit, i.e., half of Nevermore’s estate.” Shaking his head, Mr. John Dupree turned to Little Ben and chucked the loan documents onto the kitchen table between them in disgust. “Why did you sign this? The terms are godawful.” 

Squirming under the scrutiny of Mr. John Dupree’s intense gaze, Little Ben shrunk slightly. “Putting up that much collateral lowered the interest rate to practically nothing, so it seemed like a good move. Sarah and Nathaniel didn’t think the small print mattered much since we were on solid financial footing…” 

“Be that as it may, their advise was poor.” 

“Should’ve listened to Lottie.” Was his only (and muttered) reply.

Watching the unbound bits of glitter spring, whirl, and glimmer across the table, I waited for Mr. John Dupree to drop the other shoe. Turning to include Ira and me in the next bit of news, he didn’t fail. 

“I don’t see any legal loophole in the loan or the loan call.”

Fan-forking-tastic.

Once again woebegone, Little Ben, addressed the depths of his mug in a hoarse voice. “So what you’re saying is either I forfeit half of Nevermore to the bank or sell a third to the city…..This is going to kill Pop.”

And there it is…The proverbial fork in the road. No matter which route we choose – we lose…and Josie wins.

Getting up from the table, I limped to the liquor closet.

“Good idea, I think we could all use a nip of something…” Beatrice’s initial thumbs-up morphed to horror when she spotted what I actually pulled from her cupboard dedicated to fermented grape and grain. “You stashed that, in there?”

“I’ll decontaminate the closet later, I promise.” 

“Drinking glitter-infused alcohol is not a thing.”

“I don’t know…” Leo countered, clearly succumbing to a wistful reverie. “….Goldschlager is pretty tasty.”

Head down, I bit my lip to keep them from curving upwards. Mr. John Dupree, undoubtedly sensing our sudden descent in the direction of pure whimsy, pulled us up short.

“What’s that?”

Meeting his gaze with a half-smile, I told him. 

“Door number three.” 

2.56 Well Hell…..

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Gobsmacked is such a lovely word. 

Not only does it have the word ‘smacked’ in it, but it also rolls off the tongue in such a pleasing manner. Conveying beautifully in a single word, the unexpected and staggering surprise that on occasion envelopes one’s person. Flabbergasted comes in as a close second, but I prefer the term gobsmacked in situations such as these – because that’s precisely how Little Ben’s stammering plea left me feeling.

Gobsmacked.

Sitting on the couch, no longer denuded by Robbie’s efforts at nest building, I rode the silence (just as Wood taught me) waiting for Little Ben to embroider the bombshell he’d dropped on my doormat. Beatrice, who appeared equally stunned by Little Ben’s surprising statement, quickly excused herself from proceeding – citing the unspecific excuse of ‘work’.

(BTW, her office door is standing wide open across the hall.)

Little Ben himself was presently standing before Harold S. Ellington’s case and losing, as everyone does, a staring contest with him. “He looks like he’s been through the wars, when did you get him?” 

“Actually, he belongs to my roommate Beatrice.”

“Seriously?” Glancing over his shoulder, Little Ben quickly returned for another stare-off with Harold. Unsurprisingly, Harold retained his clean sheet, forcing Little Ben to transfer his gaze onto a nearby shelf of books. “Only you could find someone to room with that owns their own skeleton.”

Letting my incredulity at his words fringe my own. “Thanks?” 

Shaking his head, Little Ben rubbed his eyes and turned towards me. “I apologize, that was rude.” Standing stock-still in the center of the room, his eyes skipped past mine and eventually landed on the ceiling above the coffee table standing between us.

“I don’t know where to start.”

Recalling a favorite of Aunt Pearl’s pearls of wisdom, one she’d swiped from a childhood classic, I attempted to nudge Little Ben ahead. “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Giving an overly bright half-laugh, eyes still focused on the floor above our heads, he forced out three chilling words.

“Nevermore’s in trouble.”

Feeling my stomach drop away towards the center of the earth, I laced my fingers together on my lap to disguise their shaking and did my best to project the quiet calm of a snowy winter’s morning. Reminding myself – the only portion of this situation that is actually surprising is the fact Little Ben is asking for my help… Rather than me coercing him into accepting it.

“How?”

“I took out a loan…”

“When you bought the MacGregor’s farm?” (For the Sunny Valley Farm Pet Cemetery.)

Finally, swinging his eyes off the ceiling, they veered briskly past mine (again) and latched onto the straight back chair next to the door. Picking it up, he set it across from me, sat down, and started scanning the pictures on the wall over my shoulder.

“No, I paid cash for the land.” 

“Cash?” Jerking slightly back in surprise, I wracked my brain trying to recall the last balance sheet I saw (which was a while ago) for Nevermore and the proposed budgets in the propaganda I’d liberated from Little Ben’s office earlier this year. “How much of Nevermore’s savings did you spend?”

“Enough…” Leaning back in the chair and resting his neck on its back, resuming the detailed survey of the paint and plaster directly above his head. Fortunately, he continued on before I felt the need to prompt him. “…that there wasn’t enough money to start phase two of my plans, so I took out that damnable loan….”

“And I take it, that’s when everything started going wrong.”

A barely audible “yes” reached my ears.

Shutting out the wretched sight of Little Ben’s leaky eyes, I closed my own and pictured, in my mind’s eye, the early morning handicraft still drying in the kitchen.

“So, what’s changed?” 

The question hung in the air between us for more than a few heartbeats. When it became apparent an answer wasn’t forthcoming, I pressed harder – venting off a bit of pent up spleen in the hopes of prying out any and all answers at a brisker pace. “Damn it, Ben, what’s happened that’s so bad you needed to ask me for help? Me?! The person you laid-off and evicted on the same day?”

Hearing him draw a rattling breath in response, I eased back on the couch and unclenched my fists.

“With all the bad press, picket lines, the sit-in…There’ve been a lot of calls to boycott Nevermore….the bank lost faith and called Nevermore’s loan due.”

Trying to keep my brittle calm from splintering, I focused on the problem at hand. “Okay. How much of the loan is left?”

“A little under two-thirds, the Naturalists and Historical Society protests really gummed up the works.” 

“Is there enough left in savings to make up the difference?” 

His only response was to lean forward and drop his head into his hands.

“What’s the penalty if you default?”

Watching his shoulders heave slightly in response, I stared in horror at the crown of his bowed head. “For forks-sake, what did you do?” The only rejoinder I received was a considerable surge in quaking. Reigning myself in, by sheer force of will, I rephrased the question in a less verbose and accusatory tone. “Ben, you need to tell me what happens to Nevermore if you default on the loan.”

In a labored voice, he finally pushed the answer out through the hands hiding his face, to the slice of carpet between his feet.

“I had to secure the loan.”

Convincing myself, I needed answers far more than I needed to shout, bellow or yell – I disregarded the buzzing in my ears, the bitter chill of my skin, and the liquid magma flowing beneath it. 

Choosing, instead, to center my focus on the rise and fall of my chest to establish enough equanimity to speak sensibly…Breath In…1…2…3…4…5…6…7….Okay, this is worse than you ever imagined…..Breath Out…1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10….so keep your shirt together…. Breath In…1…2…3…4…5…6…7…..you can scream into your pillow later…..Breath Out…1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…“….How much of Nevermore did you put up as collateral.”

“Enough.”

“Do. Better. Ben.”

“Half.”

Needing to put at least a nominal amount of distance between us, fearing I might actually give in to temptation and wring his miserable neck or spontaneously combust, I crossed out of the living room into the hall. Stopping on the threshold of Beatrice’s office, my peripheral vision caught a small movement down to my left. Beatrice, who at some point managed to swap her pajamas for regular clothes, sat cross-legged next to the open door staring up at me.

Setting aside the open magazine in her lap, she rose to her feet. “Bad?”

“Worse.” Flicking a glance over my shoulder, I turned back to meet her questioning gaze again. “Can you sit with him, or on him, if he tries to leave? I need a minute and a change of clothes.”

Lacing her fingers together, she stretched them out in front of her, cracked her neck, then gave me a curt nod. “On it.”

Chuckling, despite myself, I left Little Ben in her talented hands.