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The Tribune did indeed have a real estate section but the Tuesday morning version was small and literally had no listings that were what John would have called inexpensive and a real estate agent would have thought of as dirt cheap. He was deterred but not deflated by the paper’s offerings because the Trib also stated quite clearly that they had an on-line listing that was far more comprehensive than the print one. “On-line,” John said, voice rich with sarcasm. “Of course it’s on-line!”

Fortunately for him the Hagans’ had internet service. Admittedly it was DSL but for his low Gig demands DSL would prove completely acceptable. He logged into the old computer and Google searched recent home sales in the area. Prices as low as six thousand dollars for a single family home were listed and even John wondered about the practicality of buying something that undesirable.

He hopped onto a real estate web site and selected four bedrooms, two bath, stand-alone homes in the 60827 zip code area for his search criteria. Because he wasn’t really familiar with the area he simply checked the prices of recent, local home sales and found eleven that ranged in price from sixteen to one-hundred-thirty-five-thousand dollars. The median price paid was $77,000. “Seventy-seven thousand dollars,” he said aloud. “We have a third of that right here,” he added. “This is getting exciting.”

Just before he logged off from the computer he remembered Joni’s request that he cancel their Tribune subscription and he returned to the paper’s website and clicked on subscriptions. His desire to be efficient was stymied by a lack of a pass word for Joni’s account so rather than requesting another he decided to log out anyway and just call the subscriptions and circulation number listed on page A2. He walked into the kitchen, paper in hand, and took the long-corded receiver from its cradle and pushed 800-874-2863. The phone rang only once but it was a robo receptionist and John leaned against the refrigerator listening to a machine assure him how very important his phone call was and to please hold as the next available operator would be right with him.

No one was right with him but the same friendly, manufactured voice told him how easy and convenient it was to subscribe on line. In between the noxious chatter he listened to orchestrated, wordless, versions of seventies’ pop tunes. He resisted singing along until The Village People and “YMCA” came on and it was while he was blaring out his off key, out of tune rendition, singing, “Young Man! There’s no need to feel down! I say, young man-” that a human operator picked up and recited, “Thank you for holding, this is Ayesha.”

John felt embarrassed, but not very. “Hi, Ayesha. My name is John Knopick and I’d like to cancel newspaper delivery for Lottie Hagans.”

“What is your account number, sir?” Ayesha’s tone was professional and crisp and John wondered if she was a USA native or not. Upon further reflection he wondered if he was even speaking to anyone in the USA, let alone Chicago.

“Don’t know.”

“The address?”

John gave her the street address and waited for a response. “We don’t have a Lottie Hagans listed at that address. We do have a Louis Hagans.”

“Yes. That would make sense. Louis passed away but it would probably be under his name. We’d like to cancel please. I mean, after our account reaches a zero balance. How much is in there, anyway?”

“One moment. Mr. Hagans’ has a positive balance of twelve dollars and seventy-one cents.”

“Okay. How long is that good for?”

“Until the balance reaches zero, sir.”

John hesitated before answering. “Okay. Thanks. Got it. How long will that be?”

“Sunday or seven-day delivery, sir?”

“Well, we got a paper today so I’m going to go out on a limb and guess seven day. Does it say there?”

“One moment, sir. Yes, that’s correct. And you said to continue delivering until the account balance is depleted?” Upon further reflection Ayesha definitely sounded American. If he was a betting man he’d bet on African-American but a native English speaker for sure.

“Yes please.”

“Very well, sir. That calculates to Tribune delivery for another four and a quarter weeks. What would you like us to do with the remaining quarter of a week delivery?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The point two five weeks? We can’t accommodate a point two five-week delivery. Shall we mail you a check for the remainder?”

“The remainder? So, how much is delivery? Three dollars a week?”

“No, sir. Your delivery is two ninety-nine per week.”

“Oh. Right. Sorry. Did the math in my head. So this refund is for a quarter of two ninety-nine? So, like, seventy-five cents, right?”

“That is correct, sir.”

“And you can mail that to me? Would that be in the form of a check or in cash?”

“A check, sir.”

John hesitated before asking the next, wide open question. “Are there other options available for what I should do with the seventy-five cents, Ayesha?”

There was a micro pause before Ayesha answered. “We could allow it to sit dormant in your account. Or you could authorize us to place it into our charitable giving’s account. The money is used to provide area schools with print newspapers.”

“Well that sounds like a good option. Could you send me a charitable giving’s receipt? You know; for tax purposes?”

Ayesha’s professional detached demeanor had slipped not one iota until this moment. In response to John’s latest inquiry she simply said, “Fo’ real?!”

“No. That’s fine. Go ahead and donate the three quarters of a dollar. I don’t itemize my taxes anyway.”

“Yeah. Me either. Is there anything else The Chicago Tribune can do for you today?”

“No. I think we’re good. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Hagans. Have a good day,” she replied.

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