Pursuit of a Dream – Chapter 2
Copyright © 2004 by Robert Pruneda
All Rights Reserved
United Commerce Bank
Monday, 7:55 a.m.
David grabbed his briefcase from the passenger seat of his black Lexus, set the alarm, and then walked inside United Commerce Bank. He was greeted by a few bank employees on his way to the elevator and then rode up to the mezzanine level between the first and second floors. Directly across from the elevator was the Investments Department.
As David walked towards his office he was greeted by one of the wire transfer clerks. “Good morning, Mr. Lockhardt.”
“Morning, Gladys.” David smiled and unlocked his glass office door, flipped on the light switch and placed his briefcase on his desk. Before turning on his desktop computer, he checked his interoffice mail box and fax machine. As he browsed through his faxes, he noticed a fax addressed from his brother. He sat down at his desk and read:
Hey, bro. How are things in Dallas? Hectic as usual in Austin. I got some rather bad news yesterday at a staff meeting and was hoping you could help me out with something. I can’t really discuss any details with you, but let’s just say I’m a little concerned about the stability of the company I’m working for. Maybe you can find something on that computer internet deal you told me about. I figured you could find something about Delco Communications that may have leaked into the media. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but I don’t think the managers were telling us the whole story in the meeting we had last night. You can take your time with looking into this for me. It’s no rush. I appreciate your help, though. Oh, and say ‘Hello’ to Denise and Julia for me.
David logged onto to his computer, turned on his external modem and dialed into the Internet. He logged onto an online stock report and did a search for DELCO COMMUNICATIONS. The company had closed at 28.74 on Friday, which was a thirty percent drop from a week ago. The company had normally closed at an average of about 100 points a year ago. He typed a few keystrokes and then looked at a listing of the company’s stock. It was currently at 23.01.
David had a report to finish by noon, but this stock plummet caught his attention. The economy had not been doing that well, but a thirty percent drop in a week looked serious. He searched the Internet for financial and investment news pertaining to Delco Communications and found an article about the company’s site in San Diego. One hundred employees had been laid off a week prior with the possibility of even more layoffs this week!
David wrote a message on a sheet of paper and then transmitted it to John’s home fax machine.
Ed Phillips sat in his office with his door closed. He sat hunched over his desk with both elbows on the surface and his forehead resting in the palms of his hands. He had been reviewing quarterly reports from the previous year. He glanced at his computer screen that displayed an article about the San Diego site’s mass layoff. On the lower right hand corner of the screen was a small window with a line graph showing profits for the Round Rock site spanning over the past year. The graph indicated a steady decline that almost mirrored the report from the site in San Diego.
The site manager sat up and switched over to another screen that displayed hourly stock quotes on the Internet. It was only 9 a.m. and Delco Communications had already dropped almost three points since the New York Stock Exchange opened earlier that morning. Mr. Phillips let out a frustrated sigh and ran both hands through what hair was left on his head.
Mr. Phillips lifted himself out of his chair and walked out of his office. To his right, on the mezzanine level of the call center was a water cooler. He grabbed a paper cup out of the dispenser, filled it up with cold water, and then looked out onto the inbound customer care center below.
Rows and rows of agents listened to and talked to their customers over multimedia headsets as they switched from one screen to another, stopping periodically to enter information. Below, a supervisor stood in front of a large copy machine, staring at it blankly as it spit out copies of a memo.
On the far side of the call center, near some large windows, John Lockhardt sat at his desk with a headset on and stared at his computer screen. He rolled his eyes and shook his head revealing that the agent he was monitoring kept making mistakes or the customer was an idiot. A slight smile crossed Mr. Phillips’s face. He then looked at another section of the call center while taking another sip of water. A cheerful young lady, around twenty years of age, helped her customer troubleshoot a problem with a product the customer had purchased. Another agent nearby smiled and greeted a separate customer.
Mr. Phillips drank the rest of his water, crunched the paper cup with his hand and tossed it in the trash can. With a sigh, he walked back into his office and shut the door.
Cunningham Elementary School
Barbara Ferguson sat on a bench next to another teacher at Cunningham Elementary School. She talked to her coworker while monitoring her class of second graders playing on the school playground during recess. Some children were playing on the swings sets—a couple of them jumped off in mid-air and then looked towards their teacher to make sure she did not see them. A group of girls played Ring Around the Rosie close to the merry-go-round where some boys played in the nearby sandbox. Several other children enjoyed climbing around a wooden play fortress. A little girl slid down the slick surface of a slide.
Caleb and some other boys had just started a game of Tag.
“You’re it!” One of Caleb’s classmates yelled as he tagged another friend of his. Caleb was the closest kid nearby, so he was immediately targeted for the next tag. The boy chasing Caleb was clearly faster and caught up to him with ease. He stumbled and gave Caleb a rough and off-balanced tag. The force of the tag caused Caleb to fall forward and scrape his knee on the ground. Like a catapult, Caleb shot back up off the ground, and without a word, tackled the other boy.
One of the boys nearby pointed and yelled, “Fight!”
Mrs. Ferguson focused her attention to where the commotion was coming from. She and Miss Evans ran towards Caleb and the other boy. By the time they got to where the boys were fighting, Caleb was on top of his victim throwing punches left and right. Mrs. Ferguson grabbed hold of Caleb and pulled him off the other boy, who was now crying. Caleb tried to get in one last kick before the teacher pulled him away.
Miss Evans examined Caleb’s little human punching bag and asked, “Brian Pirelli, what in God’s name happened?”
Brian whimpered, “We were playing t-tag… a-and, I was it. I t-tagged Caleb… and, he f-fell down. I d-didn’t mean to, Miss Evans.”
“And then what happened?”
“He t-tackled me and s-stawted h-hitting me-e.” Brian whimpered while wiping some tears from his eyes.
“Brian,” Miss Evans said with a calm voice, “Why don’t just apologize to Ca-leb for pushing him too hard. It was just an accident, so I’m sure he’ll do the same.”
“Caleb! What’s gotten into you!” Mrs. Ferguson was furious. “Why were you hitting Brian? You apologize to him right this instant, you hear me?”
“I’m not apologizing to that little brat! He deserved it!” Caleb crossed his arms and glared at Brian.
“Caleb, you are already in enough trouble as it is, young man! Your behavior and your attitude is completely unacceptable!”
“He pushed me first and he—”
“You were playing Tag, for crying out loud!”
“So! He did it on purpose!”
“I did not!” Brian defended without a whimper.
“You did too!”
“All right! Enough!” Mrs. Ferguson broke in. “Both of you are in Time Out for the rest of recess and I expect you boys to sit down right here,” the angry teacher demanded as she sat them down next to each other on a nearby bench, “and make up by the time we go back inside. Is that understood?”
Mrs. Ferguson leaned forward and snarled just inches in front of them. “I said is that understood?”
In wide-eyed unison, the boys responded, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Both of you will be getting a note to take home to your parents and—”
“But I didn’t do anything,” Brian defended.
“Young man, it takes two to have fight and—”
“Not another word, young man!”
“And you!” Mrs. Ferguson shot with intense eyes.
Caleb’s grin was suddenly erased.
“One more problem from you, young man, and I’ll be meeting with your father personally! You’re both getting off easy this time, but if the notes aren’t signed by your parents and returned by tomorrow, then there will be no recess for the rest of the week. Is that understood?” Mrs. Ferguson glared at both of the young boys, hinting they had better be quick to answer this time.
“Yes, Mrs. Ferguson.”
The teachers left the two boys sitting at the bench and stood where they could keep an eye on them while also watching the other kids for the rest of recess. Caleb sat at the bench with a frown on his face and his arms crossed. Brian sniffed and apologized to Caleb for tagging him too hard.
“Whatever,” Caleb responded, looking away.
“I didn’t mean to push you down, Caleb. Weally, I didn’t.”
Caleb ignored him. He noticed Mrs. Ferguson writing something on a notepad. He assumed she was writing the note to his dad.
“Caleb?” Brian asked with a pitiful look on his face.
“I mean it, Caleb. I’m sah-wy.”
Caleb looked at Brian this time, who had a tear running down his cheek. He and Brian had been friends since the beginning of the school year. In fact, Brian was Caleb’s only friend for a while. Caleb took a deep breath and then exhaled. “Fine. I guess I’m sorry, too.”
“Weally?” Brian sniffed and wiped the tear from his face.
Brian smiled as he wiped another tear. He looked at his teacher, who was busy writing in her notepad, and then said, “I nevohw gotten a note befohw.”
“Nuh-uh. I’m pwobly gonna get spanked and gwounded foh’ a week!”
Caleb held his head high and smiled. “My daddy’s pretty cool. He’ll just sign the note and tell me not to do it again. He owes me anyway.”
Brian stared at Caleb in disbelief.
“You did WHAT!” John scolded Caleb after reading the note from Mrs. Ferguson. “Caleb, did it ever occur to you that Brian pushed you down on accident? You were playing Tag for crying out loud!”
“I told him I was sorry.”
“Were you? From what this note says, Brian’s probably going to end up with a beamer!”
“Black eye, Caleb. What were you thinking?”
“I dunno.” Caleb hung his head low and stared at the ground.
“Son, you need to think before you act. I thought Brian was your best friend?”
“He is, but—”
“But, what? Since he hurt you—on accident by the way—you thought you could just beat the tar out of him?”
“I didn’t know he didn’t mean to. I thought—”
“No, Son, you didn’t think! That’s the problem. You keep letting your fists do the thinking for you.”
“This is the third time in the past couple of months that I’ve gotten a note from your teacher for fighting, and this had better be the last time! Do you hear me?”
“Yes, sir,” Caleb answered without looking up at his father. His chin quivered and a tear rolled down his cheek.
John sighed. “Look, I’m not going to spank you this time.” Caleb looked up in relief and with surprise. “So you tell me what you think your punishment should be?”
Caleb shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, for starters, you’re grounded for a week. Now go to your room and think about it. When you think you’ve come up with something reasonable, then you can come out.”
Caleb went to his room, sat on his bed, and pouted with his arms folded across his chest. Just as he sat down, his brother walked by with a smile on his face and gave Caleb the naughty sign with his two index fingers.
Caleb jumped to his feet and yelled, “Shut up, Jared!”
“HEY!” John yelled from down the hall.
Jared smiled again and left his brother alone. Caleb dashed over to his door and slammed it shut. He then sat down on the floor with his back against the door. He wrapped his arms around his legs, tucking them close to his chest, and started crying.
After hearing the door slam, John considered marching over to Caleb’s room, but he took a deep breath and decided not to. He walked into his study and noticed a message on his fax machine. He ripped the page from the machine and read the typed message. His brother in Dallas had responded to the fax John had sent before going to work. David wrote that he had found some information about Delco Communications that John might be interested in reading. He told John to give him a call when he had a chance.
John picked up his cordless phone and entered his brother’s number on speed dial. The phone rang a few times and then a woman answered, “Hello?”
“Denise? This is John.”
“Hi, John! How are you?”
“I’ve had better days.”
“Oh? Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Just a little stressed from work and the kids. Caleb got into another fight at school today. I’m telling you, if he keeps this up, he’s going to spend the rest of his childhood in his room. The boy’s driving me crazy!”
Denise laughed. “Boys will be boys.”
“Easy for you to say. You have a little angel for a daughter whose biggest crime is probably spilling juice on the carpet.”
“Yes, she is a little angel, isn’t she?” Denise looked at Julia, who was playing with her new puppy. “So, did you want to talk to David?”
“Yeah, could you put him on?”
“Just a sec.” Denise called for her husband, “Honey, John’s on the phone!”
A few seconds later, David answered, “I got it!” He waited until Denise hung up the other phone and then greeted his brother, “Hey, John. I looked into your company, like you asked. I found out that the San Diego site just laid off about a hundred employees. Did you know that?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Well, it looks like there’s probably going to be even more layoffs there in the next few weeks.”
“That’s not good.” John sat down on a leather chair next to his desk.
“I was going to fax you a couple of articles, but I had problems with my printer.”
John grabbed a remote on his desk and turned on a small television in his study. “You’d think someone at work would have seen something on the news or something.”
“With all the layoffs going on around the country lately, it didn’t get much publicity. There was only a small blurb mentioned in the article that I was browsing through. Oh, and John?”
“Have you been keeping up with your company’s stock?”
“Delco’s stock has dropped about thirty percent.”
“What’s so unusual about that? I heard I.B.M. has dropped that much over the past few months.”
“John, Delco’s stock has dropped thirty percent over the past week!”
“What?” John stood up.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Bro, but I wouldn’t make any major purchases anytime soon. If things don’t start looking better for that company soon, from what I can tell, I’d expect some major layoffs in the near future.”
John sighed and started pacing the room, “Our managers have been on edge lately… well, more than usual. They’ve also talked about making some cutbacks but said it should help avoid a layoff situation.”
“If they have good financial analysts, that could very well be the case. I just wanted to prepare you for the worst. You know me, Bro. I call it the way I see it. I don’t like sugar-coating or beating around the bush.”
“Yeah. Thanks for checking into this for me.” John rested his back against a wall in the room and rubbed his neck. “I guess I kind of expected to hear bad news.”
David figured John was hiding his concern. “Hey, you’ve been with the company for what, five years now? So, even if they do start laying off, what are the odds of you being one of them? Try not to let this whole thing get to you, Bro.”
“I thought you didn’t like to sugarcoat?” John knew his brother was just trying to help him feel better about the situation.
David had to be right, though. Five years tenure would have to count for something if things went sour at work. But, then on the other hand, what better way to cut costs than to get rid of the higher paid employees? John walked over to his chair, sat down, and breathed out a concerned sigh. He then changed the subject and talked to his brother about family matters. They shared stories about their kids and laughed about some of the off-the-wall things they used to do when they were kids growing up.
After John got off the phone with his brother, he opened up a spreadsheet on his computer and looked over his budget. He needed to pay some bills that were due by Friday, so he grabbed his checkbook. He wrote out checks for his telephone bill, electricity bill, car payment, and then checked his bank account using an automated telephone system that his bank recently began offering.
John did not know what he would do to keep up with the finances without the help of the spreadsheet that his sister had created for him. Elizabeth had always been the one who was in charge of the family finances, and for good reason. Every time John would try to balance the checkbook, he often figured they had more money than they really did, thus getting them into a financial bind more than once. Somehow, his wife would always manage to save the day.
John grabbed a picture frame that was on his desk and leaned back in his chair. He stared at the photo of him and his wife. Caleb was also in the picture. He was four years old at the time and stood next to his mother with a red balloon in his hand and holding his mother’s hand with the other. Jared had insisted on taking the photo during a family trip to the San Antonio Zoo. John stared at his wife in the photo, missing her and admiring her beauty. He began to shed tears.
Jared noticed his dad crying when he walked by on his way to the bathroom to brush his teeth.
“Dad? Are you okay?” Jared asked as he walked inside his father’s study. He noticed his dad holding a picture of his mother.
John pulled his Jared close to him and told him, “I love you, Son.”
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