Chapter Two


     Tina and Rod took the metro, then walked to the George Vth Hotel off the Champs-Elysées.  They stood there for a moment, just to admire the front entrance.  It was a bright frosty day in early February, 1997, and the sun gave the hotel (and indeed all of Paris) that needed lift to make it seem majestic.  It had always seemed to Rod in his limited meanderings throughout Europe that the whole continent needed a good wash, blanched out as it was in the dirty-white, acid-rain drenched pallor of the everyday.  Maybe he was stating the obvious, but the climate, at least in Northern Europe, was the worst he had ever lived in.  Once in awhile the sun would come out in one city and everything took on a different hue. Paris was the City of Lights people said, but to him, it was just another crummy European capital, full of dirty but well-dressed, self-important nobodies going about their daily rounds. 

     It was in 1994 that they had moved to the Western suburbs of greater Paris from Santa Barbara.  The idea to move at all was Tina’s but where exactly, was their joint decision.  Tina had been scared to death of the 1993 California wildfires and claimed that they had been a sign for them to leave. Rod could never understand this thinking since he had spent most of his life in fire and earthquake zones, but he saw how terrified she was and thus relented and moved out of Santa Barbara, a city he had always described as Paradise on Earth.  The idea of moving and starting all over again in a foreign capital with a lousy climate and difficult people didn’t appeal to him at all.  All that was wrong with California were the wildfires, and they were very sporadic. In contrast, everything seemed wrong in France at the time, but now, three years had elapsed and he had fallen into a new routine. Their three-year-old daughter and baby son were growing up with several languages; Rod was teaching and editing on a regular basis and Tina was able to work as well.  They had family in England and Greece and were enjoying life.  Santa Barbara, that had once seemed so perfect, was now a distant memory. 

     They walked past the doormen and bell-hops into an endless hallway and down to the Reception Desk.  Rod had met Terry once four years earlier and spotted her from a distance; Terry was apparently questioning a bill she had received since she was gesturing angrily at the hotel clerk and pointing to a small piece of paper.  They came closer and Rod noticed that Terry was again wearing a very expensive, dark Versace suit, fine black leather pumps, a white blouse and a Hermès foulard.  Since they had last met, she had grown more beautiful and svelte, even though she had to have been in her mid fifties.  Her long neck gave way to generous curves below, while her face, tinged with red from her pique, was aristocratic in its bearing, her large nostrils flared wide and full lips parted to reveal a perfect set of ivories within.  Her eyes were round and set wide apart and would vary in color from green to yellow depending on the light outside, or lack of it.  She was obviously in a terrible mood, though, and Rod and Tina approached gingerly, as if they were afraid of being in the wrong.

     – Terry?  Hi, Terry?

     – Rod!  And you must be Tina!  How are the two of you?!  It’s good to see you!  Boy, you’re a good-looking couple, if you get my meaning!

     The words came flooding out of her as she wheeled round and pulled a handkerchief out of her purse and dabbed at some drops of moisture on her forehead.  She was taller than Rod had remembered her as she kissed first Tina, then Rod on both cheeks à la française.  At the same time, her whole face had loosened and the threatening storm clouds that were visible earlier on it had eased and now only sunny weather emanated from her perfectly straight row of blanched white teeth that were set in a ravishing smile.  Even so, she must have been really annoyed since she went after the desk clerk again,

     – Would you mind checking the air conditioning in this place.  I hope your restaurant doesn’t have the same problem. 

     – But Miz Rob-berts, we (h)are in zee ween-ter.  You cannot have always zee (h)air condition-ing.

     But Terry already had her arm around Rod and Tina and was accompanying them to the ‘banquet room’ as she termed it. 

     – Waiter!  Could you get some air conditioning in here!  And make sure we have ice water with our meal! 

     Terry said this in a very smooth, commanding voice, in a tone which contrasted completely with the violence of her words.  At the same time, she had become quite pale and beads of perspiration had returned to her forehead, so Rod was not surprised when Terry abruptly excused herself a few minutes later and stumbled out of the ‘banquet room’.

     They were still standing there looking around when Terry returned shortly after, and they were relieved to see she had lost some of her pale color.  At this point, waiters seemed to flutter in all directions as the three guests took their seats and looked at their menus.  Rod counted at least two waiters for every patron and most of the patrons, like themselves, were Americans.  Even Tina was American (as well as Greek), and had been intelligent enough, despite her fear of wildfires, to go back to California and pick up her papers so she could become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Terry was quick to suss this apparently insignificant fact out, for while they picked at their frog legs and caviar, Terry was intently watching what they ate and asking them whether they and their whole family were U.S. citizens or not.  They were, and this fact seemed to please Terry for she became more and more animated in her questions.  Rod found himself trying to give responses with a full mouth more than once and often silence would reign as Tina and he munched but could not answer.  Particularly embarrassing was when Terry would throw out a compliment about how smart they were or how they made such a good-looking couple, but with their mouths full, they could only chew in acceptance and in silence like a couple of large cows.  As for Terry, she ate very little and her lack of gastronomic participation and constant social questioning began to weigh heavily on Rod, not to mention the French sauces and wine.  After twenty-five minutes of inquisition, Terry cocked her head to the side and said,

     – Let’s talk about the Allens.

     Rod was surprised at the seriousness with which Terry began.  At this point, he noted that Terry talked for fifteen straight minutes about the Company and didn’t want to be interrupted.  Gone were the little flattering comments she had peppered the first half hour with, her big friendly smile and sweet disposition.  This was a woman on a mission and that was to tell the Lafleurs how they were all being, and had been, screwed by this family Company that was hell-bent on enriching itself at their expense,

     – Do you think they give a damn about you and your family?  You control large blocks of shares but you don’t work in the Company.  You don’t contribute on a daily basis to the running of the Company.  And you’re not Management.  Hey, Management would like to control all of our shares, if you get my meaning. Us minority shareholders are all thorns in their sides, if you get my meaning…

     She was always saying ‘if you get my meaning’ as if people didn’t always get her meaning or there was something else she wanted to say.

     – …that’s why they tried to buy us all out six years ago at that ridiculous price I was telling you about!

     – Well, we all thought it was ridiculous,

     Rod said with his mouth full of food.

     Sometimes Rod felt it was necessary to put his two cents in, too.  Rod felt embarrassed, always listening and never offering any opinion, but the fact was he had no opinion nor had he any idea where Terry was going with her ideas.  Terry immediately brought the spotlight back to herself.

     – That’s why I wrote that letter to Amos.  Here’s a guy backing a Company letter obviously signed, sealed and delivered by the third generation to screw us all out of our shares.  And I told him so, and he didn’t like it.

     Brothers Amos and George, along with their younger sister, Cheryl Allen, were the second-generation senior Allens who ran the major Cincinnati and Detroit divisions of the A.C. Allen Plastic Toy Company.  These divisions were spread out over acres of land in the present suburbs of each city, bought when land was still cheap by A.C. Allen, the founder of the Company.  A.C. had predicted at the time that the kids would grow up to eventually run these two sectors, and he was worried that they would fight amongst themselves for territory.  Since Amos and George were only a year apart but three years older than Cheryl, A.C. had set them aside a Company each for the future (with younger sister Cheryl having to wait in the wings) and instructed his brother Cyril, whom he treated as the Company janitor, to bring them up accordingly. 

     – How ’bout if George and his gang were behind that cheapo share redemption screw job and that maybe they encouraged the rest of Management to go along with them?,

Rod asked.

     Rod had a thing against George Allen and his family ever since he had been witness to a vicious telephone conversation between his father, Pascal, and A.C., back when he was eleven years old.  His father had blown the whistle on both George, whom he reported to, and on a former member of the Allen board, Herb White, and the inefficient way they were running a division of the Company the Allens had opened up in Ontario where the Lafleurs had grown up.  Pascal Lafleur had eventually been asked to resign and the Ontario branch closed down due to a lack of profitability.  Rod’s father had been trying to say that the Company’s poor performance hadn’t been his fault but rather that of George and Herb White.  Pascal had pointed to a conspiracy between the three to not only kick him out but also run the Canadian division into the ground and force the Allens to close it down, thereby rescuing themselves from the hostile Canadian winters.  Whatever the truth had been, Rod swore to himself he would never be involved in the Company or its divisions like A.C. had always wanted him to be.  Word had it that A.C. had been very disappointed in Rod’s choice not to join the Company, as Rod was like a son to him, but A.C. never let on that this was so.

     – Why do you think it was George and his gang?

     Terry was shaking Rod down in a gentle way, answering a question with a question, a technique certain types of savvy people use.  The question hung in the air as Terry had suddenly gone silent; Tina and she were staring at Rod.  Rod felt himself getting warm fast.  On the one hand, he didn’t want to give Terry too much information since he didn’t know her that well, but on the other Rod had made a statement and he had to back it up. And Terry seemed genuinely curious.  Rod decided to be Honest Abe and go for it, something he’d always done and something that had always gotten him in trouble. 

     – My father was asked to resign back in Ontario because he apparently blew the whistle on George and Herb White and their inefficient way of running the Canadian division. He believed George and Herb had conspired to kick my Dad out of the Company, so I ask myself, and I think this is a good question, whatever happened to my dad’s stock options or even those of my Aunt Billy? Or my grandmother’s?

     Terry’s mouth opened slightly in surprise but immediately closed again as she took it all in stride and segued to her next point.

     – Rod, that’s not a good question,…

     Terry knitted her brow, then adjusted her bum in her chair as she paused for dramatic effect; she then stared right at Rod:

     – …that’s an excellent question!  And that’s why we’re having this talk.  You gotta ask yourself:  what about Uncle Joseph’s stock, or Aunt Amy’s?  Or anybody else’s for that matter? Where do you think it all went?  Especially when they inaugurated that “Management Stock Plan” five years ago.  Hey, even your family’s ownership share of the Company is down to ten percent!

     That the Lafleur stock was somehow worth less was not news to Rod or Tina.  They had listened to their sister-in-law, Calvina, go on for hours about how the Allens had probably re-issued new shares after their collective effort to buy everyone out had failed. Calvina had convinced them that the third generation of Allen Management wanted more shares for themselves alone, and the only way they would acquire these was to re-distribute previously issued gift shares or re-issue more stock. 

     What Terry was saying, however, was different.  She wanted to know where Joseph’s estate had vanished.  Joseph was A.C.’s brother and had been unemployed for a long time when A.C. was building up his business in the twenties.  Rod’s mother, Ivy Lafleur, remembered her ‘Cousin Joseph’ to be a lazy oaf who lived in their apartment for months at a time and lay on A.C.’s couch all day while she, her mother, May, and A.C. worked twelve-hour days to pay the rent.  But Joseph was sly and wormed his way into A.C.’s heart, and since he was family and unemployed, A.C. began to trust him and give him more and more of his business to run.  “If I can’t trust my family, who can I trust?”, A.C. used to say.  It was Joseph who had succeeded in reducing eldest brother Cyril’s role to mere ‘janitor’; he also acquired lots of shares over the years as well. He later married Amy Stein who was saintly and religious on the surface but greedy and vicious underneath.  She was extremely clever and ambitious, and very smooth, almost to the point of appearing boring. Her role in the family saga was to accuse A.C.’s wife, Ivy’s mother May, of anti-Semitism, which remark, Rod thought, was particularly ridiculous since May had chosen to marry A.C. back in the twenties when he was still poor and after she had left her first husband.  “Why would she have married a Jew, and a poor one at that?,” Rod used to wonder if she had been anti-Semitic?

     In any event, Amy Stein Allen also became a major stockholder and together with their daughter, Janet, to whom Joseph and Amy handed down loads of stock, they controlled a huge block of shares. It was now 1997, Amy and Joseph Allen had died, and Janet, along with her children, Tara Shapiro-Parker, 29, and Bill White, 24, were in control of the Joseph Allen estate and about thirty thousand shares.  Now, rumor had it that Janet was often drunk or on drugs and after her marriage failed and she had apparently been beaten up by one of her lovers, she needed someone to control her and this role was fulfilled by her daughter, Tara. But Tara was weak and although she worked for a top investment firm, she lacked self-confidence and began to confide in Terry who was often hanging around.

     When Terry got finished telling Tina and Rod that she had had to pay the doctor after some ghetto junkie had beaten Janet up, Rod began to wonder why Terry had felt obligated to let him know all this.  He didn’t need to ask because Terry, on her own, had finally put a stop to all her word noise and come to the crux of the matter:-

     – …if I can accumulate a twenty percent block of shares, I can go to these guys that are running our Company and say, “Hey, I’m Terry Roberts and I want you to listen to me.  I represent some minority shareholders who are really major players in this Company, and we’ve been fed up for some time, but you have refused to listen to us.  You made us that ridiculous offer a few years ago, you tried to re-issue stock to the managers and you’ve been taking shareholder profits and doing whatever you want, if you get my meaning.

     – So you’re just going to complain about the Company, Tina wanted to know. 

     – Did anyone ever tell you, you have a pretty smile?  Isn’t that right, Rod, isn’t she something? 

     – That’s why I married her.  It was that smile,

Rod echoed. Terry then flashed her twenty-thousand-dollar orthodontry and added an echo of her own,

     – Is that a fact?  You two, if you get my meaning, you two make a great couple, you know that, you guys go good together.

     – Thanks, Terry.

     – No, I’m serious.

Terry’s face then clouded over:

     – I wouldn’t be sitting here now, Tina, if all I wanted to do was just complain about the Company.  You can do that, anyone can do that, God knows Calvina’s always doing that, from what she’s told me.  That won’t get us anywhere.  No, I want to get you guys and anyone else I represent, some more liquidity than what you’ve been paid over the years.  What is it now, a measly twelve dollars per share per year we’ve been getting in sporadic dividend payments?…

     – That’s the operative word there, Terry, “sporadic”, but they’re nice to have,

Rod chimed in again.

     – …I’m not arguing with you.  But then they cut the divs whenever there’s a funeral, that’s not kosher, is it, there’s a recession, they cut the divs, there’s a division of the Company that’s not making money, they cut the divs or eliminate them entirely?  Let me ask you a question.  Does this Allen stock represent your primary capital holdings, if you don’t mind my asking?

          – We all have jobs here, Terry, and we have the divs.  They may be insufficient for you, but they have always helped us; however, even if we didn’t have them, we’d survive fine.  We both work, Calvina’s business is thriving, and my mum owns her house free and clear.  My sister Delilah’s always worked.  We’re doing fine here, Terry.

     – Yeah, but does the Allen stock represent your primary holdings?

     -Everything’s okay, like I said.  What exactly do you plan to do, Terry?

     – What I need is to develop a critical mass of shares.  The magic number is twenty percent.  And by the way, I’m doing a similar deal with Janet and Tara, so if you ever want to consult them, well, I’d talk to Tara, because I told you what a mess Janet is in.  If I can amass these shares, I can go to Management and say, “Hey, I’m Terry Roberts, and the Lafleurs here are fed up getting one percent dividend return on their money.  What are you going to do about it?”

     – So you want to buy our shares?, Rod suddenly asked.

     – “Buy?”  Who said anything about ‘buying’?  Forgive me for speaking like this, but here’s the story: are you guys happy with the liquidity you have on your shares, or not?  I don’t know about you, but have you ever tried to use your shares as collateral in any major purchase like buying a house or expensive boat because if you have, you’ll see that shares in a private company ain’t worth diddly squat, if you get my meaning here…

     Rod thought of the time he tried to buy a $125,000 co-op apartment in New York back in the early eighties and he needed to put down ten percent as an ‘inside’ tenant, rather than the customary twenty for ‘outside’ tenants.  He couldn’t even use his shares as collateral for the purchase.  He had to use a friend of his to co-sign the loan.

     – I see what you’re saying,

     Rod replied.

     – …I mean, you don’t exactly have shares of IBM or Microsoft or any of those blue chip companies here, do you?  Allen Plastic Toys isn’t exactly blue chip.

     – It’s the Rolls-Royce of plastic toys for children all over the U.S.

     – I grant you that, Rod, but it’s still a private company and therefore the only good it can do for you, as Mr. Minority Shareholder, is provide you large dividends and long-term growth potential or it can sell off a division or two, or sell completely, and that’s what we’d all like to see happen here, if you get my meaning.  You see, what I have in mind, if I can get the mandate to do so, is to just go see them and say, “Hey, I’m Terry Roberts and I want you to sell our friggin’ Company”.

     – Calvina’s been talking about that for years–let’s face it, Terry–we all have, and you’re right about the dividend payments, but those dividends have come in handy, and they’re increasing every year…

     – …or decreasing, or being cut entirely because there’s a recession, or someone dies and there’s inheritance taxes to pay, or what not.  Come on, Rod, you gotta agree with me that the liquidity your family’s getting is diddly squat, and when I see the wealth these third generation guys are amassing–guys and gals your age and younger, you know–and their houses and their cars and we minority shareholders are being left out in the cold, well heck, it makes me sick. …

     Terry was on a roll now,

     – …As you probably know, there’s two divisions of the Company, with the kids in Detroit under George versus the kids in Cincinnati under Amos.  But they don’t get along too well, even though they pretend to be this wonderful united family.  And as far as business goes, they are united, and that’s the status quo, and that’ll never change.  But if I can go to each of them, and say, ‘look, it’s not that you’re inherently bad managers, you just don’t know the market out there.  You guys are inventors and you’re trying to run a business but this business is inefficient because you don’t have business people calling the shots.’ 

     George, Amos and Cheryl, they’re the nicest bunch of kids around.  Three siblings–three inventors, let’s face it–who get along, what more do you want?  And they’re the second generation kids and for a short while they’ll still be running the show.  But all they can think of is “product”, maybe a new design they’ve come up for some plastic elephant, some walking “Shelly” doll, or whatever.  They don’t know the legal parameters of the market place, so what do they do? Their kids tell ‘em to invest in insurance, just so they don’t get sued by paranoid parents worried about their children swallowing some plastic toy.  Well, that’s just poor business, if you get my meaning.  These second-generation guys have over ten thousand shares each, with money coming out of their ears, but look how they live!  They sure don’t live like their wealthy sons and daughters! They drive old cars, live in small, modest houses, and all they know how to do is think up better designs for the next toy show.  Meanwhile, all the money they’ve made is being badly invested with the third generation skimming off any excess profits.  Shareholder money, our money, remember that.  And this is status quo, this is the way it’s supposed to be, nothing’s going to change unless something happens. And that’s where I come in.  I am the woman to make something happen. I say you send me in to tuck things up, snip and cut and run a tight ship, so that we, the minority shareholders, get what we deserve.  I say you do that for me.  I’m their first cousin, I’m on a first-name basis with all of these guys and gals and I know how to get things done.  I’ve run successful businesses all my life…

     – So you want to be President and CEO?

     – …No.  But I want to look at their investments, because that’s my field, you know, and I want to look at their earnings, but above all I want them to take me seriously because…

     – You only got about five hundred shares, isn’t that right, Terry?

     – Fifteen hundred, now.  My mother died in December…

     – I’m terribly sorry to hear that.

     Rod had inadvertently made a blunder but how would he have known that Veronica Allen Roberts had died?

     – …yeah, poor Mom, she had cancer, it went on for a long time.  They even had to cut one of her hands off near the end, it was terrible.  She had gangrene and all.  And it happened just before the end.  You don’t even want to know what I went through.

     – I’m so sorry to hear that…

Tina had briefly waxed pathetic as they both tried to extricate themselves and return to the business at hand.  She brought Terry back gently.

     – …So what you plan to do, Terry, is…

     – You know, Tina, you’ve got a beautiful voice, you know that. What I could do with a voice like that! Rod, you’ve got a great girl here, a great girl!…So, as I was saying…What I’d like to do for your family is bring you more liquidity and form a trust with you guys,…

     At this point, Terry reached out for one of the hotel napkins and started to scrawl in large letters.

     – …whereby we enter into an all-win agreement and I put your shares into one jar, and my cash in another jar, and each jar collateralizes the other, and I’m just talking off the top of my head here, if you get my meaning, but we form this trust and our block of shares has now got some weight, it’s got punch, and you’ll obviously have the extra short-term liquidity, so don’t worry about anything…

     -You’re not including the dividends, right?…

     Rod was very worried about his dividends.

     – …Oh, most definitely, no problem with the dividends.  These are your shares, nothing changes at all.  All I’m asking is for you to give me some say in the whole matter, because I’m the gal for the job, and if I can get some other minority shareholders too…What did we say you guys had, about ten percent?…

     Rod nodded his head, still wondering how much Terry knew about his holdings, but then Rod remembered that the Allens had published the shareholder list back in the early nineties. 

     – …So I’ll need another ten, which I don’t think’ll be a problem because Janet and Tara have about that.

     – But what exactly do you intend to do, and what would we have to do?

     – Do you want to buy our shares, Terry?

     Tina and Rod were both firing questions now.

     – What do you guys own, about nineteen, twenty thousand shares?

     – ‘Bout twenty.

     – Okay.  Let’s call this jar “Lafleur Shares” and this other jar here “Terry’s Contribution”.  If I secure your shares with $100 per share, that’s one hundred dollars times twenty thousand, or $2 million in “Terry’s Contribution”, fully collateralized by your “Lafleur Shares” jar.  We each back up the other, you follow me?

     – So you’re saying you’d give us, as a family, two million dollars?  And what would we have to do?

     – Nothing.  Just allow me to represent you to the Allens, let me go to them with your backing.  I’ve already got commitments from Janet and Tara, maybe a couple of other people, and hey, the Allens would have to listen to me because now, even if I don’t own anybody’s shares–and I wouldn’t, you would continue to own your shares, let me make that clear, if you get my meaning here–these are your shares and nothing would change, but they would think I’ve tied them up and I would have obtained a critical mass of twenty percent, and hey, twenty percent is twenty percent, twenty percent is power, let’s face it.

     – But why twenty percent, Terry, did you just pull that number out of the air?

     – That’s an excellent question, Rod, and I’m glad, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m glad we’re having this talk.

     – Well?

     – What it is, if you get my meaning, when a company has to make a strategic decision, it needs to have at least twenty percent of the shareholders back that particular decision, so that’s why I chose that number.  I didn’t just “pull it out of the air”, if you get my meaning.

     – But I still don’t understand, Terry, what are you planning to do here, concretely, that is?

     – I can’t go into that, Rod.

     – Oh, you mean that’s confidential?

     – Exactly.  For this to work, I’ve gotta be able to go to the top brass and say, “Hey, I’m Terry Roberts, and I want you to listen to me because I represent twenty percent of our shareholders.”  I’m not saying to them you should listen to me because I’m just A.C.’s niece…

     – Well, I am A.C.’s grandson, he only had two –

     – …Exactly.  And that don’t mean diddly squat, if you get my meaning, whatever we are.  We’re all relatives; we’re all this big, huge, wonderful family.  Only twenty percent means something to these guys. 

     – But you can’t tell us what you’re going to do?

Rod, in his way, was relentless.

     – That would be tipping my hand, and I can’t do that.  I gotta play this close to the vest, you know what I’m talking about? 

     Terry was animated, that was a fact, and the more she talked of her plan, the more her green and yellow eyes would twinkle in tandem with her sparkling white teeth.  It was as if tiny little stars of mirth were spilling out all over which she would wipe away with a swipe of her tongue, and then become earnest again. 

     – Look, we’ve got to trust each other, and I’m talking now, and in the future.  I’ve got to trust you that you’ll never say anything about what I’ve just said to anybody in the Allen family (except your siblings and mother, of course), and you’ve got to trust me that I’ll go out and get you guys more liquidity for your shares.

     – But how are you going to do that?

     – Look, Rod, “how?” is not important.  You don’t want to know “how”.  This is business, you know, it’s tough and often dirty, no holds barred.  This third generation just doesn’t get along with each other.  They’re at each other’s throats, if you get my meaning.  A gal like me, I know this family, I’m one of them.  Hell, you and me, we’re one of them.  And you too, Tina.  Boy, you’re beautiful, anyone ever tell you you’re beautiful? The difference is, I know how to go in there, exploit the situation, hell, I’m like a female Doberman, a fury, if you get my meaning.  I’m gonna go in there and pit one against the other, and that’s as much as I can tell you.  We’ve got a tough situation here, and I’ve got to «have your trust», I gotta earn your trust, so that I can go and do what I have to do to make this WORK out…

     Rod noticed that Terry always gave extra stress to “work” as if Terry herself were working out.

     – …All you have to do is basically do nothing.  All I need from you is to not talk about this to anyone in the Allen family, and I mean anyone, do we have a deal here?

     – I don’t know about a deal, but we won’t say anything to the Allens, if that’s what you want?

     – Oh, sure, I don’t expect you to say yes right now to an arrangement with me today.  All I want is for you to keep your options open and listen to me and especially, not say anything about this to the Allens, because, if you get my meaning, it’s not going to be very nice.

     – “That it’s not gonna be nice”?  Are you going to sue them, or what?

     – Rod, I can’t go into anything like that.  What I would suggest is maybe meeting another time, maybe with Calvina and your brother, Sherwood, and perhaps Ivy and your sister, Delilah.  Are they in town, now, or are they in England?

     – They’re in England, but Calvina and Sherwood are about.

     – And you and Calvina see eye to eye, I take it?  She’s the businesswoman of the family, right?

     – Oh yeah, she’s a smart cookie. 

     – Is she American too, or just French?

     – She’s just French.

     – And what about all of you?  You all U.S. citizens?  Tina, you’re not, right?

     – Tina became a U.S. citizen the day before she left for France, literally. 

     – That’s wonderful.  And what about the rest of you?  You all U.S. citizens?

     – My mum’s got two passports, and Delilah’s got a U.S. one. 

     – And Sherwood has both a French and U.S. passport, right?

     – Yes. 

     – And how old is Ivy?  She must be getting on, now, right? 

     – She’s eighty-seven, but she’s as sharp as they come. 

     – That’s right, his mum’s incredible.  I don’t know of anyone that age who is like that. 

     Terry must have been thinking of something else because she seemed to only just register Ivy’s age.

     – Eighty-seven! And her vital signs are still sound, her speech isn’t slurred, she doesn’t shake, she remembers everything?     – She’s as sharp as they come, Terry.

     Rod gave Terry a steely smile, because underneath, he was very proud of his mother.  Here was someone who had worked hard until she was seventy, had raised three children on little money and taken care of Rod’s father, a weak man with health problems.

     – Why would she be any other way, Terry? 

     – Need I say?  She’s eighty-seven, Rod, but that’s wonderful, I’m very happy for you.  You gotta be good to her, take care of her.  They really depend on you when they reach that age.  I just wish I could have seen my mother more, because I feel really bad about what happened to her. I don’t think, if I had been around that…Your mom a U.S. citizen too?

     Rod slowly nodded his head and peered into Terry’s bewitching yellow-green eyes.  They had seemed to momentarily soften as Terry thought of her own mother, but then the pupils turned to points as she quickly reacted for she added,

     – I’d like to meet her sometime soon.  You don’t expect her in France, do you?

     – Not right now.

     – Because if you guys are interested in what I have to say…

     – You’d have to put it by my mother…

Rod completed Terry’s thought, and then added,

     – …We wouldn’t do anything without her.  We’re a very united family.

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