photo of teddy bear in a c-clamp

Rightsize by Louis Wenzlow

Raymond had a confession to make. For the last six months he’d been sheltering them with various financial maneuvers, hopeful that someone from his LinkedIn network would come through with a decent job opportunity, but nothing had materialized, and the latest conventional wisdom was that those jobs were just plain lost, lost for good, forever lost to the New Economy, and now that their rainy day funds were depleted, it was time for them to face what many were calling the New Lifestyle, ergo the Excel bar graph with the three-dimensional bars signifying Old in blue and New in red. When you boiled it down to bottom line dollars-and-cents, Old had been roughly $120k per annum, whereas New was roughly $28k per annum, so in % terms they would now be operating at 23.33% of the Old Lifestyle, as was clearly labeled on the y-axis, if they were following the bar graph and its underlying data points.

And they were, following that is to say. He could see their little ears perking up and their slight but noticeable leans in the direction of his refurbished HP EliteBook. Perhaps not Junior so much, who was 12 years young with—he suspected—an undiagnosed case of ADD, but certainly sharp-as-a-tack if getting-to-be-pricey 14-year-old Angel, and even Mom, whom he’d married for her beauty and artistic nature rather than for practical considerations.

He smiled reassuringly to preempt any undue panic, and then launched into the Expense side, which represented the other half of the story. There was actually some pretty good news here, if you took the long view of things. He could still put a roof over their heads! Not this roof, admittedly. But some other roof, one that effectively protected them from the elements. Perhaps in a nice trailer park—a really nice trailer park!—with a green lawn and a view of blooming crab apple trees and sugar maples, and top it off with a big TV, PS4, Internet, smart phones, Ramen, the whole nine yards, all of the basic necessities, most of which weren’t even that necessary if you thought about it.

But of course this was good old America and standards were different than in other places. He bet there were folks in Papau New Guinea who would kill for that kind of arrangement, probably even massacre a decent-sized village of men, women, and children for a life of leisure at the Pine Ridge Estates, which was the place he had his eye on, the perfect fit he thought, so perfect in fact, he’d already made the commitment. Raymond was already the proud renter of a one bedroom single-wide on a choice corner lot at the Pine Ridge Estates. He loved that name, too. You could almost smell it—the freshness, the freedom of downsizing, though actually it was rightsizing, rightsizing to the lean but reasonable essentials, cutting the fat away.

He made a slicing motion with his fist, as if he was carving the holiday rib roast with a sharpened Wusthof, trimming away the cap and getting around the bone, leaving only the best cut of nicely marbled prime USDA beef.

And don’t think they weren’t invited! No pressure of course. Mom probably had other ideas, an array of potential bread-winner-replacement alternatives courtesy of her beauty and her various social media networks, and to be 100% frank, there were certain financial benefits to a legal, if not spiritual, separation. That damn Marriage Tax! And if you really thought about it what a great opportunity to follow unexplored new directions, all those roads not yet traveled.

Yes, it made sense. He thought so, too. In any case, whatever they decided, he wanted them to know that he loved them with his whole heart, through thick and thin, for richer or poorer. But enough of him talking, why not open this up for discussion? What did the impacted personnel have to say?

He looked down at his audience and could see that without a doubt he had everyone’s complete and rapt attention now, even Junior’s. This was going way better than he’d expected. He waited for them to answer, still carving that beef. He was working to get to the very center, the most tender part of it, the juicy, tender eye.

Louis grew up in suburban Chicagoland and currently lives with his family in Baraboo Wisconsin, the circus capital of the world. He is one of the founders of the Baraboo Philosophical Society—a philanthropic organization dedicated to supplying fine food and craft cocktails to the wider Baraboo arts community…and playing poker.

Lead image: “Downsizing” (via Flickr user Donald Clark)