Tuesday, May 9, 2017
TLR CHAPTER 116
Flashback Part 3
As they walked along Jeff exclaimed in wonder and admiration over the scenery and the few buildings that were already in place. He could smell the bakery long before they arrived and inhaled with his eyes shut. "If they bake only half as good as that smells I'm going to buy out their entire stock! I'll be the most popular guy on the base."
James grinned. "The baker will be glad to hear that." He waited for Jeff to enter the old renovated barn ahead of him, observing the other man’s pleasure and excitement as he took in the row of yet unoccupied shop fronts, stopping in front of the little bakery, James opened the door and allowed Jeff to precede him.
Jeff walked into the moderately lit store and let his eyes adjust before walking further in. He went straight to the counter, which displayed the baked goods and looked over what they had. He shook his head slightly, unsure of what he wanted to buy first, it all looked so good.
A man walked out of the back room with a welcoming smile on his face. "Hey Boss! Good morning! The usual?"
James smiled at the gentleman as he came to the counter. "Hello Amos, not at the moment, I want to introduce you to Jeff Markham, my friend and business partner here at the resort."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Markham," the baker replied, holding out a slightly flour covered hand.
Jeff smiled back and shook the man's hand. "Pleasure is all mine, Amos, and please call me Jeff. Everything looks and smells so good!" he exclaimed. "I don't know where to start."
James grinned. "He wants to know if you know how to make Portuguese rolls."
"Sure do," Amos said with a smile. "Don't get a lot of call for them yet, but if you like I'll be happy to make a batch a day. Maybe if I make them for you other people will buy them as well."
"If they're like the other things you have here, you won't be able to keep them in stock. That reminds me, I'd like a dozen of those walnut and chocolate chip cookies, please. My mouth is watering just looking at them. I can almost taste them already."
James laughed and winked at Amos. "Making those rolls are worth a try, but you just might want to make one batch for this soldier here and then when we have guests try them out on them before you make a batch a day."
"You got it boss," Amos replied. Then turning expertly selected twelve of the desired cookies for Jeff and added, "and one more makes it a baker's dozen."
Jeff took out his wallet preparing to pay when the baker held up a hand, "No, sir, Jeff, it’s on the house."
James smiled as Amos took care of his friend, "Don't argue with the man Jeff." He turned to the baker and said, "Amos give me a dozen oatmeal raisin cookies please...we can take them down to the lake and eat them while we talk," he said to a pleased looking Jeff.
"You got it, Boss," the man replied, choosing the best looking of the bunch for James. "And yes, you can, Jeff. I insist, after all, you're gonna be my boss too in a couple of years, and I gotta make a good impression," he joked as he handed over the bag of cookies to James.
The resort owner took his cookies, grinning at the man’s remarks to his business partner.
"Thank you, Amos," Jeff replied, putting away his wallet.
"Want some coffee to go, Boss?" Amos asked.
"That sounds good, thank you Amos, " the older man replied with a smile.
"Mr. Markham... Jeff... how do you take yours?” the baker asked.
"Just black please," Jeff replied.
“Boss, you want your usual or to switch things up a little bit today?"
"My usual is good Amos, thank you."
Amos expertly poured out two cups of coffee and handed them to the men. Jeff inhaled the scent deeply. "Freshly ground?"
"Yup," the other man replied.
"Oh, this is going to be better than I thought! Thanks, Amos. See you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow then, gentlemen!"
James smiled. "Yes, tomorrow." He turned to his partner and said, “Only the best here Jeff." Once the men had walked out with their coffee and cookies James outlined to Jeff how he thought the rest of the potential shops in the barn would shape up as he led his business partner up the stairs. "Up here is the conference room," he said, opening the door and letting Jeff go in ahead. "It can also be used as a classroom for large seminars I’d like to have, if needed."
Jeff looked around with a grin on his face. The conference and alternate use of a classroom looked more like something out of King Arthur and the Round Table. Comfortable chairs, a spacious table and a board behind the seat at the top of the table where the presenter or instructor could show slides, write notes or anything else. He nodded in approval, "This is great, JW."
James smiled and said, “I’m glad you like it, it will do to begin with.” He then showed Jeff some smaller rooms. “These can be furnished and used as smaller classrooms for more intimate presentations or seminars when we expand our education programming as well.”
"Everything here is amazing, James. It's everything we envisioned and more. It's going to be jaw dropping when everything is open and running," Jeff said. "The view I had of the lake from my room was beautiful. Can't wait to see it up close."
The older man smiled and said, “This way then.” As he led the way out of the barn and down a wooded path. They walked for quite a distance until they emerged onto a beachfront with a view of the entire lakeshore.
Jeff's mouth opened in amazement. The view from afar hadn't done it justice. "You grew up with this? Now I'm really jealous," he said with a grin to let his friend know he was only kidding. Or at least, he wanted to make his friend think he was kidding. "Did you swim here a lot as a kid?"
James smiled. "Yes, I swam here all summer and, well it might be a little cold, but if you want to brave it we can swim some.” The older man grinned. "The water is only in the forties, but if you're a member of the polar bear club..." he chuckled at his friend.
Jeff laughed, "I'm brave, but not that brave. I'll only go in under orders and under protest."
The resort owner chuckled. "I'm not that mean...usually." He winked at Jeff.
The younger man kicked off his sneakers and took off his socks and put his feet in the water. "Holy crow!" he laughed as he immediately took them back out again. "Definitely not a polar bear."
James laughed. "Neither am I."
Jeff sat down on the sand to dry and clean his feet as best as he could before putting his footwear back on. Instead of getting up he reached over to where he'd put down his coffee and bag of cookies, crossed his legs and reached in for his first cookie. "I've been dying to try one of these since we were in the bakery," he said, taking a huge bite.
The older man smiled as he bit into his own cookie. "Amos does a great job," he said.
They sat in companionable silence for a while, munching cookies and drinking coffee, when James said, "See that cove over there to the right? I'd like to set that aside for our employee’s personal use only, construct a small cabin and a shed where rubber rafts and other water equipment can be stored for their use and the boathouse and dock will be located slightly to our left. I’m not allowing any motorboats on the lake, I want it to remain a quiet and peaceful place to come to and relax, even when playing or boating. So only kayaks, canoes, sailboats and such."
"Sounds wonderful, JW," Jeff said quietly as he gazed out over the lake which was rippling slightly. In his head, he could see the resort through James's eyes and while he loved the Marines, he also looked forward to retirement and coming to live here full time.
Once they had finished their coffee and cookies James said, "Time to get back. We'll take the horses out in a few days and I want to show you some special things," he told Jeff cryptically.
Three days later...
James smiled at Jeff. "Come on, we're going riding today."
"Great!" Jeff replied animatedly. "Can I ride Belle?" he asked slyly.
The older man laughed. "Yes, I'll take Thunder," he said as he led the way to the stables.
Even though he hadn't ridden in some time, Jeff remembered how to saddle and mount Belle. He grinned and laughed when he was finally astride the beautiful animal.
"This is amazing! I forgot how great it feels to be on a horse." He looked at James and warned, "just don't keep me out too long, I don't want to be saddle sore tomorrow."
James's smoky blue eyes twinkled. "Don't worry, I have some very soft cushions you can use later if you need them," he teased. "We'll take it easy. Where we're going, it'll be safest to keep things to a walk or a trot," he told Jeff. He then smiled at Shorty. "Thanks Shorty, we'll take care of the horses when we get back, so if you need to leave before we return feel free to do so."
"Thanks, boss," Shorty smiled. "I have a date tonight and I don't want to be late," he grinned.
"Thanks Shorty," Jeff echoed, "and have fun tonight."
Shorty's eyes glinted with amusement, "I plan to," he said with a theatrical leer.
James grinned at Shorty. "Don't keep Dan out too late now," he teased.
"Ride'em Cowboy!" Shorty yelled with a grin, pretending to rope a calf. "Catch ya later boss. Later Jeff," he continued more sedately. "See ya's tomorrow."
Jeff waved goodbye as James led the way to the promised surprise.
James grinned at the younger man and then led his business partner along a shady trail smiling. "I love the land around here," he told him.
Jeff looked around dreamily, taking in every detail that he could. Every leaf, every tree seemed clean and bright. The air was pure, the sun warm on his face. "This is a little paradise, James," he said softly.
The other man grinned and held his horse as a jack rabbit ran across the trail, causing his mount to shy a bit. "Yes, and lots of wildlife. You have to watch out for the moose, they tend to wander out onto the paths sometimes and don't like to move," he explained to Jeff.
"I'd like to see one though. Not up close and personal, I don't think, but I'd love to get some pictures of some before I have to leave. Think there's a chance of that?"
James looked thoughtful. "Perhaps, the mamas will have their babies and the younger ones, like the bull moose are curious," he told the other man.
"I'll have to bring my camera next time we come out," Jeff said, "just in case. So... where're we headed, JW? What's the big surprise?"
The older man grinned. "Patience young man," he said in a mock stern tone.
Jeff chuffed a laugh and saluted, "Sir, yes sir!"
It was only moments later that Jeff could hear the sound of running water. He looked at James curiously. The sound became louder and louder and Jeff could smell it in the air before they even arrived.
James laughed softly at the other man's antics and after a while they emerged onto a flat grassy area where the river flowed and a small, but quite wonderful waterfall could now be seen.
"Wow," Jeff breathed appreciatively as he took in the sights and sounds. "This is beautiful. It's such a... well..." He blushed. "It's a really romantic looking spot," he finally admitted.
The retired Marine laughed. "My thoughts exactly. I'd like to build a large gazebo here where parties, celebrations and such can be held."
"Have I told you yet that you're a genius, JW?" Jeff grinned. "Wood? Stone? A combination? I can just see it now, covered with climbing roses in the summer. Do you have a design in mind yet?"
The older man shook his head. "No, not yet, but it's something we can design together. It's one of those things that will probably wait for a while as it's not one of the more necessary things right now, but hopefully in the not too distant future. We need to build more bungalows, get staff, educators for our seminar courses, more horses, a few outlying cabins built and such, bring more shopkeepers with specialty items into the stores in the barn, things like that." he explained.
"I imagine lattice work," Jeff replied thoughtfully, "but it's like you said, it's not an immediate need. It's going to be fun to plan it though."
James grinned. "Yes, and it will be a thing of beauty with both of us working on it together with our engineer friends telling us what we can and cannot do, due to the ground underneath and such. I want it to last a hundred years or more," he told the other man, grinning.
"I know you, JW," Jeff laughed, "when you want something done a certain way, it gets done. Or else!" His grin faded slightly as he looked again at the falls. "I could spend all day here, I think," he said softly.
The older man laughed. "You know me well pardner," he drawled, his smoky blue eyes twinkling. "Follow me.... I have another place and surprise to show you." He started off on another path that led through the woods, but also along the river.
Jeff gently turned his horse to follow James's, taking deep breaths of the clean air, closing his eyes a little to turn his face up to the sun for a moment. "Think they'll let me retire a little early?" he joked. "I can't wait to live here full time."
James chuckled, "Not likely."
As they rode along, Jeff could once again hear the sound of a water fall. This time his eyes widened in admiration. The falls were huge, the sunlight caught the spray to create a rainbow. "James..." was all he could manage to say.
James had to laugh when they emerged from the woods again to the larger falls, with rainbows displayed as the sun shone over them and the cliffs above. "Close your mouth before the flies find their way in," James teased. "Yes, this is the most spectacular place on the ranch. The pool at the bottom is deep enough to swim in and you can walk behind the falls, but with a lot of caution. I don't recommend anyone, including ourselves coming here alone," he told Jeff.
"Gotcha. boss." Jeff grinned. "This is magnificent. I suppose we'll probably have to put up signs," he said a little sadly. "I hate to mar the beauty of the place... the only problem is getting people to obey them."
James said, "We won't open this but to a very few at first and then we'll have a security force in place to help enforce the safety rules throughout the resort and assist guests in trouble if needed. I've also been thinking we should construct a state of the art infirmary and hire a full-time doctor to tend to our guests as well as to us. What do you think?" He turned in the saddle to look at his business partner.
"That's a great idea, James," Jeff replied thoughtfully. "it'll save our guests a trip into town to see a doctor if anything happens, and... it will also help keep Little Paradise a secure place. That reminds, me... have you chosen a name for the resort yet?"
James smiled. "I thought I'd name it after the lake. Uncle Chet named it Teardrop Lake because he said it was shaped like a teardrop, so Teardrop Lake Resort?"
"Concise and to the point," the Marine said with a smile. "and easier to keep under wraps than 'Little Paradise'," he laughed. "James," Jeff continued, looking gratefully at his best friend, "thank you for letting me be a part of this."
The older man smiled. "You're welcome, I couldn't have done all this by myself and a good business partner is hard to find." He grinned. "Time to go back now if you really don't want to be saddle sore," he told the younger man with a grin.
"A little saddle sore won't be a bad thing," Jeff said craftily as he laughed and turned Belle and galloped back toward the stables.
James, cleared his head of the memories when he heard Jeff laughing as he had all those years ago.
Jeff grinned as he noticed James back with them and nudged Duke. “I think our boss is back with us once more.”
Duke grinned back. “Yes, lost in his memories, wonder if that’s due to old age?” he teased, winking at the two older men.
James shook his head, grinning at the teasing and said to Jeff and Duke with a big smile. “Well, our dream is a reality and not without a lot of support from you two and a lot of others along the way. It’s a living, breathing thing and I’m sure will continue on long after all of us are gone if we are good stewards and continue to nurture and train our younger partners and friends to carry on the dream.”
Jeff and Duke nodded solemnly and raising their glasses made a toast, “To the dream!”
James toasted with his friends and the excitement of old in the dream of his resort was reflected in the smoky blue eyes for his friends to see. “To the dream!” He echoed as he raised his own glass to touch those of Duke and Jeff.