So if you were to visit Summerville, Georgia, and ask the man or woman on the street just what sort of business went on at the Offices of M. Coopersmith, here are some of the answers you would likely get:
“I heard he’s a lawyer.”
“I heard he owns a lot of real estate.”
“I heard he’s an accountant.”
“I heard he’s a stock broker.”
But nobody would be able to tell you for certain. And how could they? M. Coopersmith himself was notorious for being vague. “A little of this, a little of that,” was his basic reply to the question of what he did for a living. Yes, he might throw in a bit of information on his past investments: maybe his onetime stake in a local feed store, or his former ownership of a tract of timberland in the northern part of the county. Good Southern manners usually kept the townsfolk from pressing him further. And probably for that reason, more than any other, the kindly M. Coopersmith remained a mystery. Even his first name was a matter of conjecture. Old timers remembered how a Maxamillien Coopersmith had once occupied the same small brick building, constructed circa 1898, at the corner of Bridgewell and Tanner Streets, in downtown Summerville. They just assumed this was his son or maybe his grandson now in possession of it. When these old timers were young, it seemed their parents had made reference to a certain Magnus Coopersmith who worked out of that building. So maybe this was a Max, Jr., or a Michael, or some other guy in the family whose first name started with M.
Mystery aside, there was nothing sinister in the aspect of M. Coopersmith, nor even odd. He was seldom seen in public, but longtime residents usually recognized him.
“I think that was M. Coopersmith,” someone might say after he had passed by.
And yes, maybe it was M. Coopersmith: a lean man with neatly-combed silver hair, greeting pleasantly all those whose gaze he met; the nice fellow who lived in a large white Victorian house in the old part of Summerville, and who conducted his business, whatever it was, from the unremarkable building at the corner of Bridgewell and Tanner. The casual observer could have been forgiven for not noticing his workplace at all. It looked like just another house, aside from one detail: on its oak-shaded front lawn stood a post with a thin wooden sign hanging from it; that sign read, in plain black lettering, “Offices of M. Coopersmith.”