Sunday, October 18, 2009

EMPIRE OF A NUTTY ORIGIN (short story)


Joel Kenimbus is a self-made millionaire who made his fortune from  the buai.  At the height of his power, his empire collapses after small holder farmers turn against him and his heart fails. 

From the 50th floor of the Kenimbus tower, Joel Kenimbus’s apple shaped silhouette  paced from one end of his large spacious office to the other.  His plump hands were clasped tightly behind his back   as he chewed and puffed impatiently on the fat Cuban cigar that protruded from his rather thick lips.  He passed his desk the hundredth time and glanced momentarily at the silver plaque mounted on a frame.  “TO KENIMUS HOLDINGS IN RECOGNITION FOR EXCEPTIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE BUSINESS SECTOR. DECEMBER 16, 2030. It became the first of many awards he had collected since he opened up for business 20 years ago.   It was now was now 2050 and he was still going strong.  The ground below seemed like a thousand miles away. The cars dawdled along the network of roads like hundreds of worker ants.  Squatter settlements  covered the hillsides  like a wide brown blanket spotted with tiny pieces of shiny sheet metal roofing. They were here to stay. As long as they were around, business was going to be good for they were the biggest wholesale  buyers and retailers. As long as they were around businesses was going to be good.


                Twenty years ago  he was a nobody. A failed businessman  chucked out t=of the system after being declared bankrupt.   He took to his village and began planting    trees.  His initial 40 trees was what gave rise to  what was now a multi million kina  buai based manufacturing   empire.  He was now trading as far as India and  China.    In the last 10 years he had moved towards an 80 percent monopolization of the buai industry  after buying off almost all the smallholder businesses. His wealth had grown and so had the size of his clothes.    There was just one small problem. The smallholder farmers he had failed to buy  out.   There were few these days but they still proved t be a hard nut to crack.  They were selling high grade  Buai for less  and had, in the last 10 years, established a niche market for buai based alcohol.  Kenimbus wanted that sector of the market as well.  They were a pain in the neck more so a pain in the butt because he could not sit down until he had them sorted out.  Then he thought to himself: Maybe he had to wait until their children inherited the land.  Perhaps then  he would  some chance of convincing them.  But by then he’s be dead too.  He paced passed his desk once more  and looked out the window. A series of  rapid beeps on his phone interrupted him and  a LCD screen on his desk flashed on. 
                “Mr. Kenimbus, Sir… there is a delegation  from the BVA…
                “The what?” Kenimbus yelled at the young woman on the screen.
                “Uuuuum… The BVA , Sir…  Buai Vendor’s  Association… you had them on for 11:30 today.”
                “aaaaaah…   not those black-toothed, red-lipped bums again” he muttered to himself.
“ …here to see about Buai commissions…”
                “Send them in then! He boomed.
                Although he his company was the biggest buai producer in the country,  he never chewed it himself.   He likened himself  to a  Colombian  drug lord who enslaved millions  with his  product yet didn’t used use it himself.  If there was money to be made, he was glad he was the one making it. 
                There was a sharp knock on the door and it opened hesitantly. A man of medium build  entered accompanied by  two other men and a woman whose cheeks bulged with  a mouthful of buai.  Upon seeing Kenimbuis’ relentless stare,  she quickly spat the red semi-liquid into a plastic bag and stuffed it into her bilum.  Disgusting. Kenimbus thought to himself.   
                “Yes? What can I do for you, Mr. Joe?” Kenimus  looked impatiently at the leader of the delegation . He knew he was the president of the BVA  but he never bothered to learn his second name.
                “We come to talk to you ‘bout buai   komisin yu give us. Is too small.”
                “What do you mean ‘Is too small’?  Kenimbus boomed again from  behind his desk. “I don’t understand you people you sign a contract and then you come back and say  you’re not happy! Can’t you ever be content?”
                “Five percent is too small… we want bigger  komisin.” Mr. Joe’s confidence was draining fast.
                “Yes. Yes You’ve told me that already. Tell me something new!”
                Mr. Joe shuffled his feet on the carpeted floor  then looked at Kenimbus. “We want half.  50 percent.”
                “Fif…Fif...Bloody fifty percent,” Kenimbus exclaimed. His double chin vibrating. “… and you expect me to give  you that?!”
                “That or we go on strike,” said Mr. Joe who seemed to have   regained a portion of his lost confidence. “BVA has the number.  We go on strike and we join with all smallholders.”
As sudden as their threat, the BVA executives stood up and walked to the door.
                “You’re  going to come back to me. All of you on your hands and knees, you know!” Kenimbus yelled after them.   Unemployment is a big problem  you can be sure there will be  hundreds of people willing to take up a five percent commission.”
                Without casting a backward glance, the BVA president cast his hand in an uncaring gesture before disappearing in the corridor.
                Kenimbus leaned heavily into his  chair. He was  going to lose money.  He knew it.  He waited until the party had gone into the elevator before pressing a button that switched on a small LCD monitor on his desk.
                “Miss Boring, could you come in here for a moment?”
                “Certainly Sir.” Peering from the screen, the Secretary  replied in  a cheeky schoolgirl like manner.   Seconds later a pretty young personal assistant   entered. Kenimbus scanned here from head to toe. The employment agency certainly had good taste.   She was the third personal assistant  employed in a space of two months.
                “Sir?” Ms. Boring inquired after noticing that his eyes had stopped just below her neckline. 
                “Um… Oh.. ahem… yes. What was I saying?”
                “You haven’t even started yet,” Ms. Boring yawned.
                “Oh yes.” Kenimus said remembering. “Get in touch with David from   Public Affairs.  Tell him I want online ads  and ads on newspapers and all the major  radio and TV networks.   We want 500 buai sellers. 
                “We can’t have any more of those rats! Oh… and make sure… tell him… make absolutely certain that they are not members of the BVA.”
                Kenimbus cast a long thoughtful glance at his desk.  “That is all. Ms…um…Ms…” Kenimbus  said moving his pointer in a circular motion trying to remember.
                “Boring…”    The young woman yawned again  idly fiddling with   a pen in her hand.
                “Yes…Ms. Boring. That is all. How silly of me. How  could I forget  such a sexy… I mean such a pretty face.”
                Kenimbus looked thoughtfully  again at his desk then raised his eyes only as  Ms. Boring walked out the door. “I really must  have her for lunch… I mean invite her for lunch.”
                He resumed pacing his office. Puffing and chewing mercilessly on an even fatter Cuban cigar. He had to come up with a backup plan just in case the  ads for the 500 buai sellers didn’t  yield the desired results.  He couldn’t just give away 50 percent of earnings.   Ten percent perhaps. Those blasted  smallholders.  A series of beeps  and the flash  of  the screen   interrupted his thoughts once more.
                “What is it, Ms. Mourning?  …um.. Ms. Boring.”  Kenimbus stared at  his personal assistant on the screen. He was feeling quite irritated.
                “We’ve got BVA representatives from all other 19 province calling in support of the president. All our lines are beeping and I don’t know what to do.” A frantic Ms. Boring wailed.  “I’m being stressed and stress isn’t good for me. It’ll give me wrinkles.”
                By now Ms. Boring was sobbing almost uncontrollably. Kenimus  screwed up his face disgusted.  Why did they ever hire  people like that.   He switched off the screen and reached for his  mobile phone.  “Public Affairs!” He yelled into the mouthpiece. “Get David to send somebody up here right away  to man the reception and  also get David to tell that somebody to bring a box of tissues for Ms. Wailing.”
                “…And get the PR people to start working on this right now before the press get wind of this shit!”
                He ended the call and flung  the remnant of his  cigar into a plastic wastepaper basket  where it settled  shouldering into  the crumpled pieces of paper.   Just as he made for the elevator door, a  woman in her  late 20s appeared carrying a tissue box.
                “Aaah. Just in time. I was  about to sack the whole  Public Affairs  section.   Ms. Boring still had her hands buried in her hands sobbing.  “Oh please give her the tissue box before we’ll need Noah’s Ark in here.”  Kenimbus appeared satisfied as he headed back to his office.   But just as he entered the door, the  new woman called  out to him:”Um… Sir… workers from all 20 plantations have walked off their jobs some are reported to be… cutting down  buai trees.”
“WHAAAT?!  Kenimbus  stomped back to the reception area.  As sudden as his outburst  he clutched his chest  as his knees buckled  beneath his  apple shaped upper body.
                “Mr. Kenimbus!” the woman screamed  and rushed towards him.
                “Get…David…Call.. a meeting…”     The pain was even worse that his last  attack. “Call the hospital get an ambul…”  The white of his eyes rolled upward and his apple bulk collapsed in a heap  on the floor.

Minutes later, he opened his eyes  to a doctor flashing a pen torch  on his eyeball.  From a few meters he could barely see the woman from the office talking to the  another doctor.  “I don’t think  we should tell him about the fire… He heard the doctor say to her.
                “What fire?!” He yelled from the  hospital bed. “What fire?” 
                The woman looked quite  undecided but eventually said: “ the Whole building, Sir… the  whole building… it started from your office.”
               
That evening,  Mr. Joe sat sipping a cup of tea at his Gerehu  home when something on the news caught his attention. 
                “…the multimillionaire died after midday today and in a cruel twist  the headquarters of   his Buai empire  was  totally destroyed  prior to the to the tycoon’s death. Police are investigating the cause of the fire. Mr. Kenimbus leaves behind seven children from three different marriages and a business empire worth in excess of 900 million kina.

Ends…
               

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