Story Go Round 06/05/2004, continued from 05/07/2004

The Discount Viscount

The time had come. Prices were at rock bottom. Viscount Jacques de Liqueur strode through his demesne with pride. Everything was going - the chandeliers, the vanities, the gilt faucets, spotless white gloves, silvery silk shawls - it was all about volume. As a rule, he bought and sold - only in bulk, a practice that was supported by the lord of the realm. The day he had bought his title, he had been one of several hundred to make viscount. "Money pays-" he liked to say, "but titles count."

And now he was moving on. He was going to elbow them all out of the luxuries trade. They put on such airs - just wait until their tiaras and brooches were available for next to zero!

Just across the border, in the progressive country of NewMarket, where there were no anti-progress laws to reinforce the feudal system, he could be more than a Viscount. He could have his own chain. He could be King - of sales!

The first thing he did every morning was to read the Obituaries and Bankruptcies sections of all the papers. Estate sales were the best places to find antiques and one-of-a-kind pieces. Taking those pieces to his brokers in Belgium, he could have cheap knock-offs made to be sold at murderously low prices.

The first reaction he got - and it was priceless! - was from a beak-nosed duchess cousin of his neighbor who saw a cheap imitation of a locket she kept with an image of her lover in it. The image was the same. She fainted dead away.

As he turned a fan from New Market on the prostrate woman, he knew today would be a good day.

The masses would dole out their hard earned wages for his knock-offs, and the Aristocracy would run up debts with the tradesmen in order to pay him off to keep their precious ... (cont'd) hand-crafted luxury items stay one-of-a-kind. Like blackmail, except les prone to get him murdered, and just as fun. "I don't give a squeak for unique!" he'd crow, "Prestige has a price!"

And so it went on - money-rolling - until midday. Just another few hours a good clean "thousands-of-a-kind"-fun. Until the witch walked in.

He knew she was a witch because it said that on her Tshirt. "WITCH". (And she hadn't bought it from his emporium.) In his experience, t-shirts had proved to be fairly reliable indicators of their wearers' vocations - which explained why criminals never wore t-shirts.

He took her over to the broom section and told her they were gold-plated - she should get 3 for her friends. Suddenly she did a funny thing with her wand and he woke up face down in a field.

Stumbling to his feet Jacque felt surprisingly - - breezy. He was clothed head-to-toe in the greasiest, most tattered rags he had ever seen.

"You can copy those and sell them..." snickered the nearby bunny rabbit.

"In fact, that's the only way out of this-" the groundhog added.

His normally astute faculties felt weighted-down by lard. "This?"

"This spell." said the witch. (Her shoes said "WITCH" too)

"This spell?" he said while querulously looking for his coat. (cont'd) "What is a spell? And who are you?"

"I am the Mistress of Madness, and a witch of ill-repute!" She replied. "Some witches do this stuff to teach toads like you a lesson, but I'm just doing it for fun. Enjoy the animals of Elmortense, as I think you will be here for a while."

As she disappeared, Jacques thought that her repute couldn't be all that bad. With the t-shirt and shoe gimmick, she had marketing down. But he would have to do her one better, he supposed, if this shtick were real. "This is nothing--!" he jeered at the wisps of smoke she had left behind, to make himself feel confident. (That was, after all, the key to selling. "People will buy anything for a discount! And I'm the Discount Viscount!!"

He could do rags. Rags were easy. And cheap. And in high demand.

He smoozed an Elmortense squirrel into leading him out of the ensorcelled areas, fast-talked two raccoons into going with him and found his way to New Market. The raccoons helped him scavenge enough old scraps of cloth to fashion a new line of 'Spring RAG-amuffin Kidz Wear' and he set up shop on a corner in the High Street.

And he still had the touch. Within two months he had bought out all the nearby rag merchants, and the streets were buzzing with hype and speculation about the new "Raja of Rags".

The Sultan of Sands decided it was time to pay a visit. Real Estate ws the Sultan's game, and he had plenty of it. "Why muck about with the penny-ante clothing market, when you can join the high-stakes housing game?"

Amber is purple; John is pink; Alan is blue; Terry is orange; Habeeb is grey