PLUMBER'S FRIEND

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A youth has been favored by fortune to have an extraordinary great grandfather.
The amazing relative leaves some worthless scrub-land to his great grandson.
Then, a surprise.

Submitted: August 25, 2016

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Submitted: August 25, 2016

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 PLUMBER’S FRIEND

A Memoir

Nicholas Cochran

I woke up a billionaire. I just couldn’t believe it. I had no idea how I should act or what I should say.

I want to take you along on this magical ride with me, so that you will be able to share every aspect of this remarkable situation with me.

I’m assuming that none of you are billionaires; oh, . . . one or two I see; well, I’ll include them as well because over time I’m sure that the ‘billionaire thrill’ has faded somewhat, right? Yes . . . okay.

All right, back to you, my dear readers: what does it really feel like to know that you are a billionaire and, in my case, a billionaire many times over.

I really didn’t feel any different at all.

Nothing, really.

I agree that this lack of ‘different’ feeling is most peculiar; perhaps, with me, an anomaly. Nothing at all seemed or felt different.

The only clear tangible fact (that still bore no emotion) was that my bank balance had ten figures; my net worth had eleven figures, and my accountant told me that at the present rate of growth, my net worth would soon be twelve figures.

He also told me that at the present rate of expansion of my net worth, the only ‘item’—purchase, if you will—that would empty my coffers would be if I wanted to buy a country.

Strange, I thought; I would not be able to spend all my money—ever.

However, I never had any intention of spending my billions; I intended to give them away. I still do.

Over the past months, I have documented my donations. These are always anonymous. However, I receive all the joy and gladness that accompanies a true act of kindness where money will play the largest part in fixing an otherwise broken dream.

It doesn’t really matter, dear reader, how I became a billionaire, but you deserve some explanation for the amazing things that I have been able to do using the billions.

However, the deeds are the voice of these stories, not the money.

Anyway, here is how it all began.

 

When I was fourteen, my Great Grandfather, Archibald Allan Forsyth, a plumber, took me to lunch at the Hotel Majestic.

He told me over the phone that he thought it was time that he brought me into the world; helped me make the transition from youth to manhood.

I was fourteen at the time, and imbued with the ferocious conceit of youth.

I thought I was pretty much a man of the world already; and had been for, at least, the last four years.

Of course, I had been in a world; my world.

It was the unadorned world of the self-centered, only male son, of a single mother.

As in all such situations around the world, those determined bearers of the first and only son, give their sons reasons, on a daily basis, why he was—or would be—the best at anything and everything, from becoming a concert pianist to playing professional football. 

However, the manners and mores of those days are for another rap—and, probably for another age group.

For now, let’s get back with my beloved Great Grandfather and our lunch at the Majestic.

Great Granddad Archie, (he despised the name Archibald; people who hated MacLeish were always sneering whenever they saw GAF’s first name when spelled out in full) who I will shorten to GAF, met me at the corner of the curved driveway that began at the curb  and stopped halfway around the semi-circle, under a porte couchere.

“Well, my boy, you made it this far, eh? Any trouble en route?”

GAF had this talent –or perhaps it was cultivated over his eighty-eight years—of knowing exactly what to say to his guest and how to phrase it.

I thanked him for asking. I wanted to ask him right there what his secret was. GAF had this uncommon ability to sense people’s moods and fears; sorrows and conceits; vanities and terrors.

Then, without pausing, he would say the appropriate—and usually—perfect words that his listener would appreciate the most.

Invariably, the recipients became much happier persons almost instantly.

Of course, GAF was also super-sensitive to those who had lost a loved one, man or beast.

He had often been asked to write eulogies; prepare presentations; craft award speeches; concoct commencement addresses—all those compositions that required exactly the words and sensitivities that GAF called upon on a daily basis whenever he spoke with friends, family—and even total strangers.

“I had a few moments more on the subway platform once I got to town—I mean the City, but other than that Granddad, everything went perfectly.”

He buried his chin and chuckled with happiness.

I now know that he thought the world of me, and yet, being of his age and his times, anything approaching ‘effusive’ was severely frowned upon . . . and sometimes laughed at.

I didn’t know what to say to him when I recognized his great pleasure, and so I just gave him my broadest grin and said: “Granddad, I’m really glad that we could get together. I really appreciate it—your company, so much,”

 

The Majestic is a very large opulent hotel on top of Nob Hill.

I guess he thought I might be intimidated if I just marched up the steps and entered any one of the four doors and plopped myself in the middle of the enormous lobby.

Again, as with all things about GAF, he was, absolutely correct in his reading of a tall but solid—and still a bit stiff, though not gawky—teenager from the burbs.

We stepped along the walk beside the driveway, went up the steps, and through the doors. I can clearly remember entering the hotel.

Now, as I recall them once more after only a few paragraphs have gone by, I can feel the shivers of awe that came over me at the first sight of that magnificent reception hall. 

The astonishing character of the lobby immediately halted me.

The first thing that struck me was the bas-relief around the juncture of the walls and the magnificent high ceiling.

The ceiling itself was a quasi-coffered design, with different colored plasters; mainly reds, burnt oranges and pale blue. The walls were the exact faded orange of Tuscany villas.

All around the walls, an expert eye had placed mirrors with frames of golden eagles; unadorned escutcheons from the families who had made the most of their wealth during the days of the ‘Robber Barons’; a few fine pieces of artwork; plus an enclosed and expertly displayed Indian Chief’s headdress of black feathers, beading and hanging black side-paws.

The lobby was larger than our entire apartment.

People of all sizes, colors and net worth, zig zagged in irregular patterns, just barely avoiding elbowing or kicking the passing new arrivals, or those who were exiting, filled with satisfaction.

GAF chuckled with more chuckle while he observed my uneasiness and gawking.

“I think we should make a habit of meeting like this Grandfather. I really enjoy being with you so much.”

I realized I had sounded like a dunce but I didn’t know how else to tell GAF how much I appreciated him as a person, and how much I valued his opinions

 

GAF was a constant visitor to the Hotel and particularly to the Classic Bar and the New York Lounge and Restaurant. He headed for the latter and then paused and took my elbow to guide me toward the desired door.

By that age I had grown well over six feet and I was now taller than GAF but only by an inch, if that. He had begun to treat me differently when I started to grow.

I suppose, now thinking about it, he might have viewed me at the beginning like an iffy planting, but his spirits had risen as his tree began to grow. I could tell that he was delighted when he could have at least one relative that he did not have to bend over to talk with.  

On the other hand, he often gave me hints that it wasn’t my growth, but rather a ‘good backbone’ is how I heard him explaining it to my mother Alexis on one occasion when I had come up the back way via the tree and the wall and the deck outside my bedroom after a hockey practice.

“That boy has something very rare, Alexis; he has grit. I talked with some of the Masters at his school and the football coach told me that Matthew took the hardest hit he’s ever seen, from a madman defensive player, and Matt just laughed and got up and called the next play.

“Gordy went to Matt and asked him if he was okay; if he minded getting hit; if he could be hit like that and Matt laughed again and apparently said; sure, but I hope I see it coming the next time.

“Gordy laughed when he told me and then said that Matt had been his quarterback all year and took a great many hits and never complained let alone came out of a game. So, he has it Alexis. Can’t tell you what it is or where it comes from but your brother had it; same attitude; and always with a smile, eh?”

I thought a lot about that comment over the next few years. I remembered the pride with which GAF had talked to my mother on that and many more times about my exploits on the field or on the ice.

Well, there we were, inside the Majestic and about to enter the New York Lounge and Restaurant where they had reserved a table for us.

We ordered, and while we were waiting for our food, GAF leaned over in a rather conspiratorial pose.

“Matthew; I brought you here to tell you a little secret.”

Of course, my attention jumped a few notches and I leaned in until our heads were no more than six inches apart.

“Matthew; there’s some land in the family—my family, and I’m willing it to you.

“The land is worthless but it has deposits that will be worth millions someday.”

GAF then told me where the land was and I must admit that its location was at least thirty miles form a human being—or even an animal.

The surrounding area was barren and most of it was covered in muskeg, which, to me, at that age, was like being willed a shifting stinky bog.

Well, we finished our lunch and I repeatedly asked GAF if he was okay because his telling me about something in his will, to a fourteen-year-old, had all the markings of a last testament about it. Moreover, he was coming up to eighty-nine.

Our lunch that day was the first of a countless number that GAF had arranged or I, later, had insisted on arranging.

During a lunch at the Majestic when I was seventeen, GAF told me how he became wealthy as a plumber.

“I married my wife who was the first cousin of John D. Rockerfeller. The stingy old bastard was a terrible man but, thank God, he couldn’t take it with him; and so his first cousin got an enormous sum particularly after most of the family had gone down on the Titanic.

“They were there on board with the Astors and the like, but were using false names in order to avoid the endless requests for money—some of them, rather bold requests.

“Well, my darling Louisa was suddenly a milllionairess fifty times over and she insisted on marrying me.

“I had gone to a good school but was bored by the pleasures—and particularly the manners—of my contemporaries.

“I decided that I would be much happier doing actual work rather than shifting money around as a currency trader, managing legal information for huge corporations, or sitting on twenty Medical Boards of Review.

“I also knew that if I became an engineer or an architect, I would not be able—and sometimes, not allowed—to build the type and shapes of buildings that I wanted to build.

“And so I apprenticed as a plumber with a delightful old man for three years, and then he insisted that I go out on my own. 

"I found hard honest labor passed the time very quickly. It also gave me a chance to get out and meet the real people of the world as well as to talk with and advise any number of lonely women of every age and rank. And, in the process, I made a hell of a lot of money. I did this by having only three rules.

“Make an appointment that you keep—to the minute; or call well ahead of time and make another appointment for that same day; even if it’s at midnight.

“The next is to give free estimates.

“The third is not to overcharge.

“Worked like a charm.

“I had to hire ten more plumbers in the first year; then I owned seven outlets.

“But I still worked. Then I met my wife, Louisa. She was a customer—my client.

“We talked; we laughed; she saw my Rolls parked outside; and we were lovebirds.

“She was on her uppers at the time. Her husband had been killed in the Boer War and she was close to destitute. The other Rockefellers were bums and barely acknowledged her existence.

“Then the bums ‘took the last ship to the coast’, as it were, and my missus had millions. "She insisted on marrying me and I never felt for one day that I had not had the better part of the bargain. She was glamour incarnate, extremely well read and the funniest person I have ever known.

GAF then told me about his extremely happy marriage and how he was still stepping out with Louisa to all manner of odd performances and new stage productions.

Shortly after I dropped by to visit GAF on his ninety-fourth birthday, he died in his sleep. Louisa died ten days later.

 

GAF included a letter to me along with his will. All the other members of the family heard it and I was very glad that they did because it was GAF to the core.

“To Matthew, my dearest relative, save for—and here he listed all his relatives, I bequeath you only this: twenty-five thousand acres of land”. Then the executor read the description and that was it.

I was the only one who didn’t receive any actual money, funds, jewels or the like.

GAF had added a note at the very bottom of his will, enclosed in a sealed envelope to be opened only after all the other relatives had left the room and only I and the executor were present.

“Matthew. I only gave you this land because I know your admirable distaste for cash, jewels and the like. Nevertheless, my boy, you have the most valuable gift of any of the others, by far.

“I won’t tell you what it is because it would spoil all the fun you will have finding out its secret.

“You will immediately wonder why I didn’t do something with this property myself. I did. I researched its potential and it will not become extraordinarily valuable until around 2012. Best of luck my very, very dear Great Grandson. I leave you with love in my heart for you and every deep wish and desire that you are alive to profit from my legacy; in addition, that you will have many years to dispense the money you will receive from this property starting in 2012 but hitting an astounding value by 2016.

Farwell, my blessed one. Your loving Great Grandfather, “GAF.”

And so, dear reader, here we are in 2016. The twenty-five thousand acres of 'shifting stinking bog' hold beneath them, the largest deposit of rare earths in the world; almost double the Chinese deposits.

GAF’s predictions came true.

I am a billionaire, as well as the living exhibit of a new meaning to the words:‘plumber’s friend’.


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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