Monday, April 18, 2022

Microstory 1866: Garden Path

My family had more than enough money to afford college, but I refused to go, because I already knew what I wanted to do with my life, and four years of studying math and history weren’t going to do me any good. My parents were disappointed, but they understood. They worked long hours to earn that money, so my father’s parents chose to move closer to us so I could go over there after school every day. My grandmother would read me classic books while I was curled up in a plastic storage bin, and my grandfather would teach me things he thought every growing child should know, like how to hold a baseball like a pitcher. But we all three worked in that garden together. It was so beautiful that neighbors would ask them to landscape their yards for them. They were both retired, and appreciated the opportunities to do something productive with their lives. They didn’t start a real business, but I knew that it could become that one day, and that I would be responsible for it. By the time I graduated from high school, they were too old to be on their hands and knees all the time, so I took on the clients alone, and started charging money for my services. I kept getting more and more requests, and before I knew it, I had to hire some help to get everything done. In only a few years, I had an office clerk, an accountant, and two separate crews so we could serve two homes at the same time. I was making a real name for myself in the industry; so big, in fact, that I risked not being able to do what I loved, because I ended up with so many administrative duties. That was when a new opportunity knocked in my door.

A wealthy man who had already founded and sold off two companies had decided to break ground on the headquarters for a new organization right here in my community. Back then, before the internet, it was hard to determine who was a good guy, and who was bad, but I couldn’t find any skeletons in his closet. He asked me to design the landscaping for the building. He didn’t like the idea of anyone working in an office setting without windows, so there would be no cubicles, and no interior rooms, except for bathrooms, and storage closets. If it had a desk in it, it also had a view. To maximize the space, it was built with four separate courtyards that weren’t even all at the same height. So I guess some people would be working without windows, but for good reason. It was a company that shot commercials for other companies, so the soundstage had to be big, and soundproof. Anyway, that doesn’t matter. The point is the courtyards. The landscaping had to be gorgeous and extravagant, because hundreds of people were going to be looking at it, and living in it, every day. It was a huge project. I wasn’t sure I could handle it. I certainly wouldn’t have any time to plant any trees myself, which is what I always loved. Still, it was good money, so I had to take it. Once it was complete, the founder was so impressed that he essentially donated his nephew to me. The nephew wanted to be a businessman, but he didn’t want to work directly for a family member. He seemed perfect. He could handle all the boring stuff, and I could return to what I did best. It went well for the next few years until he pushed me out using some legal maneuvering that I still don’t understand. His uncle was horrified, but he said there was nothing that either of us could do. Except that wasn’t true. I started a new company from the ground up, using my good name to accumulate clients, and before I knew it, I was bigger than the nephew ever hoped to achieve.

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