What a wonderful day! One of those magical Sundays that punctuate the end of a great week with a huge exclamation point!
My name is Philip Horkman, and I own a pet shop called The Wine Shop—a modest store I opened fifteen years ago with money my in-laws, Lillian and Gerald Wine, loaned me on the condition that I name the place after them.
“But won’t that be confusing?” I asked at the time. “Customers will think I sell liquor.”
“Then sell liquor,” they said.
“But I want to sell pets.”
“Then borrow money from people named Pets.”
Hungry to strike out on my own and desperate for funds, I acceded and opened The Wine Shop in a mini-mall a stone’s throw from the George Washington Bridge. Things were slow at first. Painfully slow. But after months of bewildered looks and torrents of invective hurled from those seeking a merlot instead of an iguana, word slowly got out that we indeed sold animals. And the misnomer emblazoned on our sign eventually changed from being a source of scorn to a magnet attracting pet lovers who applauded our originality and found our wit refreshing.
Seven days a week, I worked in that store, and it is no exaggeration when I say that I loved every minute of it. Not only because it was so darned rewarding to see the glee on the faces of children whose folks treated them to a dog, a cat, a bird or colorful fish—but it had also allowed me to provide my family with a comfortable home and middle-class lifestyle in suburban New Jersey. We had two cars. Went skiing every winter. The kids took dancing lessons. Life was good, with promises to get even better, because I’d spent that Saturday morning at the bank signing what seemed like a thousand pages of loan documents so The Wine Shop could expand to a second location the following spring.
The next day was Sunday and I did what I always did on Sundays. I refereed soccer games for our town’s AYSO league. I’m sure a lot of folks found that odd, as both of our children were well into their teens and hadn’t played in this league for some time. That said, after being cooped up in a store all week, I still enjoyed refereeing, as nothing helped me unwind better than to be outdoors breathing the crisp autumn air while running up and down a grass field. Plus, I found it invigorating to be amongst such spirited children whose enthusiasm was fanned by their parents and friends who came out to cheer their favorite ten-year-old players on.
But that Sunday’s game was set on an even bigger stage, as the winners of the two divisional playoff s were playing each other for the league championship. It was a special day. The crowd was bigger, the local press and their papers’ photographers were on hand, and the kids rose to the occasion, playing their hearts out in a 1–0 nail-biter.
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