Tutor has noticed what other's have not. What puzzles Master Jack, makes perfect sense to Tutor. In all the market turbulence, Big Momma, with collars and straddles, and options, increased her share of the world's wealth from 51% to 72%, bankrupting several undeserving billionaires. Yet, her pace was slow, her face drawn, even the music from her flute, as she paused to watch the waves, was sad. Reason? Her beloved, Audrey, she who will one day rule us all, was depressed. "The Polar Bears are dying." She had seen a picture. Big Momma will own and rule the world. But only Audrey can save it. Tutor, a 2,000 year old child himself, will accompany her as she does. Civilizations rise and descend to barbarism. Species die out. Humans mutate into whatever comes next. But always there will be a Queen, and when she no longer needs a Tutor, he can always play her Fool. Of course, he can also double as hangman. "Innocence must be protected," say he, turning the wheel of his rack, on which a miscreant is torn asunder. If only Tutor did not enjoy it so much. But in truth we all have issues. And you can't blame a moralist for loving his job.
When Audrey and her Tutor have serious work to do, in owning and saving the world, they retreat to her enormous wooden toybox, and sit facing each other soles pressed to soles, peddling as they ruminate. Audrey’s coverlet is pulled over the top of the crate, making a canopy. Master Jack and his protege, Master Bliffil, are on other business bound. They may be talking to Momma about Family Systems. Trust Protectors. Mentors. Black Sheep. Heirs, in general, and Audrey in particular, as Asset or Liability on the Family Balance Sheet. Who knows what all. Our business is different. “Did you know polar bears are falling through the ice, Tutor?,” Audrey asks. “How can we save them?”
Audrey is flipping to D in the index of her Family History, provided, with gilt pages, by Master Jack, as a Value Add from the Private Bank of Wealth Bondage. “Where is Dad?” Awkward silences. She throws the book at Master Jack, Momma’s Most Trusted Advisor, and takes to her bed, eyes open and unseeing. Body rigid. Will not eat. Will not talk. Rex licks her face, but gets no reaction. Who can blame her? What use is a Family History if it leaves out the parts we really need to know? Doctors come and go, recommending strong drugs, or forced feeding, intravenous life support. Ultimately it is Tutor who called in to help. His is a mixed reputation. Preferred Clients are uneasy with his delight in taking Penitential Scenes too far, but he is good with children. They consider him a defective child to be patronized. Which is how he sees himself.
So, lanky Tutor in Hawaiian shirt and faded black priest pants, kneels by Audrey’s bedside, letting his breathing synch to hers. “Are you westing in you Westinghouse, you little wascal?” No smile from her, but as a cartoon scholar she is processing the allusion. “Sad wabbit! Your big ears are all flopped down!” Tutor points in heartfelt consternation. “They are all folded over!”
Her hands clap to her ears. “No they are not!”
Tutor hops heavily off, hands making big upstanding bunny ears. Audrey leaps from the bed. “That is not how bunnies hop!” And it is true, she bounces and bounds much more like a real bunny. He has to admit defeat, as she crows in victory.
The little moments that matter most don’t get into the history books, but history turns on them. The world will be saved by a wascally wabbit, or not at all. The next time you work for a billionaire family, even in the most humble capacity, mowing a lawn, driving or repairing a car, teaching high school or prep school English, providing investment advice or a full body massage, watering plants, providing wisdom, facilitating the sorting of values-cards, creating a family mission statement, writing a family constitution, conducting an offsite family meeting, or just following orders conveyed down the line through your immediate superior, remember that you may be the difference between saving that Dynasty, and having it fall into tawdriness, opportunism, and chaos like the rest of the world.
Tutor read it to Audrey. For fun he had hidden a pea under her mattress. The next morning he asked her at breakfast how she had slept. She smirked her royal smirk, and handed him his pea. “I slept perfect,” she said, “because I took your stupid pea out first.”
This seems to be a parable about a fairytale, the interpretation of which would require a highly trained professional. So I asked my colleague, Dr. Amrit Chadwallah, Senior Adjunct in Charge of Hidden Meanings in Wealth Bondage, what it meant. He said it was emblematic of the historic change from Dynasty founded on blood alone to Dynasty founded on merit plus blood. "Audrey," he explained, "is the daughter of the woman who through her own merit, as a Trader, owns a controlling interest in the world, and Audrey through blood will inherit the world, and through merit, save it." He went on to say that in his considered view the parable is an update to Virgil's Eclogue 4. There he began to lose me. I had thought the fourth Eclogue was a coded prophecy of the second coming of Christ, disguised as apologetics for an Emperor and his possible son.
I have to say, though, that like any work of great work of art, my story about Audrey probably has many meanings, the most important being esoteric, hidden like the dried pea to see who among my readers is A Real Princess.
This much is as clear as a New Yorker cartoon. The scene is Manhattan, 8:30 am, Madison and 32cnd. The Mysterious Aunt to the left, Tutor to the right, Audrey age 6, in a skirt, which she only agreed to wear because she is allowed to wear her blue jeans underneath, and in one of those chest harnesses with a leash that kids have in NYC. Traffic is piling up, horns are blaring, taxi cab drivers are gesticulating. Why? Because Audrey, like a husky in her harness, has powered her way, against the light, into the intersection. Her left hand is raised in a commanding gesture, to signal stop. Aunt and Tutor are pulled along behind her. The caption reads, “I’m Audrey!” Which should be sufficient explanation for any NYC cabbie.
As for the Aunt herself, I am pretty sure she works near this intersection. Maybe a compliance attorney for New York Life, Met, Axa (in the old Equitable Building) or in a nearby law firm. I have a sense that she is involved in Advanced Markets, Estate Planning, Private Family Services, Family Governance, or the like. She is educated but not a philosopher. She may not have read Laplace, Leibnitz, or any other theodicy. She has not read Virgil's paean to Augustus. She has not read Pope’s "Essay on Man," but she has heard of Candide, having read it in high school. Still, she has a confused sense that virtue, wisdom, wealth, power, and spirituality, and maybe good taste and good sense, go together somehow. She feels that the richest, being the most wise and virtuous, the strongest and most noble, form a natural hierarchy, with the richest and most virtuous subordinating, dominating, buying out and ultimately bankrupting the lesser nobility, until all wealth and all wisdom and all virtue culminate in one person. That person's heir, if properly mentored, will rule us all; and all will be well with the world, and all things in it, as long as the dynastic chain remains unbroken. “I’m Audrey!”
Hurricanes. Dogs floating through the streets in crates. Nuclear missiles. Cannibal Islands. A Castle called home with armed guards with automatic rifles. It is a world much in need of saving, but at 9.5 years of age, what is Audrey to do, even with Rex as fierce protector, and a Tutor as Porter, schlepping her equipment? Momma says Audrey is hyper. But the bubble bath is gone, since Audrey used in for Rex. Maybe a warm bath, anyway, and a story about….?
Momma used to come in to chaperone, and supervise, and try to figure out how Tutor does it, keeping Audrey in balance, when no one else could. Now, when Tess comes in at bedtime it is more to calm her own jangled nerves. It is hell to trade grain futures under threat of war and flood. Maybe Tutor could spin a yarn about The Castle itself, and the winding passage, down, down, down. Fathoms below sea level, down through the layers of quarried rock from which the Castle was built centuries ago. Torches alight. Rex coming too, not afraid. Momma coming, but following Audrey, Tutor, and Fearless Rex.
When the passage narrows like a vortex, the walls cold as the north sea, and reaches the final floor: What treasure? Yes, a box, cedar wood, leather straps, but what will it contain when opened? Tutor in his checkered career was once a card sharp, a clairvoyant, a Gypsy palm reader, a conduit for spirits in table tapping frauds. A seller of Papal Indulgences. He knows how to read the mark’s “tells.” He is reading Audrey, pausing. Reading Momma, pausing, what is in the treasure box? Jewels? A crown? A crystal ball? A book? At “book” Momma unconsciously nods. So does Audrey. “A Book,” cries Tutor, “it is a book!" As for what is in the book and what is in the title, that part is easy. "The first letter under all that dust is what? Is it an A?" Audrey nods vigorously. "No, it is a T. It is The Book of …. ? What is that first next letter? A! Yes it is, ‘The Book of Audrey.’ But what is in that Book? My word! Empty pages! Is that right? Page upon page to record the Future Adventures of Audrey. Could they be written already in invisible ink? Maybe with lemon juice?” That is all it took, Momma is asleep in the arm chair, her iPad fallen to the floor. And Audrey is in dreamland, her face an angelic smile. Tutor disentangles himself from Audrey’s embrace, kissing her forehead goodnight. The same for Momma? Or a priestly blessing? “Sleep tight!”
So our world is saved for one more day.
Tutor, as Mentor to Audrey, our once and future queen, was hired by her mother, Tess, who owns a controlling interest in the world, as a last resort, when all the other options in Wealth Bondage had been exhausted, including temple bells, a family therapist, a Wise Man, a defrocked priest, and a whole troupe of Most Trusted Advisors dressed as clowns. When Tutor had arrived it was down to medical doctors, an iv, and talk of shock therapy, for 8 year old Audrey who would not get out of bed.
The most insubordinate and louche of resources, The Happy Tutor himself, was Tess’s last option. (She had found Tutor in an autographed copy of Erasmus’s Praise of Folly in the Castle library, next to a diary of Rabelais in which Tutor had figured as a drinking companion in their Oxford days. Tutor had once lived in the adjacent Castle, it seems, and had served as Tutor to any number of princes, princesses, saints and moral monsters. Tess had Googled him and found he was still semi-active, at the corner of Wealth and Bondage, in some kind of Dumpster of Broken Dreams, filled with old books, tossed there by the prep school students on the way home at vacation.)
Tess’s attitude to Audrey might be best expressed in her own words, “I would wrap you in cotton batting, if I could.” She had said that earlier when Audrey, testing her cartoon theory of walking on air, if you don’t look down, had walked off an embankment that she called a cliff, and fallen, nearly breaking her neck. As Audrey was helicioptered out to the main land hospital, Audrey had said to Tess, “I am sorry, Momma, I looked down!” To which Tess said, “I would wrap you up in cotton batting if I could.”
Today, Tutor is standing at attention to be dressed down by Tess. Tess heard that he had been seen dropping Audrey on her head. (Which he had been, holding her by her ankles and dropping her on her head from a foot above the floor. Her thick, bushy, hair had buffered her fall, and she loved the game, wanting to do it over and over. Then she had turned the table, telling him that she would hold him by his ankles over the parapet, "to build trust," which she had, before he wiggled back to safety.) "Why did you put Audrey at risk? How dare you?" Tess demanded to know. Tutor said, “To build trust, M’am.” That did not fly, so the question was repeated as, “I hired you to help her not hurt her!” To which Tutor thought fit to reply, “Not all help is helpful, M’am.” That did not fly either, so the question was repeated as, “I hired you to protect my daughter and keep her safe.” To which Tutor thought fit to respond, “There may have been a misunderstanding, M’am.” At this point Audrey came into Momma’s bedroom, and went up to her Tutor, standing at attention, too, to take her share of the blame. Tutor continued, “M’am, this young sprite, is a menace to herself and others. I had assumed my role was to protect the world from her, our once and future Queen.” Audrey reached her little hand up, to hold his. Defiant, together, two against the world, with an eye to saving it. Unbowed even before the wrath of Big Big Momma, she who owns a controlling interest in the world.
We are all playing hurt, protecting ourselves from damage done long ago. Audrey. as you may remember, was conceived in a gang rape on the passed out body of a 19 year math prodigy, on the Trading Floor of Wealth Bondage, at a party in young Tess's honor, to celebrate a trade in which she broke the Bank of Brazil, reducing the country to mob violence, and making $ten billion for WB. All her life Audrey will seek Real Dad. But how can he be found? DNA tests on every trader in NYC? Their random guests? Her Father is Creative Destruction, the Dionysian/Apollian, life/death force that drives the economy, politics, war, art, the moral universe, nature, our biology, and the global economy itself. Tess had never had more than one glass of wine, and three Champaign toasts in her honor at a dinner had been her undoing. Pregnant and ashamed, Tess, already in the Forbes list of wealthiest people, had fled to this remote Castle by the Sea, to hide her face, and her swelling belly. She had vowed that no one would ever hurt her daughter as she had been hurt. A remote Castle quarried from volcanic rock, whose moat is the roiling sea. Seal Team Seven, indeed a small army of mercenaries. 24/7 surveillance cameras in every nook and cranny of the Castle. Background checks on every employee, every visitor. Audrey is about as safe as nearly infinite money can make any child.
But Momma, wary and vigilant as she is, is a good momma, and seeing Audrey standing so tall, to take her punishment, whatever it might be, by her Tutor, prepared to take his, even if it is banishment, how could her heart not melt? “Well, Tutor, you do have a point. How will the world fare, once Audrey inherits it? How can it possible survive?” Hugging her kid, she continues, “He is right, you just might turn the whole world upside down, and for the better, too, but please, Tutor, can you build trust next time in some other way?”
Momma for her birthday got a sachet of bubble bath beads as a joke gift from a friend. She gave them to Audrey, saying, “Maybe this will make you a little less hyper.” Didn’t work out that way. An hour ago, if, hearing a ruckus, you had entered Audrey’s bathroom, you would have seen her on the stone floor, in bib overalls, by an overflowing tub, bubbles and water everywhere, the floor slippery, while a crazed Rescue Dog, Rex, ran skidding in circles shaking and yelping.
What a difference an hour makes in the life of a child, and her faithful mutt. Rex is dry now, curled up asleep at the foot of Audrey’s bed. Audrey, having had her story (about a girl named Audrey who lives in a Castle), is tucked in, her arm around her Tutor’s neck, in that moment of free fall between sleep and waking. You could hear him say, “You are very lovable, kid.” And if you listened you could hear her murmur, “mmph,” or some such. Tutor times his shot like a star basketball player, sinking one at the buzzer. He knows if he says how lovable she is while she is not yet in freefall, she will arch away, twisting onto her side, “You don’t have to always tell me that. I already know I am lovable. You don’t have to tell me over and over. Stop!” But if he times it just right, she slips into sleep, with an angelic smile dawning on her face. And he can kiss her forehead, and gently disentangle himself, leaving her to sweet dreams.
Now, he is roaming the silent library, passing before the portraits of the kings and queens, and the lesser nobility, he once mentored, so many! Some became tyrants, one went mad, a few did not much of anything, others became exemplary rulers. And what was the difference? In Tutor’s view, how well he sank the shot. What a kid needs is love. And, for an heir to a throne, it makes all the difference in the fate of the kingdom. Without love as a kid is a hole that a coliseum of fans, a country, the whole world, will not fill.
Tutor has told his young charge, Audrey, a bedtime story, a made up story about her favorite heroine, whose name happens to also be Audrey, a girl her age, with red hair like hers, who lives as she does in a Castle, and whose Momma owns most of the earth. The Audrey in the story also has a Rescue Dog, named Rex, as the does the real Audrey, and both have freckles and unruly red hair. The Audrey in the story set out to Save the World, since she already owned it, and rules it. It is not clear how she completes her Quest, because the real Audrey fell asleep, and the story ended with, "And Audrey and Rex and Audrey's Mom, and Tutor, and Cook, all lived happily ever after." The real Audrey drifted into sleep with an angelic half smile, a girl without a Real Dad, who feels, and is, much loved.
Love lives "in minute particulars" as William Blake said of poetry; the love of one kid, one dog, one Momma, and even one Cook and one Tutor. From the habits of the heart so formed, a child may thrive all her life, drawing on that secret store. And if she is a rich kid, maybe she can love those who have less, or nothing at all, as she loves those closest to her, and in loving them, save them. Is that part of the story? Tutor thinks so, but he is almost alone in the world of Dynastic Family Wealth Governance, which suggests that for the rich to save themselves is a big enough job in itself. At least it is Job One, lest dynasties last less than 100 years, like a great deep rooted sliver beech, and the heirs of the heirs' heirs have to get a job. For Tutor, a priest of sorts, true teaching is a gift, in the circuit of the gift, from grace, to gift, to gratitude, and back again, up and down and around. From those who charge more you get less. "And," Tutor mutters, eyes flashing, "from those who charge most you get least. What these Wisdom Consultants to Dynastic Wealth are selling is not a pig come to market, but the holy spirit who brooks no sale. And they know it, being wise, and they do it, being who and what they are."
You can see why, back in the day, Tutor, as Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage, was considered by some a Satirist, one of the cruder sort whose patients often died in agony, strapped to the wooden table, or whipped, beyond pleasure, or broken upon the rack for the edification of the masses, or hung, drawn and quartered, or just beheaded with the head then impaled on a spike. Only now in his dotage does he limit his Noble Trade to sermons and bed time stories.
"Love is the only answer, and for love alone I ply my trade. May God forgive me for all the Kings I have flattered, the Courtesans I have pimped, the Wealth and Wisdom Advisors whose humbuggery I have let pass unchallenged, and the pleasure I have taken in inflicting pain on those who deserve it. Even now, what I would give to preside at just one more beheading, or maybe even an entire Dynastic Family! So many miscreants; in America alone the candidate list is endless and growing because these families already last so long, like an invasive species, crowding out the republic and civil society. So hard to pick just one subverter of the Republic. The Judgment and Sentencing. The long wait languishing in prison. Then, the long solemn procession, the walk up the steps to the stage, the condemned one pleading, me giving the final blessing, along with some unlooked for moral approbation, then nodding to the headsman, the hush that falls over the crowd, awaiting the satisfying thump of the head into the wicker basket...." So, Tutor, the Penitent prays, after hours, in his dank cell, his soul wrestling with his Maker.
If you would like to support Tutor and his Important Work, please send me the money. I will be sure he gets it, net of a flat per gift handling charge and a reasonable percentage-based agency fee, subject to certain per gift minimums.
To Whom it May Concern
Gifthub is an immortal work of art in theMenippean Tradition,written in a Padded Cell (he calls it a Dumpster for obvious reasons) in a state of shock by Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, under an alias, or alter ego, The Happy Tutor, Dungeon Master to the Stars in Wealth Bondage...... More....
Email Phil Cubeta, Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families.