M.Licinius Crassus, Vir Triumphalis
Sir Hearty Luncheon read with malice the management accounts of bank and finance house. A jaundiced eye he brought to bear on forecast cash flow, likewise on columns celebrating profit, alike on those denigrating loss. Mission statements and other idealistic chaff aroused in him seigneurial disdain. Most of all he disliked agm’s, which left upon his tongue the acrid aftertaste of armpit of provincial shareholder and fund manager’s bum.
A vernal forenoon. They'd taken the usual route to Anchor Road from his estate in the Mendips.
“Turned out nice for once,” had ventured from behind the wheel Mr Jagtar Singh, to which, behind him, Sir Hearty Luncheon had returned a grunt.
Just by the Blagdon cricket ground, there’d been a sudden riot of daffodils. He’d bid Mr Jagtar Singh pull over to the verge, broken off the face-chat with the Kazakh goldbug in Dubai, stepped out onto the roadside, and silently glared for a space at the pretty flowers. And then, embarrassed in the presence of Mr Jagtar Singh to have forgotten or, perhaps, never known how he was supposed to appreciate deodata, Sir Hearty Luncheon had muttered some specious obsequy, clambered back into the rear of the black Lexus, and bid Mr Jagtar Singh continue on down to the Portway. All of it: all of it had been cant, which he never had borne.
Now, in his office, listlessly, Sir Hearty Luncheon bought some money, and fretfully sold some other money. His partner, Lord Handjob, came to mind then. A wicked old goat, considered Sir Hearty, but one who revelled in his wickedness. Eminently suited to that dissolute life in Palm Springs. A fine thing, no doubt, to own such a thick skin as did Lord Handjob, to be able to withstand so blithely all that cant. Sir Hearty Luncheon's mind's eye now presented for his delectation various images of that estimable peer patting winning thoroughbreds, and patronising bewildered-looking boxers, and canoodling with showgirls in hot tubs.
This would not do. Sir Hearty Luncheon snapped himself out of his revery. For the next few minutes, he eyed furiously the green numbers parading across his screen. Then something seemed to click inside his head, and he very fretfully sold the money which he had bought, and very listlessly bought back that other money which he had sold.
Towards lunchtime, there was a muffled knock, followed by a discreet cough. Being somewhat given to the eliding manner, Sir Hearty Luncheon shouted
and there bustled in a minion, whom he thought he did not recognise, all exquisite tailoring, thick hair, exposed cufflinks, flashing teeth. This twerp bore upon a silver platter a small rectangle of card, intimating that Mr Don Quicksotte was below, and desirous of an audience. Sir Hearty, considering that an interruption to his brown study was perhaps not entirely to be deprecated - and quite discounting the risk of high winds attendant upon opening that particular bag - bid Hermes admit Aeolus into his presence.
In almost no time at all, there was to be heard, emanating from the antechamber lying without the office of that great mandarin, a bruit of busyness; this being followed by a brief silence, very promptly foreclosed by a second knock, as muffled as its predecessor, and a second cough, again very discreet. Sir Hearty Luncheon affected not to notice these interventions, but for some minutes redoubled his attention to the green figures marching across his screen, and condescended so far as both to buy and to sell certain sums of money - although whether the entelechies in question were numerically identical with the aforementioned sums, is a question the resolution whereof lies beyond the scope of present enquiries.
Came there a third knock, no less muffled, and a third cough, no less discreet. Sir Hearty now deigned to look up from his screen in order to scowl, and after yet another brief intermission, to shout, again,
Again there bustled in a minion, although whether this minion was numerically identical with the aforementioned minion, withal manifesting identical properties in respect of exquisiteness of tailoring, thickness of hair, exposure of cufflinks, brilliance of teeth, was a question the resolution whereof lay firmly beneath the notice of Sir Hearty Luncheon.
“Mr Quicksotte, Sir Hearty,” said the twerp, “he sent up his card.”
Sir Hearty Luncheon returned to this a grunt, and said very testily
“I hope that he will spare me the cant. I never could bear cant.”
The individual in whom the great banker reposed this hope now materialised behind the announcing minion, as tall as ever, the air no doubt very thin upon his smooth and effulgent summit, this latter being wreathed in very sincere-looking smiles.
“Don Quicksotte, Sir Hearty,” quoth he, “we’ve met before, I believe. In the Ghastly Hipster.”
“That may very well be the case,” said Sir Hearty Luncheon presently, “I meet a great many people, you know. Would you care to state the nature of your business with me? And please to spare the cant. Cant is something which I never could bear.”
“I certainly would,” said Mr Don Quicksotte, nodding his great head vigorously enough to concuss himself, “to put things at their plainest, Sir Hearty, I have peered into the entrails of the eagle and the dregs of the cup and so forth and wotnot, and have formed an opinion. Not to put too fine a point on things, I fear that there will shortly be an episode of civil disorder.”
“Certain members of the … er … squatting community have taken exception to your proposal to demolish a particular edifice in Stokes Croft.”
“My proposal? It is no proposal of mine.”
“Well,” said Mr Don Quicksotte, very quickly seeing which way the land lay and very adroitly backtracking, “of course I mean that it is the Monchild-Rothsanto proposal to which the … er … squatting community has taken exception. My point in coming here is to suggest that the disorder which I foresee can be nipped in the bud.”
“How so?” asked Sir Hearty Luncheon very distantly and very coldly, “Do go on, I’m all ears.”
“The dissension is being fomented by a ringleader,” said Mr Quicksotte, “Perhaps you know him. He goes by the name of … um … Carbonate.”
“It is possible,” conceded Sir Hearty Luncheon, “I meet a great many people, as I have said.”
“My point was,” continued Mr Quicksotte, “that if this … um … Carbonate could somehow be as it were induced to curtail his recklessness, his sowing of the seed of discord, then the demolition and redevelopment in Stokes Croft would go much more smoothly, with all the attendant benefits that would bring in terms of sustainable energy and rejuvenating the Stokes Croft area, and of helping the Native American people of Agua Caliente in their laudable attempts to diversify away - one might almost say, liberate themselves - from that dreadful casino business they’ve got entangled in through no fault of their own. And y … er … Monchild-Rothsanto would trouser a nice profit. Everyone benefits. What’s not to like?”
Now rumbled the great Luncheon volcano, as though presaging a quake and the spitting of molten rock.
“Mr Quakespit,” quoth at last that Hephaestic oracle, “I have asked you to state your business with me. Most particularly, I requested that you spare the cant, that being something which I never could bear. It strikes me that the business of yours which you have stated is most conspicuously with someone else rather than with myself. If you think that these … er … squatters you speak of are revolting, you must address your concerns to the civil authorities. They are no concern of mine. And as for the cant …”
Here, Sir Hearty Luncheon’s oratory ran with a shudder into the sand. This was of little solace to his interlocutor, for he saw how the great captain of industry no longer focussed upon his case, but cast his eyes once more upon the green figures marching across the screen. After some moments of being thus roundly ignored, Mr Don Quicksotte mumbled some formula of questionable grammaticity, to which Sir Hearty Luncheon returned another of his grunts. Following which, the jet stream being abated, the booster of wind withdrew from the presence of the rumbling volcano.
For his part, once he found himself alone, Sir Hearty Luncheon let it be known that he was not to be disarranged by the muffled knocks or discreet coughs of twerps, no matter how tailored, coiffed, cuffed, toothsome, mutually identical or distinct. Then he sold all the money which he had latterly bought, and bought back all the money which he had latterly sold, both transactions being marked by notable diminutions in the degrees of the respective listlessness and fretfulness of spirit in which the original transactions had been undertaken. Whether he reflected very much upon the prognoses of which his recent visitor had delivered himself, is not an issue on which I am in a position to shed any insight. Nor am I privy to the contents of his state of mind when, that vesper, Mr Jagtar Singh once again drove him in the black Lexus past the daffodils rioting on the verge by Blagdon cricket ground.