The Million Dollar Shack
I lived by the sea. The water was pure blue. When the sun hit its surface anyone in the vicinity glowed with an unwavering happiness; especially, the developers who came to the area five years ago with dreams of increased wealth and prosperity.
I owned a house that sat against the water. My home was small; the place was only 800 square feet. It was a real piece of shit; it looked more like a shack. But the developers didn’t want the house; they wanted the land.
My cousin worked for a contractor who developers hired to build houses. He explained to me that he always had to submit plans to the City to secure building permits. I went down to the Department of Building and Safety, and looked at the proposed plans for my area. The developer was going to need to buy three houses for every condo they planned to build. Many of my neighbors sold early; they accepted the “good” offer.
When the Fat Man came to my house, and made the “good” offer I turned him down. My goal was simple; I wanted one million dollars. I explained my goal to him, and he countered that he was not in a position to offer that kind of money. He would need to go back to his boss. I told him that he should.
Over the next year he made three subsequent offers, and I turned those down too, holding strong to my initial goal. During that time every single person in the surrounding area had sold his or her home. Many purchased much larger homes outside of the area. Finally, he rang my phone one morning, and offered to take me to breakfast to “talk.” He even let me choose the place.
We met at my favorite diner: a quiet place on the main road that cut through town. Inside, there was a counter in the middle, and tables by the windows. An old menu was painted on the wall from when the place first opened in the 1960’s. Back then a soda was ten cents and a turkey sandwich was a quarter. The place reminded me of my childhood, which was a much simpler time.
On the day I met the Fat Man at the diner I was 62 years old. Retired. I had never wanted much. I owned my house, a fishing boat, and not much else. I always figured if you didn’t have much then you didn’t have to worry about losing much either.
Now picture this: I walked into the diner just before 9am to find the Fat Man seated at a table by the window. He wore slacks and a polo shirt. His hair was fixed real neat and proper. I sat down across from him, and before we could even order he came right out with it: an offer of one million dollars. He then pushed a contract across the table, and said I had to sign right then and there. He looked nervous, and tapped his foot under the table. I made a joke, “If I sign right now are we still going to stay and eat breakfast.” He didn’t take it too well, but kept his composure, and assured me that we would. I felt bad for making light of the situation. His boss had probably given him hell over this particular transaction. I went ahead, and signed the contract.
We stayed and ate breakfast just like he promised. We even struck up a conversation. He was a working stiff just like I had once been. He may have made more money than I ever did, but at least I was my own master. When I was in my 20’s, my father passed away, and I inherited a small amount of money. I purchased a boat, and made a living catching shrimp and crab, and selling them at market. I worked for many years, and eventually purchased the house, and a better boat. I never got married or had any kids. My life story is as simple as that.
After he paid the bill, we went over a few additional details. The most important was that his office would contact me the next day to wire transfer the agreed-upon amount into my account. We then shook hands. He said, “Congratulations. Well played,” and was quickly out the door.
I watched him walk across the dirt parking lot to his car: a black BMW. I wondered whether he had a wife and kids. I figured he did. He seemed like the type. It just never came up during our conversation. He got in and drove away. I then looked at my reflection in the glass window.
My face had gotten round over the years. I was never much into exercise, but working on the boat had helped me stay in halfway decent shape. I had big blue eyes, and wore a brown goatee. My skin was weathered like shoe leather from all the years in the sun. As I looked at myself an idea came to me. I don’t know where it came from. I never had an idea like it in all my life. I got up from the table, and exited the diner.
I drove down to the City’s Department of Building and Safety, and asked to see the plans for an untouched stretch of land about two miles east of my soon-to-be-former residence. The Clerk spread the plans across the counter, and I studied them closely.
Over the next few weeks I negotiated deals with the individual owners to purchase five houses along the water in that area. I moved into one, and performed regular maintenance on the others. They were all shitholes, but I had never wanted anything else. I waited patiently for the developers to come snooping around. After three years, I got a call from the Fat Man. He couldn’t help but laugh. We exchanged small talk. I asked him how he'd been. He then asked my price.
“One million dollars per house,” I said. I then hung up the phone.
We eventually negotiated a deal; I received four million dollars for the lot. Instead of buying another house I decided to purchase a boat, and live out on the sea. Every morning I woke up to the sound of seagulls. I ate breakfast out on the deck; the wind blew through my hair. I spent the first year traveling from port-to-port. After I had paid taxes on the money I made, I had more than enough to live comfortably for the rest of my life.
Now you’ve probably been wondering this whole time who I am and where I’m from, but I don’t see how that’s very important. The truth is this story could have happened to anyone anywhere. If there is a valuable resource to be acquired, whether it be waterfront property or oil or who knows what else, the people with money will find it, and you. And when that does happen you better develop a plan, follow that plan, and have a little imagination.
Now consider this: on the day I first sold my house the Fat Man left the diner, and I sat alone looking at myself in the window. After I got past examining my physical features, I had an idea. This idea was birthed from a single image that entered my mind; I imagined spending the rest of my life living on a boat. I had never dared to dream before. I always did what was practical. I followed what people said you were supposed to do.
When I purchased the five additional houses, I did it as a means to accomplish what I truly wanted.
About the Author: Steven Abramson is an avid storyteller who lives and works between Miami, FL and Los Angeles, CA as the Director of Development and Marketing for a non-profit community health center. Recent fiction has appeared in Down in the Dirt magazine.