You know the drill. Disney owns everything, I'm just keeping the cobwebs off.
It had been a rough three months for Kim Stoppable. The death of her beloved grandmother, Dawn Rebecca Possible, was still a fresh wound on her heart. The only consolation was the fact that soon, Kim's daughter and Nana's namesake, Dawn Kimberly Stoppable, would be out of the womb and in Kim's arms where she belonged.
It can't be soon enough, the redhead thought. This kid's messing with my back worse than her brother ever did. And I am so over having to go to the bathroom every five minutes. Kim continued to make the rounds in her home, picking up whatever messes her almost three year old son RJ had left before he went down for his nap. Her eldest hadn't been feeling all that well, so he had spent most of that Saturday morning asleep. A little peace and quiet never hurt anyone, Kim thought. Although I do wish Ron hadn't been called into work so early.
As soon as that thought entered her mind, as if on cue, the front door opened and a shellshocked looking Ron Stoppable stepped through it. "Ron? What are you doing home so early?" Kim stopped short when she saw the box her husband was carrying; family photos that had been on his desk at the restaurant, and his personal cooking knives. "Oh no," Kim whispered.
"Oh yes," Ron said morosely. "I got called in early just to get laid off." He set the box down on the kitchen counter (well away from the potential reach of a certain redheaded toddler), went for his recliner, and flopped down. "I swear, ever since this new company took over after Mr. Smarty's people sold off the Arthur's chain, they've been out to get me!"
Normally Kim would argue, but she remembered the way the new management would call Ron in at all hours of the day, cut short days off, or call him in for just an hour then send him home. That was no way to treat the head chef at the flagship restaurant of a very successful chain. Kim quietly sat down on the couch beside Ron's chair and took his hand. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not much to talk about, KP," he sighed. "I went in and they had my stuff packed up. They handed me my walking papers and had security escort me out." Ron leaned forward in his chair and rubbed his temples. "That's not the worst of it. Amir from human resources was waiting for me by the car after I was shown the door." Kim gave Ron a small grin. Even though he came in with the new ownership, Amir was always a bright spot in dark times. "He told me that me getting let go was a last resort. Those jerks had been trying to make me quit!"
"Which we figured out with all the messed up hours," Kim calmly added.
"And when that didn't work they tried to find ways to fire me!"
Kim gave Ron a confused look. "How? You always did everything right there."
"Can you believe they wanted to use the gluten free menu against me?" Ron asked in a defeated voice. "And the policy I had about separate cooking surfaces for the gluten free food. They said I was wasting money!" Ron shook his head. "I guess people with celiac disease don't deserve to eat out without getting sick."
"I'm guessing that's why that particular plot didn't work."
"Yeah. Amir really let them have it over that. So finally they just bit the bullet and let me go." Ron say back and sighed again. "All because they didn't want to fork out the unemployment." Ron looked over at his seven months pregnant wife. "I'm so sorry, Kim. I blew it."
Kim grabbed both of Ron's hands and held them tightly. "No, Ron, you didn't. You didn't blow it. You didn't fail. Those creeps who bought Arthur's after Mr. Smarty went into politics blew it by letting you go!"
"That's the only cooking job I've ever had, KP. I started there right after I graduated from culinary school!"
"And you worked your way up from line cook to head chef," Kim said proudly. "There's nothing to be ashamed of. So here's what we're gonna do. After RJ gets up, we're gonna have a nice family lunch. Then I'll help you with updating your resume, and we'll start looking at restaurants to send them to. And on Monday we'll go to the unemployment office and get that ball rolling. We'll be fine!"
"At least we still have health insurance through your job at the DA's office," Ron said. "I don't know what we would do with Dawnie so close to being here if we didn't."
Kim slowly nodded at that. She was having trouble at work, herself. The new district attorney for the Tri-County wasn't a big fan of hers, and had been making Kim's work life miserable to the point that she went on maternity leave earlier than she'd planned. The emotional stress from her grandmother's death gave her a good excuse.
Maybe it's time to start really considering that job offer Dr. Director keeps making, Kim thought.
The following weeks became a blur for the Stoppable family. Ron would get up, check the various job finder websites he had signed up for, as well as the resources his friend Dr. Wade Load had gathered for him. If he was lucky he got a rejection. Most of the time he heard nothing until he called and inquired about his status. The more this went on, the more discouraged Ron got, and the more concerned Kim became. They weren't hurting financially; far from it. They had plenty in savings to fall back on if need be, and Kim was still drawing a salary. But Ron's recent dismissal made Kim think about her future with the DA's office.
"Kim," Dr. Betty director said when Kim entered the small cafe. "It's good to see you." Instead of a handshake, the one eyed woman warmly embraced her one time prospective agent. "It won't be long now," the older woman smiled. "Two more months, right?"
"Thereabouts," Kim said as she gently lowered herself into her seat. "Even though we explained things to him, RJ's still confused about how Mommy got a baby in her tummy."
Dr. Director couldn't help but smile. "I'm envious of you, Kim. I never found time for a family, and now it's too late."
"Don't worry, you can still be Auntie Betty and spoil my kids to your heart's content."
Dr. Director smiled again, then got down to business. "How's Ron's job hunt going?"
"It's not," Kim sighed. "Wade did some digging, and it looks like those creeps at Arthur's have gotten Ron labeled as a trouble maker and as someone who wastes money."
"I wish I could help, Kim, but Ron's just too overqualified to work in the Global Justice cafeteria. Besides, if he ever did take a job with us, I'd want him as a field agent, not a cook." Director gave Kim a scrutinizing look. "Or is this not about him?"
"It's not," Kim admitted. "I think it's time I moved on. I know the new DA thinks I'm stealing her thunder. It's only a matter of time until she finds a way to budget cut me to the unemployment line right beside Ron."
Dr. Director smiled like a kid at Christmas. "I was hoping you'd say that!" She reached into her briefcase and pulled out a stack of paperwork. "You'll find that the GJ insurance plan is better than anything the Tri-County District Attorney's Office has. And you can keep your own doctor. So let's fill out those forms first."
Kim couldn't help but chuckle. "You know I'm on maternity leave."
"Oh I know. So we wait till you're ready to go back to work, then you can quit. We'll have you all ready to go ." Dr. Director leaned in closer. "And the best part is, we have on site day care for RJ and Dawn. Welcome to the Global Justice Legal Liaison's Office, Kim! Now you'll be able to badger them instead of them badgering you."
One month, three weeks and six days after Ron was let go, Dawn Kimberly Stoppable came into the world. RJ was now a big brother, and was looking forward to getting pointers from his dad on how to do the job right. Ron Senior, on the other hand, was doing worse than before. His job search had borne no fruit, and he was seriously considering giving up. He was rocking his newborn daughter to sleep one afternoon when Kim finally learned how badly her husband was doing.
"It was bad enough when it was just your mom and your brother, Dawnie," Kim overheard Ron say when she walked by Dawn's bedroom. "At least I had a little bit of success for them. But you? I failed you before you were even born. I'm sorry you got stuck with such a loser for a dad."
"You are so not a loser, honey," Kim said softly as she entered the room, careful not to disturb her already notoriously fussy daughter. "The losers are the people who bought Arthur's. Wade told you about how bad business is since you were let go and the gluten free menu was discontinued. And that's through the whole chain."
"Sorry, KP," Ron sighed as he stood up to place Dawn in her crib. "But that's not making me feel much better. At least you're gonna be starting up with Global Justice soon. We won't go broke, lose the house, and have to live out of a cardboard box."
Kim gently embraced Ron and rested her head on his shoulder. "First of all, that so wouldn't happen. Your 'rents and my 'rents would step in to help us long before that. And second, I know you'll find something. You've never failed your family before, and I know for a fact you won't do it now. I have faith in you, Ron. You just need to have some faith in yourself."
Ron Stoppable was in a down mood as he drove from his latest rejection disguised as a job interview. Why drag me out here if all they're gonna do is tell me to get lost? Man, some of these people are sadistic! Then something caught Ron's eye. He pulled into an abandoned parking lot and really looked at the structure in the middle of it. He'd been driving by it for years, but this is the first time he really looked at it. Ron punched up the Ron-link on his dashboard. "Hey, Wade, what do you know about the Pit Stop Diner in Upperton?"
Kim Stoppable was in a great mood. She had just gotten the proverbial monkey off her back by giving her notice to the DA's office, and she was seriously looking forward to telling Ron about the look on the district attorney's face when Kim told her she could take this job and shove it! She was having an animated discussion with her mother about just that when Ron practically ran through the front door.
"KP! I think I've got it!"
Her green eyes lit up immediately. "You got that job at the five star restaurant across town?"
"No, I was told to get lost," he said without the slightest hint of sadness in his voice. "And Wade told me for sure that the higher ups at Arthur's really did get me blacklisted. He's getting all the sordid details from Amir so we can take some sort of legal action. Can we say 'defamation of character?'"
"That's nothing to be happy about, Ron," Anne said in a shocked voice.
"I found a way around it, Mom!" Ron went up to Kim and took her hands. "I want to buy the old Pit Stop diner, fix it up, and reopen it. I want to be my own boss!"
Kim sat down in shock. "Buy a diner? The Pit Stop? Ron, that place has been closed down for years! Do you know how much money it would cost to fix it up? Not to mention how expensive it would be just to buy the place? We're not doing bad financially, but I don't think we can afford this. Even with the pay increase I'm getting when I go work for Global Justice! I don't think we can do this!"
"We'll have my dad crunch the numbers!" Ron said excitedly. "Kim, there is no way I'm gonna be able to get any sort of restaurant job in this area; not even as a busboy! I was Mr. Smarty's golden boy, so now I'm being used as the new ownership's whipping boy. Well I'm tired of it. It's time to show these jerks that there's no stopping a Stoppable!"
Kim was glad to see that fire back in her husband's eyes. "Okay, we'll talk to your dad. But if this is gonna totally break the bank..."
"No worries, KP, I understand." Ron quickly ran off to call his father.
"Ron, a small business owner?" Anne asked aloud.
"Stranger things have happened," Kim said, smiling at her husband. I sure hope you know what you're doing, sweetie.
Dean Stoppable had been actuary of the year more times than anyone else in Middleton's history. There was good, and then there was Dean. When it came to numbers, Dean's brain was better than a super computer. "Actually, Kimberly, the asking price for the establishment is fairly low, considering how long it's been on the market. Now I don't know exactly how much renovations will cost, but even if we estimate a complete overhaul, your savings are safe."
"How does that work?" Kim asked as she sat across from her father-in-law in his home office.
"You forget, you do have investments," Dean said. He was inputing figure in his adding machine at the same time that he had his grandson on his lap.
"That's right," Kim remembered, "Ron had you invest some of the money that was left over after we bought the house."
"And those investments have been doing very well. We can use that money instead of what you have saved. And don't forget the very nice interest rate we were able to get on that savings account. Beside, if need be, Ronald can always look into a small business loan."
Kim looked over at Dawn, who was happily sleeping in her Aunt Hana's arms. "So we can actually do this and not go into the red?"
"Don't misunderstand, there's always a chance of things falling apart," Dean said in a serious voice. "But from the looks of your finances, I'd say you've got at least a seventy percent chance of making this work. However, getting the Upperton Historical Society to sell might not be as easy."
"Why's that, Dad?" Hana asked.
"The Pit Stop is a landmark in Upperton, Han," the actuary explained. "When the original owners retired, a lot of businesses wanted to buy it, demolish it, and open their own business at its location." Dean shook his head. "No sense of history. So the Historical Society has been holding onto the deed with a death grip! Ronald's got an uphill battle with them."
"He can do it," Hana said with conviction. "My big brother's the best there is!"
Two weeks later, Ron and his father were at a meeting with the Historical Society about the Pit Stop. The looks on the members' faces told Dean that "uphill battle" was a gross understatement.
"Mr. Stoppable," the chairwoman said. "And, er, Mr. Stoppable. We're here because Mr. Ronald Stoppable, Sr. wishes to purchase the deed for the Pit Stop Diner." The chair, a woman who couldn't have been older than twenty five, gave the Stoppable men a scrutinizing look. "This is an old song and dance, gentlemen. My father presided over many a meeting like this when he was the Society's chair, and they all turned out the same way. Why should this time be any different? Why should we sell to you?"
Ron stood up, adjusted his tie, and pulled out the papers Wade had helped him prepare for this presentation. "Madam Chairwoman," he said in a shaky voice. "Members of the Society Board. The other people who have come before you to buy the diner have wanted to tear it down or make it something it's not." Ron began distributing the packets he and Wade had prepared. "My plan is different. There's gonna be a lot of work involved, but when I'm done, the Pit Stop will be better than ever!"
The chair didn't even look through the packet. "You'll forgive me if I've heard that before, and seen too many sleek presentations." I'm just glad he didn't break out a projector for a multimedia presentation. "In a nutshell, what do you want to do?"
Ron swallowed, took a deep breath, and got his thoughts together. "I want to renovate the place, and reopen it."
"Bring it up to current fire code, replace the fixtures, and..." he was hesitant to bring this up. "My wife is Kim Possible. Now I'm not saying that to name drop! I'm saying that because I want to set up display cases in the dining room for mementos from our old missions!"
The chairwoman was not impressed. "So it'll be what? Kim's Place? The Impossible Diner?"
"The Pit Stop, jut like its always been," Ron said. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it, y'know?"
"Why are you really doing this, Mr. Stoppable?" one of the other board members asked.
"Who, not why," Ron replied. "As in who am I doing this for. My wife gave birth to our second child not that long ago. Our daughter. I've been out of work since about two months before she was born, and I've felt like the worst dad in the world for that! And try as I might, I can't even find a job as a dishwasher because some corporate stooge decided he didn't like me and started spreading lies throughout the business about me!"
Dean stood up and put a hand on his son's shoulder. "Ronald..."
But Ron didn't stop. "Do you know what it's like? To look in your kids' faces and be ashamed because you're afraid you've failed them? That you're not the kind of person your son will look up to or your daughter will respect? That's me every stinking day! All because I had the audacity to insist on separate cooking surfaces for gluten free food, which the Pit Stop will have, by the way! I'm trying to make something of myself here, and bring something back to the community. The Pit Stop is a legend in this city, and it's been sitting, gathering dust for how long now? I have a good idea here! It's a win win! The Pit Stop reopens under new management. The only changes will be to bring the place up to code, which would have to be done anyway! I'm gonna be creating new jobs, and giving people a new place to eat. How is that bad?"
The board was unmoved. "Thank you, Mr. Stoppable. We'll be in touch."
"I totally blew it, KP," Ron said after he got home. "I lost it, and I blew it, and now we're outta luck!"
"You don't know that for sure, son," Dean, who was loosening his tie said. "You never know, maybe that little emotional outburst will help." The older Stoppable sat down beside his son. "And I wish you'd told me how you were feeling before, Ronald. It's not good to keep that bottled up."
"He's been letting it out, Dad," Kim said. "I make sure he talks to me about how he's feeling ever since I overheard him confiding in Dawnie about it. And I try to remind him that he's not a failure as a dad." Kim's thought was cut off by the phone ringing. "That better not be the DA calling again. She's been begging me not to quit. Turns out I'm the public face of the office, and her approval ratings have tanked since I announced my resignation. Hello?"
"I'm looking for Ron Stoppable," the voice on the other side of the line said.
"Who may I ask is calling?"
"I'm Vanessa Hutchins. I'm the chair of the Upperton Historical Society."
Kim's eyes went wide. She handed Ron the phone and mouthed to him who it was.
"Uh, hello," Ron said uneasily.
"Hello, Mr. Stoppable. I'm pleased to inform you that the board has agreed to sell the Pit Stop Diner to you."
"Say again?" Ron asled in disbelief. "I mean, it seemed like you guys didn't want to sell."
"Some of us didn't," Vanessa admitted. "To be honest, the Society has held this deed for so long that a lot of our members have gotten used to it. But you're the first person to come to us with a plan to preserve the property, and put it to good use. And your speech was compelling. I have a daughter too, Mr. Stoppable, and I always strive to be someone she can look up to. And I also have celiac, so going to a restaurant where I don't have to worry about cross contamination will be nice. Especially since Arthur's discontinued their gluten free menu. We'll have our lawyers contact your father in the morning to get the ball rolling. Congratulations, Mr. Stoppable. I look forward to having lunch at the Pit Stop."
Ron hung up the phone and sat down. Kim was on pins and needles. "Well?" she asked.
The next six months were a whirlwind of activity. Estimates from contractors were acquired, work crews hired, and the work of bringing the Pit Stop back from the dead was begun. Dean Stoppable became the head of the Pit Stop LLC, and oversaw the financial end of getting the old diner up and running. Ron, meanwhile, went to work getting the people he knew would help make the diner thrive; chief among them was Ned, who he hired away from Bueno Nacho. Ron needed a manager, and Ned was the best.
Finally the big day came. After long years of being nothing but an empty building sitting unused in downtown Upperton, the Pit Stop Diner reopened to record crowds. Among them were State Senator Martin Smarty, and Vanessa Hutchins from the Historical Society. Ron watched with a smile as his staff worked like a well oiled machine, and happy patrons left satisfied and with full bellies.
"Not bad for a first day, is it, Ron?" Ned asked. He was still as scrawny as ever, but he seemed to be carrying himself taller these days.
"That it is buddy," Ron replied. "And tomorrow will be even better!"
Author's note. This story is dedicated to the unemployed and the underemployed. Having recently recovered from a bout of that recently, I know how tough it can be. Keep your chins up and keep trying. That's all any of us can do.