Frankie Fey

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 9


Prospero occupied the entire top floor of a luxury downtown hotel. After welcoming Frankie and offering him a fruit drink, he excused himself for a few minutes. While waiting, Frankie inspected the large, light-filled rooms, not impressed by the starkly minimalist décor, but intrigued by everything else, especially several small artefacts displayed on the top of a glass bookcase. When he returned, Prospero explained that they were three-dimensional puzzles. Frankie pointed to what looked to be the most impossibly wonderful—six, square-section lengths of polished wood about five centimetres long that had been interwoven in a seemingly impossible manner, and asked if it was really like that. Prospero picked it up, handed it to Frankie and told him to press on one of the lengths of wood. It slid easily out and the magical structure fell to pieces.

'Now look what you've done!' Prospero said gruffly, before laughing. 'Pick them up and put them in your pocket. The day you learn how to put them together is the day you'll find yourself.'

Waving aside Frankie's gratitude, he led the way up to a gazebo on the roof garden; a veritable jungle of trees, vines and flowering shrubs, that had Frankie laughing in delight. More fruit juice and two hours of relaxed and enjoyable conversation felt like two minutes, because most of the chatting was done by the youth, unaware he was being expertly pumped for his experiences, ideas, hopes, values and concerns.

When Ingenio and Constantine arrived, the old man and his guest moved down to the dining room where a waiter served a simple but nutritious and tasty meal that had been prepared by Prospero's cook in the apartment's kitchen.

'This is a very pleasant meal in an extremely elegant apartment,' Constantine remarked. 'Do you often stay here?'

'This has been my home for the past eight years.'

'Must cost a packet,' Ingenio remarked.

'I own the hotel, so it's a perk,' Prospero smiled.

After desert, the waiter served tea in the lounge.

Prospero cleared his throat. 'What I am about to say is the product of three years' careful thought. Please listen carefully and do not interrupt, ask questions, or comment afterwards.'

Constantine opened his mouth, closed it, and like the other two gave the old man his undivided attention.

'I am ninety-seven. Three years ago I accepted my mortality and made plans to ensure it would be a pleasant experience. That left me with the problem of what to do with my considerable assets. I despise and distrust politicians and religious people, so wanted to ensure that no organisation or individual with even the remotest connection to government or religion would benefit. Secular charities are indiscriminate in their largess, often giving to people I dislike, so they would also not benefit. In my experience, discrimination is the key to a good life, so I decided that if and when I met young men with ideas and values I consider worthy, then I would offload something useful and valuable on them. Not as an inheritance, but as a gift, because the Wills of wealthy people attract challenges from those who think they deserve to inherit and haven't. My chat with Frankie proved my first impressions correct, so I want to gift him the title deeds to a property in the mountains west of Sydney. Nearly a thousand hectares of forest with a lake, cliffs, valleys and a fine old house as much in need of repair as your place, Ingenio and Constantine. My lawyers have prepared the documentation so it only needs Frankie's signature, that of his guardian, and two non-family witnesses; that will be Constantine and Gerard, my cook.'

Prospero took a large yellow envelope from a desk drawer and handed it to Constantine. 'Please read this while I fetch Gerard.'

In silent astonishment, Constantine read and checked the document, declared it valid and solid, and turned to Frankie with a perplexed smile. 'Have you any idea why he wants to give you this?'

'Frankie frowned and shook his head. 'No, all we did was sit on the roof terrace while I talked.'

'What about?' Ingenio asked.

'Me. He wanted to know what I'd done and what I thought about it and what I wanted and valued… that sort of thing. Can I accept the gift?'

'Are you sure there are no strings attached?' Ingenio asked Con.

'None whatsoever. As soon as he signs this, Frankie is the owner and can do whatever he pleases with the property, live there, sell it, set fire to it… it will be his.'

'Then it would be very ungrateful to refuse.'

They settled back in nervous excitement, still suspecting it was some sort of joke.

Prospero and a lean, swarthy man in his fifties wearing jeans and T-shirt, came through from the kitchen.

'Ready to sign?'

Frankie nodded, but didn't speak.

'The details of the lawyer who's been handling the estate are on the forms. Contact him if you have any questions or need his assistance.'

'Is he honest?' Con asked.

'He's a lawyer,' Prospero replied, 'As far as I know he hasn't cheated me, but I always bear in mind that clever epitaph on the grave of a lawyer, Here lies John Brown; he lies still.'

'Careful, I'm a lawyer.' Con laughed.

'I know, but you're a quasi saint who works for nothing in a vain effort to help the unloved.'

'How do you know?'

'You didn't think I'd give something as valuable as this property to a young man whose relatives would cheat him out of it, did you? It's a week since I was first awestruck by Frankie's performance; plenty of time to check you all out.' He turned back to the papers. 'Now to business.'

Pens were produced and signatures witnessed on both copies. Then the cook handed one to Frankie and the other to Prospero before returning to his kitchen.

Ingenio took Prospero's hand and looked into his face, searching for deceit. Finding none he placed a light kiss on the old man's cheek, and said a simple thank you. Frankie hugged the old man and whispered a tearful, 'I know I don't deserve it, but I'll try to be worthy of your trust.'

'No, no, no,' Prospero protested gently. 'That's not what I want. I don't want you to try to be anything or even be grateful. My intention is to give the few people I like the means to be completely themselves without economic or social constraint. That's all.' He sat back slowly and sighed. 'It is I who am grateful to you for your performance in that play. It was like watching my own failed, life-long attempt to open people's eyes. Suddenly I realised it was the effort that mattered, not my lack of success. Then discovering this afternoon that you are exactly what I thought; a young man who deserves to own this piece of land, lifted a heavy weight from my spirit. I can now die peacefully knowing I've done the best I can.'

He pulled an envelope from his top pocket and handed it to Frankie. 'Large properties do not run or maintain themselves, so to prevent it being a burden to you, I want you to take this to help with upkeep and repair. And now I'm tired. We won't see each other again, so I wish you a satisfying future.' He stood, took both Frankie's hands in his and said softly, 'Snakes are the best protection against vermin.'

Frankie nodded and smiled, wondering if it was an obscure warning or perhaps a joke. He'd have to think about it. The three men then left Prospero to his memories, arriving at the theatre just in time for Frankie to prepare for the final performance. The theatre had been booked out for a week, so Ingenio and Constantine stood at the back, marvelling again at their son's talent.

'What did Prospero say to you just before we left?' Ingenio asked in the car on the way home.

'That snakes are the best protection against vermin. What could it mean?'

'No idea. Perhaps there are a lot at the place he's given you and he's worried you might try to eradicate them.'

Back home they read and reread all the documentation in case it had been a trick. It hadn't. Then they opened the sealed envelope and were rendered speechless yet again, this time by a bank draft for fifty million dollars, and a key.

'That's a lot of money and a lot of land you've received today,' Con remarked thoughtfully. What will you do with it?'

'I don't know. What do you suggest?'

'I don't trust banks; it's virtually certain now that when banks stuff up and lose money they will be permitted to simply take their depositors' money to bail themselves out. Their completely legal reasoning being that you've given them the money, so it's theirs to do what they like with.'

'Then what's the alternative? It's a bit much to put under the mattress.'

'If you pay them to hold your cash in their vault, then it remains yours.'

'Sounds crazy. Is it likely the banks will fail?'

'Most economists reckon it's only a matter of time. And even if they don't fail they'll say they have so they can grab their depositor's deposits. The sole purpose of banks is to make as much money as possible for their shareholders by adopting the six principles of neo-liberal economics.'

'What are they?'

'Number one is: Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers' rights. Two: Eliminate price controls and grant total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. Three: Cut public spending on social services like education, health and maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply, while removing safety-nets for the poor. Four: Remove all government regulation that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job. Five: Privatise state-owned enterprises, goods and services, including banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water, thus concentrating and increasing the wealth of a few corporations by increasing the cost to consumers. And finally, eliminating the concept of the 'public good', or the 'community', and replacing it with "individual responsibility." These measures force everyone - including the poorest people in society - to take responsibility for their own health care, education and social security—then blaming them if they fail for being "lazy."

'That's already happening, isn't it? That's why most kids are on the streets instead of at school.'

'Yes, and that's deliberate,' Constantine sighed. 'Street kids are a valuable resource for the multinationals that own and run prisons. It gives them slave labour to put small factories out of business, thus increasing multinational corporate power and profits.'


'No, it's completely natural animal behaviour to cheat and steal and feather one's own nest. That's how humans have survived.'

'But why will banks fail?'

'Because so much money has been printed it's worth less than the paper it's printed on. It's fiat currency; a scrap of paper that the government has declared to be legal tender, but it's not backed by a physical commodity – it's just a promise to pay. And because governments print more when they need money, much more money has been printed than there are goods to buy.'

'How on earth do you work that out?'

'Not by using Stock Market figures, because Stock exchanges are nothing more than casinos where people gamble with valueless chips. Computer savvy economics whizz-kids have worked out that if the real value of all the planet's assets were added together, then one twentieth of all the fiat money in circulation would be sufficient to buy them. In other words, there's twenty times more money in circulation that there are assets on the planet.'

'So nineteen dollars out of every twenty is worthless.'


'What about gold?'

'It's safe and holds its value, but only ingots; not a slip of paper stating you've bought the value of so many ounces of gold, because there isn't enough of that precious metal on the planet for even a quarter of the people who think they've bought it to actually have the real stuff.'

'What a filthy scam.'

'Filthy indeed. Lawyers may be shysters, but bankers are the absolute bottom of a very, very deep pile of shit.'

'So, what'll we do, Con?'

'Cash the bank draft and your parents' insurance payout, buy gold ingots with part of it, then put it all in a bank deposit box. What you do with the land is your call.'

'I want to do nothing with the land except keep it in as pristine a state as possible with no humans allowed except us. It may seem strange, but despite the unpleasantness I'm incredibly grateful to Grandma and Grandad for dragging me off to Tasmania. It was the best possible experience I could have had. I learned so much about myself and where I fit in nature. Not in a romantic way, but a realistic, evolutionary way. We need real, proper, complete nature if we want to survive, and I'm not going to help anyone to remove the little that's left.'

'Is that what you talked about with Prospero?'

'Among other things.'

'That's probably why he entrusted the place to you and left you plenty of cash to keep it safe. He's a perceptive man.'

'And…' Frankie paused, hoping he wasn't pushing things, 'I sort of hope you two will live there with me, if we like it. I don't want to keep it to myself. Even if we don't go to live there, I want to have the title deed changed so we three are joint tenants. Then if anything happens to me, it'll be automatically yours.'

'That's very generous. But there's no hurry. Let's see the place first.'

'Next Weekend?'

'We'll leave Friday after school.'


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