March 2024, 1st: The Gift of Giving

I was lost. Again. The map a crumpled heap in my lap. I had discarded my phone and anything with a signal. Truth is I was running away – and fast.  My internal compass or sense of direction was missing in the same way as some people were just born without arms. My moral compass wasn’t much better. In short, I turned left when I should have turned right and I have never looked back.

My escape plan consisted of a hasty Google search of countries without extradition treaties, and ever thrifty, I had jumped onto the computer and immediately booked a red eye flight to Malawi. What did I know about Malawi? Not much. I vaguely remember it mentioned in high school as one of the world’s poorest countries.

I was one of the earliest ‘Crypto-Evangelists’ – the newspaper’s words not mine. I thought this crypto thing is the greatest scam invented, and its legit. Humanity’s age old dream of turning lead into gold had been achieved. I started in the shopping centres and ended up in the top floor of a glass tower with a rolodex – forgive the anachronism, I’m showing my age – of top shelf clients who were willing to ride the wave and gracefully exit before it dumped me and all those mum and dad investors into the soup. I prided myself on being able to spot a scam from a mile away, but ended up believing my own hype. I’ll give it to those bastards they will make sure you don’t complain about the food on the way down. A ‘quick lunch’ included thousand dollar bottles of wine finished off with kopi luwak coffee which at three thousand dollars per kilo means those civets are literally shitting gold.

It was after one such lunch that I spotted that ASIC lawyer seated in the gleaming lobby eating his packed lunch and cradling a bunch of important looking documents. I had seen documents like that before so I didn’t need official confirmation to know that the jig was up. He had been raising rude questions about the whole operation and calling it a ‘Ponzi scheme’. Of course it was a Ponzi scheme, everything was, it was all just a matter of degree, so why pick on me?

Malawi, huh? I bet nobody saw that one coming. Maybe I can reinvent myself as a philanthropist. I was always being humbugged to donate more; ‘the gift of giving’, they called it. Why those wolves played at being sheep always baffled me. Charity, as the old man said, was the honey they served up to make their shit sandwiches more palatable. Those rich prick investors were in on the joke and just smirked: ‘pick a pet cause,’ they advised after my scheme had gone nova and the money started rolling in ‘preferably a children’s cancer hospital.’ They anticipated my next question: ‘ “The Jimmy Savile Principle”,’ they had guffawed. I still didn’t quite understand. ‘They are gonna think twice coming after you when all those cancer kids are on the line. Think of those bald heads and smiling faces, and the tax write off makes you all warm inside’ they chuckled. I had rushed home and looked up “Jimmy Savile”. According to the deluge of articles my search returned Jimmy Saville was a famous DJ and pedo who was shielded by the British government because of all the money he raised on behalf of hospitals. My toes curled in disgust.

That night I quietly liquidated the entire portfolio. It had reached record heights, but tomorrow it would be worth nothing once the news got out. Half went to an account in Switzerland and the other half to the Ted Noffs Wayside Chapel. Try clawing that money back assholes. I just bought you a ticket to heaven. You can thank me later.

The airport finally rolled into view. A pleasant breeze was blowing as I left the car keys on the dashboard and made my way to the Ethiopian Airlines counter. I grinned as I handed over my passport and airline ticket to the pleasant looking customer service agent.

‘The purpose of your visit to Malawi, Sir?’ I paused. ‘Business or pleasure,’ she added helpfully.

The early morning news playing on the monitor behind her was already reporting on the unfolding scandal.

‘Pleasure definitely and then maybe a little business,’ I answered finally as images of dazed looking ‘business titans’ flashed across the screen before cutting to the Wayside Chapel and their ecstatic CEO. The Jimmy Savile Principle indeed.

‘How do you feel about this incredible donation?’ asked the sunny looking journalist.

‘Sometimes the universe arcs towards justice,’ he responded a little pompously.

Yeah, mate, but sometimes it takes a crook to deliver it.

© Tropical Writers Inc 2024

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