X Amount by Janet Yung

Judy was in the middle of explaining her father’s “X amount of dollars” theory, wishing she hadn’t raised her hand to volunteer her opinion on the project currently being discussed.

“My father believed there were only x amount of dollars in any community. Unless you saw a substantial influx in population with additional money to spend, merchants were vying for a limited amount of spending power.” Those weren’t the exact words he used, but that was the bottom line in his theory. “They’re all chasing the same money,” was the way he phrased it. She felt her face start to go red beginning at the base of her neck, tangible evidence she was nervous. However, her voice didn’t falter and she didn’t stumble around in search of the right word, appearing outwardly confident in this rare instance her opinion was sought.

Roland, seated at what he considered the head of the table, snickered under his breath. He’d stopped looking at her two seconds after she cleared her throat and dove into why it didn’t seem provident to put up another strip mall less than a mile from a newly constructed, half vacant one unable to attract the requisite number of tenants to make it economically viable.

The builder under consideration today was a friend of Roland’s which was the only reason he was pitching the idea. They’d huddled in his office behind closed doors for hours before they emerged, beaming, financial plan submission package in hand.

“Piece of cake,” Roland grinned, slapping Hank on the back.

Judy had only been invited to the meeting as a courtesy. Someone to make coffee and fill orders at the round conference table. Round so no one would feel slighted, but the association pecking order was obvious. Mr. Bentley, the president, sat next to Roland. He’d been the one to encourage any suggestions and nodded encouragingly to Judy when she sheepishly raised her hand. Roland’s constant criticism of Judy was “you never offer any ideas.” None that he liked anyway, causing her to voice her opinion only around the coffee machine in the morning before they settled down to work.

He’d been shocked when Mr. Bentley called on her and looked on the verge of offering up the disclaimer, “She majored in Art History in college,” meaning she couldn’t know anything abut business or economics, so why bother to ask.

A similar reaction he’d had to an attorney who brought in a project building homes in Boone County along the bluffs of the Missouri River. “No one will pay that much for a lot outside Columbia,” he’d cackled.

“People are retiring there,” Judy told him. She saw an article in the paper extolling the virtues of retirement in college towns.

He “poo pooed” that notion until a male loan officer jumped on the band wagon and helped the female attorney push through the deal. Every lot sold almost immediately and they were in the process of looking for more acreage.

At least someone persuaded Roland to ditch the loud plaid suit that had been a staple of his wardrobe when he first joined the company. Back then, he sought out long time employees in the department for their support and input. That ended once he felt secure in his position. He had Mr. Bentley on his right hand, not on the opposite side of the table.

“That’s very interesting,” Mr. Bentley said when it appeared she was finished. “That was your father’s idea?”

“Yes, sir.” In a more casual setting, she’d elaborate on her father’s other theories about life including boxing as a means of upward mobility for immigrants and the disenfranchised in American society.

“Good.” Mr. Bentley cleared his throat. “We’ll keep that in mind.”

Roland couldn’t suppress his laugh and Mr. Bentley appeared to ignore his behavior. Then she was sent off to fill more coffee orders.

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