Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Henry Simpson


The receptionist called and said I had a visitor who wanted to talk to me about a business. I went to the lobby and met a large man named Melvin Lacks who looked like someone who had played football in high school and since then gained a hundred or so pounds. We shook hands and I escorted him to my office, where he squeezed his elephantine buttocks into a chair.

“I hear good stuff on you through the grapevine, Joe,” Lacks began. “Okay if I call you Joe, Joe?” He didn’t wait for a word or nod, but plunged ahead. “You’re a man, he knows how to handle himself, take his lumps if need be.”

“I believe you mentioned a business, Mr. Lacks.”

Lacks blinked, and then scratched his head. “Yeah, sure, Joe. I got some business talk, but first, I invite you to join the Young Republicans. You must be a Republican, right? Like all real estate agents.”

“I’m not political, Mr. Lacks. Anyway, I’m not sure I qualify at my age.”

“Age don’t matter, Joe. Hell, I’m forty-eight, been one since I was seventeen. I stayed in to bring along the up-and-comers. We got some in their fifties and even older.”

“Name’s misleading, don’t you think?”

Lacks laughed. “That’s politics for you. Say, Joe, I heard your dad, he’s an Army colonel.”

“Who said that?”

“A friend.”

“Dad was in the Marine Corps, not the Army, and he was not an officer. I think he hates most officers.”

Lacks’ brows knitted. “I can’t understand how she mixed that up.”

“Who’s she?” I asked.

“I . . . I better not say.”

I lost patience. “Let’s talk business, Mr. Lacks.”

“Okay, Joe. I’m in several, gettin’ frazzled keepin’ on top of ‘em all. Been thinkin’ consolidatin’, maybe cashin’ some in to take the pressure off. Inherited a bowlin’ alley and a poolroom, opened an adult bookstore on my own. Bowlin’s not as hot as it was in 1950. Poolroom does okay, but the clientele’s prone to squabbles and violence. The porno shop—I mean the bookstore—used to be my main profit center, but it’s slippin’ on account of the Interweb. Life ain’t like it used to be.”

“Do you have a business advisor?”

“Yeah, me.” He laughed, thumbing his chest.

“Do you want to sell something?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Then get advice from a professional, not me. If you decide to sell, I’ll refer you to an agent who specializes in business opportunities.”

“What do you get?”


Lacks looked amazed. “Hell, man, what’s wrong with you? Know what? On second thought, I don’t think you’re cut out for the Young Republicans, or for helpin’ me with my business. Good luck on your career because the way you operate you’re damn well gonna need it.” He got up and left.


The story is adapted from material in the author’s novel, Open House (Newgame, © 2014).
bio: Henry Simpson is the author of several novels, two short story collections, many book reviews, and occasional pieces in literary journals. His most recent novel is Golden Girl (Newgame, 2017).

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