Tag: familybusiness

Mrs. Frobisher’s Heir

“Roland, I adopted an heir,” Mrs. Frobisher said one day. My name is actually Steven, but Mrs. F renames all her employees. She said it was so she could remember all their names. She paid well, and the economy was bad, so no one really complained.

“Congratulations, Ma’am,” I said.

“I want you to see to his education and such, Roland. He just has so much potential. I look forward to seeing him bloom under your guidance.” She looked at me sternly, and I understood that there had better be blooming or my job was over.

“I’ll do my best,” I said.

“Excellent.” Mrs. F opened the side door to her office that no one else is ever allowed to open and called out, “Harold, come meet your new friend Roland.”

There was a shuffling sound, and I leaned forward. Out of the darkened room came a chimpanzee dressed in a little three-piece suit. It looked at me and scratched its side absently. “Isn’t that—” I began.

“Yes, this is Harold,” she interrupted. “Harold, meet Roland.”

Was it a joke? It didn’t seem like it. I held out a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Harold. I look forward to working with you.” Harold looked at my hand and then slapped it before wandering off.

“Children these days,” Mrs. Frobisher chuckled. “He’s going to be a handful. All the bright children are, of course. Well, I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.” She sat at her desk and pulled out some paperwork that she held upside down.

I turned to Harold, who was digging through the wastebasket. I wanted to cry. With my salary, I just barely made rent and not even the fast food places were hiring. Chimp or not, Harold was going to bloom. I pulled out my phone and started texting.

Harold learned quickly. I found him a tutor, and he mastered enough sign language to get through his expensive private school. He was a whiz at multiple-choice tests. Between that and some over-helpful tutors, Harold managed to graduate and ace the college entrance exams. He was accepted at a small but prestigious university, helped along by a large, well-timed donation from a proud Mrs. F.

Well, that’s that, I thought as I read the acceptance letter. He’s bloomed. I happily prepared to deliver the acceptance letter and go back to auditing accounts or something. Someone was hired years before to take over my former duties, but surely something was available.

Mrs. Frobisher set down the letter with a happy sigh. “Roland, you’re doing so well for my Harold. I’ll arrange for an apartment for the both of you near the university so you can continue to advocate for my dear boy.”

I felt faint. “Mrs. F?”

“Oh, don’t worry. The company will partially reimburse you for any classes you wish to take to further your education while you’re there. Harold will still be your priority of course.” She gave me that look again. The economy was still pretty bad, too.

Oh well. I always wanted to get an MBA. And I became rather fond of the little guy too. How would he manage without me?

So, Harold and I went away and got degrees. Harold’s talent for multiple-choice tests was as sharp as ever. Mrs. Frobisher cried at his graduation. Three months later, she passed away unexpectedly.

To my surprise, she changed her will when she adopted her heir, leaving Harold in my care and everything else to him.

Yes, the company too.

Remarkably, under Harold’s leadership the company did better than ever. I prepared any decisions he needed to make as a multiple-choice test, and otherwise he was pretty hands off and let people do their jobs. He was very popular.

Far too soon, Harold grew old. He moved more slowly and was less interested in doodling on the reports from the department heads. He didn’t have any children (despite some awkward blind dates set up by Mrs. F) so I helped him turn the company over to the employees.

Harold helped me narrow down the list of candidates for CEO, and then we left it to a company-wide vote. I nearly spit my cocoa on Harold when I read the results. I had won the election as a write-in candidate.

Harold was able to stay in the little apartment behind the door no one else is ever allowed to open. I did my best for the company. When Harold passed away, thousands came to his funeral.

I stood by the casket, shaking hands and trying not to cry. A child approached and wrinkled up his nose. “Mom,” he said, “It’s a monkey.”

“Hush, dear,” his mother said. “The funeral home just did a bad job. Poor man. They should have had it closed casket.” They moved on.

I felt lost. Maybe, I thought, I should start renaming all my employees. Maybe I should find an heir.

I originally posted this on my blog, stbirdblog.wordpress.org, on October 26, 2016. I like how the illustration turned out on this one.

The Misfit Pirate

Bob, the terrifying pirate captain, had four sons. He was proud to introduce them to all the frightened sea vessels he happened to cross paths with. “Prepare to be boarded by Bob the Terrible and his crew. And have ye met my fine sons Grog, Hunter, Alex, and Saber?”

Grog was on his way to being a fine second-in-command. He could load and aim a cannon while blind-folded and still hit a seagull flying leagues away. Hunter was a daring swordsman who could fight off twenty men and walk away without a scratch. Saber was still young, but he could sight an approaching ship on the horizon without a spyglass, and then steer to meet it unaided, even through the middle of a howling storm.

But Alex just didn’t seem to fit in with the other pirates. He tried. He was an excellent jewelry appraiser and could talk for hours on carats, cut, and clarity. He was a fine navigator, with a good knowledge of longitude, latitude, and degrees.

Yet if there was a fierce battle to be enjoyed, somehow Alex was somewhere else. When they were telling stories of adventure on the high seas, he looked bored. And after he’d appraised the treasure, he had no more interest in it, and never looked at it again.

“Did ye drop the lad on his head one day?” Bob asked his wife.

She hit him on the head with a spare wooden leg. “How could you say something like that? Alex just has different interests, like you did.” Then she sent him to peel potatoes while Saber took over steering the ship for a while.

Sitting in the galley peeling potatoes gave Bob a chance to think about the past. Bob’s parents were accountants. They loved to add up columns of numbers and fill out spreadsheets. They took their children on trips to the library and chess tournaments. While his brother Steve loved chess and numbers and books, Bob did not.

“Why can’t we go to the beach?” Bob asked one day. “I don’t want to be an accountant. I want to be a pirate.”

His mom laughed. “Lots of little boys and girls say they want to be pirates when they grow up. But then they find something they like better.”

“But I really do want to be a pirate,” Bob protested.

“Of course you do, dear,” she said. “But robbery and mayhem is a terrible career path. Why don’t you look into engineering? It pays well and is legal, too.”

Bob snorted as he finished peeling the last potato. Piracy paid just fine. But maybe it wasn’t for everyone. If Alex didn’t want to be a pirate, then Bob wasn’t going to insist on it. That wasn’t the pirate way.

And so, after dinner, Bob joined Alex on deck. Alex was looking out across the water, frowning. Bob patted him on the shoulder. “Son, do ye want to be a pirate or not? Because accountants are okay too, even if they’re terribly boring.”

Alex looked up. “Being a pirate is nice.”

“But do ye love it? It’s not a career for the half-hearted.”

Alex sighed and looked out at the waves again. “I don’t love it. I don’t like it when there’s fights or things get loud. I think treasure is boring. And sometimes, when the weather is bad, I get seasick.” He looked back up at Bob and whispered, “Are you mad at me?”

“Of course not.” Bob smiled and ruffled his hand through Alex’s hair. “Ye can’t help being who you are.”

“So now what?” Alex asked.

“We’ll write to your uncle Steve and see if he can recommend a good school for you.” Bob smiled as Alex hugged him.

Alex let go with a frown. “But if I go to school, I won’t see you and Mom and Grog and Hunter and Saber any more.”

Bob laughed. “Of course you will. Pirates never give up their treasures, and you and your brothers are my real treasures. You’ll see us. We have to find someone to appraise the rest of the treasure, after all.”

Alex smiled. “Someone else might cheat you and ignore obvious inclusions that affect the clarity of the gems.”

Bob nodded. “Yeah, that. So we’ll jump out from the shadows when you least expect it.”

Alex leaned against the railing. “I’d hate to get out of practice. Jump away.”

“That’s the plan. I guess someone in the family had to be respectable.”

Alex looked up. “Thanks, Dad. I love you.”

“I love you too.”