...Raymond could smell the money. He was hungry and had found that not drinking and being hungry gave him a sense of smell like a hound.
“I will show you some pictures and all you have to do is nod. Nod yes if you have seen them in a meeting.” McDevitt said as he added a fifth $1000 and put the diminished roll of bills back into his pocket.
Raymond stood up. “I cannot do that. It is Alcoholics Anonymous. Good day, sir.” Raymond was sweating but his new-found dignity was a fragile thing. It would not withstand much more temptation and to lose it would be to lose his sobriety.
“You realize I can have you and your family killed.” It was a statement of simple fact from McDevitt.
“My mother goes to Mass every day. She is ready to go when God calls her. My dad will spit in the devil’s eye. He has no illusions of where he is going because he did many hard things and has no intention of repenting.” Raymond said.
“And you?” McDevitt asked.
“Money is just a tool. My honor is more important to me than money.” Raymond responded.
“Most other people would disagree.” McDevitt pointed out very reasonably.
“Their honor. Their choice. We are talking about my honor.” Raymond said.
“Sit down.” McDevitt said. It was not an invitation. It was a command.
McDevitt left the cash on the table.
“Sedelia is assembling an interim government. Each region will select representatives. Elections will be later, for now it will just be a council that chooses. I want you to represent Huntington Park.” McDevitt said.
“The questions about the AA meetings…” Raymond said, leaving the question dangling.
“A test. Nothing more.” McDevitt said.
“I can’t run for the interim legislature. The position does not pay. I need to make a living.” Raymond said.
McDevitt snorted. “I could pay you but I think it is better if you pay your own way. You studied business. Why not start your own?”
Raymond threw up his hands. “What? The classes were theory. I know nothing about running a business.”
“What do you like to do. You have been working for since you were bounced out of JC…four years. What work did you enjoy most?” McDevitt queried.
“Painting. I really like painting. I like meticulous work. I like seeing a clean wall when I am done.” Raymond said.
“So start a business painting. It is not hard.” McDevitt said.
“But I have no experience, no tools, no money, no credit.” Raymond objected.
McDevitt lifted $1000 from the pile. “Go to O’Leary Paint and ask for 50% credit. Only buy a week’s supplies at a time. Bid small jobs. No more than five people in your crew until you get your feet under you.” McDevitt said.
“I expect you to give me $1100 back within the year.” McDevitt said.
“Why O’Leary Paint. They are expensive. I can get everything they sell cheaper in other places.” Raymond said.
McDevitt sighed. “O’Leary is expensive because they deliver to your job site. They are much cheaper than having five men standing around or to have an unhappy client who could not move in.”
“But I still know nothing about running a business.” Raymond objected.
McDevitt looked Raymond in the eye. “I employ several people who are alcoholics. They go to AA meetings. No, they did not ‘rat you out’. I found out about you from other sources.”
“When you have a problem that you cannot solve after a reasonable amount of time…say three days…ask for guidance in one of your meetings. You will be surprised at who will volunteer to be your business god-father.” McDevitt said.
“The two of you will go out for coffee and a piece of pie after the meeting. He will listen to your problem. If he cannot answer it then he might make a phone call and a third person might join you.” McDevitt said.
“Why would you go to all of this trouble for me?” Raymond asked.
McDevitt paused for a moment as he considered how, and how much he was going to tell Raymond.
“The hardest thing about finding people for critical positions is that the ones who are capable enough to handle the load are rarely wise enough to ask for help. Especially when young.” McDevitt said.
“You are clearly a sharp guy and have a lot of energy.” he continued. “And you had the humility to step back and realize that you needed help to get your life back under control. Then you had the guts to act on it, even though it was very un-cool.”
“I need somebody in the legislature who will give me and my businesses a fair hearing. I need a man of integrity, one who cannot be bought. I need a way to communicate with that legislator in untraceable ways. And finally, because my father also attended AA meetings in the very building that holds yours.” McDevitt said. “So sit down and order lunch.”
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