Doris hated arithmetic. It had been her weakest subject in school, and she hadn’t gotten much better at it in her years since high school. So she sat at her desk, pencil in one hand and eraser in the other. She had a yellow legal pad on which she had listed each item for which she would receive a percentage. Next to each item she had written the percentage, so all she had to do was fill in the numbers, do the multiplication, and add up the total.
Financing: 5% of fee
Threshold: 4% Oh
, she thought to herself, I can combine Sale and Threshold, since I got both the listing and the showing.
She erased Threshold, and changed Sale to 8% OK, she thought. Selling price is two hundred sixty thousand. Um … ten percent would be … um … twenty six thousand. OH, that doesn’t help. Let’s see. Eight times six is ,…um …oh, six eights are forty eight. Put down the eight, carry the four. Two eights are sixteen, and four makes twenty. Twenty eight. Twenty eight thousand. NO. wait. How can that be? Oh, I know! It’s point oh-eight times. Oh, I’ll just have to write it out longhand.
Who knows how long she might have gone on like this, but she suddenly remembered she had a calculator in her desk drawer. Opening the drawer and rummaging around, she eventually fished it out from beneath a pile of pencils and paper clips. She blew the eraser dust from it, and turned it on. In a short time she had written on her pad, Sale: 20,800; Title: 5200; Finance fee, 500 x .05 25.00
TOTAL 26025. Not bad
, she thought to herself.
She placed the pad in her center desk drawer, and closed it. Then, she took out a Standard Contract of Sale, and filled in the blanks. When it was finished, she dropped it into the copy machine, and set it to make four copies. While the machine was running, she went to the bathroom, and checked her lipstick in the mirror. Giving her hair a few pats, she sauntered out of the bathroom and gathered the collated and stapled copies of the contract, and placed them in a neat stack on the conference table. Then she fished around in her desk drawer, and dug out three ballpoint pens, and her notary seal. She placed these on the conference table, to the left of the stack of contracts. Lastly, she checked to be sure the chairs were in the right places. It would never do to have one of the clients sit in her chair. It was perfectly fitted to the table height, and the chairs reserved for clients were purposely an inch lower. She had just finished making certain the chairs were in the proper places, when the buzzer went off, signaling that the outer door had been opened. She glanced at the Seth Thomas clock on the wall. The hands were perfectly aligned at six and twelve.
An she went into the front office, Doris said brightly, “Well, right on time. Nothing wrong with promptness, is there?”
“Is that your Mercedes out front?” Gerald asked, and went on, “The lights are on inside. I suppose they’d go out eventually, but that’s probably a bad idea.” Shit!
Doris thought to herself. That damn seat belt is probably caught in the door again.
“Well, I guess I’d better go see about that,” she said. “Why don’t you make yourselves comfortable in the conference room, and I’ll be right back.”
She went outside to the parking lot, and saw that indeed, the seatbelt had gotten caught in the door, and it wasn’t closed tightly. As she turned to go back into the office, she looked around for Gerald and Alice’s car, but didn’t see it. She noticed a fairly new BMW sports car parked next to her Mercedes, and had a brief sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. But she shrugged it off, and went back into the office. When she stepped into the conference room, she saw immediately that the chairs had been switched. Gerald was sitting in her chair, and had left a lower one at her space at the head of the table.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said, as she entered. “I took the liberty of taking the taller chair. I have a problem with my knee if I sit in a chair that is too low.”
She knew there was no way she could work that to her advantage, so she swallowed the lump that was beginning to rise in her throat, and said, “Not at all, Mr. McQuire.”
“Oh do call me Gerald,” he replied smoothly. “After all it is my name.” This is not going well at all
, thought Doris, but managed a slight smile, as she replied, “As you wish, Gerald.”
“Well,” she began, “Let’s get down to business, shall we? As you can see, Mr., um…Gerald, this is a standard Agreement of Purchase Contract, and of course, if the offer is acceptable to the seller, then you can enter into a Purchase Contract, with the usual contingencies.”
“Being?” Gerald and Alice asked, in unison, almost as if they had rehearsed it, which unbeknownst to Doris, they had.
“Oh the usual contingencies of financing and a clear and conveyable title.”
“Can you excuse me for a moment,” Gerald said, rising. “I forgot something out in the car.”
Without waiting for a response, he strode out of the conference room, leaving Doris and Alice sitting there, staring at one another like children whose cookies had just been taken away.
Doris opened her mouth to say something, then quickly closed it. She did it again, and Alice had a sudden vision of a fish out of water.
She clenched her hands in her lap, digging her fingernails into her palm, and looked down at them, trying hard to not giggle.
Just as quickly as he had left, Gerald reappeared, carrying his briefcase.
He took his chair, setting the briefcase on the floor next to himself, and opened it. Reaching in with one hand, while he fished in his jacket pocket with the other, he soon produced a sheaf of papers and a Montblanc fountain pen.
Doris blanched, and clenched her teeth. This meeting had definitely gotten completely out of her control, and she was not one bit happy.
“I took the liberty,” Gerald began again, and Doris thought, that son of a bitch takes too damn many liberties.
“of having my firm do a title search,” he went on. “Here is the affidavit, signed by the senior partner, and notarized. Current title to subject property, known as (and here he rattled off the address) is in the name of Doctor Ronald Nesbit and Martha Nesbit, his wife, as tenants by the entireties. There are no outstanding liens on the property, and no easements have been granted other than the easement granted unto the gas and power company, by one Sarah Ethridge, deceased. I brought three copies; one for you, one for Dr. Nesbit and his wife, and one which we shall keep in our folder.” He slid two copies of the document across the table toward Doris, who by this time was so overwhelmed and off guard, that she simply took them in hand, and said, “Thank you.”
“Now then,” Gerald continued smoothly. “As to the Agreement of Sale. I had a courier stop by the Nesbits this afternoon, with a cashier’s check for Twenty six thousand dollars, payable to Dr and Mrs. Nesbit jointly, or the sole survivor, should something befall either of them before they are able to cash it. In exchange for that payment of earnest monies, they have signed an Agreement of Sale, which has been duly notarized. Again, I have three copies: one for your file, one for the Nesbits, and one for our records. If you’d care to ink up your seal, Alice and I shall sign the contract in your presence.” He uncapped the pen and hastily scribbled an unintelligible signature above his printed name on each of the three copies. As he signed them, he slid each in turn to Alice, who had taken a sterling silver filigree Pelican fountain pen from her purse. Alice signed each copy, and passed them to Doris.
Doris, at this point feeling completely outclassed, and totally unnerved, quietly signed and sealed each copy with her Notary. She was very aware that she was signing the documents using a cheap ballpoint pen, and her signature was shakier than usual. She sat and stared at it, feeling almost as if she was looking at the scene from outside her body.
“Well,” Gerald said,” that’s done, so let’s move on to the real meat and potatoes.” Reaching into his briefcase once more, he withdrew a sheaf of papers, with two cashier’s checks held to the front by paperclips.
Sliding the two checks across the table to Doris, he said, “Here are two checks, one in the amount of ten thousand dollars for one Mason And Hamlin Full Concert Grand Player Piano, of unknown date and serial number; and the other in the amount of two hundred twenty four thousand dollars, as payment in full for the subject property. You will note they are both payable the Dr Ronald and Mrs. Martha Nesbit, jointly or severally, as may be necessary at the time of negotiation.
We decided that the piano should be recorded as a separate sale, for two reasons. Firstly, as I pointed out to Dr. Nesbit, the realtor’s fee is based on the total sale price, and placing the piano in with the house raises the amount the sale costs them by eight percent of that ten thousand dollars, and secondly (and more important to Alice and me) the piano has to be listed in a separate bill of sale for us to insure it separately from the dwelling. I’m sure you understand.”
Now Doris was totally flummoxed. All she could think was that she wasn’t going to get nearly as much for this sale as she had planned, and she sat there, trying to figure out how much she was losing because of all that had transpired. Her mind was reeling and all she could visualize were numbers spinning through her mind.
“Since you have in hand a notarized agreement of sale, stating a purchase price of two hundred fifty thousand dollars,” here he took back one copy of the agreement, and turning it to face Doris, he opened it to the next to last page, and pointed to the figure as he said it. “And a copy of the cashier’s check for twenty six thousand dollars, and the cashier’s check, which I have no doubt you will deliver to the Nesbits first thing tomorrow morning, for the remaining balance of two hundred twenty four thousand dollars, I believe our business here is finished, and we may say, as MacArthur did, ‘These proceedings are closed’. Thank you very much. We shall stop by the Nesbit’s house tomorrow morning at ten AM, to pick up the keys and the signed copy of the deed. We trust you will have removed the lock box by then. Thank you.” As he was talking, Gerald had been carefully inserting all his and Alice’s copies of the documents in his briefcase. Closing the latch with a sharp click, and standing, he continued, “We shall let ourselves out.”
“Thank you,” Alice said brightly over her shoulder, as she walked out of the room.
When they got outside, Alice said, “Well, she was a real bitch on wheels.”
“I think she’s a bitch with a flat tire, now,” Gerald replied.
Alice laughed, but Gerald said, “No, I mean it. Look at her car.”
“Serves her right,” said Alice. “I saw how she looked down her nose at your brother’s car.”
“Well, I don’t care how nasty or shallow or stuck up she is, “Gerald said. “I am not going to stoop to her level. Here, take the keys, and wait for me. I’m gonna go get her to come out and unlock her trunk if she has a jack and a spare.”
Gerald turned and went back to the office. He tried the door, but it had locked behind him and Alice, so he rapped sharply on it.
Doris had been just sitting after they had left. She was sure she had lost at least ten thousand dollars in the deal, and was stunned. She started when she heard the knock on the door. Now, who can that be?
She thought. She started out of the conference room toward the door, but when she saw it was Gerald, she turned on her heel and walked back into the conference room. If that shit wants something more, he can damned well stew, waiting
, she thought. She heard the rap again, louder this time. Jesus!
She thought, if he hits it any harder, he’s gonna crack the glass in it. Oh, I’d better go see what the son of a bitch wants.
She stomped through the office, and opened the door a crack.
“Well?”she asked in a voice that would have frozen Key West.
“Could you come unlock your trunk for me?” Gerald asked.
“WHAT?? I’ll do no such…”
“You have a flat tire, and if your spare is good, I’ll change it for you.”
For the second time that night, the wind was taken completely from Doris’ sails. She stood there, gaping, her mouth opening and closing, as if she wanted to say something, or was gasping for breath.
Alice saw her in the rear view mirror of the car, and finally was unable to control herself any longer. She doubled over laughing so hard, she thought she might pee herself, if she didn’t stop. Then she thought about the leather upholstery. The thought of peeing on it curbed her mirth enough that she was able to regain control.
It was good that she did, because just about then, Doris emerged from the office, her keys in hand.
Gerald made quick work of changing her tire, and as he did so, Doris decided that maybe he wasn’t so bad, after all.
He finished, and placing the flat tire in her trunk, said, “There you go, Ma’am. All set.”
Doris thanked him, and he hopped into the car with Alice, and they drove off.
“You know something?” Alice asked after they were underway.
“You never cease to surprise me, and I love you for that. After what she tried to pull, I would have left her with the flat.”
Well,” Gerald replied, “we could have done that. But I like to be able to look in the mirror in the morning. Besides, to quote Michael Corleone, ‘it’s not personal; it’s just business’. Let’s swing by my mom’s house, and pick up the keys. I wonder why she was never close with Aunt Sarah.”
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<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/novels/minuet-in-g-chapter-ii-1.aspx">Minuet In G Chapter II</a>