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'Chudo' James Shaw is eighteen years old, and sits alone in the house that his mother Elizabeth and father Charles built in a small town of around 4,000 people, eighty miles west of Los Angeles, California. The house stands on the top of a hill overlooking Lake Casitas just outside Oak View, and is set on ten acres of manicured gardens surrounded by natural forest. It boasts eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a theatre room, a gymnasium, a library, two kitchens, and a huge formal dining room for entertaining guests and clients. There are also several outbuildings, including a cottage where guests stayed over, a boathouse, and a stable where horses were once kept.
James's father spared no expense to design a home for his wife whom he cherished more than life itself, that is, until recently. The gardens are a little rundown although they are still maintained, and the horses are long gone.
To understand the events that took place that resulted in this tragedy occurring, and how it came about that his mother named him Chudo, we'll start back to when James's father Charles was nearing the end of his teenage years.CHAPTER 2
The year was 1981. Charles lived in a normal home, in a normal neighbourhood, in a suburb of Los Angeles called Huntington Park. Although not a well-to-do area like Beverly Hills or Santa Monica, his parents were hard-working, and Charles, an only child, was loved by both of them.
He was a bright and intelligent student in his final high school year. Although he was in the top 5 per cent of his class, he was still undecided on what career path he would take and which university he would attend. His grades reflected his intelligence, with straight 'A's in English, mathematics, and the arts. Maybe that was why he was having difficulty in deciding on a career path.
People say that you are either a logical or creative person depending on which brain hemisphere is the more dominant one. People who use their right hemisphere are more artistic, show creativity, have greater imagination than those who use their left hemisphere, who are more logical, are more analytical, and use reason in decision-making.
Surprisingly, Charles appeared to have achieved what few people could. His artistic flair ranged from drawing images that were so realistic that they appeared to be photographs, right through to creations that, with so much imagination, art critics could critique them for hours if not days. He was comfortable in using oils, watercolours, and pencils, even charcoal.
On the other hand, he was seldom challenged in mathematics, from algebra to calculus. There was one time Charles questioned his mathematics teacher on an equation he was using to solve a problem, and after his teacher consulted his handbook, he had to acknowledge his error.
With his dilemma continuing and a decision deadline looming, he consulted his teachers, hoping for some enlightenment. He even met with the principal of the school who had been a notable lecturer before settling down to a less stressful lifestyle before retirement, but he came away more confused than ever.
As a final desperate attempt, he spoke with the only person he believed would give him the guidance and advice he was looking for — his mother. After explaining his dilemma, telling her that he was having difficulty in deciding what he wanted to be and do with his life, her answer was 'Why don't you do both?' He looked at her, puzzled and confused again.
'What can I do that is both creative and logical?' he asked her. 'You love your art, and your drawings are out of this world,' she replied. 'I should know. We've got them framed and hanging on walls all around the house. I remember when you were little and you brought your drawings home from school. We used so many fridge magnets to stick them to the fridge, they even covered the fridge door handle. There were so many of them. They were so lovely, I didn't have the heart to throw them away. Although they're no longer on the fridge, I still haven't thrown one out. I've got them packed in the attic, and sometimes when I want to reminisce, I go up there and look at them again. They bring back so many wonderful memories. You can't imagine how many happy tears I've shed whilst looking at them. I've learnt now not to go up there without a box of tissues.' Even now her eyes were beginning to well up, and she turned her head away so that her son didn't see her crying. Charles had a lump in his throat and was having difficulty speaking. He stood, gave his mom a big hug, and went to the kitchen to get them both a glass of water and some tissues.
When he returned and handed her the glass of water, he told her that he loved her. 'OK, so I'm good at drawing, but I don't want to draw or paint for that matter, for the rest of my life. So any more suggestions?' he asked.
'Well, I can't imagine you working for a company,' she replied. 'You're not that type of person, and you're too smart for that. So why don't you start your own company? I'm sure you can find some arty business you'd enjoy. Be your own boss. It would mean a lot of hard work, but you've got the stubbornness to do it.'
Charles sat there, thinking, my own business — that's an idea.
His mother continued, 'You've got to decide on what type of arty business you'd enjoy, and what people want that they would pay you money for. You know your father and I will always support you, and we've put some money aside for your college education. It's not a lot of money, and if you pick the right university that has the right subjects, and that's not overly expensive, you might still have enough to start your business.'
Charles was looking straight ahead, his eyes unblinking, his mind spinning at a million miles an hour. My own business, something arty, something I'd enjoy. His eyes widening, thinking. He wasn't breathing. And then it clicked.
'Thanks, Mom,' he said. 'I think I know what I want to do. I've got to check out some universities and the subjects they teach, but I think it'll work.'
He got up, gave her a big hug and kiss, and rushed out the door whilst saying, 'Love you, Mom.'
He headed for the school library where university material was held. There was extensive material on the surrounding universities, as well as material on the major national and international universities for those students who had wealthy parents where money was no object.
He scanned through each of the local universities and colleges, the subjects they taught, the cost of each subject, the pass rates, and the ratings given to them by the students who went through them. He narrowed his selection to two universities where the subjects he was interested in had the highest pass rate and student ratings. He finally settled on the University of South California where the fees were slightly less than the other.
He headed to the library's front desk and asked for an application form for the University of South California before heading back to a quiet corner of the library to fill it in, not that it was busy at that hour of the day. It was late afternoon by this time, and the library was nearly deserted apart from keen students wanting to better their education, or for those who needed to catch up as they were falling behind in their homework. After completing the application form, he placed it in the self-addressed envelope and handed it back to the library clerk.
'Only one application, Charles. At least you've finally made a decision,' commented the clerk, a middle-aged woman with thin features, naturally greying hair which she hadn't tried to disguise with colour, wearing bifocals which she was peering over anyway.
'Hi, Ms Thompson,' replied Charles. 'Yes, I've finally decided on the University of South California.' Charles had always been polite to his teachers and staff, even though he knew the librarian's first name to be Mary. Charles knew Mary quite well as he frequented the library often, and they had the occasional chat when she wasn't busy. She knew his dilemma about what he wanted to do after graduating, as they had had this discussion several times before.
'Good choice,' said Mary. 'I haven't heard too many bad things about them, and they have excellent teachers. I'm sure you'll be accepted. They'd be mad not to. I'll make sure I put it in the mailbag when I knock off so it gets to them sooner rather than later.'
Charles was about to walk off when Mary said, 'So don't leave me hanging unless you don't want to tell me.'
'I've decided to do a Marketing, and a Business Administration and Management course,' replied Charles. 'I'm thinking that if I do well, I want to start my own marketing firm.'
Mary's eyebrows rose. 'That's an interesting combination, and if anyone can pull it off, it's Charles Shaw. I wish you the very best of luck.'
With that, he said 'thank you' and left.
Charles spoke with his parents, telling them about his decision over dinner that night. Supportive as ever, they encouraged him and showed true excitement that he had a plan for his future. They discussed the cost of the four-year course, and although it exceeded their savings, they knew that they could make it happen. Charles noticed the slight pause in the conversation when he mentioned the cost of the courses, but he didn't want to press them on just how much money they had saved up for his university education.
He did, however, comment that he would be taking on a part-time job to try and save some money so that he wouldn't be draining their bank account and hopefully have a little extra to start the business. It was also a way of learning about just what a working life was like. There was visible relief in his parents' eyes when he said that he was taking on a part-time job. Since the university was local and only a ten-minute bus trip from home, they didn't have to pay for Charles to live on campus. They only needed to feed him, which they'd been doing for the past eighteen years anyway. The cleaning and washing was free, and with love.
The University of South California replied six weeks later, accepting his application, subject to Charles graduating, of course, which he did with flying colours. He achieved the highest grades in two of his classes, and he was in the top 10 per cent in the others.
His parents held a combined eighteenth birthday and graduation party since they were only one week apart and invited nearly fifty guests — friends, family, neighbours, and school friends. There wasn't an empty room in the house that night, with people spilling out from the front garden through to the backyard.CHAPTER 3
The following year, Charles started university and, as promised, took on a part-time job after school at a café near the university, starting in the kitchen, washing dishes, and was gradually promoted to waiting on tables as well as being their barista. Working at the front of house, he made extra money on tips and, in most cases, made more money on the tips than his hourly rate. Apart from keeping a little pocket money, the rest he gave to his parents.
He worked five nights a week as well as Saturday night which was the café's busiest time. Somehow he managed, although he did look forward to Sundays when he had some free time to himself, apart from when he was helping his father with odd jobs around the house, and when he was able to tidy up his study notes so they made sense.
Most weeknights, his parents ate alone, although they tried to eat later in the evening so that they could try and have dinner with their son. When Charles didn't make it home for dinner, they would put his plate of food in the refrigerator, and if it was still there the next morning, his father would take it to work for lunch.
Occasionally, Charles would bring a girl home for a Sunday lunch or dinner, but it was rare, and they didn't see the same girl twice. Charles was more focused on his studies than dating girls, and when the girls tried to make it a serious relationship, he basically told them that he wasn't interested. They weren't happy with his response and moved on.
Four years later, Charles Shaw graduated from the University of South California with honours.
Over the next few months, Charles developed his plan on starting his business. He finally found a small ground-floor office in San Fernando where the rent wasn't too high, it was clean and tidy, and it was situated in a bustling commercial neighbourhood.
After paying his university fees, the combined money that his parents had saved, and the money they had put aside from his part-time job left him with just over a year's rent, just as long as he didn't spend too much on buying second-hand furniture to furnish the office, stationary and supplies, and a second-hand car. You can't be visiting clients on public transport or paying for expensive taxi rides, thought Charles.
Although he had never owned a car before, his father had given him driving lessons whilst he was in university, and he had a valid driver's licence, borrowing his father's car on the odd occasion he was taking a girl out.
Charles quit his job at the café and started his business. After rearranging the furniture in his new office several times, he finally sat at his desk, looking out the front window, thinking what had he gotten himself into. He had a marketing company, and the first nonpaying client would be himself.
He had decided on the company name whilst at university but had yet to decide on the font, and style, and size, and colours, and the layout, and so on. Moving to his drafting table, he set about creating how the company name and logo should appear. By that evening, with countless designs rejected and balls of crumpled paper strewn across the floor where he'd missed hitting the rubbish basket, he was finally satisfied with the layout.
Before returning to the office the following morning, he stopped at a local paint store and purchased paints, brushes, and other supplies such as masking tape, solvents, cleaners, and even disposable overalls so that he didn't unintentionally paint himself.
After thoroughly cleaning the front office window inside and out, he began to stencil the design of the company name on the outside of the window before painting his company name from the inside, back the front. Surprisingly, he was finished early afternoon, and after re-cleaning the outside of the window, he admired his creation. A close examination of the paint strokes, he found no air pockets in the paint, the lines weren't overlapping, and the edges were clean and straight.
He stood back from the sidewalk close to the street and examined his handiwork again and then proceeded across the street to the other sidewalk, nearly getting run over by a car because he wasn't paying attention to the traffic. Shaw Design and Marketing — the lettering was legible and the colours distinct without being too gaudy or loud. He would wait for the paint to dry before cleaning the inside of the window and removing any smudges and handprints.
On the way to the office the next morning, he purchased several local newspapers and scanned them for the type of advertising they contained. He created his own ad and contacted two of the newspapers about advertising his business. He agreed on running his ad daily for a month and paid a little extra to have the ad appear within the first five pages on the newspaper, taking up an eighth of the page.
He faxed the newspapers a copy of his ad and mailed them a cheque for the first month of newspaper publication. A week later, his ad was appearing in the two newspapers. He also had flyers printed that he hand-delivered to companies in his area and paid kids selling newspapers in neighbouring suburbs to do the same.
Within the first week the ad appeared in the newspapers, Charles received several enquiries, and he made appointments to meet these prospective clients to discuss the type of marketing they wanted. Being the receptionist, secretary, designer, and owner of the company, he could only be at one place at a time. Every time he went out, he set his answering machine to record any phone calls received. 'Hello, you have contacted Shaw Design and Marketing. We are currently unavailable. Your phone call is important to us, so please leave your contact name and phone number, and we'll return your call as soon as possible.'
Within the first month, he had secured a dozen clients, and he was receiving more and more enquiries every week. By the end of the first year, Charles was renting a second office adjoining the first and employing one general secretary, a personal secretary, and two designers.
By the end of the second year, he had moved into a new office building in Santa Monica and employed six designers, two draftspersons, and four secretaries. Life was good and hectic, although he enjoyed every minute of it, frustrations and all.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Meaning of Life"
Copyright © 2019 Robert Scollo.
Excerpted by permission of Xlibris.
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