Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chapter Sixty-four

Gulfstream G5 over the Atlantic

“Are you the wealthiest man in the UK?”
“No, lad, not even close.” He stared out the cockpit window, then back to the flat panel displays indicating our flight parameters.
I started to laugh, but then he continued.
“No, there's that Branson fellow.  Bloody rich, that one.”  He sipped tea from a china cup, which looked absurdly delicate in his big paw. “And of course the Royals.  No telling how much fooking money those Germans have.  No, I’d say …” he looked up in thought. “I’d say I am about seventh or so.”
I choked a bit on my own tea and was sorry I asked. I felt sheepish.
Then I looked over at him and realized it wasn’t all that important to him.  He described his wealth as someone would their stamp collection or their Labrador. 
In fact, if he had a Labrador I think he’d value it more than he did his wealth. 
“Why do ye ask?”
“The plane.”  I waved around at the opulent G5.  I didn't know how much they cost but I knew they were the finest private plane money could buy.
“Nice, that.” He responded with a smile.
We flew awhile with the moon following us above and its reflection on the ocean below.  The autopilot made small corrections, the Rolls Royce engines hummed, and we drank tea.
Then he began again.  “My Mother was quite industrious.  Her family, my Scottish side, all turned their backs on her when she became pregnant with me during the war.  Unthinkable, that, being involved with someone lowborn - much less a man of color.”
He poured himself more tea from a silver thermos.  Then he continued.
“My father was recovering from his wounds in Alexandria - the same wounds that earned him the Victoria Cross.  She was a nurse doing her part.”  He took a sip. “He was later killed at Monte Cassino before I was born and …” he tailed off.
Time flew with us; Angus lost in his thoughts and I in mine.  The plane seemed to hypnotize us, drawing us each back into the recesses of our minds.  Then he picked up where he’d stopped.
“Damned bright she was.  Saw that the world was going to use a lot of oil after the war and that much of it would flow past Alexandria.  I’ll never know how she got started but the old girl did well.  One by one she purchased oil tankers, and …” he waved at the plane.  “Made a ruddy fortune.”
An alarm chimed and the plane began to descend.  He set his cup down.
“Buckle in would you?  We’ll be in Bermuda in 30 minutes.”

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