Authors: Theodore Judson
© Theodore Judson 2016
Theodore Judson has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in 2016 by Endeavour Press Ltd.
Table of Contents
02/15/06 13:46 Pacific Standard Time
Since the moment he became conscious of his existence, John Taylor understood he would spend a major portion of his life pretending to be what he was not. He would become an adult long before he knew enough about himself to realize he was not very good at such pretending. At the moment he strained to appear interested in the events unfolding around him. This was a business meeting, and as a business man he was expected to display some curiosity in what was happening, especially since the words being spoken and the papers being rustled had something to do with him in particular. But rather than put up a good show, he stared at the slanted light coming through the high office windows and thought:
“First, fill the metal tumbler with crushed ice. Add a touch of sweet vermouth, just the tiniest kiss of it. Top with three jiggers of London gin. Don’t stir and don’t shake, but rather
the tumbler as hard as possible. Henry, the bartender at the Blue Note, actually pounds two tumblers together with a wooden mallet. Strain into a chilled glass and add both an olive and a lemon twist, taking care to crush the lemon, so there will be just the tiniest trace of acid floating atop the alcohol.”
He had pretended so well on a certain morning two years earlier that he almost convinced himself he was angry when he came home sick at 10:36 a.m. and found his wife in bed with a small hairy man his wife said was something called “a performance artist.”
“You could at least have the consideration to have an affair with someone who does something I know what the hell it is!” John Taylor said to her as he stood over the bed. “I can’t even begin to explain this at the club! Couldn’t you just run off with Gypsies? I know what they are.”
“Now for the core of our new arrangement,” Benton’s lead attorney droned on: “majority ownership of Taylor Imports, seventy-six per cent, to be exact, will be transferred to Mr. Benton and his associates. Outside the local San Francisco Bay area, where Taylor Imports will maintain its present name, other Taylor Import assets will become parts of Qwiksilver Inc., a subsidiary of Darrincorp.”
John Taylor sat behind his team of lawyers at the head of the long black walnut table in Darrincorp’s San Jose headquarters and considered how much he hated Darrin Benton and his sort--young, smug technicians who seemed to be taking over the entire world. Benton had begun the meeting by telling the assembled, and not for the first time during the course of their negotiations, how he had come to California fifteen years earlier with nothing to his name but his old Volkswagen van and his two engineering degrees from Cornell.
“We had only a great dream back then,” Benton said. “Armed with just five thousand dollars of venture capital, we planned to place the filing program we then called The Darrincon System in every office in America. Those big banks in San Francisco laughed at us, we with our long hair and blue jeans. Somebody in one of those fancy gentlemen’s clubs offered to buy us out for a lousy ten thousand dollars. Ten thousand for the whole program, gentlemen! We had to find private investors; someone’s crazy aunt and a fisherman who had recently sold his boat. But look at us now! Our little dream has blossomed, indeed flourished, until we have become a mighty force that controls one hundred and forty-two companies!”
“Jesus Christ!” thought Taylor and, for the moment, let his thoughts again drift away from the business meeting yet again.
As happened every time he saw a man under the age of forty, Taylor thought of his own estranged son and of their last meeting some seven months earlier.
“So you’re off to Venezuela to study revolutionary communes,” Taylor said. “Is this really something that will help you when you start business school?”
“I’m not going to business school,” John Taylor Jr.—who now called himself Comrade J.T.—informed him. “Once my work in Venezuela is done, I’m going to Madagascar with Angelina to start our own pottery shop.”
“Yes, yes, pottery,” John Taylor said. “For eight years I sent you to an artists’ colony in Baja where you tossed pots. I’m glad to see the half-million dollars I spent to send you to Dartmouth didn’t go to waste.”
Benton pounded his fist on the speaker’s podium so hard he caused his thick glasses to slip down his nose. The sound brought Taylor back into the room.
“We now own some of those big banks in San Francisco,” he continued, “and you can be sure that some of the elegant old boys who sneered at us back then are beating the pavement looking for work and wondering what happened to their pensions!”
Benton pumped his little fist in the air as he told how he had destroyed the careers of those he hated. The gesture annoyed John Taylor as much as Benton’s use of the royal
“We are here today, gathered together, to work out the details of our most recent triumph,” Benton said. When he saw the somber expressions of the Taylor people he diplomatically added, “And to welcome our new friends and associates into our family.”
For the past seven months Darrincorp had tried to affect a hostile takeover of John Taylor’s import and export business. For those long seven months Taylor had fought off Benton’s ravenous advances by buying up stock in his company at inflated prices. But young Darrin Benton had billions of dollars to spend, and he was willing to pay whatever he had to in order to make the conquest.
When Taylor Imports hit the outrageous price of one hundred and twenty dollars a share, after having been traded at twenty-two dollars before the takeover started, John Taylor decided not to go deeper in debt to fight for a company his only child did not wish to inherit. He admitted his defeat. In return for the company his family had held for a century and a half, Taylor was to receive a lump sum of forty-five million dollars, two thirds of which would go to pay taxes and debts, and twenty thousand shares of Darrincorp stock, each share emblazoned with the grinning likeness of Darrin Benton.
Only two years before, Taylor Imports was worth three times what Benton was paying. John and the dozen other middle-aged men on his board of directors failed to integrate into the new global economy, specifically they missed gaining new contracts in the all-important Pacific Rim. His father and his grandfather never had to scramble after import contracts in other countries. They did what Taylors had done when they each became company director; that is, they played golf with their cronies and hung out at some of the gentlemen’s clubs young Benton so despised.
Now John and his company had come to this. This was not a business meeting; this was a victory celebration, a triumphant in progress, much as a Roman emperor enjoyed upon returning from campaign in a foreign land. Taylor was the vanquished leader of that conquered foreign land, a beaten savage now being drawn along in golden chains behind Benton’s chariot.
“You may not respect me,” John Taylor had written his son that summer. “But you need to respect what your ancestors have built, this company they built for you. They did not know your name or know what you would be like, yet they built this for you and for future generations of Taylors to have now and forever. Come home, John. Come home and accept what was made for you before I or anyone you know was born. You have to respect what a gift your family has given you.”
“...Qwiksilver Inc. will retain the present and on-going contracts and other legal obligations currently held by Taylor Imports,” the attorney soldiered on. “In addition—”
“How much longer do we have to sit here?” asked Taylor.
Benton’s team of lawyers looked up from their documents and muttered at the interruption. Benton himself smiled more broadly than ever.
“Not moving fast enough for you, John?”
“It seems to me,” said Taylor, placing his palms on the table top, “that we long ago arrived at our destination, regardless of the speed we showed getting there. Right now we’re taking victory laps.”
Benton hated Taylor’s presumptive use of
, a personal pronoun for which Darrin Benton would have purchased the exclusive rights, were that possible. For the first time in the ninety minute meeting, young Benton failed to smile.
“Seems someone is out of sorts,” he retorted. “That happens at a certain age,” and at the same time recovered his superior smirk.
“Seems someone else is a horse’s ass,” said Taylor, and rose to leave.
John Taylor ignored the whistles and coarse remarks Benton’s team made until his hand was on the handle of the exit door, when he turned and said, “My great grandfather killed pirates to protect his company.”
“What’s that?” Benton, thrust out his chin and signaled his lawyers to be silent.
“My great grandfather,” repeated Taylor, “Andrew Stasten Taylor, the founder of Taylor Imports back in 1850. He and other prominent merchants in San Francisco put a bounty on Mexican pirates raiding ships sailing around the Horn and up the California coast. Company archives show he paid two thousand dollars to an English captain named Lewis for destroying a pirate vessel off the Baja.”
Benton turned this over in his mind before he answered. “So... you’re saying we’re pirates?”
“I’m saying things were simpler back then,” said Taylor. “One could put a price on a thief’s head.”
“Now we’re thieves, eh?” said Benton, his smile now threatening to grow from ear to ear.
“I’m going now,” said Taylor, opening the door. “Your people can keep talking to mine. Send me whatever I need to sign.”
“Well,” giggled Darrin Benton, whose characteristic laugh unnerved even his underlings, “there goes another Californian institution into the ether!” He licked his index finger and made a vertical mark in the air as Taylor slammed the door shut. “If old John stayed another ten minutes we’d have been hearing how his great granddaddy came west with the gold rush of ‘49 to supply the first prospectors’ camps with grits and kerosene.”
Benton’s lawyers pretended to laugh; the more ambitious among them chuckled louder than their co-workers and hoped Darrin would notice.
John Taylor meanwhile, walked down the exterior hallway and past a large painting of a jolly Darrin Benton leaning against a bust of Aristotle. He took the elevator to the lobby, where he walked past a thirty-five foot tall statue of Darrin Benton gazing westward toward something of great import, perhaps the future, a commodity John Taylor presumed Benton also planned to buy. In the glass of the exit doors he saw his own reflection and for an instant imagined it was his son.