Ranging the Open by Ken Poyner

I have to find more storage space to lease. The facility I have been using is full:  I can’t wedge another open space in. I’ve already got two open spaces tied to the truck and it would not be safe to add another.

The last open space I took was from between two townhouse rows. I clamped the dead center mark of the twenty-foot wide space and kicked in the wench, pulled the block of open space out to the street, then used my frontend loader to get it up on the truck, balanced and unlikely to slide off in transport. As I was doing that, the new void quivered and shook until finally the unit on the right gave way and slid over flush to the one on the left, there being then no longer an open space between them. Home owners came stumbling out, wrenched pipes throwing water, electrical lines falling slack into front yards, cracked steps leaking bricks.

I’ve long since ceased explaining it to residents. Yes, there is an up-front expense:  reconnecting water and sewer, revamping electrical connections, moving driveways, possibly even some structural reinforcements. But think of the long-run. Lowered heating costs, lowered air-conditioning cost. With no open space between them, wall to wall homes can keep themselves more even in temperature. No side yard to mow in the spring, summer and fall. No children claiming the open space between constructions to play in, fouling the side of the house, manufacturing noise and bother and leaving lost shoes or discarded jackets.

City lots are much easier than suburban lots, or even townhomes. I get a smaller slide of open space, but I can stack sometimes four in the truck and take them all in one load to my warehouse, slip them individually into sections of the storage unit unfit for larger gasps of open space. The city houses stack together, sliding together to close the void, until finally at the end of a stretch the open space is just too big to be harvested by my small-range concern, and I have to leave a gap I would otherwise love to collect, going past it to continue pulling out my more modest but maneuverable slivers of openness.

Unfortunately, some neighborhoods retain such wide-open spaces that I can only drive by, leaving them for larger scale entrepreneurs to discover and apply their cross-balanced open space collectors, their oversized trucks and cranes:  all the equipment we small time operators cannot afford, do not have the knowledge to operate. Luckily, though, there is so much open space to be harvested that the big operators go for those otiose open spaces, and we maverick concerns can fill up on the smaller vacant spaces left in often less expensive neighborhoods or more crowded commercial districts.

No, those large, often corporate owned, open space harvesters often have a market lined up for their gathered free space long before they start collecting it. Straight from the field to the customer, thus no need to warehouse. Me, I’ve got to build up an inventory, go to the open space auctions, sometimes sit on my inventory until the buyers are inclined to offer better prices. It is a calculation between the cost of warehouse space, how long my business can hold out on savings, what the customer is willing to pay.

And there are the rumors that the open space buyers and warehousing leasers are in each other’s pockets, both playing pants-pocket billiards:  all to guarantee the lowest price to the seller, the biggest profits for them. We have an independent open space gatherers association, which tries to keep its eyes on any collusion or monopolistic practices. There are enough of us that our association dues can be low, yet the lawyers we hire adequate. At least as far as we know.

There is a new warehouse built in a huge open space just two miles farther along from the current warehouse here in the city’s outer ring that I use now. Supposedly, the warehouse owner purchased so much open space that no one can harvest anything around the warehouse he built in the center of the vastness. Warehouse owners don’t like their buildings drawn together by the very customers they serve. Oh no, they leave huge swaths of open space all round their closely designed buildings, leaving nothing to be harvested. Not even by the big industrial harvesters, though they would not need them anyway. In fact, some buy their open space from those same industrial harvesters, get guarantees – before they build – from open space engineers that their building, as intended, will sit in so much open space that no current concern can even think of harvesting any of it.

But the science of open space harvesting is moving ahead. I would not take anyone’s guarantee that an open space is going to remain too large forever to be stripped and taken. As prices go up, the big concerns will find a way, invent new engineering. As open space begins to disappear, we small time operators will be squeezed out, and then the mid-sized operators, and then the large concerns will feel the pinch. Demand will go up and someone will create a new method, invent a new machine, be able to bite off what we thought could never be chewed.

 I’ve got to make what I can in today’s market before that new, coming market crushes me, before I have to hang up my license and go to the corporate hacks and say please, please, I’ve got a skill at harvesting open space – perhaps, as your employee, I can in a profitable way oversee collecting some space for you. Take me on. Please.

After years of impersonating a Systems Engineer, Ken has retired to watch his wife continue to break world raw powerlifting records.  Ken’s two current poetry and three short fiction collections are available from Amazon and elsewhere. www.kpoyner.comwww.barkingmoosepress.com.

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