The Ole Geezer
Premiered – April Fools' Day, 2004
After breakfast and yet another bout of Earl providing enlightening thoughts to his family, he led the small regalia of his household and fiefdom down to his Jiffy, which had been readied to carry him into town. Earl was very proud of his Jiffy, a special carriage with Multiple Dual Spring Suspension, Matched Golden Gargoyles (to encourage the matched white stallion steeds), Leveraged Remote Hand Brakes for the Rear Wheels, and Perfectly Situated Riding Docks -- the latter being provided for those dedicated servants ready and willing to throw themselves under the carriage wheels in the event the Leveraged Remote Hand Brakes for the Rear Wheels failed to stop the carriage. Only the Prince of the People had a more glorious carriage. But Earl was content with his Jiffy. It was more than enough.
Riding through the semi-enchanted and lush valley, it's master was attentive to the adoring peasants and/or employees who would stop their back-breaking labor for just a brief moment to acknowledge his august passing. With great care, he would give them the royal wave, a slow twisting of his vertical, raised forearm and hand. The peasants delighted in the effort put forth by their master, and then returned quickly to their back-breaking work of attempting to reinsert various fruits into the ground in preparation for yet another of Earl's Kingdom-famed orchards.
As the carriage approached South Seldom -- the quaint, immaculate and idyllic township of his fiefdom -- Earl had the sudden urge to forego the normal grand entrance of his carriage. Instead, he decided to walk the rest of the way to his place of business, surely a humble gesture worthy of semi-sainthood. Besides... He could use the exercise -- if only in readiness for this evening's anticipated frolicking with Fantaasia. His walk would also allow the township citizens to view their leading citizen, up close and personal -- so to speak.
As the carriage rolled to a stop, an event which required only two of the riding servants to throw themselves under the wheels, Earl lighted from the carriage on his own. Numerous individuals felt the pangs of remorse at not being privy to the privilege of assisting him from the carriage. But all kept their peace, as was their place. Meanwhile, Earl walked down the boulevard named after his beloved family: Beloved Family Boulevard .
The fiefdom's number one dude was acknowledging a random selection of the bows and curtsies of the townsfolk, when up ahead he saw something in the air. Earl came to an abrupt halt as he recognized the very strange bird of his dream, the something like a flying dragon with faulty rudder control. The flying creature was attempting, amidst a great deal of noise and erratic flying, to maneuver among the two-story spires of the town, when with a loud squawk, it crashed headlong into the roof of the local pub.
Debris exploded from the shingled roof, along with an abundant supply of multi-colored feathers. Most of the debris fell back into the gaping, jagged hole in the pub's roof. The remaining debris, falling to the street, was then quickly swept up by the town's street cleaners. Within seconds, there was little evidence of any disturbance, save for the gaping, jagged hole in the pub's roof. But inasmuch as many of the town's roofs had gaping, jagged holes -- a fact only now noted by Earl -- nothing else seemed amiss by the sight of the pub's new, yet quaint, skylight.
Earl, nevertheless, turned to a passerby and inquired as to what he had just witnessed.
"My dear fellow," he inquired, "Did you see that?"
The passerby was delighted by the attention of Earl, but unsure of what he was talking about. "What Great Earl? What did you see?"
"That flying thing, weaving among the spires..."
"Was it a raven, Great Earl?"
The response was one of bewilderment. "A raven!?"
"A black raven, Great Earl. Ravens portend bad omens, or so it is said. Perhaps, enemies of yours are facing difficult times."
"No, no! It was not a raven. It wasn't even black. It was much larger and looked like... Well... It was very strange... Like in my dream."
The passerby was discomfited. "Oh, I'm afraid I saw nothing, Great Earl."
"It was like... A flying dragon... Or a disjointed stork..."
"I apologize for my lack of attentiveness and acuity."
"It seemed to be making a low pass when it failed to miss the roof of the local, quaint pub."
"Ah yes, the pub... I've just come from there."
With sudden but belated insight, Earl realized he was conversing with one of the town's pub-folk. Or at least, almost conversing, since he had no real idea what the passerby had been saying. Recovered his royal bearing, he said, "I doubt it should concern us. Thank you for your time." With that he resumed his striding.
"Oh thank you, Great Earl," the passerby called after his august lord, "Entirely my honor."
But Earl was now (as always) in a world of his own. As he paused by the pub's entrance, he could see several, regular and quaint looking customers who were known to frequent the quaint looking pub. The individuals, rather than being disturbed by any recent, abrupt and/or noisy modifications to the pub's roof, were continuing their custom of maintaining the quaint, casual atmosphere of their drinking establishment.
According to local legends, the maintenance of the pub's quaint atmosphere was done in the (albeit unlikely) event a tourist should happen upon the fiefdom. Such an event would be, perhaps, a bit more than unlikely, inasmuch as there had been no serious influx of tourists to the fiefdom in approximately two hundred years. This fact, however, had never caused the pub's customers to cease their effort in maintaining the Pub's quaint atmosphere. There was also, of course, the fact that the quaint folk loved to drink. To excess. Seeing that this excess was continuing unabated, Earl hesitated for only a moment at the door to the pub, and then continued on down the street.
Passing by the local grocery, Earl then saw, across the street, the Lady Varenna. Lady Varenna was a new Lady in town, reported to be visiting her semi-royal, distant in-laws. Earl had seen her on two other occasions and had noted each time that Varenna was an attractive lady. Nothing on the order of Fantaasia, or his two twin chambermaids, but still a good-looking woman... in a royal, overdressed sort of way.
Apparently, the Lady was shopping at the quaint shops of the township. Inasmuch as she was known throughout the Kingdom as a wealthy and formidable hostess, it occurred to Earl that he might offer a bit of friendship to the visiting royalty. Such courtesy might also put him in good stead with her wealthy and very powerful husband.
With great gallantry, Earl bowed slightly and tipped his hat. The Lady Varenna, having already noticed and recognized him, was quick to acknowledge his gesture with a quick but well practiced curtsy. As she tipped her head toward him, Earl noticed her long, auburn hair falling across her shoulders and shading her cheeks and eyes. He also noticed that her movements were somewhat erotic, at least to him. When she straightened into her dignified and royal posture, Earl could feel an increased warmth in his face, and was thankful that the Lady was far enough away that she was unlikely to have noticed his physical reaction. Whereupon, both royal folks smiled, as royal folks tend to smile, and then continued on their important rounds. Whatever those rounds might be.
As the Lady Varenna turned into a small, quaint lingerie shop, Earl began to plan in his mind yet another inaugural ball, the thirty-fourth since the kinder and gentler Prince of the People had begun his reign a mere three years ago. The Prince of the People was enamored with inaugural balls and actively encouraged the Kingdom's aristocracy to hold periodic inaugural balls throughout his long and glorious reign.
In Earl's mind, the ball could also serve as a vehicle for him to introduce the Lady Varenna to the local gentry and Earl's rather impressive Cameseldom. All the notables would be invited such that the Lady would be impressed with the extent of his connections and friends. As he thought of the guest list, he briefly wondered if the Prince's Minister for Illegal Matters was out of jail as yet -- Earl would certainly want to invite him, even if Earl had to designate several servants to monitor the minister and keep him away from the booze and/or women.
Then, turning the corner, Earl came to the front door of his business. Only this morning, instead of the regular doorman in attendance, he recognized Eager, a genteel but dogmatic creditor.
"Good morning," Earl called out, never harboring a thought to be anything but pleasant.
"Good morning," Eager replied, straightening his posture at the approach of Earl. "Tis a fine day, don't you think?"
Earl sensed that Eager was relieved to see him, but could not imagine why. Eager had always been difficult for Earl to read. Perhaps it was the full beard which, while well tended, nevertheless hid much of the creditor's facial expression. Or perhaps the top hat which never seemed to be removed except in greeting -- at which point one saw only a bushy and confused tousle of black, matted hair. Or even the inevitable long dark coat which prevented the average practitioner of neuro-linquistic programming from ascertaining Eager's mood, action, or attitude. Earl, having no significant skills with which to read someone even less challenging, found guessing Eager's motivations far beyond even his meager attempt. On this morning, therefore, Earl could only response in kind. With a slight gesture to the day's environment, he answered the creditor, "Tis a fine day, indeed."
"Allow me," Eager said, as he opened Earl's business door.
"Thank you," Earl acknowledged as he entered. But then he noticed that Eager had followed him in. That was unusual. But not nearly so much as the fact that there were four workers that Earl had never seen, going through the business' furnishings and books.
"I'm afraid I have some rather bad news," Eager explained.
"Oh?" was all that Earl could muster.
"I'm so terribly sorry, but I'm afraid you've incurred the slightest difficulty in your business."
"How's that?" Then Earl noticed something missing. "Where is Ole Geezer, my business partner?"
"Yes..." Eager answered, "I'm afraid that your business partner, Ole Geezer, is part of your business difficulty."
Earl turned to Eager. Carefully, Earl asked, "What business difficulty?"
"I'm frightfully sorry to tell you this, but I'm terribly afraid that Ole Geezer has taken leave of the fiefdom and left for parts unknown. Unfortunately, he has also taken the greater part of your business' assets, essentially everything that could be converted to liquid assets and carried away."
Earl was surprised, but not what you would call dismayed. Not yet, at any rate. "Ole Geezer?"
"Yes, your... I hesitate to say it... your former partner."
"Ole Geezer, the retired fellow? You mean that kindly gentlemen I took under my wing just last year?"
"One and the same."
"But just last week, I promoted him to be President, CEO, and as I recall, Vice-Chairman of the Board!"
"Which may, I'm so sorry to tell you, have accounted for a portion of the problem with which you're now faced."
"Whatever do you mean?" Earl asked.
"I'm afraid that corporate officers, directors, and their accountants are now given free rein in the running of their companies, no longer encumbered by such ancient artifacts as fiduciary duties or responsibilities to shareholders. It is just one more of the wonders given us by the Prince of the People's new Polite Policing Policy of Poor Corporations."
"Well, I'll be dashed!"
"Not to mention bankrupt."
"And things were going so swimmingly in the business!"
"Ah yes. There I'm terribly afraid that you may also be slightly mistaken."
"It appears that Ole Geezer had rather drastically increased the fringe benefits, particularly the retirement benefits, to the point where the expenses for officers and board directors exceeded all other business expenditures, combined."
Earl thought for a moment. "I do seem to recall that Ole Geezer had suggested some slight increases..."
"I'm enormously sorry to tell you, but Ole Geezer's fringe benefit package constituted 89% of the business expenditures, of which 85% was in the retirement package... which he became eligible for... just yesterday."
"But he's only been here for six months."
"Which is the time Ole Geezer included in the retirement plan for full and complete vesting. Not to mention the establishment and execution of a golden, inlaid with diamonds and sapphires, platinum-rhodium parachute."
Earl was now sullen. "And he just left... without a word."
"Not precisely. He did leave a note for you, to the effect that the entire business assets, which he converted to liquid assets on your behalf, were only sufficient to fund 70% of his retirement. He has requested that you send the additional 30% to his new chateau in Switzerland ."
"Where in Switzerland ?"
"I have no idea, but I'm sure we can eventually find it."
"I suppose we'll have to... I wouldn't want to short Ole Geezer."
"Naturally, I would not want to suggest anything remotely improper, but you might consider that Ole Geezer has been living just slightly above his means... and at your expense."
"But I've assumed that part of the problem is that, being older, he has greater health problems, and true comprehensive health insurance is still beyond our collective means and will into the next century."
"Possibly. But perhaps... greed is the primary failing."
"Perhaps." Earl was still short of being sobered. "Still, I would presume that it is our duty to provide for our seniors... to be loyal to their best interests."
"It has been said that loyalty works both ways, that junior citizens might have some rights themselves. Such a concept might possibly be appropriate here."
"You may be correct."
Eager then cleared his throat. "May I call upon you if the remaining assets of the business fail to clear our accounts?"
"Of course." Then Earl happened to notice one of the workers, packaging a swimsuit calendar, one of Earl's particular favorites. This action, he pointed out to Eager. "That calendar your worker is taking... I'm afraid it's of no value to anyone but me. And for me, only of, shall we say, sentimental value? It is, what you might call, a family heirloom, handed down through several generations. And it is, after all, last year's calendar."
"No problem," Eager casually assured him, "It will be correct again in a mere five years, and thus retains a certain degree of salvage value."
"Of course," Earl replied, his heart shedding a tear at the loss of such lovely and memorable fantasies.
Soon thereafter, Earl made a graceful exit, while Eager continued to be very, very courteous. Earl insisted that everything in the business must be proper and above reproach. Accordingly, Earl was quite upper crust and left his "former" business establishment with an exit worthy of Joan of Arc.
Outside, Earl comforted himself. Or tried to. "No big deal," Earl said aloud. "Let's face it: the business was for entertainment and diversion. It's not like I'm dependent upon it. And Eager, as a creditor, was all gallantry. Very fair."
Then the more unpleasant thoughts hit him. What would he tell his family, his friends, his fellow royalty? How can you lose a tradition?
And what of his children's loss? Aspir aspired so much to his father's business -- it would be such a blow to his son's fortunes. And Fantaasia seemed so proud of Earl's status as the respected owner of a highly profitable enterprise. As for Demure... Well, Demure like to brag to all her friends about it. Then there were the townfolk and all of Earl's closest friends who seemed so boastful of the local business' enormous success (despite the fact that no one had the slightest idea of what the business did).
Perhaps, Earl thought (hope rearing its beneficent head), he could replace it. Inasmuch as no one knew what the business did (or used to do), substituting a new business for the traditional one could be done with a minimum of fanfare (not to mention family trauma). In fact, no one need know that Earl had just lost a business! Nor that he had begun a new family business. With just the right public relations efforts, Earl's new business could become an old, traditional one, spanning several generations. And!! Unencumbered by such artifacts as customers, products and similar assets, Earl could even make the new business a very personal one, one representing Earl's very own worldview. A clear slate, Earl thought, is always preferable before one begins work on a new, true work of art.
Earl smiled. Why bother to show a lack of confidence now? He still had his Cameseldom, graced by the river, Rampant. All located in a semi-enchanted and lush valley, which he had never bothered to name (other than “Earl's”). Everything is fine, he thought. Life is full of diverse adversity: Death, famines, pestilence, war, lost soccer matches... So what's a lost business? Particularly when one can begin another!
Then his optimism waned ever so slightly. Where did Eager say Ole Geezer had gone? Switzerland? Wasn't that where the Prince of the People kept his money? Hmmmm.
But then regaining the momentum, Earl's optimism pushed the divergent thought aside. He was now poised to begin his new quest. Only what does one do first? In beginning a new business, I mean?
'Money,' he thought. He'd need money, some ready cash. 'Which was, of course, readily available from his friendly banker. Ha! No problem at all! This will be easy!'
As Earl made his way in the general direction of the fiefdom's bank, he began to think of all the wonderful possibilities of his new enterprise. The riotous success, the new services to the community, the plethora of new income streams to wow his family and friends!
But then Earl also remembered the loss. The real pain was that it had been a family owned business, handed down from generation to generation. The fact that it had been in the family so long was the reason no one remembered exactly what it was that the business did. But it had always earned money, even if Earl had never been sure why. But now... Well, it was a bit sad to see the family's inheritance squandered by the Ole Geezer.
But such seemed to be one of the facts of life. Families can be like that.
Speaking of family, Earl reminded himself aloud, "I still have my lovely wife and children, my friends, my respect and renown, not to mention my title, calm seas, warm weather, beneficial tides... And a kinder and gentler Prince of the People. All is well. Why ever should I worry?"
Perhaps, it had been too long since Earl had seen the Zygo Mati.
Chapter 1 – Happiness Is…
Chapter 3 – The Friendly Banker
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