Short Stories

Success Story By James Gould Cozzens
I met Richards ten years or more ago when I first went down to Cuba. He was a short, sharp-faced, agreeable chap, then about twenty-two. He introduced himself to me on the boat and I was surprised to find that Panamerica Steel & Structure was sending us both to the same job. Richards was from some not very good state university engineering school. Being the same age myself, and just out of tech, I was prepared to patronize him if I needed to; but I soon saw I didn’t need to. There was really not the faintest possibility of anyone supposing that Richards was as smart as I was. In fact, I couldn’t then imagine how he had managed to get his job. I have an idea now. It came to me when I happened to read a few weeks ago that Richards had been made a vice-president and director of Panamerica Steel when the Prossert interests bought the old firm. Richards was naturally likeable, and I liked him a lot, once I was sure that he wasn’t going to outshine me. The firm had a contract for the construction of a private railroad, about seventeen miles of it, to give United Sugar a sea terminal at a small deepwater Caribbean port. For Richards and me it was mostly an easy job of inspections and routine paperwork. At least it was easy for me. It was harder for Richards because he didn’t appear ever to have mastered the use of a slide rule. When he asked me to check his fingers I found it was no mere formality. “Boy,” I was at last obliged to say, “you are undoubtedly the dumbest man in Santa Clara province. If you don’t buck up, Farrell will see you never get another job down here.” Richards grinned and said, “I never want another one. Not a job like this, anyway. I’m the executive type.” “Oh, you are!” “Sure, I am. And what do I care what Farrell things? What can he do for me?” “Plenty. If he thinks you’re any good, he can see you get something that pays money.” “He doesn’t know anything that pays money, my son.” “He knows things that would.