I think we all outsource bits of our lives, and I wondered how far it might go?
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for our guest of honour, Mr James Forbes, the leading light of the modern era.”
The room erupted in cheers and clapping, and a tall, austere looking man walked to the podium. His measured stride ensured he reached the stage while the applause was still loud, and was positioned behind the podium just as it was starting to die down.
He brushed his once brown fringe to one side in a characteristic motion which energised the crowd again. How they loved him, and even with his hair now almost white, they could still picture him as the winsome youth he’d once been.
“It is an honour to be with you, and for the first time in my life, to have you all in the same room.”
More cheers. He let it run again, and then his face became sombre, the gathered guests at once responded.
“There are those who couldn’t make it today, but we have their images up there on the memory wall, so they could be present in spirit.”
There were sighs at this thoughtfulness, and many looked at the wall, remembering those who’d been lost along the way.
He turned on his thousand watt smile and the room forgot about the dead, and turned once more back to him.
“But now it’s time to talk about me, and all that you’ve done to help me.”
“Dennis over here, has, as ever, provided me with a script.” He favoured the man who’d introduced him with a kindly smile.
“He assures me that he originally wanted to mention every single person in this room, but when he timed the speech, it came to 74 hours. And that was without toilet breaks.”
He delivered the line completely dead-pan. There was a pause and then the room erupted with laughter. He’d always been able to work a crowd, with Dennis’ coaching of course.
“So instead I’m going to talk about my successes, and how you’ve helped.”
There was a hush as they waited, each hoping they’d been mentioned, and hanging on his words.
“I was very successful at school, in part due to Thomas Greenwood, yes stand up Tommy, who did my exams, and Philip Pulling, who represented me at football.” He paused while the two men stood up and bowed to all around them.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask that you stand up and nod quickly when mentioned, to give us any chance of that toilet break I saved from Dennis’ machinations.”
Quiet reigned again.
“With my grades, and football scholarship, I attended a select college where Tommy once more excelled at my exams. Poor Philip tore a hamstring, so was replace by William Turbot, who unfortunately can’t be here today. However when he was representing me, he managed to get me all the way to the finals, and scored the winning goal on my behalf.”
Cheers, which he let run for a while.
“Now with a college degree, and in excellent fitness it was time for me to get a job.”
He looked a little put out, and was greeted with the obligatory groans, and a few wry smiles.
“My career strategists, Harriet and Joyce, there you are, advised me to become a lawyer, and they selected Mr Bryce Jones for the early part of my career. He ensured I excelled at law school, and landed a job at the top law firm in the country, before getting me through my training and setting me up for a decent run at partnership. He handed the baton to Pete here who got me through to become the youngest ever partner at the law firm.”
He leaned down and put his arm around another white haired man who was sitting next to him, looking a little confused, but smiled when he saw who was hugging him.
“All that hard work, just to get me to the bottom rung of partnership, and that’s when my strategists had an idea. We decided to play it a little dirty. So Jonathan was brought in to be me. There he is the old dog. He slept with other partners, or their partners…” an appreciative laugh. “… whatever was necessary to secure my advance, and knock out the competition. I won’t lie, we had fun, but it was perhaps the least savoury time of my life.”
“And then I met darling Alice, the love of my life.”
Alice stood up, still beautiful despite her advancing years, and smiled her quirky, knowing smile.
“Jonathan stepped out, and Russell stepped in. As me he married Alice, and fathered our first child, young Jeffrey. Sadly he became confused about his role and we had to let him go, and Jimmy stepped in. He went on to father Paul and little Thesia. Not so little now.”
He smiled at his daughter who barely managed to smile back. She had been lucky enough to get many of her mother’s looks, if not her sunny temperament.
Dennis tapped him on the arm.
“Ah yes, sorry, my tempo is off. So many faces from the past, all those who made my life what it was. While the family life was going well, my professional career peaked, when I was made head of the firm. George Dancing did the hard work, and I am forever in his debt. Though of course the work was its own reward, hey George?”
George nodded dutifully, and the room chuckled along.
“Here’s where the strategy changed, and the answer was politics. We felt there’d been enough time since my Jonathan phase, and we’d managed to buy off or get something on everyone affected. I was squeaky clean, had three wonderful children, and a beautiful wife. I was made for politics. My early career, as a senator, was handled by Grace Riely, the first time I’d been a woman, but she was so talented we knew it would work, and it did. Her schmoozing, and backroom deals, meant within two terms I was the only real candidate for the highest job in the land. President!”
Clapping and whoops greeted this, much as they had when he’d been elected.
“Two terms, the first performed by Grace and the second by Adam, and my legacy was secure. It was time to retire.”
They all knew his story, so they knew that wasn’t the case, but he held them there for a little while.
“But with the success we had, I knew there was more, so I ran for Secretary General of the UN. Edmund Chung represented me, and as the first American SecGen, I set about changing that institution. Under my tenure, aided by Ken Ho who took over from Edmund for my third and fourth terms, that institution became more than a talking shop, it became the most important global force. A nascent government in all but name!”
They were on their feet now, he’d got to his true triumph, the one they’d all helped to bring about. The clapping and feet stamping went on for quite a while.
Time to wind them down.
“Since then, well, I’ve played golf,” he nodded at Guy, “a bit of tennis,” a wink at Tony, “and spent time with my wife.” He air punched Jimmy gently.
He smiled again, electrifying the room and they all went wild. The cheering might have continued for a while except they noticed that someone was doing a slow clap. Silence rippled out from Paul, the great man’s son until the only sound was the slow clap, clap from one of the two men who now walked towards the platform.
Until they stopped and the one who had been clapping said, “I have a question father.” There was a slight emphasis on father.
Favouring first the clapper, and then his son with a smile he said, “Yes Paul?”
“What have you,” he pointed accusingly at the titan, “ever actually done?”
For the first time Philip Forbes looked confused as if he really couldn’t understand the question. Then he smiled, “I recognise you now, sorry Albert, you’re my son’s troublemaker aren’t you?”
The young mine nodded, but maintained his grumpy air. The room let go a collective breath they hadn’t realised they’d been holding, it was all going to be fine.
Philip answered his son, “And to answer the question Paul, I did all that I wanted to, I just outsourced the rest.”