“It used to be the other way around, you know,” Jacob said, taking a swig of his beer of his beer from the bottle and keeping the liquid in his mouth.
It looked cool, drinking that way. Connor did the same and almost chocked, coughing up the beer. “How’s so?”
“Well, the rich used to live up here, and the poor down there,” Jacob said, pointing at the city below.
Connor chuckled. “That’s bollocks, ain’t it?”
“It’s the truth, kid! Look, back then, before the Collapse, you could just live all day by simply providing services, you know?” Jacob shook his head. “No, you can’t. How could you imagine it?” He raised the beer bottle in his face, examining it. It was full of scratches from the repeated use, marks on the dark brown glass. The label was long gone. “Imagine if you had a distillery, like Max does, who makes the beer.”
Connor examined his own beer bottle. “Okay…”
“Now, that’s a business, right? It makes a product people need. Imagine if someone else, instead of just making a competing beer, offered to buy Max’s beer.”
Connor was shocked. “But you can’t! Everybody knows Max makes the beer.”
“Exactly! Nobody would buy the other brand. But Max has back problems and he could use some time with his grandchildren up on the 83rd floor. So, he takes the deal, but only if they pay him ten percent of all future revenue.”
Connor scrunched up his nose. This break from construction work had dragged on a bit longer, but Jacob was the boss, and as long as he wanted to keep talking, Connor wasn’t gonna complain about it. “Pay him? Why, just for sitting around?”
“Yes! Max worked hard to make a brand, a name for himself, and that brand is worth more than the brewery alone. So, he comes from a position of power and demands 10%. The other guy, the one with the money accepts, and buys the business.”
“Nah, people wouldn’t want to buy beer if it wasn’t for Max,” Connor said, shaking his head.
“Initially. But after all, people just want to drink some fucking beer, right? They don’t really care where it comes from. And let’s say that the new owner respects the brand and makes the same quality of beer. The customers are reluctant at first, learning about the gossip of Max retiring, but they try it out and the beer is good. So, business goes on, everybody is happy, Max gets his share of the profits.”
“I still don’t understand how someone can earn money without doing anything,” Connor squinted.
“That’s what I’m explaining to you. The laws, the intellectual property, the branding. Let’s take it one step further, let’s say that Max is thinking of his grandchildren. He’s not gonna be around forever, so he writes up a will that says, ‘Give my 10% of Max’s beer to my grandchildren.’
Connor now stood up in protest. “That can’t possibly be happening!”
“It used to,” Jacob nodded deeply. “And that way, his grandchildren didn’t have to work a day in their lives.”
Connor sat back down and stared out of the hole in the concrete. The shipping container that used to be attached there had fallen down to the ground, killing a family of five in their sleep. Jacob was the best fixer in the Tower, and Connor kept shadowing him for two years, helping along. He was terrible at it at first but as time went by, Connor was becoming a good fixer. He opened his mouth, mulling it over. “That’s clever.”
“It sure is!” Jacob chuckled, taking another swig of his beer. Max’s beer, which was the best in the Tower.
There was silence for a while. Connor broke it. “But won’t his grandchildren grow up to be, you know, lazy and arrogant?”
Jacob shrugged. “They might, but that’s up to them. And it’s a problem for another day. What matters to me is that, my back hurts, and my business is considered the best in the Tower.”
Connor nodded in acknowledgement and drank his warm beer in silence. He was sitting on top of the toolbox, he always did that.
A long couple of minutes went by. There was a slight breeze coming in from the west. It was almost peaceful. It sure as hell wasn’t actually peaceful down there, but up here, it kinda was.
Then Connor had an idea.
“Yeah?” Jacob said, looking indifferent.
“I could do that.”
“Do what, Connor?”
“That. The thing. You just said your back hurts, I know you’re getting slower, I can see you hurting when we lift rebar.”
Jacob smiled wide. “It sure does, kid.”
Connor stood up, excited. “Well, we can do that thing! I can keep working as a fixer under the Jacob brand. And pay you 10%.”
Jacob sucked in air through his teeth. “Ah, I dunno. Sounds too low.”
“Twenty percent then! Come on, man. I’ll be doing all the work.”
Jacob finished his beer and set it down. Everything was recycled in the Tower. He stood up, rubbed his aching back and inspected their work in the hole so far. “I’m not sure I’m ready to retire just yet. And I don’t have grandchildren. Or, children,” he said, tilting his head to the side.
“Get a hobby then, like you always said,” Connor complained, his arm outstretched, now feeling excited about this prospect. “We can start a few jobs together and I’ll finish them, you know I do good work, you just said so last week.”
Jacob scratched his chin. “Alright. It might work,” he said, turning to Connor.
Connor’s face lit up, he felt his smile touch his ears. “Really?”
Jacob shrugged. “Yeah. Why not? I might finally settle down with Alice too.”
Connor winced, “Ooh, I don’t know about that. You messed up big time, Jacob. No offence.”
“None taken. But you’re too young to know about women.” Jacob turned to the horizon. “I can wear her defences down, like taking down a wall with a sledgehammer. All it takes is patience. And it helps, when approaching women, if you don’t smell like you were doing construction work all day!” he chuckled.
Connor laughed. “That’s true!”
Jacob turned serious. “So, you’ll sign?”
“A piece of paper? Hell yeah!”
Jacob offered his hand to him. “A gentleman’s agreement first, then we write up a contract on paper that spells out the deal, okay?”
Connor hesitated for a single second, then shook his mentor’s hand vigorously.