Reginald McNamara sat at his desk and pondered. Not so much the certainty of his position or the fictional balance he had created in his life, but the mysteries that lay just beyond his periphery. Even as a child growing up in the squalor of Koreatown, a single bedroom apartment that housed his mother and whatever ‘uncle’ happened to be hanging around, he had seen himself as the exception to the rule. The sights and smells that he perceived as a youth were not of the viburnum filtering in the streets, but of orange blossoms scenting the air from a faraway grove. Somewhere on the edge of his existence always the grove; a grove he had never seen. Yet, on occasion, in dreams, he could see himself in flowing robes of charmeuse; overseer of the endless lines of majestic trees towering along row after row, wearing the hue of the morning. It had been this vision that he used in meditation; this land of his mastery, his destiny laid out before him, away from the bustle of the smog of LA and the incessant churning of the Gutenburgean presses, located below him where his private elevator rested, waiting. A land of silence and serenity, a land he would exchange for this existence in a heartbeat. And now hours after seeing that same vision brought to him by that filthy vagabond, he now knew the reality of those many daydreams.
His life up to this point had always been a thing of clarity. His foreseeable rise began with trust; the only Caucasian the Koreans would trust to run numbers in Encino; his path took him to Alaska, where slaving on the pipeline would bring in money five times the normal salary at the time. It was there that he picked up the McNamara, after his boss, his role model, the man who had taught him all about the economics of business, ends justifies the means buy low sell high and use everyone in your path. Even today he convinced himself that he was not responsible for the situation that led to the man’s death on the ice floe; it was a choice between him and me, and I learned my lessons well.
He took his gains and used them to finagle a construction contract with the Olympic committee to transform the very tenements that he had grown up into the grandeur of arenas and coliseums for the greatest show on earth. In moments of solitude he relived with a an undeniable vengeance that beautiful puff of smoke that emerged just before the apartments he grew up in folded into itself and crumbled into a heap of concrete and glass. The Olympics had gotten him in the door in Los Angeles, but he still was a bit player in the market that swirled around Southern California. As a child, he had loved Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and John Huston, the soliloquy about water and the coming of LA, the future, Mr. Gibbs and McNamara’s future was in energy brokerage. Aligning with Enron, Reginald was able to realize his dream of John Huston’s speech and make another fortune in the get go. He had always believed fervently in his ‘visions’, as they had led him in his endeavors, and so many other things he had gained in this life. And once again, he took a hit but was able to jump ship before the audit fraud bubble burst all around the Bush administration.
Several years later, McNamara was invited to participate in a clandestine meeting in Phoenix that helped launch the conservative party agenda. Taken aside by Charles, a plot was hatched to divert monies from a super PAC and purchase a left wing tabloid that had made it its mission to attack the Koch brothers and friends. In fact, as the machination was being worked out, David clandestine purchasing of the tabloid as picking a scab off the libertarian ass the name stuck, in fact became a boon—SCAB! Magazine. The magazine was designed to subtlety project the left wing conspiracy theories but transform them into the right wing neoconservative position it now adopted. He had embellished the over-the-top parties, the thirty thousand dollar ice sculptures that marked the Roman fiasco that Enron had become, defended Ken Lay as the poor trusting soul caught in the unfair crosshairs of media gone mad; embellished Haliburton’s no bid contracts, the deepwater horizon explosion and bribing of foreign dignitaries, while defending the murder of thousands of Iraqi citizens as necessary for national security. Similar entreaties revolved around Poe & Kellogg, Betchel, and Sinclair Broadcasting, while showing the beautiful people of Hollywood, the George Cooney’s and Susan Sarandon’s of the world in the most unflattering scab-like photos. SCAB! had helped turned the seamy underbelly of a free society into the ultra-conservative dogma of new century thinking.
He was the kind of executive that took his orders in stride; believed power was a secretary on her knees under his desk and lawsuits equated to success and prestige. He was genuinely considerate of his many relations, who always showed up at family functions, appreciative and flirting, cajoling for the means of the ends. He had a few real friends, who would talk to him straight, “You’re too nice of a guy for this business. Your problem, Reggie, is that you need to persuade people the opposite of what you’re really trying to get at. They can tell that you don’t give a shit one way or another.” His shrink told him the same thing. What the fuck do I care? When he looked in the mirror he saw somebody in OK shape for his age, he shot 18 holes twice a week, sexercise when he had the time. His wife, Marie, she was needed when he needed her, now a cold fish in the bedroom, but who needs her, she had outlived her usefulness.
But in reality, Reginald sat in contrast to every decision he had ever made. His misadventure in Alaska caused screaming sweats in the cold of the night; Enron cost him his convictions of youth, plus a fortune to get out of; in the office he was king, but still beholden to the powers that be. Just as he followed suit and refused governmental help for his company’s health plan, walmarting employees to one hour under the federal law to alleviate the board of providing benefits; decimating the health care of full time employees, he discovered he needed the coverage in a dire way. Bone marrow cancer, all very hush hush, he hadn’t even told his wife. There always seemed to be an evil for every good, a yin for every yang; even his little flings required a coin tossed to Charon for every pleasure.
McNamara sat quietly at his desk, fingertips folded in a pyramid before his chin. He had been contemplating his most recent vision and the message that dream had brought him. Not for the first time, had premonitions led to a sudden windfall. He recalled an evening several months before, his nephew Franklin who was expected to one day take over Reginald McNamara Enterprises, had come to him begging to hire a washed up journalist. At first, he had said no, mostly to piss off the little bastard, but the next morning the dreams had told him to hire the man. And now, assimilating the data of the past few hours, he had once again woken up to a refreshing angle on a story or other. He shook the feeling of a spatial watchfulness that had overcome him not the first time and began to gnaw on the story, Dallas Richards, and the young man that he vaguely remembered from the Diamond nonsense, but who he was sure would be perfect for the job.
He had been sitting at Nerano’s finishing his Nodino di Vitello when the putrid beggar had pushed his way past the maitre d’. The sudden impulse to stay the waiter’s hand and allow this intrusion was almost a solid thing venerating before him. Rising, he acknowledged the filthy wretch before him, and not even the stench the man brought with him could waylay the fierceness of those eyes; eyes he had felt upon him before, long ago in that field of orange. McNamara moved quickly to offer his seat.
“So, you remember me,” the bum grinned spitefully, “even in this guise.” A spot of phlegm hung unceremoniously from his lip. “Let us see how you have done for yourself in this wayward world,” tobacco stained fingers reached out from the coat, fondling his Armani suit. “Good,” the smell of rotted citrus wafted from the bum’s coat, “your clothes are well made.” Somewhere in McNamara’s consciousness in the beginning there was a twinge a recognition emerged.
“How can I be of service,” it was not what he had meant to say, but sprang from his lips as if by rote.
“At least we still have our etiquette,” the heavy lids mesmerized him into an obsequious mien. “Your finest port, for this body, ragged as it is, cries for the swill of the grape. First a drink then we will discuss,” his eyes locked on McNamara’s, “your instructions.”
The next few moments went by like hours. Couples moving in each other’s arms towards a table, stiffened at the stench and appearance of McNamara’s guest. The maître de materialized to inquire fawningly about the length of their stay, not a moment longer than needed the ragged man assured him and such was the power of the melodious voice that drifted across the table that several couples alongside gestured their approval of the man staying. Reginald ordered a Vignalta Moscato Passito and a Vesper Martini refill for himself, as he watched the backs of the maître de and manager in animated conversation. A torturous quarter hour commenced, until with a final gulp the bum waved that their departure was imminent. They left quickly, the manager delighted to guide his guests by way of the kitchen to the back alley.
“You have always served the family well,” the bum’s voice fatherly and quiet, “your loyalty boundless. I have few instructions, a few simple problems which you can help me with, and that will be all.”
And that was all. The next thing Reginald remembered clearly was getting out of a taxi, the driver commenting about the bum’s stench, recalling that his car must still be at the restaurant. He vaguely recalled in the garage, as the bum, his eyes like two embers clutched his jawbones, the pressure building in his temples, scenes flashing across his consciousness—a drunken yelling match with his better half, telling his nephew about being an owned commodity, another about the reporter, his mind probed for the name, his secretary in that flowery half-slip, playing golf with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, his mind prodded for information. Then a suggestion, do a story about this rock icon form the 90’s, Dallas Richards, what happened to him, what has he done, where is he today.
Then the dreams began —once again those eyes like lasers brought him into a world, himself an ancient provost, the mouthpiece of the king, gazing across the horizon; his horizon. The sketch of the grove of orange as it aligned with the mountains, the air clear and azure, gazing out across the land that he oversaw; but then, the world had forsaken him, the trial before Senat, the judgement of the Drachira, the pain of his exile; and then, the fealty of acceptance to the Cesarz, the hope of reinstatement, and yet from where he could never remember. But most of all, he remembered the name of the man who stood on the precipice of both their destinies; the man who should begin the adventure, the man who may one day sit in that very grove inhaling the blossom’s aroma—Roger Miller.
Now Reginald sat in his leather chair trying to piece together the memories of the last few days. He had always been a very instinctual person, but his instincts had always turned out to be right. The campaign to locate Dallas Richards was only three days old and already there were hundreds of replies; he flipped his hand through the box of printed emails that had arrived. However, the curious part had been the almost unconscious suggestion that that washed up journalist do the story. He had only met Miller twice, the day he hired him the guy shook his hand like a cold fish and at the libel suit brought on by the Diamonds for that story about the sister with his head down apologetic. Miller would not have been his first choice; but, McNamara had always made his living playing these hunches and was sure the sales would reach record pace. Once again the scent of the grove infiltrated his nostrils.
Since his tete a tete, McNamara suffered from sporadic blinding migraines had not truly slept in the last three nights. At the moment his top priority was to inhale this handful of aspirins, get Miller in here and discharge him his duty. He thought he should go back to the restaurant, to find out if that night had truly happened or if it was a dream; but, he waved it off, the next morning, his Jaguar right in the garage where he must have parked it. And if the scenario of his dreams wasn’t as similar as might be thought he did oversee a kingdom and that was exactly where he stood today as the owner of the world’s largest tabloid, a building that cut towards the sky in all its phallic glory; his life still in the shitter, right where he had left it.