Mike checks the calendar. It’s almost May. The weather’s been nice the past couple of weeks. The other day, he helped Robert pull weeds from the garden in his backyard. In just a few months, there will be tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. After working the garden, Robert made tuna sandwich for lunch to go along with a cold wheat beer. They talked small talk.
“Still writing your story?” Robert asked.
“Yep,” Mike replied. The tuna sandwich was tasty. The beer, cold and tart, paired well.
“How’s the money situation?” Robert asked.
“I think I can pay a couple more months of rent, but I probably should look for some kind of work soon,” Mike said.
“Don’t know. Definitely not design stuff,” Mike said.
Robert suggested tutoring or working at some store, but Mike knew he’d feel miserable doing such work. The truth was that he barely had enough to last through the end of the month. Rent money would have to come from selling all of his stock holdings, a small amount that he hadn’t touched in years. He knew that as a worst case scenario, he could temporarily move in with Robert. Robert lived in a spacious 4-bedroom house by himself and could use extra help in keeping the place tidy. But Mike doesn’t want it to come to this.
Mike feels the urgent need to make money. He can’t focus on his writing. It was this sort of stress, the constant obsessing and desire to make money, that made him leave his business. He thought that by moving out here, where the cost of living would be lower, money would be less of an issue. The freedom he sought was only temporary. The savings, nothing much to begin with, had quickly vanished.
He doesn’t need much. Rent is only $550 a month. He spends less than $150 on food each month. Bills and his lingering student loans total up to $300. A thousand dollars would be enough. Not a penny more.
His monthly income stands at zero. It’s been six months since he last collected a check, the check he wrote himself after liquidating all the assets – the office furniture, the extra computers, the supplies in the closet, the artwork on the walls. His business partner Julia had quickly found employment elsewhere, perhaps more lucrative and secure. He was glad for her, but a bit sad that she had found it so easy to move on. They had made a good team, but they always struggled to make big money, the kind of money that others seemed to make with ease.
He paces around his apartment. Dozens of ideas zip through his mind. He is tempted to call up a couple of old clients and offer freelance work. But he resists. That road will only take him back to his old ways. He thinks about a guy from college he talked to every once in a while. A chubby Chinese guy named Greg. Outgoing and always optimistic, Greg had started a company that sold pet supplies online. The twist was that all pet supplies – the bowls, leashes, bags, collars, etc. – were environmentally friendly. Either organic, all-natural, and/or biodegradable. Mike was skeptical about the business since there were scores of online vendors selling all kinds of things. But Greg persevered and grew the business to a fairly large size. Just a few months ago, he had sold it to a big corporate vendor for millions of dollars. Such great fortune, such business acumen. Mike felt worlds apart from such tales of success.
Finally. An idea strikes him. He’s not sure it’s any good, but thinks it’s worth a try. He calls Robert.
“Hey, can I come over? Need to look up a few things online,” he says.
“Sure,” Robert replies.
He packs his laptop, hops on his bike, and rides quickly.