PLUMBER'S FRIEND

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
MYSTERY, SURPRISES, FORTUNE, LAUGHS, BILLIONS


Fortune favors a youth with an extraordinary great grandfather.
The amazing relative leaves some worthless scrub-land to his great grandson. And then . . .

Submitted: August 25, 2016

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Submitted: August 25, 2016

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PLUMBER’S FRIEND

A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

 

 

I woke up a billionaire. I just couldn’t believe it. I had no idea how I should act or what Ishould 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 you as well, because over time I’m sure 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 this lack of ‘different’ feeling is most peculiar; perhaps, with me, an anomaly.

Nothing at all looked 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. Happily, I never intended to spend my billions; I intended to give them away. I still do.

Over the past months, I 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 he thought it was time he brought me into the world; help me make the transition from youth to manhood. I was fourteen at the time, 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. At any rate, the manners and mores of those days are for another rap—and, probably for another age group.

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 sneered whenever they saw GAF’s first name 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 his listener appreciated the most. Invariably, the recipients became happier persons almost instantly. Of course, GAF was also super-sensitive to those who lost a loved one—man or beast. Many asked him to write eulogies; prepare presentations; craft award speeches; concoct commencement addresses—all those compositions that require exactly the words and sensitivities that GAF called upon on a daily basis, whenever he spoke with friends, family—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 he thought the world of me, yet, being of his age and times, people frowned upon—and sometimes laughed at any emotion approaching ‘effusive’ .

I didn’t know what to say to him when I recognized his great pleasure. I 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 large opulent hotel on Nob Hill. I guess he thought I might be intimidated if I just marched up the steps, 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 clearly remember entering the hotel. Now, as I recall the scene after only a few paragraphs have gone by, I can feel the shivers of awe that came over me at the first sight of the 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 placed mirrors with frames of golden eagles; unadorned escutcheons from the families who made 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, barely avoiding, elbowing, or kicking the new arrivals, or those who were exiting, filled with satisfaction.

GAF chuckled 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 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 New York Lounge and Restaurant. He headed for the latter before pausing to take my elbow and guide me toward the desired door.

At that age, I was well over six feet. I was now taller than GAF by an inch, if that. He treated me differently when I started to grow. Perhaps he viewed me as an iffy planting. His spirits rose while his tree began to grow. I could tell he was delighted to have at least one relative he didn’t 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’ . I heard him explaining it to my mother, Alexis, on one occasion when I came up the back way via the tree], 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. 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? 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 was his quarterback all year and took a great many hits but 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 GAF’s pride when talking to my mother on that and many more occasions, about my exploits on the field or the ice.

Well, there we were, inside the Majestic and about to enter the New York Lounge and Restaurant where they 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 told me where the land was. I must admit that its location was at least thirty miles from a human being—or most animals. The surrounding area was barren. Muskeg covered most of the land he described, which, to me, at that age, was like being willed a shifting stinky bog.

We finished our lunch. I repeatedly asked GAF if he was okay. To a fourteen-year-old, his telling me about something in his will 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 GAF or I arranged. During a lunch at the Majestic when I was seventeen, GAF told me how he became wealthy as a plumber.

“My wife, Louisa, was the first cousin of John D. Rockerfeller. That stingy old bastard was a terrible man, but—thank God—he couldn’t take it with him. Happily, his first cousin got an enormous sum, particularly after most of the family went down on the Titanic. They were there on board with the Astors and the like, using false names in order to avoid 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 I would be much happier doing actual work rather than shifting money around as a currency trader, managing legal information for huge law firms, leading the hollow corporate life, 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 I wanted to build.

“And so I apprenticed as a plumber for three years with a delightful old man. He insisted 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, the honest workers who keep the world moving.

Almost daily, I also had the opportunity to talk with and advise any number of lonely women of every age and rank,” laughing merrily, “and, in the process, I made a hell of a lot of money.” He stopped while he allowed his laughter to ease.

“I did this, Matthew, by having only three unbreakable rules. First: 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.  Next, give free estimates. Third, do not 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 died in the Boer War and she was close to destitute. The other Rockefellers were bums and barely acknowledged her existence. Then the bums ‘caught the last ship for the coast’, as it were, and my missus had millions. She insisted on marrying me. And, you know, Matthew, every day since our marriage I think I’ve had the better part of the bargain. She was glamour incarnate, extremely well read, and the funniest person I have ever known.”

GAF then went on at length to tell me about his extremely happy marriage and how he was still stepping out with Louisa to all manner of odd performances, as well as the new stage productions.

I can still draw up afterimages of the astonishing glow wreathing his face whenever he spoke of the perfect love of his very long life. Shortly after dropping by to visit GAF on his ninety-fourth birthday, he died in his sleep. Louisa died ten days later.

All the other members of the family heard the will. 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 added a note at the very bottom of his will about an enclosed sealed envelope to be opened after all the other relatives left the room, leaving me alone with the executor.

“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 and have many years to dispense the money you will receive from this property starting in 2012. By 2016, you will know its astounding value. Farewell, 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 it the largest deposits of rare earths in the world; more than triple the Chinese deposits.

GAF’s predictions came true. I am a billionaire, as well as the living exhibit of a new meaning for the words: ‘plumber’s friend’.

THE END


© Copyright 2019 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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