Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OBC, day 11

Today's prompt: “Write your NaNoWriMo protagonist doing something he or she would never do.” I don't yet have a NaNo protagonist chosen, as I may very well not do NaNo this year, but here's one guy I've been tossing around as a possibility having a meeting he swore he'd never have.

“You see, Arthur, there isn't anything wrong with this,” Jonathan said. He held out his hand for the old man, old but not frail, and Arthur refused it. He placed one foot, gingerly, on the dock, his other still firmly on his boat's deck.
Arthur locked eyes with the businessman before him. He didn't trust him. He knew they wanted him to quit fishing, to leave the waters and let them move in, and he knew he wouldn't. It went against everything he believed to even just talk to them, but his father had always told him “Know thine enemy,” and he figured he should at least give it a shot. There wasn't an offer they could put on the table to make him come ashore for good; he just wanted to know how much he was worth to them.
“It just doesn't feel right,” Arthur muttered as he lifted his foot from the boat and set it unsteadily on the dock. It was the first time in years that he had been on anything resembling solid land.
“Give it a minute and it'll be fine.” Jonathan checked his watch. “The car's right this way.”
“No,” Arthur said.
“I was under the impression we were going to talk, and don't you want a place a bit more comfortable than this dock?”
“There,” Arthur said. He pointed to a restaurant, built as an offshoot of the pier. There was a walkway to the shore, but its bulk sat above the water.
“Are you sure I can't convince you to come back to our offices?”
“It's either there or I sail away right now.”
“Let me make a quick call,” Jonathan said. He pulled out his phone and began to dial.
Arthur stepped back onto his boat and began uncleating the mooring lines.
“Okay, we can meet there,” Jonathan agreed, lowering his phone without making a call. “It'll take my people a little while to get here, though.”
“I'm fine with that.” Arthur recleated the lines and sat down, his legs dangling over the edge of the boat's deck. He watched as Jonathan typed a message on his phone, wondering exactly what it said. Crazy kook refuses to go on dry land, so we'll need to meet here on the dock. Or maybe something simpler, such as, Meeting moved to dock. Arthur really wasn't sure what level of formality to expect from the annoyed correspondences of a business executive.
Twenty minutes later, a black sedan pulled noiselessly into the parking lot at the shore end of the restaurant's walkway. Arthur laughed as he stood up and stepped back to the dock. “Still going with the black luxury cars? I've always been a bit surprised that you execs don't drive Corvettes or something a little more fun.”
“We don't usually drive ourselves,” Jonathan said. “The stockholders consider it safer to have professionals do that.”
Arthur snorted out another laugh. “When was the last time you drove a car?”
“I don't have a license, actually. I grew up in the city and never needed one.”
Arthur began walking slowly towards the restaurant's backdoor, opening onto the dock. “So what do you do besides trying to convince me to give up my fishing license?”
“I'm the chief operating officer for the North American division of Petrochem. I run everything we do on this continent.”
“And yet you've still got the time to come down here to try to persuade me to quit?”
“I wish you wouldn't view giving up your fishing license as quitting. It'll be a change of occupation, for sure, but these days everyone changes jobs at some point in their life.”
“You kids these days are a new generation. Back in my day, when people started a job, they stuck with it.”
“It's not like you'll be deserting a promise you made.”
“Stop using future tense. I haven't agreed to anything yet. You still need to make an offer that I accept.”
Jonathan smiled a salesman's confidant facade. “I'm sure we won't have any trouble working out some sort of agreement.”
Arthur and Jonathan walked into the restaurant. It was busy, but in a corner, set apart from the rest of the diners, sat a table at which sat a man in a black pinstriped business suit matching Jonathan's.
Jonathan sat down next to his colleague, and Arthur took a seat across the round table.
“Jonathan said you had a driver bring you. Where is he?”
“Our drivers are out with our cars,” Jonathan's associate said.
“Don't want to invite them in here for a bite to eat? I'm sure they're hungry from driving around all day.”
“It's generally considered bad practice to bring unnecessary personnel to business negotiations. I'm Nathaniel, by the way.” Nathaniel extended his hand across the table to Arthur, who ignored it. After a moment he pulled it back. “Would you like something to eat, or shall we commence with negotiating a price?”
“I can eat on my boat,” Arthur said. “What price are you offering?”
“We're prepared to offer you two million dollars for you to give up your fishing license.”
Arthur looked across the table, no emotion showing on his old face. “You've got to be kidding me.”
“More than you were expecting?” Jonathan asked. “It's certainly more than we discussed over the radio.”
Arthur laughed. “Now, perhaps my understanding of exactly what you want to do is flawed, but you need me to surrender my fishing rights so that you can use the bay as an algae farm.”
“That's correct. Our use would render fishing impossible, and the states involved have said that as long as there's a valid fishing license out for anyone on the bay, we can't begin,” Nathaniel explained. “Hence our generous offer.”
“And what exactly do you need all this algae for?”
“It produces biodiesel as a by-product of photosynthesis.”
“How much?” Arthur asked. “Do you really need the whole bay for it?”
“It produces about 20 gallons per acre per day, so in order to produce a sizable quantity of oil we need a lot of space,” Nathaniel said.
Arthur looked up at the ceiling, numbers churning around in his head. “So you're offering me two million dollars while you stand to earn, what, close to a hundred million a day as a result?”
“Not a hundred million,” Jonathan said. “We won't have complete bay coverage. Most of the estuaries and inlets are functionally unusable.”
“Regardless, an offer of two million is laughable,” Arthur said. “Look, I realize I probably strike you two gentlemen as an old man who can be bought over by a bit of money. And yes – two million dollars is a fair amount of money, certainly enough for me to retire off of – but compared to what you stand to gain from all this, it's an insult.”
Arthur stood. “I'm sorry, Jonathan, Nathaniel, but you'll need to find another bay for your oil farm.”
“We can up the offer,” Nathaniel hastened to say. “That was just our initial offer.”
“You had your chance and you blew it.”
“How about ten million?” Jonathan offered.
“You had...”
“Twenty?” Nathaniel asked.
“Your chance...”
“Fifty?” Jonathan reluctantly tried.
Arthur stopped and turned around. Jonathan smiled.
“As I was saying,” Arthur continued. “You had your chance, and you blew it.” The old man turned back around and walked slowly out of the restaurant, as the two men sat in stunned silence at the nicked and dirty wooden table.

As soon as he was back aboard Arthur set a course in his autopilot for the center of the bay and lay down in the hammock strung between the railing along the edges of his cockpit.
“Fifty million dollars,” he said to himself, still amazed at the amount, as the seagulls circled overhead and the sun crept out from behind the clouds. “Not worth it by a long shot.”

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