Sunday February 7th, 2016

The exercise:

Write about: the baron.

Went up to Penticton with my family today. Grabbed an early lunch together before visiting with a friend of Kat's, whose eldest daughter was the flower girl at our wedding. She's turning eight next week.

Kat had a class to go to mid-afternoon but Max wasn't ready to leave yet so I stayed behind with him. He wanted me close for most of the time she was gone, but eventually went upstairs to play with the two girls while I chatted with their parents.

Yes, at one point he did end up in a princess dress. Yes, I do have a picture to prove it. No, I haven't decided whether or not I'm sharing it yet.

You know, like, before his wedding.

Max ended up napping on the way home, which meant his bedtime was pushed back by an hour or two. That wasn't as bad as it could have been, but I am now also very ready for bed. So...


"Good evening, Mr. Whittaker," the man said as he entered the spacious office and gently closed the heavy door behind him. "Is something wrong? You never call me in this late in the day."

"And I thank you for making the time to see me, Roger," Whittaker said. He pulled a thin black notebook from a drawer and placed it on his desk. "I wanted to go over your schedule with you, for tomorrow and... the next little while."

"Is that really necessary?" Roger asked, remaining standing. "Me and my crew are starting at the south end of the valley and working our way back north, hitting each of your vineyards as we go. If all goes according to plan, this pass will take... what? Why are you smiling?"

"That, dear friend, is the old plan." Whittaker motioned for Roger to sit down and his foreman did so. Whittaker opened the notebook and scanned his notes. "The new plan is as follows: we will meet at Mario's coffee shop tomorrow morning at 9 am. Bring the whole crew."

"Is this to celebrate something or...?"

"In a way, yes." Whittaker smiled. "You will be fired. Your crew, if they do not quit on the spot, will also be fired."

"What?" Roger was on his feet in a heartbeat.

"It will get personal and angry and loud," Whittaker continued without looking up. "I will not thank you for your fifteen years of service."


"You... really? I was certain it was... it doesn't matter. If things escalate naturally and you're feeling like it is the right move in the moment, you may punch me. Not hard, mind, but make it look good on your end and I shall do the same on mine."

"What are you talking about?" Roger placed both hands on the desk, more to steady himself than anything else.

"Roger, I have grown weary of competing with Mr. Sanchez. It is my intention to put him out of business and become the sole winemaker in this valley. And to this end, I require your assistance."

"Why the hell would I want to help you with anything?"

"Because I will continue to pay your salary. Even after you and your crew begin working for Mr. Sanchez."

"What? Why would you... why would he... why?"

"Mr. Sanchez will hear about our very public falling out before your coffee grows cold in your mug. He will not pass up the opportunity to bring the most experienced foreman in the area into his operations. You, of course, will insist that your recently fired crew join you. He, seeing the wisdom in this, will agree with minimal fuss."

"What do you want from me, Mr. Whittaker?"

"Simply your help in putting Mr. Sanchez out of business, from within. Nothing less, nothing more. Do you think you can do that, dear friend? The rewards for your efforts will be... most worthwhile."


Greg said...

I think you should share, but maybe just for a couple of days so that it's a surprise to Max when you bring it out when he's 18 :)
Are you sure Mr. Whittaker isn't Henri with a new name and a better moustache? He's got the same machiavellian air about him -- which I rather like, as you'd probably expect. It's always nice when you write these slightly longer pieces, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the mastermind lay out his plan and draw his employee into the web. I do hope this one gets revisited from time to time!

The baron
The air was cold and reddened cheeks quickly. Frost crunched underfoot and the city had put up signs reminding the residents that it was time to start putting snow tyres on the cars and making sure that your snow-shovelling duties were organised. The shops were staying open later, strings of fairy lights adorned the boulevards and main streets, and the smell of fear in the air was sour and lingering.
Christmas was approaching.
Ragged breathing and hurried footsteps came from a side-street, and the shoppers on Main quickly crossed the road or stepped into Braeburn's, the department store. Holly tried to cross as well, but her daughter Maeve chose that moment to drop her doll, and her wail of distress halted their escape. She bent down and picked it up, but before she could get away a man in a torn suit lurched from the site street and tripped over. There was a howl of delight and three green-clad elves, the black-and-red insignia on their arms indicating that they were Baron Francis's thralls, leapt out with wooden batons and began beating him enthusiastically.
"Mommy?" Maeve's eyes went wide, and Holly dragged her across the street and away from it. Maeve's head turned, still staring at the sight.
"Scab!" shouted one of the elves. "Baron Francis owns the right to wooden toy construction!" shouted another.
Holly hauled Maeve into a candy-shop and tried to distract her with sweets, but tears were welling up in her eyes.
"What were they doing to that man, Mommy?"
Holly stared down at her daughter, wondering how to explain the feudal system that Santa had set up, hoping to leverage the invisible hand of the free market and how it had all gone horribly, horribly wrong.
"He was a bad man," she said finally, hating herself for lying. "He deserved it."

morganna said...

Mr. Bryson was a nursing home baron, you could say. He owned strings of nursing homes all over the state -- two or three in this town, six in this bigger city, and so on. The residents in his homes weren't treated badly, but he definitely had his eye on cost-saving measures.

He was delighted with his new investment. It did seem to be keeping costs down by 50%, as promised. And deaths and hospitalizations had not gone up, unlike that fiasco last year. The inspectors had been really angry about the E. coli outbreak.

So he was not happy that the salesman was coming back to talk to him, uninvited. That could only mean trouble.

Marc said...

Greg - thanks, I feel like this could be expanded as well. This entry was more of a test, to see how things developed. You can definitely expect more from this :)

That is a delightfully horrific scene and world you've shared with us. Lots of potential for further forays, I think. Great details, and very nicely done :)

Morganna - hmm, a return visit from the salesman is definitely worrying. I'm enjoying your entries into this world and I look forward to more :)