Wednesday 8 July 2015

Episode 31: Desk

From Under Dark Clouds: The story of a burnt-out British celebrity who, after scandal and disgrace runs away to a little village in Greece to seek asylum and get his head together. All he needs to do is keep his head down until the clouds blow over and on no account get elected!

DeskThe main conference hall was filling with noise, the business spleen of the city venting bile.

I took the stage and paced up and down while the din abated. The turnout was much more than we had expected, someone had been talking. I was tempted to quote Tyler Durden, my dear Blogees, very tempted.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen… ladies.” I paced some more. I once read that people listen to quiet speakers, actively listen, afraid that they’ll miss something of importance. Loud speakers, on the other hand, were just passively allowed to push their point across. I had developed the theory and said nothing, I just paced. “Please raise your hand if you received an invitation from my office.” Heads turned until one raised then more followed. “Good!” I paced a little more. Hands began to fall but as I pointed at each of them as if counting, they came back up along with some that hadn’t been up before. “You, Sir! Did you receive an invitation to be HERE today, or not?” He leaned back in his chair and stared me straight in the eye. I held up a piece of paper, I had no idea what was on it. “Are you, Sir, on this list?” He shrugged. “So, what makes you think I want you here. All of these good people were invited. What makes you think we need you here?”

“Everybody, who does not have an invitation from MY office, please stand and leave to the foyer. And know that you have this man to thank for your wasted time!” I turned my back and left the stage.

Out in the foyer, a scrum formed with demands to apply and my staff took their details. Everyone except the man I chastised.

Back on the stage, I spoke to the remaining guests.

“Some of you have built your businesses, some of you have had them handed down on a silver platter. What unites you all is that you are still here. Your operations are still big enough to consider moving them. Which makes you the most devious bastards on the block, the survivors.” I allowed them to decide whether they had been insulted or complimented, they stayed seated.

“Since I arrived here, I have seen businesses close. The high streets become ghost towns. Signs for sales just becoming a euphemism for bankruptcy. You have been hit, time and time again by rising taxes, a shifting economic climate and fewer and fewer customers. I don’t care, you are all the cause of this fucking problem, you are all playing your own role in this tragedy. You have all taken without thought of where it would all come from. Just as long as you had your island holiday villa, your German car, your Filipino maid. Now the well is dry, you want to run away and your only hope is Bulgaria, China and me!” This caused uproar, some stood to leave. I stood arms folded and tapped my foot. Soon they were all back in their places.

“I will protect you from the storm because I need you. But you need me more.”

I knew this because Mike the IT guy knew this. He knew this because the state knew this and always had. We couldn’t risk having any honest men here. Honest men are always the most unpredictable.

“What do you do, sir?” I directed at one.

“Furniture. We make furniture.” He replied.

I asked why he wanted to leave, why he wanted, after all these years, to take his business to a country they all despised and ridiculed. Then waited for the laughter to subside.

“You think this is funny? I’m building an ark! I’m building an ark and I don’t have room for dodos. I will protect you from the storm but nobody travels for free. Any stowaways will be thrown overboard. You, furniture man, I want donations to the schools, the poor, I want employment for my constituents. I want a fucking new desk in my office!”

I interrogated others in the audience. What do you do, what can you give?

“So why not just pay the taxes?” one asked.

“Pay your taxes then, go on, get out and start doing what you haven’t been doing for years. But tell me this. Are your taxes going to get anywhere near this country’s economy, will they fix the roads and pay the teachers? No! They’ll go straight to the loan-sharks. Can you use tax contributions for advertising?” I asked. “Is paying your taxes gonna make you the most popular industrialists in the country? A beacon of light” This brought about more muttering and head-turning.

“I guess most of you know who I am now. I was… AM! A big deal back in my country.”

The WAS echoed somewhere in the room but I missed from where.

“You think I became so famous because I’m funny? You think telling a good joke about my penis got me the headlines?” This did get a laugh, maybe my penis was funnier than I gave it credit. “NO! I got there because people thought I cared! They believed in me.” Fuck! Dr. Alex would be proud of me now. All of our private sessions and now only in front of a room of hard-nosed entrepreneurs could I say it. “I fought for the common man and they took me to their hearts.”

“Are you saying we are like you? A fraud.”

Socrates was doing that slashing palm movement again at his throat. One of these days he’s gonna choke or have an embolism and I’ll just think he’s telling me to shut up.

“I’m saying we’ve all made sacrifices, ethical sacrifices to get what we wanted.” I stared them in the eyes, all of them then left the stage.

Socrates came out to talk of magic accountants and our proposed zone of protection. He knew how to say what needed to be understood without incriminating anyone. He followed with questions and answers without actually answering anyone but they understood. I heard one ask if they could trust me. His reply was curt and laconic, turning the question back on the questioner, “Could we trust him?” Putting paid to that line of inquiry.

I walked back out to wrap it up. I asked if we understood each other, if they were willing to build a mutual, symbiotic community with me. They agreed.

“BUT don’t come back when the ark has sailed.” I made to leave then stopped. “You have two days to make a proposal to the town hall detailing what you can give back to the community and we will make all you problems, little problems.” A step more and they began to realise that it was time to go. “And remember,” they stopped. “This ark is not big enough for everyone, so make it good. Make it very good!”

I left the stage exhausted but vital. I made a note to make an appointment with Dr. Alex.

We had a healthy pile of envelopes by the end of the two-day deadline, all hand delivered, no one trusts email anymore. Then a call from reception. “We have a delivery for you, Sir.”

Soon, two burly men arrived in my office with a bubble-rapped package and a clipboard. They unwrapped a new desk, maybe a little modern for my liking but well-made and taped to the top was an envelope.

The phone rang, the well-assembled secretary answered then looked to me solemnly. “For you, Sir. It’s Athens.”

“Long time, no interest!” I answered. Those fuckers only call when it’s bad news. They usually are bad news.

The voice on the other end introduced himself as the secretary to the minister of development. “Listen, we’ve been hearing about an industrial park you’re planning?”

“Yes, we are trying to alloy the town’s businesses to make them more competitive and—”

He cut me off with a deep breath and an UMM. “Yeah, sounds tremendous and all that. It’s just we’d like you to stop.”


“We think it could be bad for business!”


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