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Chapter 2 Know Your Dealer

I was born and raised in Libertyville, Illinois.


say it’s a suburb of Chicago and nowadays it is, but it was founded in 1837 and was basically a stand-alone small town that was absorbed into an upper extremity of the Chicago metropolis by the 1950s.

You have the old-fashioned shops

downtown surrounded by a thin veneer of Victorian homes and bungalows, all encased in a thick outer shell of strip malls and tract houses.

Fortunately, they preserved a lot

of the forests so we wouldn’t wind up looking like Schaumburg. I lived in a three-bedroom Cape Cod in the middle-aged part of town (most of the houses were built in the 1930's). I grew up an only child, which had its benefits and shortcomings.

I had a full bathroom all to myself, and my

parents’ undivided attention, but on the flipside, I didn’t have anyone close to me in age to look up to or look up to me.

But whatever, life was good. My Dad’s name was Victor.

He was a financial analyst

who worked at just about every major insurance company that ever had a branch office or an HQ in the Chicagoland area: Allstate, Aon, Fireman’s, Zurich, you name it.

He was a

consummate job-hopper.

He got laid off twice in his career

but the rest of the time he just jumped ship when he saw a better-looking boat across the bay. He was a brilliant and complicated man who didn’t say much outside his areas of interest and never got worked up about anything.

In other words, he was “quiet.”


what everyone always said about him, especially my Grandma Jane.

Every time she talked to my Mom she would say

something like, “He never says anything.

Are things

alright between you two?” My Mom’s responses ranged from “That’s just how he is,” to “Why don’t YOU be quiet Mom?!”

It all depended on

her mood. He graduated high school in 1966 and got drafted into the Army soon after. much for details.

He saw action in Vietnam but wasn’t

When asked if he ever killed anyone, he

would always say, “I fired my M-16 into the trees where they were shooting from.

Whether or not I hit anyone,

can’t say.” But he made it out alive and went to Roosevelt as soon he was stateside.

That’s where he met my Mom.

My Mom’s name is Alice.

She’s a consummate musician.

By the time she finished college she knew five instruments, the piano, oboe, piccolo, clarinet and her favorite, the


She actually played flute for the Chicago Symphony

Orchestra in the 70s.

She quit because it got, “too

catty.” After she left the CSO, she did the neighborhood lesson thing for a while, discovered she liked teaching and became the music teacher at a grade school in Grayslake, a job she held until retirement. She also sang in the church choir.

My parents weren’t

especially religious but we all went to The First Methodist Church every Sunday so she could sing and we could hear her.

She was a bit of diva like that.

I also think she

did it so that I’d be exposed to a form of music I wouldn’t experience anywhere else. sing hymns on MTV.

She once said to me, “They don’t

Where else are you going to hear them?

Any kind of music you don’t experience is a loss for you.” Much to my surprise, she applied those standards to a lot of the music I listened to.

She liked The Smiths,

Phish, They Might Be Giants, even Nine Inch Nails (although she couldn’t quite understand why someone with a lucrative recording contract and legions of fans could be so persistently depressed). She was the same way with symphony music.

Every year

she got season tickets to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and on every Tuesday from fifth grade until my sophomore

year when I could use my job as an excuse not to go, I would get stuffed into a suit and suffer through music that sometimes brought my Mom to tears.

Of the fifty some-odd

concerts I attended, I only remembered the one with Yitzak Perlman, and I only remembered him because he was on Sesame Street. Overall my life was comfortable and nice.

I had no

serious hardships, just asthma and typical suburban teenage social shit.

We were never rich, never poor, just solid

middle class.

I guess you could say I was born with a

bronze spoon in my mouth.

I got along good with my parents

and they got along good with each other.

I had at least

five friends who were children of divorce so it was nice to go home to people who loved each other. It seems like every family has at least one dark secret and ours was that my Mom was married briefly before she met my Dad.

The guy was her high school boyfriend and

was very eager to get married.

My Mom (thinking that’s

what women were supposed to do) accepted his proposal. A year after they got married he suddenly wanted kids. Mom thought this was a little strange because when they got married, he was adamant about not having kids until he made enough money.

Then she found out from a friend that the

government had changed the draft deferral rules: married

men were no longer exempt but married men with children were.

This guy married my Mom to get out of the draft.

She suspected this was the reason all along, as did a lot of her friends, but she didn’t want to believe it.


whole kid thing confirmed her suspicions. She confronted the guy, he confessed his true motives and she left him.

And the best part?

After they had the

marriage annulled, he wound up getting drafted.

When Mom

finished telling me the whole story, Dad said, “There was nothing funny about Vietnam, except for what happened to that guy.” They told me this story when I was seventeen in a very matter-of-fact yet out-of-the blue conversation.

I didn’t

know why they felt they had to tell me but I’m guessing it was because I was in a pretty deep relationship at the time and they were worried that I might stumble into a similar situation. The girl’s name was Rachel York. from sophomore to senior year.

We dated on and off

She was the only high

school girlfriend who I’d describe as serious -of course serious to someone who’s seventeen and serious to someone who’s forty-six are two different words in two different languages.

She wound up dumping me for good a few weeks after I graduated.

She basically said that was I going away for

college, she still had a year left of high school and who were we kidding?

In retrospect it seems embarrassingly

silly, but I was devastated.

I actually got down on my

knees and begged her to reconsider, and when someone is breaking up with you for very pragmatic reasons, getting down on your knees doesn’t do much for your cause, or your parting image. I spent the rest of the summer wallowing in a misery that would make John Keats look sanguine, only he had it better because he had legendary poetic output as a tradeoff for his misery.

I had shit.

But it was nothing the

first week of college couldn’t fix. in short order and all was good.

I found someone else

And just so you know, I’m

not bringing up Rachel because I miss her and look longingly back on the time we spent together.

I bring her

up because she’ll be important to the story in just a little bit. I had a pretty good time in college but managed not to have too good of a time.

I sometimes think college is less

about having intellect and more about being able to use your intellect while under a constant barrage of distractions -and I allowed myself my share of


I hung out with an assortment of liberal

arts majors who were united by the idea that they would all sell screenplays, publish novels or become famous actors by age 25 and that consuming lots of weed and hallucinogenic drugs was an essential part of the process. One out of two ‘aint bad. After I finished college, I had my one and only regret in life -I could have gone to Europe and didn’t.

My best

friend in college was Steve Morse and he had been saving up for a trip to Europe for two years.

The itinerary was to

fly to London, Chunnel to Paris, bus to Brussels, hitchhike to Amsterdam, inch up to Hamburg, hop over to Berlin, go down to Prague, sidestep to Vienna, then top it all off with Venice, Florence, and Rome.

He was going with two

other guys and a girl and invited me, no, begged me to come along, I didn’t. And I could have!

I had saved up some money.


parents even offered to pay for the airfare and give me some spending money as a graduation present.

But I was

listening too closely to my own excuses. I’m going to graduate school in the fall, I need to get myself in the right frame of mind to work hard and I can’t do that if I’m backpacking through Europe.

I’ll have a ton of loans to pay off once I get my Masters, I can’t spend all the money I’ve saved on a trip overseas. This one was really lame: There’s so much in this country I haven’t seen.

I haven’t even been to New York!

I can always go to Europe later. Little did I know......... So I politely declined and regretted it as soon as I moved back in with my parents. until November.

But it was only a regret

Then it became a blessing.

I got a call from an old high school friend who wanted to get together and catch up. TGIFriday’s.

He told me to meet him at

I waited at the bar for about an hour before

acknowledging that the prick stood me up. surprised.

I wasn’t

That guy was one of the biggest social sluts in

the world and would proudly say so.

He typically lined up

five or six engagements per night and stuck with the one that was the most fun.

Come to think of it, I would’ve

been surprised if he had shown up. I had a few beers, watched the Bears get annihilated on TV, chatted with the bartender a little, and then, on beer number three, it happened. Two girls took a seat at the other side of the bar. The one on my left had brown hair with blond highlights,

light purple lipstick, matching nail polish, no earrings, a black sweater, blue jeans, black leather jacket, and a pack of Camel Lights and a purple cellphone next to her purse. She looked extremely cute and extremely familiar. Familiar enough for me to ask,

“Are you Rene

Schwall?” Her eyes brightened, she smiled a little. um...”

Her right hand held an unlit cigarette.

in the air and made circles.

“Yeah, It went up

She was trying to place me,

having trouble and then her cigarette hand slammed down palm-first on the bar. “CANDYMAN!” Back in 1992 this movie Candyman came out.

You might

have seen it or heard about it but just in case, it’s about a ghost with a bloody hook for a hand named Candyman, and if you stood in front of a mirror and said his name five times, he’d appear behind you and rip you in half with his hook. Right when that movie was in the theaters and everyone had seen it, I was at a party at this guy Mark’s house. His parents were gone, the place was pretty crowded, I had to take a piss and the bathroom downstairs was taken.

So I

went to the upstairs bathroom, opened the door and turned on the lights.

The first thing I remember were two, ear-shriveling mezzo-soprano shrieks that managed to drown out the music blasting on the stereo downstairs.

Then this blond girl

charged out of the bathroom, knocked me down, ran into the nearest bedroom and slammed the door behind her.

I looked

up and saw Rene leaning against the sink, clutching her chest with both hands and taking deep, heaving breaths.


thought she was having a heart attack. I later found out that she and her friend, Nikki was her name, had a few drinks and decided to try the whole Candyman thing in the upstairs bathroom.

Just to give you

a visual, the door to that bathroom faced a huge mirror that ran the full length of a double vanity sink and went almost all the way up to the ceiling.

I’d been in that

bathroom before and always thought it was kind of jarring to flip on the lights and immediately see me staring back at myself.

Right as Nikki and Rene said the fifth

“Candyman,” I opened the door, turned on the lights and there I was, standing right behind them in the mirror.


would’ve wigged out too. I’ll never forget the look on Rene’s face as she leaned against the sink.

It went from fear to anger to

laughter as she went from thinking I did it on purpose to

the realization that the whole thing was just an incredibly freaky coincidence.

She called me Candyman ever since.

For about two months after that incident we were friends on the edge of being something more.

Rachel and I

were taking a break and Rene had just broken up with her boyfriend of over a year. really.

Perfect timing right?


Rene told me (without me making any overtures)

that she wasn’t looking for another relationship, she just wanted to be free and unobligated. But she would do these little flirty things that would totally mess with my head, like sitting next to me at lunch and putting her feet up on my lap, or calling me at odd hours just to chat, and the piece de resistance, reading me poetry she’d written and hadn’t shared with another living soul –most of it was inspired by her love of The Cure. This created a real Lady and the Tiger situation for me.

I could play it safe, painfully keep my emotions in

check, just be her friend and miss out on what could be the love of my life.

Or I could play it dangerous, lay all my

emotions on the table, freak her out and never see her again.

I wiggled and waffled on these choices and before I

could scrape up the balls to make a decision, Rachel told me she wanted to get back together.

As you might imagine, Rachel wasn’t too keen on me having a flirtatious female friend who had a pet name for me, so I started blowing Rene off and she got the message. The last time I saw her before that night at Friday’s was a month after Rachel dumped me.

We ran into each other at a

party, ironically at the same house where we first met, and we spoke just long enough for her to tell me how much she loved her new boyfriend.

Then she vanished from my life.

I thought I’d never see her again. And we just happen to meet in a cheesy chain restaurant four years later. But it gets better.

We were reminiscing, talking

about who was doing what and where, and then we got to our relationship histories.

The guy she was dating when I last

saw her was named Dan Friedman and they dated for almost four years.

They both went to UIC and commuted so they

were both able to keep it local and stay together.


problems started when he wanted to get an apartment but she wanted to stay at home and save her money.

She was telling

me about the fights they’d have, then she all of a sudden, she stopped and asked me, “Who was that girl you dated senior year after I met you?” “Rachel York.”

When I said her name, Rene did that sarcastic smile and one-beat laugh people typically do when someone they’re not very fond of comes up in a conversation.

Turns out

that Dan and Rachel had a lot of mutual friends, there was a mutual meeting with a mutual attraction and he wound up dumping Rene for her. they were still dating.

To the best of Rene’s knowledge, Our ex’s wound up together.


freaky is that? Now I’m normally a very rational man.

In fact, I’m a

very cynical man (in case you haven’t noticed).

But I do

leave enough room in my brain for the joys of the unexpected yet strangely planned, in other words, fate. The moment Rene and I got reacquainted, we both felt that forces beyond our power brought us together. Three months later we drove down to the Cook County Courthouse in Chicago and eloped.

I won’t take up your

time going into every single vivid detail that I recall on that day and the three months that preceded it.

Let’s just

say that we were both in front of a big wave: we could surf it, swim it or try to fight it, but one way or another, it would take us there. Both our parents were shocked but shocked into a numb and happy acceptance.

Their first assumption was that a

pregnancy was involved, which it wasn’t.

When they

realized it was plain old-fashioned love (and that the horse had long-since crossed the state line and it was pointless to even look at the barn door) they gave us our blessing and sent us on a honeymoon. Our first place was a one-bedroom apartment in Prospect Heights.

I worked at a seafood restaurant to make

ends meet while I finished up grad school.

Rene worked

full time in the accounting department at Allstate. That time was great emotionally but stressful financially.

We had primed our minds to pay rent and

luckily we both owned our cars, but there were a lot of little things we weren’t used to paying for that all added up, like gas, electricity, groceries, telephone, etc. Plus, you had the double-pronged pitchfork of the consumption economy: the credit card and the advertising culture that made you feel like a failure if you didn’t have at least two and you didn’t use them all the time. Added to all that, I was going to grad school and racking up loans with the possibility that I might not even have a job waiting for me when I finished.

I knew I wanted

to teach but I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a backup plan and you kind of need one if you’re stretching out your college education on your own dime.

I had a cousin up in

Minneapolis, straight-A student, went to Duke, stayed on

for law school, got his JD, passed the Minnesota Bar and what did he do afterwards, what was he still doing while I was going for my Masters?

He was doing contract legal work

for peanuts and living at home so he could pay off his loans.

Of course, his Mom swore up and down that he was

just, “Decompressing after some very demanding years before he goes to the big leagues,” but who knows?

Maybe even

academic prime ribs like him were hard to employ, in the boom times of 1998! Fortunately, things worked out okay.

Once I got my

Masters, I got a teaching job and we were able (with donations from both parents) to get a 3-bedroom condo in Vernon Hills.

And it was right in the nick of time because

Rene got pregnant and we needed an extra room. Vernon Hills was not a place where I imagined I’d live.

It was just to the south of Libertyville but it was

a totally different kind of town.

Libertyville was a

classic 19th century town that eased into the 20th and 21st centuries with its identity and character more or less intact.

Vernon Hills was a collection of farms that

exploded into a shopping mall in the 1970s – character came a little later in the picture.

It was the kind of place a

guy who absorbed too much pretentious, wanna-be

counterculture crybaby bullshit in college would turn up his nose at, which is exactly what I did. But it was the best we could afford.

I always thought

of Libertyville as a middle class town and while I was growing up, it was.

But all that changed in the 90’s.


huge chunk of forested land was turned into a neighborhood of closely spaced McMansions with a golf course for a back yard.

Almost overnight, the town where I grew up was

priced out of my range.

When Rene and I were looking at

houses, we checked three pages of Libertyville listings and the prices, even for the 2-bedroom cracker boxes, made our jaws hit our toes. Vernon Hills was within our means and Rene actually sat me down and went over a list of why I should be practical and realize it was a good choice.

It had

affordable condos, great schools, and because of the mall and the strip malls that I hated so much, our taxes would be manageable.

My grandparents had to live in a town with

steel mills to have affordable taxes.

I’ll take lack of

aesthetics over air pollution and carcinogenic drinking water any day. The burbs have been subjected to a lot of artistic libel over the years, usually from people who grew up in the burbs and are just too hip for their privileged


They can’t appreciate the fact that the

mundane is like a blank wall and if you stare at it long enough, the secrets of the universe are revealed and your spirit is fulfilled.

My only problem in life was making

enough money to get by, it won’t get any deeper than that. But if you want to give my story some artistic cachet, I’ll let you pretend my wife and I hate each other and I’m searching for meaning while lusting after my daughter’s best friend. Our son Jonathan was born in September of 1999, Dulcie in September of 2001, and Ehren in November of 2005. You’ll learn all about them as the story goes on.


now I want to tell you about my incidental family. There was a Mobil Station at the entrance to my subdivision that I patronized on a regular basis.

I always

stopped there for gas and little pick-me-ups that I didn’t feel like dealing with a grocery store to get.

Over the

years I developed one-eighth of a relationship with the people who worked there; I saw them all the time for just a few minutes at a time.

Some of them treated me like any

other customer they’d never see again. give me a look like they recognized me.

Some of them would Some would say

“Hey man!” and strike up some short conversation. never got their names.

But I

They didn’t wear tags and I never

thought to ask.

But I did give them nicknames.

It was

intimacy in my own head. There was Thigh-High, this cute Latina with jet-black hair down to her waist.

She always wore these black

leather boots that went up just above her knees, hence her name. Then there was Woob-Woob.

He was this white dude in

his twenties who had a scraggly mustache and always wore a red Marine Corps cap.

He must have had some kind of

condition like Tourette’s or something because he was always saying Woob Woob before, during and after everything he said. For example, I’m buying gas and snacks: “Woob!

That all for you?

Woob woob!”

“Yeah that’s fine.” “Woob!

That’ll be twenty-six nineteen.

Woob woob!”

There was Color Me Bad, a recent import from Mexico with a jeri curl mullet.

He reminded me of that guy in

Color Me Bad who looked like Kenny G. guy.

He was a pretty cool

I talked to him a lot. There was The Dude.

He was an old white guy with long

gray hair pulled into a ponytail with a goatee and three turquoise-on-silver rings on his fingers.

He always wore a

black leather vest with a denim button-down.

I never saw

him wear anything else.

I just took one look at the guy

and said, “Man, that’s the Dude.” There was Cheech, a white kid with dirty blond hair who either had really bad allergies or always burned one before coming to work because his eyes were the color of raw steak and one-quarter shut every time I saw him. Al Roker III was a heavy-set black guy who looked like Al Roker and since Mancow already had a sidekick named Al Roker, Jr., I went with Al Roker III. But the most memorable of all the members of my incidental family was Champ, the owner and proprietor. Unlike the rest of the Mobil crew, Champ’s name was his own.

He was the only person who wore a nametag and it

said, in big capital letters, “CHAMP.” He was a Dravidan Indian with a white mustache, white hair on his temples, a shiny bald dome and a gut that looked like he’d swallowed a sack of potatoes.

I went in

one time to buy some milk and I heard him saying to the Dude, “I’ve seen too many people in my country, in my family, go hungry. belly.

I was going hungry.”

“I come here to get fat.

He patted his

Not the only reason, but

a big one.” I got to know him in 2002 when I started my warm weather Friday night routine.

On a typical Friday night

from late spring to early autumn I would go on a bike ride with a couple of beers and some smoke if I had any –my counterculture pretensions didn’t survive my transition to the real world but my enjoyment of weed did, it simply evolved from wake and bake to weekend dabbling.

I didn’t

have the cash to barhop, all my friends were living downtown, and in any event, Jon was 3, Dulcie was 1 and Rene worked on Saturdays, which made me the caregiver (and trying to give care to a toddler and an infant at 6 AM while hung over is just no fun at all).

So I partied semi-

soft and on the cheap. Rene was an earlier sleeper and as soon she hit the sack around 11PM, I’d hop on my mountain bike, ride to Mobil, buy two oil cans of Fosters and go to this spot by the stormwater retention pond that was next to a huge willow tree and directly under the approach corridor for one of Palwaukee Airport’s runways.

I’d drink, take a few

tugs from my one-hitter, listen to the wind blow the willow branches in and out of the water with a light hiss, punctuated by the plash of the pond fountain and the occasional roar of a Learjet gliding over my head and soak in a moment.

Once I had a nice buzz going on, I’d ride

home, play Grand Theft Auto 3 for an hour or so then go to bed.

On one of those typical Friday nights I took a few hits, rode to Mobil and saw Champ working all by himself. I bought my beers, we talked a little bit about the Hindu caste system and how he was born into the warrior caste but was a merchant for most of his life, and then he pointed to the donut case and said, “I have to throw those out tonight.

They’re okay but they hit the expiration date at

midnight and the Health Department says they gotta go.


want them?” From thought to words: I’m baked like an Idaho potato in aluminum foil and gettin’ hungry.

“Hell yeah I want

‘em!” “So take them.” Our friendship progressed from there.

It wasn’t a

close friendship, but enough of a friendship for me to remember him to my dying days. Padmanaban.

His real name was Madhu

I asked him why he called himself Champ and

his response: “It sounded American.”

And he said that like

I should’ve known that was the reason and the fact that I didn’t meant that it didn’t sound American, so shit! He was born and raised in Goa, India and came to the states in 1976 with his pregnant wife in tow.

He started

out in Chicago as a cab driver and moonlighted at a Mobil station on Fullerton Avenue.

He managed to land a

management job at the Mobil in Vernon Hills and moved to Mundelein, the next town over.

As time went by and he got

more money, he opened up an Indian grocery store in downtown Mundelein and converted an old Victorian home into four apartments.

He was the first true entrepreneur I’d

ever met. Then, one hot summer night in 2012, I walked into Mobil and instead of seeing Champ behind the counter, I saw a younger thinner version with a full head of hair.

It was

his son Kirpal. I asked him where Champ was and he relayed the tragic story.

Champ had a stroke, twelve days shy of his seventy-

first birthday.

One minute he was standing behind the

counter counting cash from the till while a John Belushi lookalike employee I called Bluto restocked the cigs.


next minute he listed to one side, dropped to the floor and bashed his head on the vinyl tiles, compounding his cerebral woes with a concussion. He survived but was incapacitated and would require months of physical therapy to get pre-stroke.

He summoned

up enough of his part-time Hinduism to reason that his dharma had run its course and it was time to hang it up. So he handed the keys to his son, dipped into his 401 and

moved to a retirement community in Marysville, Tennessee with his wife. Kirpal fit into my Friday night routine just fine. fact, I kind of knew him already.


He went to Mundelein

High School and was one grade behind me.

I hung out with

some kids who went there and when I dropped their names, he knew a few of them.

Who knows, we might’ve gone to the

same parties and passed each other in a drunken haze without even knowing it. He used to be in commercial lending at Chase but lost his job in 2008 when the banking industry cratered.


faxing resumes by the tens and having meetings with headhunters that went absolutely nowhere, he went to Plan B and asked his Dad if he could be involved in the family business. Champ had added a few more gigs to his portfolio by that time.

He had another apartment building in Mundelein,

another Indian grocery store in Gurnee and a sales cart in Gurnee Mills that sold hair extensions and costume jewelry. Trying to manage all that by himself was a task and a half and he was thrilled to take on Kirpal as his “Executive Assistant.�

He ran the numbers, balanced the books, did

the taxes and prepared to take on some onsite management duties when the time was right.

That time was 2012.

Kirpal kept telling himself that working for his father was a temporary thing and he’d get more dejected as time went on and he realized it wasn’t.

He was one of

those people who didn’t have much patience for the footnote to the American Dream; he wanted the main text and he wanted it now.

He made good money at Chase, put a lot of

his surplus dollars into the stock market and spent many long hours hunched over his computer figuring out how to parlay all that money into millions.

And of course, like a

lot of fiscally intelligent people who thought they had a foolproof scheme, he lost all but the last layer of skin on his ass. Losing all his savings and going from a world of Forizei ties and letters of credit to plastic name tags and cash registers was a little bruising to his ego.

Add to

that equation a house in Libertyville that he had to walk away from and a wife who was three months pregnant when all this shit went down and I’m amazed he kept it all together. A weaker mind would’ve moved the body it occupied in front of an oncoming train. Eventually our friendship moved beyond the gas station.

In 2013 he invited the family and I over to his

house for dinner and we had a blast.

He has two sons, one

of whom is a year younger than Jon, and his wife Kalpana

got along great with Rene.

I had been in a friendship

drought for a couple of years and it was nice to finally meet someone who was more or less where I was in life. He spent a lot of time bitching about how far he’d fallen and I was the silent, sympathetic ear until I felt I knew him well enough to tell him to stop bitching and appreciate the cushion he’d landed on.

I was like, “Dude,

you have a job, a good job all things considered, you were able to move into your parents house and assume their mortgage, I don’t have a house and who knows if I’ll ever have one. healthy.

You were able to get insurance. Stop bitching!


Fear will drive you into a rut,

bitching will keep you stuck there.

I wish I could say I

lived by that credo all the time, but I am trying. After awhile he mellowed out and started taking a stoic and appreciative view of things.

But he never lost

that entrepreneurial, risk-taking spirit.

I’d say he got

it from his Dad but it came out different in the translation.

His Dad went out and found his opportunities

at street-level small business.

Kirpal never took to that.

He liked looking at the stock market and seeing the opportunities through a computer screen.

The only thing

that kept him from indulging in that was a lack of seed money.

I asked him if shell shock had anything to do with

it and he said no.

Plenty of people lost a helluva lot

more than he did and got it all back.

His problem was

simply not having the money to hit REBOOT.

All his income

was, in his banker jargon, “pre-dedicated.” But he’d still spend a few long nights hunched over his computer seeing stocks that he felt pretty good about and wishing he had the dough to play them.

Sometimes I’d

listen to him go on about why this stock looked or good and that one didn’t, all under a pretty convincing theme of having learned his lesson the first time around and how he’d be older and wiser if he ever played the market again If only he had a little extra dough. That’s where we went from friends to partners in the illegal gasoline trade.

But first I had to earn his trust.

I earned it by saving his life. Let me tell you about 5/9.

Gasoline - Chapter 2  
Gasoline - Chapter 2  

Chapter 2 of the novel science fiction novel Gasoline. The dealer tells you a little about himself.