faithful in little
|Feb 8, 2020||1|
“Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much,
and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.”
Luke 16:10, CSB
“i hate having meetings in this part of town,” Clay said, dodging spring rain puddles in his freshly buffed loafers.
Vinton, in suit and sneakers, strolled along casually behind him. “you have to actually get out and see the city.” he waved at a man working in his yard nearby.
Clay wiped his sweaty forehead with a handkerchief. “if i visited every place we manage, i’d never be in the office.”
“don’t tease me like that.”
they arrived at the bus stop, and Clay inspected the bottoms of his shoes.
“if we take the bus, it’ll take us an hour to get back.”
“twenty minutes, Clay. i’ve done it before.”
Clay rolled his eyes. off the sidewalk behind him, a folding chair sat on the edge of the nicely-manicured yard with a hand-painted “$5” on its back. he took out his handkerchief and laid it on the seat.
“you’re not going to sit on that are you?”
“i ‘ve got a spot on my shoe.”
now Vinton rolled his eyes.
the man doing yard work approached, sweaty, holding a water bottle. “hello, gentlemen. welcome to Leo Grant’s Bus Stop Relaxation Station. bus is a few minutes out still. i can rent you this chair for five dollars.”
Clay was inspected his shoe. “i don’t want to buy your chair. i’m just looking at my shoe, guy.”
“well, you can use it for whatever you like, but i’m renting it, not selling it. five dollars gets you--”
“you can’t rent a chair.”
“well, it’s like paid parking but for your butt instead of your Benz.” Leo flashed a smile.
Clay glared at him. “i’m not paying you, dude.”
“look, man, i’m just tryin to earn a little cash for my family. i lost my job a few weeks ago, so i’m doing whatever odd jobs--“
“yeah it’s a sad story, there Leo,” Clay said, putting his loafer back on. Leo watched him as he crossed his legs and arms and sat in the folding chair as if he owned the whole neighborhood. “kind of like an adult lemonade stand, huh?”
“if it helps to think of it that way.”
“it doesn’t. i’m not paying you, Leo.”
Leo ran his tongue under his lip as his nostrils flared. “no problem, but would you please mind leaving it open for other customers then?”
Vinton looked around at the empty sidewalk.
Clay turned to look at him. “you’re serious?”
“always serious about business, sir.” and Leo looked serious.
“you leave a chair by the bus stop, you’re basically inviting people to sit in it.”
“well, it’s still on my property,” Leo said, pointing his water bottle at him. “so technically you’re trespassing.”
“you don’t know who you’re talking to, buddy. do you have a business license? do you have a permit to do business on this street? i know all kinds people high up with Mayor’s Offi--”
“i’m not on the street,” Leo said as the bus pulled up and opened its doors. he stepped closer to Clay, hovering over him. “sir, i'm going to have to ask you to pay the five dollars.”
“i’m not paying it.” Clay was starting to get frightened by the man’s imposing size. he looked at the bus driver. “call the cops.”
“yes, please,” Leo said. “i have someone trespassing and stealing my business.”
“i’m not calling the cops,” the driver growled. “you getting in or not?”
“actually i think i might sit here for a while.” Clay turned to Leo. “is that five dollars an hour, or can i stay here all day for that price?”
“sir, i’m not looking for trouble, and i don’t care to be patronized, especially in my own yard, which you are in.”
“is that a threat?”
“yo!” the bus driver shouted.
“Clay, come on.” Vinton touched Clay’s shoulder.
Clay jerked it away. “one second.”
Vinton rolled his eyes again and shrugged at the bus driver. the driver sighed and pulled the doors shut.
Clay reached into his suit coat pocket and retrieved a thin leather wallet. he plucked a ten from it. “got change for a ten?”
“absolutely,” Leo said, smiling, pulling his wallet out.
Clay stood and handed Leo the ten. as the bus began to pull away, Clay folded up the metal chair and tossed it under the bus as it pulled away. the back wheels of the bus pressed the chair — half on the street, half on the sidewalk — into the concrete, folding it and snapping the legs with a loud metallic screech.
as the bus sped off down the street, Leo stood stunned.
Clay walked down the sidewalk. “come on, Vinny. i’ll get us an Uber. my treat.”
“hey!” Leo shouted, chasing him.
Clay turned and backed away as Leo neared until he was too afraid to move. Leo was in his face. Vinton watched from the side, nervous. they all stood staring each other down.
“your change,” Leo said, and held up five dollar bill in Clay’s face.
“...don’t you want to put it toward a new chair?”
Leo shook his head slowly. “cost of doing business.”
Clay slowly took the five from him.
Leo pushed the unopened bottle of water into Clay’s hand. “your water.”
“comes with the chair rental.”
“thanks,” Clay said, suspicious.
Leo nodded and backed away. “thank you gentlemen for your business.” he took leather gloves out of his back pocket and returned to his yardwork.
Vinton was astonished. Clay walked to the nearby street corner and threw the water bottle in the trash.
a few days later, Leo awakened to loud machines outside his house. he threw on flannel pants and a t-shirt and stepped into his lush green yard. a public works crew was busy jackhammering holes into the sidewalk by the bus stop. on the back of a flatbed trailer was a covered iron bus bench.
“hey, yo! what is this?”
“you Leo?” a man in a hard hat said.
“well i got a note for a Leo.”
the worker handed over an envelope. Leo ripped it open. inside was a note on City of New York stationery. the signed, handwritten note said, “thought this would look better in front of your yard.”
Leo steamed, he thought his temples might explode. then he saw the office address at the top of the letterhead. he headed inside for his keys.
Leo walked into to Public Works building, trying to remain cool. he checked the note again. third floor. he headed to an elevator, pushed the button, and waited.
when the doors open, there was the man in the suit that had crushed his chair.
Leo immediately lost it. “hey man, what is this about? you gotta throw your weight around? kick a man while he’s down?”
Clay stared at him. then looked at the note crumpled in Leo’s hand. looking back at Leo, he spoke slowly. “i don’t know what you’re talking about.”
he pushed past him, and that’s when Leo noticed Clay was holding a box of books, pens, desk trinkets. Clay walked back through the lobby and out into the parking lot. Leo watched, confused, then stepped slowly into the elevator.
it opened on the third floor, and a young woman smiled at him from behind the reception desk. Leo cautiously approached.
“hi, i'm Leo Grant,” he said, hoping she’d know what was going on.
“hello, Mr. Grant. i’m Marina. Mr. Brooks was hoping you’d call or come by. i’ll let him know you’re here.”
“you can have a seat right over there. can i get you a water or coffee or anything?”
Leo stifled a laugh from the irony. “uh, no. i’m fine. thank you.” he sat down, apprehensive, wondering what he was walking into. Marina spoke quietly on the phone, and then rose.
“he’s ready for you. follow me.”
Leo followed Marina through hallways covered in aerial photos of the great city’s most beautiful places. Leo spotted his boro as he quickly passed the black and white photo. Marina opened a large wooden door at the end of the corridor, and daylight spilled into the hall. Marina smiled as Leo slipped past her.
behind the desk stood the other man from the bus stop. “Leo?”
“yessir, Leo Grant.”
Leo chuckled. “yeah. see, you remember it.”
Leo held up the note. “i guess you’re Vinton, then.”
“i am. please, have a seat.”
Leo sat, surveying the large corner office.
“you have a nice yard, Leo.”
“thank you, sir. i work hard at it.”
“how would you like to take care of a bigger yard?”
“i don’t understand, sir.”
“the city workers who put that new bench in at your house? each of those men makes twenty to forty dollars an hour. and none of them hustle as hard as you do. now i can only do seventeen fifty to begin with, but you’d have benefits. vacation, health insurance, 401k. and you’d be taking care of the biggest yard in the city.”
“we’re about to do some major renovations to a few areas, and we’re hiring. you’d start the lowest man on the totem pole, of course. but with your work ethic and integrity, you’ll move up quickly. so, what do you say?”
Leo thought. “i’d like a signing bonus.”
Vinton raised an eyebrow. “for an hourly public works job?”
Leo had his business face on. and it made Vinton smile. “okay. what’d you have in mind?”
“recently,” Leo proceeded, “i lost a physical asset during a business transaction that went awry.”
Vinton laughed and reached to his desk phone. “Marina, can you please bring a folding chair from the conference room?”