It took three calls for Liam’s phone to finally rouse him from his sleep on the balcony. Dazed, and disoriented, after fumbling to accept the call he answered with a simple, “What?”
Liam, it’s Carl. Fuck man, I’ve been trying to reach you for an hour. Where the hell are you?”
“I’m in Positano. Rough night. What’s up?”
“Well sorry to be a bother but I thought you might like to know that it looks like the acquisition is a go. The buyer accepted your counter-offer, the board approved the final bid. All that’s left is to set a date for the close. I know you like your fancy trips to places you sure as hell don’t pay me enough to afford, but we could use your input on a few final matters.”
“What do I pay you for Carl?”
“You pay me to run the operation.”
“Then fucking run it. There are decisions to be made, make them. Wrap it up, get it done. Get the payment deposited, and don’t bother me unless the whole damn thing is burning to the ground. What was the final bid?”
“Came in at $480 million.”
“Jesus Carl. Don’t bother me with small shit. Just get it done, okay?”
Liam ended the call and tossed the phone onto the table next to the chaise. He was hungry. It was after 1:00 in the afternoon and he’d been asleep for hours and couldn’t remember when or what he had eaten the evening before. Thinking to himself that he needed to get up, move, and get the blood flowing, Liam pulled on a shirt and made his way down to the entrance of the resort, with no idea of where to go, or what to eat.
Sylvia wasn’t in her usual spot at the concierge desk. “A shame,” Liam thought as he’d been trying since he got there to figure out a way to get her up to his suite and with the news of the acquisition thought maybe it was a good day to try his luck again. Someone new sat at the desk. An older man with greying hair, small wire-rimmed glasses, and a pleasant smile that for some reason annoyed Liam. His clear, kind eyes met Liam’s and he raised his hand to offer a greeting.
“You’re name tag says “Anastagio.” That’s too complicated to say so I’m going to call you Stag.”
With a surprisingly un-Italian accent “Stag” smiled and said, “As you wish Sir. How may I be of assistance?”
“Tell me where to eat. I’m tired of the room service menu. I’ve had Cafe Denario across the street and it’s shit. So far this city has me wondering why the hell I bothered coming here.”
“You haven’t enjoyed your stay sir? Most people who come here are quite delighted with everything. Maybe you’ve been looking for the wrong things. I’d be more than happy to help you make the most of your time. How much longer will you be here?”
“Until I’m bored, which is getting pretty damn close.”
“I’ll tell you what sir, if it…well…may I ask your name?”
“Very good Mr. Liam. Pardon me if I’m overstepping my welcome, but I’m very familiar with the city, I know a wonderful restaurant a few blocks away that I’m certain you’ll enjoy. It’s time for my lunch as well. If you would like, I’d be happy to go with you, treat you to lunch, and over our meal give you some ideas on how to enjoy the rest of your time here.”
Liam didn’t even try to hide the smirk that came with the thought of a concierge offering to buy him lunch, knowing that $480 million, a paltry sum in his mind, was about to be deposited into his account. He decided, though, to humor the old man.
“Sure Stag. What the fuck. Let’s go.”
“Excellent Sir. Let me just tell the manager that I’m leaving for a bit, I’ll call a cab, and we’ll be on our way.”
“You said it was only a few blocks away. Let’s walk. I need to move around.”
“Great idea Mr. Liam. It’s a nice day for a walk.”
After a few moments Stag returned and they exited out onto the street. A few steps into their journey, Liam began to regret his suggestion that they walk, as doing so would most certainly create the necessity for small talk, something he’s never been good at and certainly didn’t feel up to today.
“I haven’t seen you at the concierge desk before. Where’s Sylvia? She get fired?”
“Oh no Mr. Liam. She’s on holiday today. She’ll be back in a week. I Just returned from my father’s funeral in South America. Today’s my first day back. I’ve been gone for a few weeks.”
“You’re from South America?”
“Well, I lived there for many years. My father is Italian. My mother is American, from California. When I was a small child my father accepted some responsibilities in South America, so he moved us there and I spent my childhood and most of my adult life there.”
“Why did you come to Italy?”
“I was given an assignment. I didn’t come straight to Italy. I lived for periods of time in a few different places to prepare to come here. I’ve been here about a year.”
“So let me get this straight. You left your family, familiar surroundings, traveled to different places all to prepare yourself to come to Positano, Italy to work as a concierge at at an over-priced resort with crappy food?”
Stag’s laugher was unrestrained as he slapped Liam on the back and said, “Something like that Mr. Liam! Often our most important assignments, the ones we were made to do, are in unremarkable positions, doing unremarkable things for unremarkable people.”
Liam wasn’t quite sure how to take Stag’s words as it seemed he had just referred to him as unremarkable, certainly not a word he would use to describe himself, particularly at this point in his life.”
“Here we are Mr. Liam! Welcome to Lo Guarracino.”
They were led back to a table in the garden overlooking Fornillo Beach. It was not a busy time of day, so the they had the setting to themselves. After glasses of wine were poured and entrees were ordered Stag looked across the table with those annoyingly kind eyes and said, “So Mr. Liam…tell me about you. Who are you? What do you do? And why are you in Positano?
Liam shifted in his seat and felt a wave of uncomfortable warmth come over him as Stag’s questions were unnerving, in the sense that Liam felt a layer was about to pulled away without his consent. But as he looked at his surroundings, Liam began to feel something he hadn’t felt in a while. Gratitude. This stranger made Liam feel something that few before had made him feel in a very long time. Noticed. So after a sip of wine he began.
“I have a house in Durham, North Carolina in the United States. When I’m not traveling that’s where I stay. I haven’t been there for several months though.”
“You must have a very good income, Mr. Liam, to travel the way you do.”
“Yeah, my net worth begins with a ‘B.'”
With an almost exaggerated smile Stag lifted his glass in a toast. “To your success Mr. Liam!”
“Thanks. Believe me, it was’t always this way. I grew up in West Virginia. My father was a coal miner and when the coal industry dried up, just about everything else died with it. It was a shitty life, sometimes not knowing if we’d have enough groceries to get through the week. Never being able to do anything enjoyable, just scratching at the dirt to survive. All through my childhood I told myself that I would do whatever I had to do, work every hour, kill or be killed, whatever it took to make sure that as an adult I would never have to worry about where the next meal would come from, would never be forced to wear the same three shirts every week and use duct tape to hold my shoes together.” I watched my little brother die one day. He died of something that wouldn’t kill most people, but he died just because we couldn’t afford the medicine he needed. Fuck that. I made a vow…never again would I accept such a life for myself.”
This time with his smile a little more subdued, Stag again raised his glass. “And you did it Mr. Liam.”
“Damn right. I taught myself coding, business, finance. I sure as fuck never had the privilege of going to college so I got what books I could from the library, I shoplifted books from the bookstore, and read everything I could get my hands on. I began creating networked digital solutions for businesses that were too stupid or lazy to innovate, to use to keep themselves alive. Eventually I sold those businesses to larger companies, created new ones, sold those, rinse and repeat.”
“Rinse and repeat?”
“Never mind. It’s an expression. Anyway, that’s how I made my money. Before I came down and met you I had a call letting me know that another deal is closing and I’ll make $480 million. Honestly that amount isn’t enough to get me out of bed to handle the details. I pay people to do that. But yeah, I made it happen and now I can spend most of my time traveling around the world, staying at resorts like yours, and fucking a different woman every night. When did you say Sylvia is coming back?”
Stag raised his glass again, but this time not in a toast, but to draw a long sip of wine followed by a sigh as he turned his gaze out across the beach below. “So that’s what you worked so hard for Mr. Liam?”
Thankfully at that moment the server brought the entrees and sat them in front of Liam and Stag and refilled their glasses. The interruption was welcome because Liam felt that uncomfortable wave of warmth come over him again, not really knowing how to answer the question that had done it’s work in pulling away the layer.
Stag didn’t press for a response.
“So where will you go next Mr. Liam, when you grow tired of our city?”
“Hell I don’t know. I guess I should be thinking about it. Kind of running out of ideas. Seems everywhere I go I end up getting tired of where I am and begin thinking about the next place.”
“Well what are you wanting to experience?”
“Good question. You’d think with the resources and the time I have available I would have some great plan, some bucket list.”
Liam smiled and shook his head. “Never mind, movie reference. Honestly, I hate the details. I hate the planning, the booking of flights and hotels. I hate trying to figure out where to stay and seem to always make the wrong decisions and am disappointed with…everything. I’m just not good at this shit.”
They enjoyed their meal with several moments of silence and then an idea began to form in Liam’s mind. He looked across the table at Stag, thoughtful, and asked, “What do they pay you?”
“Pardon, Mr. Liam?”
“The resort, what do they pay you?”
“Ohhh, only about thirty-thousand Euros.”
“That’s, like, $35,000 in American dollars. Shit Stag, people can barely survive on that in America.”
“I don’t need much Mr. Liam. I live a simple life. I like helping people find their way.”
“Work for me.”
Stag laid his fork along the plate, took a sip of wine, wiped the corner of his mouth with the linen napkin. “Sir?”
“I’m serious. I just realized you’re exactly what I need. For God’s sake you’re a concierge. You tell people where they should go, how to get there, what they should do when they get there. What have I just been talking about? You spend all day doing the shit I hate to do. I’ll pay you one hundred-thousand Euro a year. All you have to do is travel with me, suggest locations, make all the arrangements. I’ll pay all of your expenses on top of your salary. You’ll have your own suite wherever we are. I sure don’t need your old ass around when I bring women back. What do you say?”
Stag looked out across the beach and finished his glass of wine. The pause was a little longer than Liam expected. He had offered him more money than he would ever make in his life for a simple task, traveling to exotic places. How the hell could he say no?
“I’ll tell you what Mr. Liam. I do this for you. Not for the money. For you. I will send most of the money back to my family for the work there. It will be a great help to them.”
“Perfect. It’s Sunday. I want to leave next Saturday. Do what you need to do to be done with your job here by the end of the week. Figure out where we’re going, make the arrangements.”
“What kind of place would you like for me to find Mr. Liam? What do you want to experience?”
“What am I paying you for Stag?”
“You’re paying me to mange your travel Mr. Liam.”
“Then fucking manage it,” Liam said with smile, raising his glass in a toast. “To your new job. Now, find us some gelato.”