There once was a young man named Bartholomew who was far too young to be on his own, but there he was. Being a little unsure of himself, he could not always tell when people were being sincere or when people were trying to take advantage of him. But when he knew what he wanted to do, that was what he did.
One evening, while enjoying Dionne Warwick songs and his favorite evening meal of fresh hot corn on the cob, apple red onion marmalade, beans and some kale, one of his twelve telephones rang.
“Hello,” said Bartholomew.
“Hello sir, how are you this evening?” asked the voice on Bartholomew’s cellular telephone.
“I am well. Who am I talking to?” asked Bartholomew in return.
“My name is Gerald. Can I ask you how the siding is on your house?”
Before Bartholomew could answer, Gerald continued, “Did you know that there are some excellent advantages to having vinyl siding on your home, from increased insulation, thus reducing your heating bill, to additional security from adverse weather, thus reducing your insurance costs? We all could use a little more money in our pockets, couldn’t we? I know I could. Couldn’t you, sir?”
Bartholomew didn’t want to answer. He wanted to get back to his corn, marmalade, beans and kale before they got too cold or too warm or too wilty. But it was true that he could use more money in his pocket, and it sounded like vinyl siding would do the trick. Bartholomew tried to imagine the amount of money he would save on his heating bill.
Compared to most people, Bartholomew did not have a lot of money or possessions. He did own a house, but it was modest - just big enough for him and his cat, Oliver. He did have furniture and household items he inherited from his parents. He did have twelve phones, eight toasters and three televisions (non-digital). All of these items were on sale when he bought them and each was a good deal that saved him money but, somehow, he always felt poorer once he purchased them. Many of these items no longer worked. In general, Bartholomew was happy with his life and what he had was enough for him. Yet this offer seemed, for some reason, very compelling.
“Of course, I would love to have extra money in my pocket,” said Bartholomew. Before Gerald could continue, Bartholomew added, “Does the siding come in different colors, because, although I like my house, I always thought I would want my house to be blue – dark blue. It is just something I have always wanted and if I were to buy siding, I think I would want it dark blue.”
“Yesssss, sir! We do have a dark blue siding. I tell you what, sir…uhm, what is your name, sir?”
“My name is Bartholomew,” said Bartholomew
“I tell you what, Bartholomew. I’ll come over, look at your house and give you an estimate. If you like, we could start siding your house and start saving money tomorrow! How does that sound Bart?”
“My name is Bartholomew.”
“Sorry, I meant Bartholomew. I hope there is no offense,” said Gerald, barely concealing his insincerity.
“None taken,” said Bartholomew as he scratched his chin, a little bit annoyed.
“If you’re home, I’ll come over right now and start saving you money,” said Gerald.
“Yes, I’m home now, but…” Bartholomew did not finish his sentence before there was a knock on his door.
Bartholomew was annoyed that he was on the telephone, which was distracting him from his favorite music and his lovely meal, and now he also had to answer the door. His parents had both been good cooks and stressed the importance of good healthy food and slowing down to enjoy dinner. Bartholomew was not yet a good cook, but he at least tried to take his time while eating. He sighed, “Wait a minute,” into the telephone and got up to answer the door.
Oliver raced to the door before Bartholomew. With his back arched and his hair on end, Oliver hissed at what was waiting on the front stoop. To Bartholomew’s surprise, when he opened the door, Gerald was waiting with his telephone to his ear.
“Hello, Bartholomew,” said Gerald into the telephone and to Bartholomew’s face.
“Hello, Gerald,” said Bartholomew as he hung-up his phone. “I’m glad you are so prompt, but I really want to…”
Grabbing some political literature off Bartholomew’s doorknob and entering the house, Gerald said, “This will only take but a minute,” and he twitched his mustache from side to side. He handed Bartholomew the literature, which Bartholomew noticed was in support of Mayor Dick and Senator Jane.
“This is a small house. I am sure it won’t take too much siding to cover it. It probably will only take a day or two at most to complete the job,” said Gerald. He wrote some scribbley words and numbers on a piece of paper. Then he stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth, squinted his eyes and looked into the air - as if he was thinking. He scribbled down more words and numbers. Then, out of his pocket, he pulled a tape measure for measuring Bartholomew’s house. Gerald ran pell-mell around the outside of the house, jumping up here, crouching down there and stretching his arms and the tape measure as far as he could. Bartholomew followed him, observing this strange man who wore overalls with the lower half of one leg missing over a plaid shirt with one long sleeve and one short.
As they came to the back yard, Bartholomew looked up at his family oak tree that had been planted by his great grandfather. The giant oak tree was a hundred and fifty years old and its gnarled branches spread out over his whole back yard and over parts of his neighbor’s yards, too. Bartholomew and his whole family were proud of this tree.
Once he was done, Gerald shoved a piece of paper at Bartholomew and said, “This is how much it will cost. It’s the best price you’ll find. I am sure you’ll be happy with it and we can start tomorrow, if you like.”
Bartholomew looked at the piece of paper and could not understand a single thing that was written on it. There were numbers and words and what looked like a mayonnaise stain, but none of the scratchings connected into anything he understood.
Gerald shifted in his overalls slightly and then said, “I’m sure you can see what a good deal this is, Bartholomew.”
“Oh yes,” said Bartholomew, not wanting to let on that he didn’t understand anything on the paper.
“Gooood!” said Gerald as he twitched his mustache again.
“If you could just sign it on the bottom, Bartholomew, then my crews can get started saving you money,” said Gerald.
Bartholomew didn’t feel good about signing the paper but, being a trustworthy soul and not knowing what else to do, he signed it.
Gerald smiled a greasy kind of smile and said, “Thank you.”
Bartholomew felt somehow that he had done something wrong. He wasn’t sure what, but he did not feel right.
Well, poor Bartholomew had a crew of fifteen workers, including three of Gerald’s sons, siding his house for the next two weeks. When they were done, his yard was nothing but mud littered with nails, the lowest branch of the beloved family oak tree was snapped off, the siding was pastel orange and, for some reason, his front doorknob was missing! Whenever he protested to Gerald, Gerald would point to the bottom or the back of the piece of paper Bartholomew had signed, where there was a bunch of small scribbles. Gerald would begin, “It says right here…” and then Bartholomew would shake inside because he felt that he really had done something wrong when he signed that paper.
By the time the project was over and Gerald was long gone, Bartholomew, who until now, did not have much, had even less. He was so poor, for the next month he could only eat one of his favorite items at a meal instead of three or four. One day, while succumbing to a cheap meal at the Donkey Burger restaurant, Bartholomew decided that maybe he couldn’t trust his own decision making abilities and he needed to find some friends to help him.
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrations by Mark Granlund
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrations by Mark Granlund