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Two Proposals

by Deborah Rochford

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

part 2

When Mr. Lawson saw the old Ford Taurus sitting in front of his father’s theatre, he almost did something very uncharacteristic. He almost turned his car around and drove back home without fulfilling his promise to meet with Mr. Kellerman.

According to his letter of introduction, Josh Kellerman was quite accomplished. He had written, produced, and acted in an Indie film at age twenty-two, and the film had made it all the way to Cannes. He had published numerous poems and short stories and was currently directing a play he had written. The show was scheduled to go up in a small theatre in Santa Ana, California in the spring.

Mr. Lawson frowned and sat, his car idling at the edge of the parking lot, wondering why Mr. Kellerman, for all of his supposed accomplishments, was driving a well-used, ten-year old car. He mentally kicked himself for not taking the time to research the man’s background more thoroughly. It was not like him to be so careless. If not for Susan running off to Florida in protest over selling the theatre, he was sure he would have done a better job of preparing to meet with a potential buyer.

In the end, his sense of decorum won out but, as he searched for a snow-free spot to park his car, he riffled through his mental store of polite and respectful ways to tell Mr. Kellerman that a deal had already been made, the property sold. He parked next to some sheltering pines, wrapped his scarf tightly around his neck and tucked the ends neatly into the front of his coat.

He trudged toward the place where his “potential buyer” was parked, avoiding the places where the wind had mounded the snow into slanted, miniature hills. The ghost of a smile touched his lips; no doubt Susan would find their weird geometry intriguing and want to photograph them if she had been here.

Mr. Lawson approached Mr. Kellerman’s car from the back, a hideous gold-colored Taurus, no doubt with cloth interior, chugging out white clouds of carbon monoxide and water vapor into the cold mountain air. Any doubt he might have held about sending the man on his way dissipated. Susan would have to understand. If she didn’t, well, maybe that was for the best anyway.

He had his speech prepared in his mind, polite but firm. The Moviemax corporation had come in with a new offer just this morning that was simply too good to pass up, so sorry, etc. He walked up to the driver’s side window and leaned down.

As he beheld the profile of the young man, an annoying lump developed in his throat. Mr. Kellerman was not much more than a boy, really. Leaning against the steering wheel, he fixed his gaze on the old theatre. Mr. Lawson sighed. He had seen that look far too many times; the longing on the faces of people who had a dream, but didn’t have the financial means to make it happen. It was why, ultimately, he was selling the property; to put himself in a position to retire from his job at the bank.

He straightened, his eyes drifting to the abandoned building that had been his father’s dream. It had been a poor investment; most likely the one that made himself work hard to become an excellent investment banker. He had learned to look at the numbers rather than the individual behind the dream. How many people had put him in the terrible position of having to reveal the cold, harsh reality of dollars and cents?

His thoughts drifted back in time. Mr. Bellerose, the man who had wanted to open a French bakery, was the first person to whom he had refused a loan. Mr. Lawson scowled. The man still crossed over to the other side of the street whenever their paths met, yet Mr. Lawson had more than likely saved Mr. Bellerose from financial disaster. He had turned down hundreds since then, with absolutely no regrets, he might add.

He crossed his arms over his chest. He glanced down to see if the young man had noticed his presence yet. Still unaware, even though Mr. Lawson was standing in plain sight next to the driver’s side window. Annoyance flooded through him. Was this some ploy to get him to sell a valuable piece of property to a man who obviously could not afford to buy it? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time he had seen unseemly behavior where money was concerned; pleading, tears, threats.

Mr. Lawson steeled himself. No regrets. He squared his shoulders and turned a critical eye toward his father’s theatre. The roof needed to be replaced. The quartzite walls would likely stand forever but were certainly out of fashion in this day of shining steel and glass. The old theatre only had one screen and the building was simply too small to compartmentalize into the ten or more screens that were common in today’s theatres.

The Moviemax people were right, the old building needed to come down.

Mr. Lawson’s mental inventory was broken by a short-lived appearance of the late afternoon sun. The rays filtered through a thin spot in the blanket of dark gray clouds. A flash of reflected sunlight caught his eye and drew his attention to the copper plating that graced the doors providing entrance to the theatre. His shoulders drooped a bit and he could feel his resolve struggling to flee. He could make out the outlines of the flowers embossed on the metal. The flower design had been for his mother, Rose.

Somehow, it brought to mind that there was, in truth, one regret.

Cheryl had come to him for a loan to open a shop where she could sell her hand-knitted scarves and caps. She did beautiful work. Mr. Lawson still had the scarf she had given him from the time they were dating. It was tucked safely away in the bottom drawer of his dresser, wrapped in tissue paper to keep it from getting worn or dirty. Even back then, fifteen years ago or so, his was the final word on business loans. Mr. Lawson had turned down the loan, turned her down.

He shifted his feet, and loosened the scarf around his neck, rolled his shoulders back to ease the ache that seemed to settle there. Cheryl had arrived at the bank late for her appointment, with two little curly-headed children in tow. She had an empty bank account and a drawer full of bills left behind by a husband who had run off to Georgia or South Carolina or some such place.

Truly, Mr. Lawson could not have justified loaning her money. And yet he knew her, knew her to be a decent, hard-working person, responsible, caring and considerate. An image of her face, quiet tears trailing down her cheeks to darken the collar of her shirt, her long golden-brown hair falling forward when she bowed her head to hide her disappointment.

He shook his head to dispel the image. That was a long time ago. Another bank had long since believed enough in her dream to give her the loan, and she was now the owner of a very successful shop in downtown Boulder. Her children were grown and off and she was married to a fine man he had met on several occasions at church fund-raisers.

Mr. Lawson leaned down to look once more at the entranced young man who had driven all the way from California in the unpredictable January weather to meet with him. He rolled his eyes heavenward. He had best give the boy a tour. It was only polite given how far he had come.

He cleared his throat and called out, “Mr. Kellerman.”

* * *

Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2016 by Deborah Rochford

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