Ronan explained Oak Tree’s business plan-
What the company’s founders had done was to approach various organisations and offered them the opportunity to have a magazine produced for them for free as long as they could sell a little advertising to “help support the publication”. The money from the advertising all went to “cover the costs” of production.
These were magazines for organisations within say- the emergency services, the police, ambulance service etc. It might be reasonable to assume that when businesses large and small were contacted by phone to help support something for the ambulance service they may not have realised that all the ambulance service got was a magazine while there a very healthy commercial company was bringing in hundreds of thousands of euros on this and similar publications.
It was surprising just how much support these magazines seemed to need. Movies have been produced for less money.
Perhaps a salesman might use a voice and a name that might suggest to the listener that he may be a member of the emergency services but that was never explicitly stated. If the person listening made that assumption, well.. .what can you do.
In short there was nothing illegal going on in the offices of Oak Tree but the sailing was always close to the wind.
Weeds grow strong in ruins and businesses like Oak Tree thrive in a failing economy.
A word about the owners of the company-
Paul and Garoid were a classic combination, one small and thin and one huge and round. Garoid loud in every way- loud voice, loud chalk striped suits, the very picture of the arrogant businessman. Paul not so obviously nasty but mean to the bone, the Cassius type.
“Our job, ” said Ronan seriously, “is the keep this all honest and that’s not always easy.”
Jack was offered the job at the end of the interview and because he needed the work he said yes. Ronan was clearly in the same boat.
At that point I had been working in the PA department of Oak Tree for a couple of months. There was a bagel place across the road (bagel places were all the rage back then) and Jack and I would often get our lunches there. We got to know each other in the queue for cajon chicken bagels and coffee and sharing complaints about the behaviour of the sales team.
Jack, Ronan and I became genuinely friendly. I learned about the pit of debt that Jack and his family were drowning in. Jack could not make enough money to kept up with the mortgage. They made a deal with the bank to just pay the interest. The money owed just kept building. There was no point in selling the house (or the ‘property’ as everyone seemed to like saying instead of house or flat) as its value had dropped so very far below the sum the Murphy’s owned for it.
A lot of folks were in that situation then and I was sorry for Jack but it seemed like that sort of trouble was all around.
As time passed Jack became more and more pale. Everyday seemed to be taking a little more out of him than he could get back with a broken nights sleep. Every day that passed made him a little weaker and a bit less substantial. As his debt grew his actual physical presence seemed to fade a little more and more, as if he were disappearing.
Except the dark marks on his skin, they got bigger. Not dramatically. Subtly but nonetheless definitely.
And then one morning he was gone. Of course, I did not know this on that morning. That only became clear as more time passed and Jack just didn’t come to work. Ronan called his phone of course, no answer.
In the end we stopped trying. In truth we didn’t try that hard, it wasn’t our place I suppose. I had functionally forgotten about Jack really until just the other day when something happened that got me interested in telling this story.
I was leaving work two days ago turning onto Beglinn Street to get to my bus stop when I nearly fell over something. I looked down, not too far down because the dog was huge. He had a strange hybrid quality; he was insubstantial as a ghost and massive as an old wrestler in repose. He seemed like a friend I hadn’t yet made, a good guy to hang around with.
We decided to go for a walk.