It starts happily enough: Tutor is putting his charge to bed, as her young mother, Tess, half listens from her easy chair, trading against the world on her iPad. Tutor is telling Audrey a tall tale about her toybox, a large wooden crate, as befits the world's richest child. In it she has her treasures. Raggedy Ann, puzzles, a sea shell, a robin's egg, her drawing pad, crayons and markers, and her favorite books, including Grimm's Fairy Tales, Gulliver's Travels, Winnie the Pooh, Pippi Longstockings, and an abridged version of Huck Finn. She has Halloween masks and costumes, including Annie Oakley, Thelma (from Thelma and Louise), Superwoman's cape, and her favorite, the sword and helmet of Joan of Arc. As she nestles her head, with the copper red hair, into his shoulder, Tutor is telling her that in her toybox she can go anywhere, be anyone, do anything. She likes that idea. He tells her about Pegasus, the big white horse with wings, and asks if Pegasus could pull the toybox through the air, like Santa's reindeer pull his sleigh? Tutor hears a "tsk, tsk," from Tess, and sees her smiling and shaking her head, pretending not to listen. Audrey says, "No, Silly, the crate is way too heavy." And if she and Tutor are sitting in it, as they should be, the crate would be out of balance. "What if we give the crate wings, though? Front and back?," Tutor asks. "Then we might not even need a flying horse, which is good because those are hard to find. Can you imagine wings front and back, big white wings?" She can, and tomorrow with her pad and magic markers she can draw it.
"Where will be go tonight, Audrey, and what will be do? Who will we save?," Tutor asks. Suddenly, Audrey's face collapses. Her mouth opens as if to emit a cry, but no sound comes. Her body is shaking. The eyes show an emotion that no adult has, many emotions, horror, terror, grief, abandonment, longing, love, shame, hope, and bewilderment. All mixed up. "What is it, kid? What is the matter? Use words." She says, "Real Dad, I want Real Dad." And now the tears are streaming down her cheeks. Tess stiffen in her chair, not breathing. Real Dad is the forbidden topic.
Some of you who have read along from the beginning, know why. For those joining us late, I must tell you the saddest part of our tale. I would suppress it if I could. It is not for children, and this is a kind of children's story, but more like Grimm. I don't know how much children should know about the sadness of this world. For Audrey I wish a time to grow up in a world of imagination, and love, so she can be strong enough to face down the terrors, when she inherits the world, must rule it, and must save it. But every family has dark secrets.
Real Dad can never be found. Why? Let us say, that Real Dad, the genetic material from which Audrey was formed, was crowd-sourced on the trading floor of Wealth Bondage, from 1-4 am the night Tess celebrated the largest trade ever placed, a 100 to 1 shot against the Euro, that almost broke the Banks of France, England and Spain. She was 20, little experience with men, never had had alcohol. A prodigy from birth with numbers that she hears as music, and music she hears in the mathematics of finance. She plays her flute, or now more often a keyboard on her iPad, and the markets answer. She hears a tune and knows how it resolves. She wins against the men, the women, and the algorithms. She is ungodly gifted, lovely, daft, and a kind of world-beating, unworldly, savant.
Her success was celebrated by top management on the evening of her massive trade, in a restaurant in "the city," there is only one "city," as you know. Three toasts with champagne, one for each course. She does not recall the third, nor the limousine, nor the after party on the trading floor. Call it a party. Call it Carnival. Call it rapine and plunder. Call it revenge of the lesser upon the greater. Call it 10%, or call it 50%, or call it 80% of human nature - yours, mine, Audrey's. If you wanted to know her father, you would need a paternity test on every male trader, each of their friends, and whomever was passing by at the corner of Wealth and Bondage on the evening of Tess's epic success. That is why Audrey and Tess live alone now, far away, in the Castle by the Sea. That is why Audrey does not know Real Dad and never will. That is why, perhaps, she is so reactive, so given to highs and lows. And - if you will allow me - that is also why the world will in fact be owned, ruled, saved by this now chaotic child. There is - so the saying goes - "no outside of Wealth Bondage," the forces of human nature in the free market system. But Audrey contains that in her genes, all of it, light and dark. Yet there is also art, and even faith, on the mother's side. What is inside what? Draw a circle. Where do you put lust, hate, greed, fear? Inside or outside the market? Inside or outside God's plan? Either way, if this kid masters herself she may yet inherit, own, rule, master, and save all of God's creation. For this is, or will be, the moral of this tale. Happy endings are endings. It is when the wheel turns again, that things get interesting. First Carnival, then Lent. And around again until the end. That is the time of the moon, tides and seasons. As for the end, it would last a long time. Some say forever. I would like to think, though, that under the closing credits, when all this becomes a movie, The End, will have a subscript: "To be continued."
I see, by way of an ending, Tutor exiled by Audrey, who is then happily married, has had a baby, and is pointing with her sword towards a setting sun, in a rising sea, as Tutor scuttles down the embankment towards a skiff tossing on the wine dark waves. It is Queen Audrey, then. Tess, on her deathbed, dying young, burned up with sleepless trading against the markets that never sleep, will have told Audrey the secret of her conception and nativity. Audrey's inheritance will be the world. As the Lord of Misrule, his job done, his charge grown and capable, Tutor must go. Audrey's hand, in that final scene, cradles her baby's bottom, in the papoose sack on Audrey's tummy. Over the closing credits to our tale, The End (to be continued), the final sound is that baby's cry. That kid will have a real Dad, a charming prince of the realm, an inheritor in his own right, so the numbers under management reach 100% plus or minus 10% of the world's wealth. But every kid needs a Silly Grownup, and maybe there is hope for the Happy Tutor, too. He will only live as long as one kid knows his name, and loves him back.
But now is the moment in our story when Tess stiffens in her chair, her heart beating fast as if in panic (that word comes, by the way, from the Great God Pan, the god of rapine, plunder, and the panic of the stricken driven by the sword, the energy of mobs, like on the internet today). Tess has no way out and no way forward. The kid is imploding. Tutor is alone at the axle of the world where it pivots on one tiny jewel. To Audrey he says, "Listen, listen to me, kid. We don't know where real Dad is. But he is out there somewhere, right? When you save the world, as you will, you will save Real Dad, too." Audrey comes back to our world from the underworld. "But what if he is dead?" "Then he is in heaven, kid, with the angels. When you save the world, all of Gods creation, the angels are going to wave their wings, forward and back, as if clapping, and Real Dad will see them, and see you, and he will be so proud." "Real Dad will be so proud of me....." And with that Audrey falls into slumber, with a half smile, lips open, her breathing evening out, and the world is saved, once again, for this one night. Yet there is more. When Tutor says the angels will wave their wings as if applauding, there is music as if from heaven in that room, Tess is humming, not singing, a requiem of her own devising. The music of the spheres. Requiem, love song, lullaby. Tutor has never heard anything so beautiful, and the kid nods off on cue, to her mother's angelic voice. Love and hope. Faith, too. Fragility. A vulnerable creature nurtured and tended as all things go sliding under the moon.
The music concludes, resolves, as Audrey nods off. In the silence, broken only by the sound of waves against the Castle walls, Audrey's breathing becomes deep and regular. Tutor gently extracts himself from his charge's embrace. He carefully jackknifes his lanky frame from the bed. Tess is on her iPad. She does not look up. As he passes her chair, her left arm comes up, elbow on the chair's arm. Her hand is raised. Tutor clasps it as he walks past, as runners in a relay might touch in passing a baton. "Well done," she says to her employee, her Dad for Hire. The Lord of Misrule, the errant Priest and Morals Tutor the the World's Wealthiest. "Thank you, Milady," he says as his fingers leave hers. She looks up. "Really, thank you." "You are welcome," he says, headed out of the room. "Do you want the door open or closed?" "Open," she says.
Tutor is headed back down the stairs to his cell, not far from the fragrant kitchens, one floor below, several above the dungeons where, historically, he has done his best work. The cell is monastic, all stone, and cold as the sea water that leaves a sheen on the walls, as it seeps in. His bed is an iron rack, no wider than his shoulders, held up by two chains, front and back. The mattress is cotton ticking thinly stuffed with straw, a penitent's or monk's bed, one he has known for generations upon generations, as Tutor in Residence to Royalty or at least Dukes and Earls, his cousins, actually, as he himself is the third son of a noble from an adjacent castle ages ago. To compose himself for sleep, Tutor imagines the mattress as his coffin. "Remember man that you art dust and into dust thou shalt return." He says his Vespers, ending with an Act of Contrition and a Hail Mary, as he drifts off into uneasy, tormented sleep. He sees buxom Molly in his dreams, Molly the new upstairs maid. As Omniscient Narrator I can see those dreams; it does not hurt, either, that I have spent many years with Tutor, drunk or sober, manic or depressed, riotous or moralizing, in our Dumpster at the intersection of Wall and Bondage. I pretty much know how his mind works. And it does not hurt being a man, either, and Molly is not the first, nor will she be the last. In his dreams Molly is asking Tutor, as Priest of the Castle, for absolution for the sins of the flesh that she is confessing, the sins in his dream that Tutor is committing with her, as both receive absolution and penance, turn and turnabout in scenes you must imagine for yourself, if you can. (If not I will supply them for a reasonable charge.) And if not, you are a better man than I or Tutor, or a better person than poor Molly, who has her temptations, too. Either way, it is only a dream, and upon waking Tutor will again say his prayers, before taking breakfast in the servant's quarters with, among others, lovely Molly. Like the rest of us, she is just trying to make a living, and can't help being so beautiful, at least for the time being, for all things must pass.