Sunday, 29 June 2014

Another Excerpt From Serendipity - Meet Oliver Noble!

I love the character of Oliver Noble. He's one of the most obnoxious, mean-spirited, uber-snobbish characters that I have ever created. I actually met an Oliver Noble! He was only 3 years old at the time, from a privileged background, must have learnt or inherited the knack of being a loathsome git from his father, and I logged him for future use. When I wrote this book, I had a wonderful time as the 'little shit' jumped from my pen and onto the page! Reading it back, I thought, this character is solid gold!


Edward’s mission was to see his 13-year-old son, Oliver, and beg him for a loan. Edward sat on the train, his eyes closed, finding the rhythm of the train as it slipped over the tracks therapeutic. Edward thought all about Oliver.
 He silently referred to him as ‘little shit’. This wasn’t so much a slur as it was a carefully rationalised and balanced analysis of his son’s character. At the age of 5, when Oliver had overheard his parents discussing a trust fund that they were about to set up for him, he had come into the lounge and said:
 ‘How much money are you putting into my trust fund?’
 Edward and Jackie looked at each other in surprise and then Jackie replied, ‘We’re going to open it with a thousand pounds and then mummy and daddy will bung a thousand pounds in every year until your eighteenth birthday. Then – when you are at Oxford or Cambridge you will be a very wealthy young man indeed!’
 Oliver cast his mother a look of infinite contempt.
 ‘Heard of inflation, mother? That’s already peanuts – but with inflation, that’s peanuts from a monkey’s bum!’
 ‘Oliver!’ exclaimed an indignant Edward. ‘How dare you speak to your mother like that!’
 ‘It’s easy,’ retorted Oliver. ‘I just open my mouth and out it jolly well comes! Be quiet, father – I am negotiating terms with my mother.’
 Outraged, Edward opened his mouth to give the little upstart a piece of his mind. But Jackie frowned at him and shook her head. Oliver was the apple of her eye. He was her only child, and it was just possible that his appearance had put Edward off sex with his mother forever. She was rather proud of his obnoxiousness and his advanced attitude of self-interest.
 ‘What are your terms, munchkin?’ she asked, a daft smile on her face.
 ‘”Munchkin”!’ echoed a disgusted Oliver. ‘Mother, stop being a retard! Now, open the account with 2k and top it up with 2k a year, as well as an extra 1k on my birthday and at Christmas. Those are my terms and I shall agree to nothing less!’
 ‘You are in no position to dictate terms, young man!’ shouted Edward.
 ‘Shut up, Edward!’ Jackie reprimanded him. ‘Oh, go on, Oliver, you’ve twisted my arm! What a rich young man you shall be on your eighteenth birthday!’
 ‘Don’t freeze my assets, mother!’
 Oliver was looking daggers at his mother.
 ‘What do you mean, darling?’
 ‘I mean,’ said Oliver, as though he were addressing a simpleton, ‘that I want access to my money from the moment my trust fund is set up. If I am to be a multimillionaire, I will need to speculate to accumulate.’
 ‘Isn’t he delightful?’ giggled Jackie.
 ‘I agree to none of this nonsense!’ snapped Edward.
 ‘Retard!’ retorted Oliver.
 Jackie guffawed. ‘Yes, shut up, Edward – you retard!’
 The first thing that Oliver did was demand that Jackie took him to Savile Row. He was measured by a top tailor’s for his first very own suit, which he wore all of the time with a striped shirt and red braces. Then Oliver had used his money, first to buy and sell sweets and toys in the playground. He had moved on to become his primary school’s official moneylender. He provided credit, with stiff interest rates, and the school’s bullies enforced weekly collections. His profits soared before he moved onto the Stock Exchange. The boy was smart, and after eight years of wheeling and dealing and a healthy stake in mutual funds, he was worth £4 million. He was currently residing at an Oppidan boys’ House in the town of Eton. This of course meant that Oliver attended the prestigious Eton College, which cost (or had cost) Edward an arm and a leg, or £26, 490, to be precise. He had long resented this, as both father and son had a deep loathing of one another.
Edward was also jealous of his son’s success, both in business and as an academic. John Maynard Keynes, no less, the renowned economist who had perhaps saved capitalism and one of Edward’s heroes, had attended Eton. Oliver was a regular contributor to the Etonomics magazine, produced by the Economics department. And he had excelled in the annual cricket match against Harrow at Lords this year, another reason why Edward hated him. Oliver played in an under 14 team, but was so exceptional that he had been given special sanction by the headmaster to play in the annual Eton v Harrow match. Cricket was Edward’s passion, and Lords was hallowed ground, so far as he was concerned. The order of merit put Oliver first in everything he did at Eton.
Where Edward had had to sweat for everything that he achieved, success dripped from Oliver like sweat. So Edward did not rate his chances of success very highly. But blood was thicker than water, wasn’t it? Surely even a little shit like Oliver could not stand by and watch his procreative father sink into the gutter. And even though he favoured Jackie, despite his regular kicking and punching of her and telling her, ‘You are so stupid, ma-ma!’ from the age of two, surely he would disapprove of her actions. Oliver despised Matt Ridgeway, calling him a ‘brain dead, lumbering oik’. Edward would pledge a great deal of money to Oliver if he stood behind him now.
 The train rattled on and Edward had to switch trains several times, taking the dreaded tube from London St. Pancreas to Paddington, then a train to Slough and, finally, a train to Windsor and Eton Central.


Edward stepped out into the brilliant sunshine, which radiated across Windsor, making the Thames glisten and shimmer, and made for Windsor Bridge.
 Edward knew exactly where to find his son, as Jackie had forced him too many times to ferry Oliver back here, following the painful school holidays. Edward had resented doing this, but consoled himself with the attractive truth that he would not see Oliver again for several months.
Edward strolled across Windsor Bridge, and Eton, sitting on the opposite bank, drew rapidly closer to him. He heard the honking of geese and looked up to see a flock of them flying overhead, in a blue sky with skeins of clouds floating whimsically by. In Eton, he tracked down the house that Oliver shared with 49 other boys. Edward had to be very careful now. He needed to avoid the Housemaster and Dame, and the House Captain and Games Captain – everyone in fact, as once they knew his identity, they would most certainly call the police. Indeed – there was the possibility that Oliver might. Edward stood beneath the open window of the room that his son was most likely to be in – his study bedroom. He was most likely swotting up on something or placing a bet through his stockbroker. Edward picked up some little stones and hurled them up at the window. They trilled against the glass of the open window, and some stones tapped lightly upon objects in Oliver’s bedroom.
 Moments later, a cross and imperious little face appeared at the window.
 ‘Damn you – you hoodlum! Do not throw stones at my window! Father – is that you – in those ghastly clothes?’
 ‘Yes Oliver, it’s me,’ said Edward in a low voice. ‘I need to speak to you, urgently!’
 ‘You need to go to prison, you devious old dinosaur! I am calling the police!’
 ‘No Oliver – wait,’ said Edward desperately. ‘I have a proposal that I want to put to you.’
 Oliver’s priggish little features lit up. ‘You mean you are going to give me money?’
 ‘Yes, and lots of it,’ Edward promised. ‘But I first need to discuss it with you.’
 ‘I’ll get you inside,’ said Oliver. ‘For God’s sake make yourself discreet, you silly little man! I tell you – an elephant on fire would attract less attention than you! Come to the front door.’
 Oliver’s head disappeared and Edward made his way over to the front door. Half a minute later, Oliver opened it. ‘The coast is clear,’ he said, ushering Edward in with an impatient gesture. ‘But be bloody careful! I don’t want to be arrested for harbouring a notorious convict!’
 Oliver closed the door quietly and turned on his heel and walked towards the staircase. Edward followed him up the stairs, treading where Oliver trod, sometimes missing a stair, as Oliver obviously knew which ones creaked and which ones didn’t. When they reached the first landing, Oliver indicated to Edward to halt, by holding up a prohibitive hand. He took a surreptitious glance up both ends of the landing, before inviting Edward to his room with a beckoning gesture.
 Oliver closed the door behind Edward. They were standing in a comfortable room, with a bed, a large desk covered in papers and a laptop, and filing cabinets, and hundreds of books. The laptop’s screen displayed the current stocks and shares prices. There were no posters declaring a teenage boy’s crushes or idols. Instead, cuttings from the Financial Times plastered the wall, as well as journalistic masterpieces written by Master Oliver Noble for Etonomics, and a piece about Oliver’s high-scoring performance at Lords. Pride of place, hanging over Oliver’s bed, was the document certifying that an economics essay Oliver had written, had been ‘sent up for good’.
 Oliver sat down at his desk. He regarded his father disdainfully. The unshaven tramp before him, carried the heady mix of cheap deodorant and body odour.
 ‘Yes – sit down – sit down!’ he said carelessly. ‘So how much money are you going to give me, father?’
‘It’s not as simple as that, I’m afraid, Oliver,’ said Edward gently, sitting on a blue Executive chair.
 Oliver raised his eyebrows Heavenwards.
 ‘Now, why doesn’t that surprise me!’ he exclaimed.
 He swung himself around, anti clockwise – 360 degrees, on his black leather Director’s chair.
 ‘Speak on dear papa.’
 ‘Well,’ said Edward, ‘I require a small loan. And however much you loan me – I will pay you back double.’ ‘How soon?’
 ‘Father?’ Oliver enquired sombrely. ‘Yes, Oliver?’ replied Edward fondly. ‘Why are you such a prick?’ ‘Why you little shi- I mean – my dear son! Is it really necessary to talk to your poor father like that?’
 ‘No, not necessary,’ said Oliver. ‘Imperative, father – absolutely imperative. Now why should I lend you money when on paper you are worth more than I am? Which relatively you are not as I am only 13 and a genius.’
 ‘Ah, well there’s the rub,’ Edward told him. ‘You see, your mother…’
 ‘…Yes, my dear ma-ma.’
 ‘Yes, indeed – well no, actually, not at all, Oliver. For your “dear ma-ma” has stolen all of my money, kicked me out without a brass farthing, and shacked up with Ridgeway – the gardener.’
 ‘My mother is bonking a prole!’ yelled Oliver, leaping up in horror.
 ‘Yes.’ Edward piled it on. ‘And they are both so stupid and incompetent and decadent that they’ll spunk your entire inheritance on cosmetic surgery, wild parties, and general frivolity.’
 ‘Hmm,’ said Oliver, frowning.
 ‘So you must help me. So that I can get my assets back.’
 ‘So that I can sue them and keep the family fortune for us.’
 ‘But you are going to prison for fraud and deception and attempted murder.’
 ‘That’s why I have to go abroad.’
 ‘What good will that do?’
 ‘I have friends abroad who can help me. I can’t spend a second in prison – I’m claustrophobic.’
 ‘Yes, but it’s where you belong,’ said Oliver judiciously.
 ‘Look – I’ll pay you back four times whatever you lend me!’ offered Edward recklessly.
 ‘Do you have anything to leave as collateral?’
 ‘What!’ roared Edward.
 ‘In case you abscond and I never see or hear from my money ever again.’
 ‘I will pay you at the first opportunity, I swear!’
 ‘But you can’t guarantee that, can you?’ said Oliver with gravity. ‘I never conduct business on this level.’ ‘Your mother will compensate you if I can’t – of that I am sure,’ said Edward with deep bitterness. ‘There is no way she would ever see her darling boy out of pocket!’
 ‘Precisely,’ consented Oliver. ‘Which is why I won’t lend you the money. I’ll deal directly with ma-ma and cut out you – in effect, a burdensome middleman!’
 ‘What about Ridgeway?’
 ‘Don’t worry, I’ll fix him,’ said Oliver grittily. ‘He’s stupid and I’m clever – his feet won’t touch the ground. But I shall give the silly cow hell for degrading herself so!’
 ‘Please, son,’ Edward pleaded. He felt an irresistible force tugging at him, as though freezing cold and dirty water was pulling him down. ‘I’m done for – if you don’t help me now.’
 ‘Pater – I take the relatively plain vanilla stance on this one,’ said Oliver. ‘And that is – no – never – not in a million years. I shall observe your demise with an amused detachment.’
 ‘That’s not very Keynesian of you, Oliver,’ said Edward, pointedly staring at the picture of Keynes on the wall. ‘This is your chance to intervene directly and rescue the family fortune.’
Oliver smiled sadistically.
‘We may all subscribe to high ideals, but I’m exactly like you, father. Any policy that allows capitalism to thrive is fine with me – just so long as no sponger gets its grasping mitts on my fucking money!’
 ‘My hypocrisy was learnt from the finest purveyor of hypocrisy, pater.’
 ‘Change your mind!’ urged Edward. ‘When all is said and done – I am still your father, for crying out loud!’ ‘No! No! I will not capitulate!’ screamed Oliver petulantly, stamping his foot. He had carried on like this since the age of two.
 JACKIE: Please be quiet, dear.
 OLIVER: No! No! I will not be quiet!
 ‘You should be grateful for everything I’ve done for you,’ said Edward, looking dangerously at his son.
 ‘I am grateful that being your son has unscathed my genius,’ Oliver replied.
 ‘Why do you hate me so?’ asked Edward plaintively.
 ‘Mother I despise because she’s stupid – but I tolerate her because she can’t help that. You I hate merely because you are you. I can’t forgive you for that.’
 ‘Jackie has betrayed me!’ whined Edward.
 ‘Yes and I approve! For mother is far cooler than you are! “Daddy Cool”? I think “Daddy Tool” to be far more apt!’
 Oliver launched into a satirical and savage little rhyme.
 ‘“For many kiddies rich and poor,
 Their dada is their anchor,
 But my one regret of which I’m sure,
 My dada is such a silly wankour!’”
 ‘Listen!’ growled Edward. ‘I’ve been paying for you since you were fouling your nappies! You owe me big time!’
 Oliver for the first time feared his father and realised that his hectoring may just have pushed him over the edge. Edward was staring at him with hurt and hatred.
 ‘Look – I’ve had enough of this nonsense,’ said Oliver, picking up his mobile phone from the desk. ‘I’m calling the police!’
 Edward stood up and advanced on Oliver.
 ‘I advise you not to do that.’
 ‘Back off!’ squealed Oliver. ‘Don’t be silly, father!’
 Edward seized the mobile, flung it on the floor, and stomped on it with the heel of his trainer, crushing it into tiny pieces.
 ‘No police coming now,’ he said, grimly meeting Oliver’s eye. ‘It’s just you and me. Let’s hear some more of your witty repartee, dear beloved son!’
 ‘Father – I shall scream!’ said Oliver, terrified.
 ‘If you scream it will be the last thing that you do,’ Edward assured him. ‘Okay – give me nothing then, you grasping, treacherous, little shit! But remember this! I disown you! You are added to my bulging list of sworn enemies. And I promise you that soon there shall be a Day of Reckoning and everyone who has jerked me off will be eternally sorry that they upset me!’
 ‘Father – you’re scaring me!’ sobbed Oliver.
 ‘Good – good!’ chuckled Edward nastily. ‘Now I’m leaving – but one day I’ll be back! And on that fateful day you’ll rue the day you were ever born!’
 Edward left the room and ran down the stairs. Several boys were milling around and they looked up in alarm at the fleeing Edward. A shrill voice from above, screamed, ‘Murderer! Call the police! He tried to kill me!’
 Edward opened the front door and sprinted off. He tore through Eton, crossed Windsor Bridge, nearly knocking a 2.4 children family off their bicycles, and raced back through Windsor until he reached the railway station. He anxiously stood awaiting a train – any train out of this God forsaken place. He expected a swarm of armed police to converge upon the station at any moment. To his great relief, a train arrived before the police did. The train could take him back to London, but Edward didn’t want to go back to London. Edward was fervent to get off at the next stop, which just happened to be Slough. Not Edward’s first choice in most circumstances, but these were extraordinary circumstances.

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