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The Adventures of Frank

A continuing story

Sunday, October 17, 2004; Page W12

Our story so far: After going out to celebrate his 44th birthday, Frank Connell exchanges harsh words with Mike Clements, his cousin and business partner. Their new restaurant, the Red Bean, continues to struggle financially. To catch up with earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures. If you think you would be a good candidate for this series, e-mail us at adventures@washpost.com.

EPISODE 15

Frank Connell and his cousin have hardly spoken since their fight two days ago. "Nobody talks to me that way. I'm going to fire him," Frank vows.

When he's angry, Frank tends to exaggerate. But this afternoon, he insists that he has the authority to send Mike Clements packing because "everything is in my name." The business license hanging on the wall at the Red Bean suggests otherwise. It bears Mike's name, not Frank's.

By late afternoon, Frank seems to have regained his composure -- and an appreciation for his cousin. He says that he and Mike were supposed to have a reconciliation meeting, but Mike hasn't shown up. Frank worries that his cousin has split town. That would be a problem, Frank says, because Mike is the only one with access to the restaurant's meager cash on hand. Frank picks up the phone and calls Mike. His cousin doesn't answer. "I'm at the Red Bean," Frank says into the answering machine. "We need to come to some resolution."

Frank sits down to wait, lighting a cigarette. He massages his goatee, which he does whenever he's worried. He says that this morning he called a friend who once owned a hardware store with her parents. She gave him a bit of advice: Always put the interests of the business first.

Frank agrees and says that he and Mike need to set aside this "family feud" because there are more pressing problems facing their young business. One example: A shut-off notice from the electric company has just arrived in the mail. Frank and Mike owe the utility about $1,100.

Frank looks into a ruby-colored ashtray and finds three cigarette butts that aren't his. He lets out a small sigh of relief. Those are Mike's butts. "He's been here," Frank says.

Soon Mike walks through the door. Frank smiles and says hello. Mike purses his lips and nods back politely. The two men don't hash out their differences. Instead they get to work readying the Red Bean for the dinner crowd. Frank folds napkins and polishes silverware in the dining room. Mike works back in the office.

When Mike emerges, the tension between them seems to have evaporated.

"Are you still going on the cruise?" Frank asks.

"Yeah," says Mike.

More than a year ago -- long before he knew he'd be opening a restaurant with Frank -- Mike paid for a two-week cruise to Mexico. Now that Mike's about to leave, Frank will be in charge of the restaurant by himself. He has three days to get ready.

-- Tyler Currie


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