The Baker, The Butcher and The Brewer, Part One: The Baker 32
‘Why do I sense something criminally wrong behind this speech?!’
‘Because you are smart enough to know that behind every fortune there is an … action of omission.’
‘I was borne in fortune. I had a head start.’
‘That doesn’t matter. Do you know how many lads I know who were born with a head start and blew it all away? Now they are working for me waiting tables.’
Harry was bending the facts, soft selling.
‘I was born in a middle-class family and wanted to be nothing but an artist. My parents were firmly against it for I had to stay on the safe path of business school and so on. Unable to follow my original bent I was choked with numbers and old ideas. I had to memorize instead of create. I took on drinking and almost disappeared in an abyss. Only later I realized that everything can be art so I combined the numbers with my passions and started using people. Like handkerchiefs.’ He smiled.
‘I have heard the you are quite the magician when it comes to delicate surgical problems.’
‘Archibald is too kind.’
‘I think his kindness is fairly weighted. God can’t be fairer in my experience.’
‘Now you are too kind.’ He smiled again. ‘God sits around and drinks wine all day.’
The Baker wasn’t sure if he referred to God or Archibald.
‘The world is clearly the work of a drunk.’ Now he knew it was the former. ‘The only times he succeeded are the rare moments of clarity in-between hangover and the first drink.’
‘I couldn’t agree more. The world is clearly the work of an artist.’ The Baker smiled.
‘Well said!’ He almost laughed but held it in and smiled instead. ‘Cheers!’
The zing of the crystal glasses was an exclamation mark. They had broken the ice and business was to follow soon. The Baker sniffed the dark, herbal, brandy-like spirit and took a sip large enough to be able to swirl it around his mouth.
‘I like a strong drink but that is close to disgusting!’ He fired away.
‘It is disgusting, that is the prime reason I drink it. Every sip reminds me that life is better than that drink.’ Harry grinned.
He took a second sip and put the glass down. Harry observed his maneuvers closely. There was still distrust in the air and they both stared at each others’ eyebrows in vain hope to eradicate this notion.
‘My greatest advantage and fault simultaneously,’ Harry went on, ‘is that I don’t trust people. I can read them but human nature is — for the most part — unpredictable.’
‘If Archibald sent me here that means you are the man who can solve my problem. I do not know what means you employ. I certainly hope they are within reasonable moral boundaries.’
‘My work is tailored to my customers’ preferences. It will be moral enough for the world we live in. You, my good lad, have one of the greatest art openings in history to master. A lot of people expect their early investment in your work to increase in value after it. That means they are willing to support you more than some pedantic curator. I am one of those men.’
‘You already know!’
‘I play the biggest game in town. My job is to know.’
‘It is good that you know all the reasons why this opening will change the art world and will open many doors for me. It will give me the tools to reach and inspire people beyond the world you and I live in.’
‘That’s very noble. I am glad I put my money on you.’ He tried his best not to sound sarcastic.
‘I need this to go my way. So I can be heard. Not empower some bureaucrat gasping for fresh prostitutes.’
‘Your show will have a profound effect on the world. It will be as if every single human being has a double shot of vodka at the same time.’
‘I like to think so.’ The Baker almost smiled. ‘I would also like to know the cost.’
‘Young man, at this level it is not trick for fish any more. Money has no value on everyday basis in this game. We are all going to die rich. I owe Archibald more than I can ever repay. You are family now.’ He was black dead serious.
‘I see.’ But he didn’t.
more by PETER ODEON
Photograph by Twinkling Lights