Yesterday's Spoons

Les Sklaroff

Quanderpyre is reborn with a silver spoon in his future.

Morton Quanderpyre's emotional range was relatively narrow, but within this confined spectrum he was well practiced. He had absolutely no trouble with disdain, indignation or indifference; they were the familiar background to his daily life. Smugness also came easily to him. Had he not built an empire by outsmarting others? It had simply been a process of making the right decisions. He had needed to learn how to use people, to probe for weaknesses and take advantage of them. There had been some necessary bypassing of rules, even from time to time a little selective bribery. On occasion he had been obliged to hire (always at one remove) unsavoury types who would undertake persuasion for money, no questions asked.

At first he had been mildly surprised at the amount of resentment and petty envy his determined rise seemed to provoke. After all, he told himself, it was only natural that someone with total confidence in his own abilities deserved to prosper. Those who complained he either ignored or found ways to suppress. He grew used to not being liked, although somewhere at the back of his mind it remained a minor irritation, like the buzzing of a bluebottle always just out of reach. It was not important. What was important was the ability to exercise power.

At the core of Quanderpyre's being was an emptiness continuously yearning to be filled. It had the same primal force, and possibly the same origin, as an infant's need to be fed, though his memories of his own mother were vague. When he tried to remember her his mind clouded with a sense of resignation and an uncertain image of a frail, ineffectual person with watery eyes. The image of his father was clearer - a stocky, red-faced, rough-skinned man with a short temper, smelling of pungent hair oil and stale beer, and who had addressed him only as "boy", never by his name. He did not associate his upbringing with any displays of affection, except perhaps from the widowed aunt (his mother's elder sister) with whom he had opted to live after his parents' separation, rather than remain with his mother in the ex-parental home. His father moved to Platport, where he had been having an affair with a salesgirl, Cloreen Bletz.

Aunt Rhea had survived forty years of childless marriage to Agar, a capable solicitor with a rather dour disposition. Their domestic life had been largely uneventful, tempered by the ownership of a succession of small dogs, which served as a counter-irritant to any minor disagreements. Agar's legal work had occupied most of his waking hours, and he had been content to let Rhea pursue her own harmless interest in certain kinds of antiques and curios.

Unfortunately, Aunt Rhea did not survive long after her nephew had come to stay with her. She had fussed and fluttered about him for a few months like a mildly demented hen, making sure he continued to attend school (where he had long ceased to learn anything useful), indulging his teenage appetite with quantities of home-cooked stews, pies and puddings, jellies and meringues. In comparison with the bleakly functional home he had been used to, Aunt Rhea's house was cluttered with odd pieces of furniture, entire drawers and shelves and cabinets full of useless ornaments. If it were up to him, he'd get rid of the lot, he thought to himself, when his aunt had asked him if he wouldn't mind giving her a hand with a bit of dusting and polishing. The opportunity for disposal arose much sooner than he might have expected.

True to his nature. the young Morton exploited his aunt's kindness, feigning an interest in her enormous collection of commemorative spoons and other fiddly old artefacts, enduring tedious reminiscences about his late uncle Agar's celebrated legal clients in the hope of gaining information that might one day prove of practical benefit.

After a brief spell of nervous exhaustion, Aunt Rhea had simply expired. He had returned from school one day to find her apparently asleep in an armchair, a copy of 'Ladle and Spoon Connoisseur' slipped from her grasp. When he had failed to rouse her he had gone into the kitchen to make himself a sandwich, then came back to stare at her, at first with a sense of indignation, then with growing excitement and relief, as he began to realise the advantages of independence. Quanderpyre could not now recall who had arranged the funeral, or even who else had attended, there being no other close relatives apart from his separated parents. Morton found himself to be the owner of Aunt Rhea's house. By the terms of Rhea's will, other than a small bequest to her sister, the rest of her savings had been left to the local dogs' home. He vainly tried to remember what it had felt like to mourn his aunt's passing, but all that his mind's eye could provide was a parade of gleaming spoons.

When he began to discover that there was potential wealth in what he had dismissed as clutter, and even before he learned that he had legitimately inherited the Spoonhouse (as he surreptitiously thought of it) and its curiously specialized contents, he had used several school exercise books to make a private inventory. His crafty old aunt had evidently known what she was doing; some of this ghastly junk might actually be valuable. While his classmates were dutifully studying for exams, he was systematically poring over catalogues, checking auction records and collectors' guides. At about the time his form teacher had said "Mark my words, Quanderpyre, you'll never amount to anything unless you apply yourself, lad," he was getting ready to sell the family silver to the highest bidders. Not to mention the beaded ebony bureaux, the satinwood chairs, the early millefiore paperweights, the engraved glass bandicoots, the miniature vases, bodkin-cases, Baroque fans, scent phials and the antique hand-painted ink-pot, which in itself was worth a small fortune.

By the time the young entrepreneur had cleared the Spoonhouse of its bric-a-brac, he had put aside a substantial sum which was quietly accruing interest while he decided what to do next. He had left school without any significant qualifications, but he had utter confidence in his information-gathering and marketing skills. Within a few years, he he had no doubt that he would lay the foundations for an enterprise that would dominate Snoak City. He might even start his own special collection; of what he had not yet decided, as he had yet to find something that appealed to him, but it would be something extraordinary, something others would be bound to envy. It would need more than a house… He closed his eyes, breathed deeply, feeling his horizons expand into a future firmly under his own control. A pleasing idea struck him. He would have a magnificent tower built! It would be a bold, bright structure, visible for miles around, overlooking the entire city. Out of yesterday's spoons would be born tomorrow's empire.

©L.J.Sklaroff 2014 All Rights Reserved

Date and time of last update 00:57 Sat 22 Mar 2014
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