“What’s a little more humiliation in this lifetime?” Cusper Lynn
The Occidental Ape
By Cusper Lynn
Note: There is one more chapter yet to post in Cusper Lynn’s serialized novel, after which the entire work will be available for downloading through Weekly Hubris.
SARASOTA Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—9/23/2013—Blake Morgan was not happy to hear from me. It was late, he had a life and he didn’t need a damned wild goose chase. So, I decided to drop the proverbial bomb.
“The CFO of Abby’s company isn’t in Europe and he isn’t being extradited back to the States,” I said.
“I could’ve told you that,” Blake said.
“What?” I asked.
“I tried to tell you earlier, but you cut me off,” he said. “The guy they have in custody isn’t the CFO. He’s an associate of his.”
“OK, well,” I said, “the CFO is here, in Sarasota, and if you get off your lazy butt we can find out where he’s hiding out.”
“What?” Blake said.
“The guy who ripped Abby off, and stole his wife, is right here in town, now. And I just got a tip that he was leaving a doctor’s office north of Bee Ridge a few minutes ago.”
“Even if that’s true. . .” he said.
“. . . and it is,” I said.
“. . . there’s no way I can get over there, get you and get. . .”
“I’m on 41, just south of University. Pick me up and we’ll go down to the dog track,” I said.
“Why?” Blake asked.
“I have a hunch,” I said and hung up.
Blake arrived ten minutes later and we drove east toward the dog track. “What’s this hunch?”
“Keep going, past the track towards Tuttle,” I said.
“What am I looking for?”
“A couple in a dark sedan. They’ll be arguing and she’ll be driving. I learned a little bit about her from Abby.”
On our first pass East on University there were a few candidates, but none of them were the right car.
“Cusper, I’ve got work in the morning,” Blake said.
“So do I. Pull over into the 7-11 parking lot.”
“Now what?” Blake asked.
In his book, Abby had talked about his current wife and the attributes that his therapist had identified as recurring in all of his relationships.
Leah was a narcissist, borderline-personality type who demanded constant attention. The worst argument they’d ever had was when he had been hospitalized for peritonitis. Pinned to a hospital bed in agony even a morphine drip couldn’t touch, Abby had been comforted by his wife’s complaints that she was in worse pain (for having to watch him) and that he couldn’t possibly appreciate her suffering.
When he failed to comfort her, largely because he could barely move or speak, she had flown into a rage and starting ticking off all of his shortcomings. When Abby commented on that episode in his book he noted, “I was profoundly sorry that I couldn’t offer her the comfort and reassurance she required.”
A dark sedan heading west on University was weaving. It wasn’t a drunk, bump weave. “That one,” I said.
“You’re sure?” Blake asked.
“The woman is driving and the guy’s face is packed and bandaged,” I said.
“Here we go,” Blake said and eased out into traffic.
The driver continued to weave and was, from what I could see three cars back, having an animated conversation with her passenger.
“Poor bastard,” I said.
“Who?” Blake asked.
“Abby,” I said. “You can hang back a little bit. They’re going to turn north on 41. She doesn’t like driving, so she’s going to sit at the intersection for a while.”
“How do you know. . .”
The car stopped in the right turn lane for the red light and did nothing. Despite numerous opportunities to legally and safely complete the right turn, the sedan remained still, its right turn light being the only indication that it might, some day, complete the turn. Finally, when the intersection lights had changed and all but offered an engraved invitation, the sedan proceeded north on 41. We trailed behind.
“Any other insights?” Blake asked.
“It’ll be the University Park Hotel,” I said. “They’re slumming.”
In Abby’s book, he talked about the fact that his wives and, most recently, Leah, had driven him to greater achievement than he could ever have reached on his own. It wasn’t their support, inspiration, or critical insights that propelled him higher: it was because they demanded to be kept in a lstyle they had never previously known.
As an individual, Abby had his standards, and they were quite high. He could easily have met any of his own standards on a third of the income he’d pulled in over the years. For his wives, however, and for Leah in particular, there was always the demand for more, and the pay-off for him was always, less.
“I never believed in the formula of pain driving productivity,” Abby wrote, “until I understood where I had been and who I’d been there with. All my moments of joy and achievement were tinged with the certain knowledge that they would not be enough. While my therapist argued that enough should be enough, and that love should be unconditional, I understood that this other thing was what I needed. There had to be the goal of unreachable and unattainable happiness to drive me on to greater things. It was why, when I met Leah, I was certain she could empower me, fan the necessary flames, for the rest of my life.”
The sedan pulled into the parking lot of the University Park Hotel. We followed. The car parked towards the front of the building and we took a spot at the back of the lot.
“Definitely down-market,” I said, as I watched the couple emerge from the car.
The woman stormed across the lot, her purse swinging violently as she put distance between herself and her passenger. The man who, even at this distance, I could see was bandaged and disoriented, leaned up against the car to get his bearings, then pushed off towards the front of the hotel.
“I’ll be damned,” Blake said. “Grab the small black case from the back seat.”
I retrieved the case and, from it, Blake retrieved a digital recorder and a pair of binoculars.
“What time do you make it?” Blake asked.
I looked at my cellphone. “1:37 a.m.”
“OK,” he said, and clicked on the recorder. “It’s 1:37 a.m., Friday morning. We have followed Barry Thomas aka Barenth Ahearne to the University Park Hotel.”
“Wait a minute,” I said.
“Shhh,” Blakee said, raising the binoculars to his eyes. “It would appear that Barenth has recently received medical care for a facial injury and is in the company of Leah Norman, Abby’s wife and president of his now defunct enterprises.”
Blake clicked off the recorder and started scribbling notes at a furious rate.
“Barry Thomas? Barenth Ahearne?” I asked.
“Tried to tell you that this afternoon, too,” he said, still writing notes. “Barenth Ahearne, Stephen Pencheco, and Alberto Mariche are the same guy. Before he popped up in the States with a forged London School of Economics PhD, he was floating around Europe running charity scams and corporate shell games. He’s wanted in Belgium, France, and England.”
“What about the Barry Thomas connection?” I asked.
“I checked the pictures from the FBI and the Interpol notices,” Blake said. “Same guy. Grew the goatee, got a little bit older, but that’s it.”
“I wonder if Leah knows.”
“No idea,” he said. “But the guy is a smooth operator. We’re talking about millions of euros scammed from successful business people and respected members of Europe’s upper echelons. Politicians and public personalities lent their names to his charities.”
“So, swindling Abby was pretty small potatoes for this guy,” I said.
“Europe was too hot for him, so he came to the States looking for an easy score,” Blake said.
“He came to Florida, where every land shark decides to try his luck.”
Blake shrugged and picked up his phone.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m going to use some connections to find out what name they’re under,” he said, then dialed a number.
I considered the situation. Putting the best face on it, Leah had been worked by Barry. He’d shown her the way to offshore accounts, embezzlement, and the promise of fabulous wealth. Leah, for her part, had helped move him to the position of CFO so he could make the money magic happen. But where did that leave Abby? Obviously, the FBI believed he wasn’t involved in the fraud. But what about the public? What would they believe? I considered the question of the fall-out from revelations that would be coming shortly.
“David and Carol Marr,” Blake said. “Car is a rental from Tampa.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?” I asked.
“Wouldn’t be the first white-collar felon to take a stay-cation while the Feds are looking for him abroad,” he said.
“True,” I agreed.
“Now it’s time to call in the big boys,” Blake said, picking up his phone.
“Just a sec,” I said. “I know you’ve got your brother to think about. But I have a suggestion and it’s one that will reap you rich rewards.”
“Look, Cusper. I’m not going to call my brother but I am going to call the F. . .”
“Blake, you do excellent reporting and serious investigations. But you do them in Sarasota. If you follow my advice, you’ll have a new BFF.”
“And who would that be?” Blake asked.
“Detective Ballinger,” I said.
“I’m listening,” Blake said.
Then I shared my suggestion.
“Rise and shine. Today’s the last day of the rest of your life,” I said to Matt Tomlinson.
“Wha?” he asked, rolling over on my reception couch. “Don’t you mean first day?”
“See?” I said. “Who says you’re not irrationally optimistic?”
“Cusper, what the hell’re you going on about?” Matt said, rising from the couch.
“Show time. Abby’s reboot,” I said.
“That’s torpedoed, screwed, and FUBAred,” Matt said.
“No, that’s where things stood while you were puking your guts out, yesterday,” I said. “I’ve been a busy bee, earning my percentage. We’re back on track and all I had to do was sell my soul to the devil.”
“Really?” Matt said. “Then he got the short end of the deal.”
“Matt, whether it’s sleep deprivation or the absolute certainty that I will not have to see your ugly mug after today, I am in a very good mood.”
“Lucky you,” Matt said.
“So,” I said, “if you can make yourself quasi-presentable, we’re going to be busy here today and I want to project professionalism and optimism.”
Matt went down the hall to the bathroom and I sprayed Febreze throughout Reception. The next pressing question was what to do about Sheila. She had an uncanny knack for working on days when her perverse concepts of efficiency and professionalism would do the most damage. Being as it was Friday, the odds were very much in my favor she would be sick or otherwise unavailable. But, given the critical nature of the day’s activities, there was a higher probability that she would show up and do untold damage, possibly singlehandedly disabling the entire enterprise. It was a critical management call.
“Hi, Sheila,” I said to her voicemail. “I know this is short notice, but I need you in early today and it’s probably going to be a late night. Have a lot of clients coming in. So if you can get in early, we’ve got to hit the ground running. I’m really counting on you. Thanks!”
Stepping to the front door, I looked for Denis Thatcher’s car in the parking lot. I checked the time on my phone; it was 8:29 a.m. I looked up and saw Denis pull into the lot; my phone now showed the time as 8:30 a.m.
“Turn left here,” I said.
“But the bank is right around the corner,” Denis said.
“I know. I just need to do something.”
“OK,” he said. “Now what?”
“Pull in here,” I said, as we approached the gas station.
“I’ll be just a minute,” I said, getting out.
I went inside, grabbed a newspaper, and made a call.
“Morning,” Blake said.
“Where is he?”
“He left the hotel by himself an hour ago. I’ve got Mike watching him.”
“Who the hell is Mike?” I asked.
“A trusted colleague,” Blake said. “I can’t cover both of them, and I’m pretty sure Her Highness isn’t going to move until well past noon.”
“That sounds about right,” I said. I’d filled Blake in on everything I’d learned about Leah from reading Abby’s book.
“So, do we know exactly where he is?” I asked.
“On the south-east corner of Beneva and Bee Ridge. He’s parked out by the bank.”
“Perfect,” I said, “Let Mike know we’re going to cruise by. See if he follows.”
“OK,” he said, and hung up.
I paid for the paper and went back out to Denis’s car.
“We’re going to take a slight detour,” I said.
Twenty minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of the bank, six blocks from my office. I was pleased to note that we’d picked up a tail.
“Let’s do this,” I said, getting ready to exit Denis’s car.
“Yes, let’s,” he said, laying a handful of papers on my lap.
I began to read. “Points?” I asked.
“Standard consideration for this sort of loan.”
I gritted my teeth and continued to read. The language was not Byzantine, but one thing struck me as odd. “Nevada?”
“My lending corporation is based in Nevada, as is this agreement,” Denis said. I prepared to sign. “No, we need a notary,” he said.
“Where are we going to find a . . .”
“The bank,” Denis said.
I closed my eyes. I’d envisioned a cold and detached visit with Jill Wasserman in her office. A briefcase was propped on her desk, funds were deposited, and I was exercising the sort of petulant attitude of the well-heeled, while she was obliged to resort to the sycophantic behavior bank officers reserve for their best customers. Instead, now I was going to be seen for the beggar I was. The loan, with its horrible terms, would be known and she, and the rest of the institution, would continue to view me with the same disdain. The alternative was to risk of losing the tail by driving to another bank or notary’s office. I opened my eyes.
“What the hell,” I said. “What’s a little more humiliation in this lifetime?”
“Mr. Thatcher,” Jill Wasserman said.
Jill was smiling like a maniac and trying to keep her pace below a gallop as she rushed to greet Denis in the bank’s lobby.
“Jill, great to see you,” Denis said, taking her hand and pumping it vigorously.
“What can we do for you today?” Jill asked, ignoring me.
“If you could get Claire, I need some documents notarized and my partner here is making a deposit,” he said, looking to me.
“I can do the notary . . .” Jill said.
“I appreciate that,” Denis said, “but I’d rather have Claire take care of that.”
Jill turned her manic smile down a few watts when she aimed it at me.
“I’ll be happy to help you with your deposit,” she said.
“That’ll be great,” Denis said. “Right after we finalize this partnership agreement, I’ll have Claire come and get you.”
Denis guided me to an office and took up a seat behind the desk. Jill was left looking stymied. It was then that I realized we had commandeered Jill’s office.
“You know who my favorite living billionaire is?” Denis asked.
“Donald Trump?” I said.
“Yes! How did you know?” Denis asked, putting his feet up on Jill’s desk.
“Wild guess,” I said.
I saw Jill walk over to the tellers and talk to one of the youngest, who immediately closed her window. A few moments later, the young woman was standing at the door next to Jill.
“I’ll be back to take care of Mr. Lynn’s deposit after you’re finished,” Jill said, and left Claire with us.
“Claire,” Denis said, getting up from the desk and taking the young woman’s hand, “this is my friend Cusper Lynn.”
She nodded at me as he escorted her around to Jill’s chair. “We just need a few documents notarized.”
“Certainly, Mr. Thatcher,” she said, taking out her stamp and record book.
“It’s Uncle Denis,” he said, and sat down next to me. “How’s everyone treating you?”
“Everyone’s treating me great,” she said, smiling.
“You know, I’m golfing with Marcus this weekend,” Denis said.
“What needs notarizing?” she asked.
“These,” he said, passing over the pages to be signed. “Just list it as contract agreements.”
“OK,” she said. “If I can have your driver’s license, Mr. Lynn.”
I fumbled with my wallet.
“Marcus is saying good things about you,” Denis said.
“I appreciate that,” Claire said.
“Here you go,” I said, and passed my license to her.
“Just one word is all it would take,” Denis said.
“No,” she said, setting down my license. “Don’t you say a word.”
“All right,” Denis said, throwing up his hands. “It’s just I hate to see you wasting your talents as a teller when you should be on the fast track.”
“They’re not going to waste. I’m making my own way,and it doesn’t help to have people know my godfather is friends with the president of the bank,” Claire said. “Now, Mr. Lynn, if you could sign right here and here.”
I signed the proffered forms.
“Now, Mr. Thatcher,” she said, “please sign here.”
“Claire, what’s the point of having a godfather . . .”
“Sign here,” she said, pointing to the line.
“Fine,” he said, and signed.
She proceeded to stamp and initial the documents and record them in her ledger.
“Now, I believe there was a deposit to be made,” Claire said.
“Let Jill take care of that,” Denis said.
“I’ll prepare it for her,” Clair said.
Denis placed a yellow envelope on the desk and I passed over a deposit slip.
“How’s your mother doing?” Denis asked.
“She’s doing fine, and would be doing better if you’d showed up for my dad’s birthday party,” Claire said.
What, exactly, Denis said at this point, I cannot report as it was in Russian, as was Claire’s response,
the two of them dropping into a fluent and it seemed to me heated exchange.
“I’ll just take the deposit on out to Ms. Wasserman,” I said, picking up the envelope.
Both parties ignored me and continued their conversation.
Shutting the door behind me, I was greeted by Jill.
“Mr. Lynn, if you’ll follow me,” she said, and led me to the teller.
While I stood there, and they processed my deposit, I found myself considering my previous resentments toward Jill Wasserman. Why it should be that we want vengeance on those in whose presence we have experienced humiliation I cannot say. Most of the time, they are nothing more than bystanders with jobs that require them to deal with us: bankers, lawyers, landlords, collectors, judges, etc. Occasionally, they engage in sadistic acts that justify the retaliatory urge. But, at the moment, and given the way Denis was treating Jill, I could not help but feel she’d done nothing to justify his behavior. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite able to work up any sympathy for her. Denis clearly was a client of extraordinary standing with the bank and his behavior, however outrageous, was simply to be tolerated, as the price for doing big business, by a senior branch officer.
“There you are,” she said, handing me my receipt.
“And my account is clear and ready to accept merchant transactions?” I asked.
“Yes. All blocks have been removed, and your account will be able to accept merchant transactions,” she said.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?” Jill asked.
Looking towards her office, I could see Denis and his goddaughter were still engaged in a discussion.
“If I could go to my safety deposit box, that should be everything.”
“Follow me,” she said.
“Russian women are crazy,” Denis said, as we pulled into my office’s lot.
Having no opinion on the matter, I collected my newspaper, my copies of the agreements, and the package I’d retrieved from my safety deposit box.
“You’ll need to be back here by 4:00,” I said. “We’ll run through the script a couple of times and make sure all the technical bugs are ironed out.”
“No problem,” he said, sliding into his Russian accent.
“There will be if you do that,” I said getting out of the car.
“I’ll be fine,” he said, his tone once again middle-American. “I just get frustrated with Claire. She could be doing so much more. She has so many more advantages than I did at her age. But she doesn’t have that fire. She’s falling into the middle-class American rot that kills so many people. It’s like a bland blight that drains the immigrant soul!”
“I can see you feel strongly about this,” I said.
“I do,” he said, and started the car.
“Perhaps a book?” I suggested.
“About what?” he asked.
“That last bit, Bland Blight,” I said. “It could be a new buzz term.”
“Hmm,” he said. “You know, you might be right. I used to record all this stuff. I’ll have to get back to doing that.”
“Absolutely,” I agreed.
“See you at 4:00,” he said, and pulled out of the parking lot.
Walking into my office, I was greeted by the unwelcome sight of Leslie Holbronte, Sheila’s useless, shiftless, extreme sports-obsessed boyfriend, leaning on my reception desk.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” I said.
I looked around the place. No sign of Sheila.
“Dawn patrol up at the bridge; caught some major airtime,” he said.
“Great,” I said, not bothering to try to understand what he was saying. “Sheila’s not here.”
“No,” he agreed.
“OK,” I said, “and . . ?”
“Oh, sure. Right,” Leslie said. “She’s sick.”
“Sorry to hear that,” I said. It seemed my management tactics had worked.
“Yeah, it sucks,” he concurred.
“Well, I appreciate your coming in to tell me,” I said, and nodded towards the door.
“Oh, Hey, no problem,” he said. “I just need to pick up her check.”
I managed to maintain my composure. “Of course,” I said. “Give me a second.”
“Cool,” he said. “Can you write that out to cash?”
“No,” I said, getting out my check ledger. “Why would I do that?”
“I’ve got to run to Fort Lauderdale. They’re having East Coast regionals for Kiteboarding,” he said.
“Great, good luck,” I said and completed filling out the check.
“Yeah, but I’ve got to borrow some money from Sheila to cover my fees. I mean, this is totally money,” he said.
“Just have her endorse it over to you,” I said, handing him Sheila’s check.
“Yeah, but she’s up in Jacksonville,” he said.
“Three and half hours away being sick, or she would otherwise be here doing her job.” I said.
“Can you help a Bro out?” he said.
“No, I absolutely cannot help a Bro out,” I said, and opened the door.
“Man, that is so harsh,” he said, slouching out the door.
“Man, it is,” I agreed and shut the door behind him.
Of all the jackasses’ problems I would be solving today, Leslie’s problems would definitely not be among them.
“You want me to what?” Gadget asked.
“It’s not like that,” I said. “You can blur it out or whatever you need to do . . .”
“But you expect me to put it up on the web,” she said.
“I need it to go up just after midnight, with as much distribution as possible,” I said. “It’s important to everyone. Especially Abby.”
“What about the audio?” she asked.
I thought for a moment. “Lose the audio.” I said.
The afternoon was progressing well. Gadget had run all of her technical checks, including the test runs for our payment processing service. It had all gone flawlessly. Everyone who bought Abby’s program tonight was going to have amazingly fast service, outrageously good product, and the best customer support available. All we needed was the sales pitch to go well and no technical problems during the webinar.
“How’s it going?” Denis asked, walking in the front door of my office. It was exactly 4 p.m.
“Great. We’ve got the studio set up and Abby’s on his way over,” I said.
“I’ve prepared some remarks,” Denis said, handing me a sheaf of paper.
I began to read, and my stomach dropped. Three hours until show time and I was getting ultimatums from the loan-shark, lawyer MC.
“I don’t see any problems with these,” I said, figuring out how best to drop 90 percent of the text he’d submitted.
“Good,” Denis said.
“But you only have seven minutes to wedge that all in as you warm up the audience and introduce Abby,” I said.
“We’re promising an hour-long, free seminar tonight. Abby’s going to have to do some impressive teaching and building serious value to close the sales. We’re probably going to run the full two hours we have the webinar conference reserved for,” I said. “You can work more into the period when we have them all log in and you’re doing the meet-and-greet.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” a booming voice announced, “I have arrived.”
Abby strode into reception in his canary-yellow suit, his black-and-silver dress shirt offset by a multi-hued silk tie. I was immediately thrown into spectrum shock.
“Shall we get started?” Abby asked.
One hour and 43 minutes later, I stood out in the parking lot with a cigar, staring up at the palms.
“Cusper, are you all right?” Gadget asked.
I took a drag on my cigar and considered the question. I was once again having searing chest pain that was splitting my shoulder blades. I could barely catch my breath and I was actively considering dousing my office with gasoline, locking Abby and Denis in it, and setting it ablaze.
“I’m fine,” I finally said.
“You know the old saying?” Gadget said. “Bad dress rehearsal; good opening night.”
“Based on what I saw, we should have a stellar performance,” I said, and took another drag on my cigar.
“It was rough,” Gadget admitted.
“Abby threw a monitor at Denis,” I said.
“Well, he missed,” she said.
“Yes, but he hit Gene,” I said.
“Gene’s all right.” Gadget said.
“Gene thinks it’s three days ago and that he’s going watch you at the roller derby tonight,” I said.
“He took a pretty bad hit the other night after the roller derby,” she said.
“So, you don’t think the monitor contributed to the problem?”
“Well, it didn’t help,” she said.
“Hmm,” I said, and started puffing on my cigar.
“Matt got Abby settled down and Gene’s keeping Denis company,” she said.
“Gene’s sitting on the floor going, ‘Um, um,’ over and over again.”
“Cusper, in 30 minutes, the web conference is going to be slammed with people and they’re going to be expecting a show. I’ve already been paid, so it doesn’t matter to me. But, if this thing is going to get launched on time, you’re going to have to do it, and you’re going to have to do it now.”
“Fine, I said, and stubbed out my cigar. “But don’t you dare judge me for what I’m about to do.”
Walking into the office, I took a deep breath. I could hear Abby still roaring that Denis had stepped on his best sales lines, and I could hear the persistent muttering of the severely concussed documentary filmmaker.
“Abby Norman,” I said, “this is the time, here and now!”
There was silence.
“Denis Thatcher,” I said, “this is the time, here and now!”
The doors’ hinges complained as they opened slowly. Both men were ignoring one another and looking down the hall at me. I drew a deep breath.
“As we are taught to affirm,” I began, “I believe in the redemptive opportunity afforded by good works.”
Both men began to mumble.
“I know that it’s only when we go outside our comfort zones that we begin to grow,” I continued. Abby and Denis began to fully articulate and repeat the statement.
“The universe provides me the tools today . . .” I said.
“. . . that I may achieve all that the universe requires of me,” both men said in unison.
“. . . and I am grateful for these tools, however humble they may appear,” we all said, “for I know if I use them well, greater opportunities and better tools will be provided to me in the future. For I am the co-creator of my universe, my reality and my life. I am in harmony in all that I do and say. I am humble before that intelligence that is greater than myself and render myself a vessel to serve that intelligence which informs everything. In the pursuit of this, I am willing that my ego should fail that I may succeed.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Abby,” I said, “if you would do the honors.”
Abby looked to Denis and shook his head. “No, I think Denis should do it.”
Denis looked up at Abby and smiled. “I’m honored,” he said, “but I want to say that I got to hear you do it.”
Abby appeared to blush slightly and we all looked down at the floor, our hands crossed before us.
“Our service is the continuation of the circuit and the cycle of energy,” Abby intoned.
“Money,” Denis and I answered.
“The energy is eternal and began with the universe and can never be destroyed,” Abby said.
“Money,” we answered.
“The energy is life itself,” he said.
“Money,” we answered.
“In our service, we transform the energy into its material equivalent,” he said.
“Money,” we said.
“It is the energy that we sever, not the material manifestation that we observe,” he said.
“Money,” we said.
“And we shall only use its material manifestation to . . .” Abby said.
“. . . keep score,” we answered.
“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,” Abby said, and we all stooped down to the ground.
“MMMMMMMMMMooooonnnnnnneeeeeyyyyyy!” we said together, jumping up from the ground.
I saw a tear in Abby’s eye, and Denis threw himself into the older man’s arms.
Gadget stood, arms crossed, facial piercings skewed by the look of disbelief on her face.
Silently, I mouthed, “Don’t judge me,” to her; then I ushered the reconciled authors-cum-motivational speakers into the studio.
“Hello? Is this the conference?”
“Hi. Is there anyone there?”
“Hello. This is Bob, from Kitchener, Ontario.”
“Are we introducing ourselves?” (The sound of a dog barking.)
“Hi. This is Alice from Auckland, New Zealand.”
“Wow, what time is it there?”
“In Kitchener, it’s just before 7. We’re on the Eastern Time zone.”
“No, I meant in Auckland . . .”
“Hi. My name’s Kim, and I’m in Atlanta.”
“I’m Clark from Brisbane, Australia.” (Sound of a child yelling.)
“Sounds like my house.”
“Hi, Everyone. I’m Denis Thatcher. I’m going to be moderator for tonight’s webinar,” Denis said.
“Hi, Denis,” several hundred voice said.
“I had problems with the online registration for this,” one voice said.
“What I’m going to do first of all is mute out the conference so you can hear what I’m saying,” Denis said, activating the mute function on the software.
“Wow,” Denis said, “we have people from every continent online with us tonight. I see we have Lim from Beijing, Alain from Bordeaux, and we have a number of people from Greece and Italy. I think every country in the European Union is represented by members among our online attendees. Here in the States, I can see people from every major city in all 50 states. Then, we have our neighbors to the south, Mexico, Central America, a number of you from South America and, Wow, we’ve got people from the Caribbean on for tonight’s program. How’s the internet speed down there?” Denis asked and unmuted a few of the conference attendees.
“Perfect, here in Nassau.”
“Loud and clear in Ocho Rios.”
Denis muted the attendees out again. “That’s great,” he continued. “We have New Zealand and Australia. think, why yes, we even have someone from Jakarta and Dubai.”
“When a group such as this comes together from all over the world, you know that we’re going to have a powerful experience, because it takes a special person to bring a group such as this together, and Abby Norman, The Wealthy Mormon, is a very special person. To get the most out of this evening’s webinar, I’m going to ask you to apply a lesson I teach in my book The Principled Purpose: Prospering Through Service, and that is Maximizing the Moment.” Denis paused. “Every day we have 24 hours, every one of those hours is measured out in intervals of 60 minutes, and every one of those minutes is measured out in 60 seconds. These are agreed upon measures of time that provide us with mile markers in our lives. If you were to take the measure of the number of seconds you waste in any given day and multiply it by the days and years of your life, you would find that you are not present for even a tenth of your entire life. It’s terrifying, but true.
“What I’m asking you to do is to take this moment and commit to be present for just this moment. That means turn off your cell phone, shut the door, close your messenger, your other browser pages, your Facebook Wall, and commit to be undistracted for this moment. Now, I’m going to give you a few seconds to do all of that, and then I’m going to unmute the group and I should hear absolute silence.
“One, two, three, four and five.” Denis unmuted the group.
The sounds of distant muttering voices, barking dogs, and an agitated spouse saying “Don’t you buy anything else on . . .” were heard before Denis muted out the group.
Gadget stepped over to the monitor and pressed a few buttons.
“All right, not everyone is ready and of the same mind to Maximize this moment. So, once again, I’m going to ask you to focus, close out all distractions and then, when I press unmute this time . . .”
There was silence broken by only the sound of breathing and the light ruffle of papers. Gadget gave Denis a thumbs-up.
“Perfect,” Denis said and muted the group once again. “Now, as you are here now in this moment and in this second, I want you to breathe in and out, taking deep and steady breaths. I want you to focus your minds like a laser on the task in front of you. Tonight, everything else, all the noise, the issues and events of your life, are going to drop away and you are going to focus on just one thing. You are going to focus on learning everything you can from Abby Norman, The Wealthy Mormon. That means taking notes, and listening with only one question in mind which is, ‘How can I use what he is teaching in my life right this minute?’ We only learn those things which we are committed to applying in our own lives, immediately. So, make that commitment tonight that you are going to learn this, own this, and apply this. When?” Denis asked and unmuted the conference.
“Immediately,” thousands of voices said in unison.
Denis muted the group out again. “We are tonight a powerful group and we are all present in the moment and maximizing the moment. When we come together in this manner, we are told that our force is not simply additive, but multiplicative. Exponentially, we increase our force by our intention. So, every one of you listening to my voice and who is present in the moment, lend your power of intention to this group . . . and I want you to focus it on Abby Norman, The Wealthy Mormon, so that he can provide you with a teaching that doesn’t simply transform your lives, but gives you the power to transform the entire world.”
Gadget signaled Abby to move in towards his mike.
“I give you author, educator, investor, businessman and spiritual leader, Abby Norman,” Denis said.
Gadget signaled that Abby’s mike was now live.
Then there was a terrible silence. Abby Norman, The Wealthy Mormon, speaker, regular television personality, a man who had spoken to arenas full of people, was staring at the monitor, frozen.
Note: The two images used to illustrate this chapter derive from winnielepunk (fire-breather) and Michele Plunkett (upside-down fire devil).