Owen: A Story of Opportunity Cost

[September draws to a close with the last planned Guest Post (there were supposed to be 5 more, but that's another story for another day) from my good friend Bogart. Why do I call him Bogart? Because Humphrey Bogart was one of the coolest actors to ever live, and so is my friend. Bogart sent me the longest entry, a short story he assures me will "redefine cool as we know it" and "possibly cause a massive influx of panties to your inbox." Can't beat that. As has been my practice with the Guest Posts, I have not read it yet, but on the phone with him the other day, Bogie told me the key to unlocking the story's mysteries is in the title, so remember that as you read. – Hyperion]


A Story of Opportunity Cost

by Bogart

Owen Meesom locked the door of his Dodge Caravan unconsciously. He didn't notice that the neighborhood scamp had inverted the magnetized "ReMax" sign on his van—again. I can't believe I didn't win.

As he opened the office door, he heard a familiar, friendly voice, "Good morning Mr. Meesom." Marilyn, the well-preserved office matron, was efficient and professional. She could shave 15 years off her appearance if she updated her hairstyle and eyeglasses. "How is your lovely wife? Is she back to work yet?"

"No, she's still at home. She says she wants to stay home with the baby, but things are tight and it's been a tough year, so..." Owen glanced down at the plastic hibiscus next to Marilyn's desk.

"I see. Well I guess things have been moving more slowly than usual...for some." She eyed him over the top of her lenses. "The Lipson contract is on your desk. You have two voice mails and two emails—both duplicates."

Owen didn't look up, "Thanks, Marilyn." I can't believe I didn't win.

"Hiya Owen! What's the news?" Jimmy trumpeted as he barged into Owen's office.

"Wha-? Oh, hi Jimmy. Nothing, as usual."

"Ho ho I don't think so, Meesom my man. Looks like another contract on your desk."

"Oh, that. Lipson."

"Smooth. Hey, sorry about the banquet last night. I had my money on you to make it two in a row. I'm guessing Smith edged you because he backdated the Barker mansion contract. Anyway, who wants a trip to Hawaii when you've already been to Cancun, right? Great job with the Lipson deal. I talked with the guy once for like five minutes—what a jerk! Ciao now."

"Thanks Jimmy," Owen mouthed as he turned to his keyboard. I can't believe I didn't win.

In a blur, Owen keyed in his intranet password punctuated by a sharp crack on the "enter" key. Now for some coffee while I wait for Mr. Gates' newest creation to boot. You'd think those geeks at Microsoft would speed things up not slow them down. We should all get together and sue for the 0.63% loss in productivity. We'd make millions.

John had the carafe in his hand as Owen walked in to the break room. "Morning Owen, fresh pot. Fill 'er up or half a tank?"

"Good morning, John. A top off will do fine," Owen replied with a meek smile.

"Tough luck last night. That Smith's a real racehorse. I bet he only won by a nose."


"Well, you know what happens to the horse that sprints out of the gate. Listen, Owen, I've got to tell you something, and I don't want you to take it the wrong way."

"Go ahead John, we're friends." I can't believe I didn't win.

"You betcha. Well, it's like this. See, softball season is more like a marathon than a 100-yard dash. And you don't see Curt Shilling pitching on three days rest. Hey, even King James has to ride the pine every once in a while, right? So—oh, don't worry, I'm not benching you or anything. But I'm moving Jimmy to left and you to right. You see, we just squeaked into the playoffs and, to be honest, your numbers are down. You seem—I don't know—"out there" lately. I mean "out there" like outer space not "out there" like in left. Anyway, last year you were throwing lasers to home, and last Sunday? What was that? No drop step, no laser, just a rainbow that didn't even make it to the plate! I'm telling you, that sacrifice fly almost cost us the game. Hey, I don't mean to get down on you. You've still got it, kid. Just focus for crying out loud! Buck up bronco. At least we're still playing and—don't spread it around—but I think we got a real shot at a repeat."

"OK, John."

"Oh, and just so you don't get blindsided, the MVP trophy is going to have a new name on it this year. Don't let it burst your bubble. I just don't want any psychic issues to hurt us in the playoffs, and I know you can take it. See you in the cheap seats, Owen."

Owen looked up from stirring his coffee. "No problem, John. I'm good. Thanks." I can't believe I didn't win.

On his way back to his desk, Owen bumped into Chad. "Hey Owen, bad news."

Owen sighed and took a sip of coffee, "What is it?"

"Becky pulled the plug. I told her I lost another hundred last night, and she flipped. I know she's right. Hell, we're trying to save for a down payment, and I've been dropping at least fifty a week. But come on! You have to admit going "all in" with a pair of kings was the right move, right?"

"No doubt, Chad. When I folded, I figured you were up 87% to 13%." I can't believe I didn't win.

"Exactly! And against that tool "Pok-r-king!" God, if I'd a pulled that pot, I'd be up for the year! But no. "Pok-r-queen" has to draw a third deuce on the river. What are the odds?"

"You don't want to know."

"You're right. Don't tell me. So instead of taking Becky out for steak, I'm spreading peanut butter until Christmas...How do you do it?"

"What do you mean?"

"C'mon, you know, win! Owen, I watched you scoop up hundreds, maybe thousands, last year. I know the cards have been cold recently, but man; you were on fire for a while! I figured you would be in Vegas by now."

Owen shook his head, "Not likely." I can't believe I didn't win.

"Fine, pessimism suits you. So what's your secret?"

"Chad, the only secret isn't a secret: 'If you don't play, you can't lose.' That's it."

Chad shrank, "Yeah, and at least you get to eat hamburger. Hey, got to go. I won't see you on-line anymore, but I will see you at practice tonight. We may not be able to hit a jackpot, but we can sure hit a softball, eh?"

Owen raised his coffee and the corner of his mouth, "Sure." I can't believe I didn't win.

* * *

I swear; Laura makes the best iced tea in the world. Owen poured the last drop from his thermos, replaced the cap, and set the thermos on a neatly folded brown bag. Marilyn breezed up to his doorway. "Pardon the interruption, Mr. Meesom, but Mr. Oldfield would like to see you in his office."

"Thanks, Marilyn, I'll be right there." I can't believe I didn't win.

Mr. Oldfield smiled as Owen entered his office. "Have a seat, son." The brown leather was soft and inviting. "How's the baby?"

"Fine, sir."

"And the missus?"

"She's fine too."

"Good to hear. You know there's nothing like a child to settle a woman. I asked you in because I'm worried about you, son. I like to think of our office as a family, and I get the feeling something's changed with you. Is everything OK?"

"I'm fine, sir."

"Fine? I guess I can agree to that. But you have to admit that "fine" is a step down for you. Last year, you were a star. And now? Well, let's just say I'm surprised to see you down there with Chad and his bunch. I know things can get tough. Why, when I bought the Haywood farm and parceled it up, most folks thought I was crazy. But I stuck it out, and what happened? Woodlawn Estates. Oh, it was a struggle at first. But I kept at it, got the county to pave Creek Road, pressed them for sewers, and look at me now. Son, we both know you're a whiz with numbers. And potential? Look at last year! Now I realize that family additions can unsettle a man, but it's time you got back on the horse. Tenacity my boy. Get back to basics. Focus. Am I clear?"

"Yes sir." I can't believe I didn't win.

"Good. Son, I know people, and I know you. You'll do just fine if you put your mind right."

"Thank you, sir."

"I'm glad we had this little chat. By the way, I've got some advice for you, "dad." It's not unheard of for the missus to get a bit too "settled" after birthing. Are you with me? Here's the secret: hats. Especially on Mother's Day. I also like to surprise her with one when the weather turns cold. Hats, son. They've kept us going for nearly 53 years now. Alright, Chin up. Straight back. March out there a get 'em trooper."

"Thank you, sir." I can't believe I didn't win.

* * *

Owen eased his minivan out on to Main Street turning west—the "ReMax" sign on his door was still inverted. He flipped open his phone, "Call Laura."

"Owen? Oh thanks for calling. How was your day?" Laura couldn't suppress the hope in her voice.

"Good. I closed on the Lipson property."

"Congratulations, that's wonderful, simply wonderful!" Owen didn't hear the relief. "We had a great day too: two naps and two poopy diapers! Hon, could you make a short stop on your way home? We need some eggs and milk. If it's not too much trouble, go to Costco. They don't close until seven."

"OK, see you in half an hour."

"Bye dear. Love you. See you in a bit."

A block past Costco, Owen pulled in to a convenience store. The speaker above the gas pump crackled, "How much?"

"Ten dollars."

"Ten bucks, you're set."

Owen pulled out his wallet as he entered the store. "Hi Tony, how big is the pot?"

"135 million," answered the balding clerk.

"My kind of cash. And not so big as to draw too many wannabe's."

"The usual?"

"Not today, my friend. I just inked a contract, and I found the hole in my system. I tell you I've got it wired now! And you know what they say; you have to double up to catch up."

"Doublin' up, coming up."

The clerk caught Owen and he turned to leave, "Forgetting something?"

"Oh yeah. Thanks. Milk and eggs."

"Lose your Costco card again?"

"Nope, accidentally left it at home."

The clerk smiled.

Owen whistled on his way back to his van. Inside, he popped open the glove compartment, pulled out a handful of "losers," and smiled as he deposited his new "winners."

Owen Meesom flicked on the radio as he entered Main Street westbound; his fingers tapped in time with the music. What an amazing sunset! I have to remember to show Laura.

The song ended.



Anonymous said...

Is the moral of this story that we should take advantage of every opportunity, no matter what the odds, just because this guy won the lottery?

Anonymous said...

Owen didn't win anything. It's my rant against government-sponsored gambling. Owen used to be successful--in numerous ways--but now he's a loser hooked on the lottery.

Joseph Boyd said...

Now I admit I can be quite the literal person and "not see the forest for the trees" sometimes, but I took the following paragraph to mean that he won:

Owen whistled on his way back to his van. Inside, he popped open the glove compartment, pulled out a handful of "losers," and smiled as he deposited his new "winners."

And he seemed much happier after this point.

Also, I guess I'm confused as to how it's a rant against government-sponsored gambling. I agree Owen was kind of a loser, but he seemed addicted to all sorts of gambling: horses, cards, etc. So I saw it as more of a personal fault. Which I suppose the government could be taking advantage of.