Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 7


During the evenings of the first week back at school, Ingenio brought Frankie up to scratch in all his subjects—English, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Maths, Philosophy and Drama, by using an individualised digital learning programme he had designed, based on the national curriculum. He was in the process of refining before putting it on the market. Constantine's equally useful contribution to enhancing the young man's future prospects was to convince him that it was more fun and more sensible to make people like you, than to antagonise them.

'It's a game, Frankie. Study your opponents; learn their weaknesses then pander to them. They'll think you're a great guy and from then on you'll be able to do exactly as you please. With humans, like all animals, it's first impressions that are embedded in their brains and become virtually unshakeable, because no one likes to admit they've made an error of judgement.'

'Yeah, makes sense I suppose. The trouble is I've always thought that if I didn't tell them they were wrong then I was being as stupid as them.'

'You think people will admire you if you know more, or are smarter than them?'

'Well… yes.'

'Frankie! Open your eyes. People hate everyone who is better than them. They help people and choose friends who make them feel good, not smart-arse pricks who make them feel inferior.'

'But isn't it telling lies if you let them think they're good when they're useless?'

'It's diplomatic.' '

'But surely they know they're hopeless and if I tell them they're doing well they'll just think I'm a crawler.'

'Few people have an accurate assessment of their own worth, and research has shown there is no limit to the compliments people will willingly believe as long as they're given in a believable manner.'

'No limit?'

'None. Human capacity for self delusion is infinite.'

'I can't betray my values.'

'You'd sooner betray your future prospects? All you have to do is listen as if you admire the speaker, ask him questions he can answer so he seems clever, then tell him you wish you knew as much or some such banality.'

'But then they'll never learn.'

'If you think that matters, at a later date ask him what he thinks of your idea; presenting it as if you're worried he'll think you're stupid. He'll be so proud at having his opinion asked he'll start to think for a change; possibly even come round to your opinion eventually, then start telling others as if it's his own idea. But! And it's a big but, you have to be believable. If they think you're taking the Mickey, you're done for.'

Ok, I'll give it a go. Thanks, Con.'

'Well? Are you going to stay at this school, or will you get chucked out as usual?' Ingenio asked after the first day.

'It's different from any school I've been to and I don't want to make a rash judgement. Ask me at the end of the week when I've had time to make up my mind.'

After dinner on Friday they relaxed on the back verandah, wearing pullovers as it had turned cold, while Frankie gave them a run-down of his first week.

'It's a small school; there are only twenty-four students in Year Twelve. Five Australians of which I'm the only European, the others are kids of immigrants from the Middle East or Asia. The nineteen foreigners are on Student Visas. Ten from India, four from Malaya, two from the Philippines, one from Taiwan and two from China. They're all rich kids who arrive at school in limousines wearing the latest gear. They're pleasant, but—cautious is the word that springs to mind. I feel as if they're weighing me up more than I am them. Do you know they speak better English than most Australians?'

'That wouldn't be hard. And of course they're a bit suspicious as you joined the class halfway through term.'

'Yeah, I suppose you're right. But isn't it odd that there are so many foreign students?'

'That's how schools stay open now they aren't funded by the government. Instead of closing they advertise for fee-paying foreign students.'

'But why do they come? The teachers are Ok but don't seem any better than others I've had?'

'Prestige, mainly. Their parents are wealthy so it's another way of impressing their neighbours. Snob value… "My son is completing his education in Australia". You can imagine the sort of thing. He'll probably never need to use any of it; just go straight into the family business, but it looks good on his resumé.'

'They're not dumb though. They seem sharper than most of the kids at my other schools. More awake, you know? Interested and wanting to know everything. They don't let the teachers get away with anything. But they're very polite and well behaved. Unbelievable.'

'Does that mean you like the place?'

'Yeah! And it's all thanks to you two. Inge for getting me up to scratch with the curriculum, and Con's lessons in diplomacy. I can't believe I haven't pissed anyone off yet—not even the teachers. But if its so expensive how can we afford it?'

'We can't.'

'We don't have to,' Constantine said with a laugh. 'I did a favour for the Principal.'

'Must have been a big favour. Someone told me the fees are in the tens of thousands.'

'It was an accident. One night at the police station while I was trying to get bail for a kid who'd been brought in on some piffling charge, I noticed a European boy bleeding and lying in his own vomit in the corridor. Every other kid was a shade of black so I investigated. He was unconscious. The cops said he was drunk and had no identification so after processing he'd be sent to the under-age lock up down by the docks. I couldn't let that happen because not only did he look sick rather than drunk, but a white kid wouldn't survive the night down there, so I took a closer look and discovered what looked like a phone number in ballpoint on the inside of his upper arm. I rang it and it was the principal of your school. His kid hadn't returned from sports practice and they were out of their minds with worry. The upshot is that if ever I need a favour that he can grant, I get it.'

'That's like a fairy tale.'

'For the boy it was a nightmare—he'd been mugged, doped and raped. And it's no fairytale for all the other young kids who're dragged off the streets by racist cops and locked away before being abused and used and then cast back onto the streets.'

'That is so terrible.' Frankie was trying not to cry. 'I didn't realise what an easy life I've had.'

'Yes, you have. The world is not a pleasant place for most people, but our miserable faces won't help them,' Ingenio said briskly. 'What are you're favourite subjects?'

'Drama and Philosophy. I'm auditioning for a play tomorrow. One of the Indian students in my class wrote it and he wants me and six others to act in it. It'll be the final item in the school concert.'

'What's it about?'

'Pretentious intellectuals who support their delusions of cultural superiority by ignoring reality.'

'Heavy stuff.'

'Only if you're wading through textbook theory. In the play the audience see these people making idiots of themselves, and as Mr. Wing the drama teacher said, even if they don't understand the philosophical concepts, there's enough action to amuse them and make them think.'

'It's certainly true that dry theory with no real life examples puts people off thinking. So it's funny?'

'Funny-sad. The action takes place on the beachfront of a luxury hotel that's just visible behind the palms. A pale naked body has apparently been washed up by the sea. Its presence is never explained. Eight elegantly dressed dark-skinned intellectuals wander in, arguing about the meaning of life. They trip over the body, then poke and prod, causing the creature to stagger to its feet, complaining in perfect English. They ignore his objections, restrain him, then continue poking, touching, and feeling until, like the Blind Indian Sages describing an elephant, they decide he is a primitive, pale, hairless ape. They are especially amused by what they call his nonsensical chattering.

'The man becomes so angry he pushes them violently away. The women scream. The men overpower the savage beast, tie him to a palm tree and decide to describe this curiosity in a scientific paper. The females take notes, the barbaric creature's mouth is forced open, teeth counted, ears inspected and skin examined for vermin. When someone wonders if the monster is suffering, he is informed that as it is not like them it will be unable to feel pain, fear, or any emotion 'higher' than the urge to eat, sleep and copulate. Consciences appeased, they embark on further painful and demeaning investigations, ignoring the man's obvious illness and distress.

'The humour derives from the prisoner's counter of each fatuous observation and conclusion with a philosophically correct statement, accusing them of cognitive bias, irrationality, lack of evidence, wishful thinking, ambiguity, the backfire effect, belief bias, conjunction fallacy, empathy gap, false consensus… in other words they're using all the irrational arguments loved by politicians to pursue their agendas, that we've been studying in philosophy class.

'However, instead of applauding his erudition, the intellectuals sneer at his gibberish, giving him a lesson in humility by placing a collar around his neck attached to a leash with which he's led around on hands and knees like a pony, forced to give the ladies rides on his back, and submit to patting, stroking and being rolled onto his back for belly tickling before being harnessed to a cart so he can tow them around the stage.

'Meanwhile, the men discourse on the glory and wonder of the human mind and body compared to the degenerate, stupid creature they found. When he asks for clothes they don't understand, so he mimes the request. They are shocked. What an insult to the nobility of civilized humanity! An ape imagining it should wear clothes! Tiring of him, they force him up a tree where he clings, ill and frightened while his superiors continue their pointless discussions; bragging about their humility, humanity, wisdom, generosity, and compassion. Evolution could now stop, they declare. With humans like them at the apex of all life, no further improvement is possible.

'The man falls to the ground. They prod him with their toes, discover he's dead and angrily blame each other for the loss of their plaything. The curtain falls on them punching, clawing and snarling at each other like the wild animals they despise.'

A brief silence followed Frankie's summary of the plot.

'It sounds extraordinarily good,' Ingenio remarked softly. 'How long is it?'

'About forty minutes.'

'Who wrote it?'

'Sadu, one of the Indians. He'll also direct us. The other Indians are the actors. None of the others in our class wanted to take part. It's called Human Kind. I've got the script; you can read if you like.'

'How about you read it to us?'

Frankie did, having to stop frequently so they could laugh at the wickedly funny exposé of pseudo intellectual ignorance, racial conceit and logical insanity.

Half an hour later they again sat in silence, thinking about it.

'If it's acted as well as you read it,' Constantine said, 'it'll be a sell-out. You sounded as if it meant a lot to you.'

'It brought back the horror of Tasmania, living with two crazy people who treated me as if I was an idiot slave.'

'Poor boy.'

'Not poor. It reinforced your suggestion that I remember the whole truth about that time, not only the good bits. Otherwise I'd be like the people in the play'

'You're very wise, tonight,' Ingenio smiled. 'I agree with Constantine that it'll be a success and look forward to seeing it.'

'Great, I'll tell Sadu. He's getting nervous now the Principal wants to invite the public to all performances. He's even working on a deal with a mid-city theatre.'

'At least your costume will be cheap.'

'You don't mind your nephew appearing naked in public?'

'I'll be the proudest uncle in the land.'


'So,' Con asked. 'Do you approve of the Principal?'

'He's a great guy. When he came and told us he wanted our play as the main attraction for the concert, I thanked him for letting me come to his school. But he thanked me; said the reason no Australian whites came to the school was because of racism, so I was proof that not all whites are racist.'

Con laughed. 'Frankie, I'm so glad you're living with us.'

'I'm even more glad, but I keep wondering why I am like I am. You know, a bit mad, interested in everything, exhibitionist, pig-headed. Yet my father was dull and boring and predictable. Why aren't I anything like him?'

Ingenio and Constantine looked at each other, pulled wry faces and nodded.

'Because he wasn't your father,' Ingenio said softly.

Frankie let out a huge sigh. 'Thank goodness! I've been terrified I'd turn into him one day. Who is?'

'There's a bit of a story about that, so bear with me,' Ingenio said nervously. 'Your grandparents treated your mother and me in a similar way to the way they treated you in Tasmania. Virtue was a prisoner outside school hours and I was her jailer. Naturally, being older she was jealous of my relative freedom. Spending so much time together, we had no secrets from each other. I was twelve when I told her Con and I were fucking each other and she was so jealous she demanded I let her experience it too…' he paused to see the reaction, but Frankie was giving nothing away. 'The upshot was that Virtue was exactly your age when she gave birth to you.'

'You don't mean…?' Frankie looked from one to the other then roared with laughter. 'You do! I'm the product of an incestuous fuck between a fifteen year-old girl and her twelve-year-old brother. I love it! You're both my father and my uncle—being my mother's brother. But… shouldn't I be demented? In-breeding and all that?'

'I'm pleased you find it amusing. You're not half-witted because you're the product of line breeding.'

'What's that?'

'When breeders want to improve their stock they take the best and healthiest son, over mother; or father over daughter, or son over sister to preserve all the qualities they want such as colour, size, and health. That's what we did. You're the brilliant product of a wunderkind boy and his street-smart, self-willed, sex-crazed sister. It's only when two dumb siblings copulate that their kids turn out dumb and demented.'

'Inge, you've made my day. I couldn't ask for a more illustrious lineage. But I'm jealous, I'm four years older than you were and still a virgin—regarding females.'

'But not males, I gather.'

'Only a couple of times before I was shanghaied to Tasmania.'

'Is there no one at school?'

'Well… Sadu's been swapping secret smiles and the occasional touch, but it's a serious crime in India now, so he's too worried to do anything.'

'Invite him for a sleepover whenever you like, don't you reckon, Con?'

'The sooner the better.'

'You two are the best parents a guy could want. By the way, Inge, do you want me to start calling you daddy?'

'Never! If the authorities knew our dread secret they'd never let me adopt you. So it's uncle or Inge.'

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead