A long, steel-ribbed train thundered through the dusk, panting its steam into the dim light while far in the background - as though this were a movie or something - one would be able to see the great forges and thrusting, uh, stuff of Rearend Metals!
Within the train sat an economist and a reporter not important enough for names. The economist, one of the rare few who could actually do math and wasn't enamored with the stuffed suits of the business world, mused to the reporter, "Why the hell is he converting over to this new metal? It's untested, it's unknown, it could have all the construction applications of aluminum!"
The reporter, another rarity among his breed as he did not feel compelled to repeat the lies of the powerful without commentary, replied, "Because a sucker's born every minute."
The two not-named voices of reason commiserated as such as the train thrust - er, drove through yet another yielding tunnel and out of sight of the narrative which is much more concerned with the hot flashes and oozing money shots of Rearend Metals' nifty new product in the forges. The men working said forges, many of them dedicated and supporting families, are also not worth commentary beyond the window dressing they provide for the impressively industrious picture we paint here of their boss, a very very tall man in a trench coat with a harsh face. Ugly but in a sexy way. Yes, we have come to Spank Rearend!
He stood rigidly, overseeing all with his very deep and important scowl. Occasionally the men doing the real work would look up but he would not look back. They didn't deserve it. No, they were only forging his brilliant new metal. They didn't think of it in the first place!
And Rearend did. He distinctly remembered a cocktail party he'd been at some time ago when he'd declared, "Wouldn't it be awesome to make a metal that could do anything? And was really shiny!?" He'd vomited on a fern not long after that and the rest of the evening was hazy... But not much long after, his extensive R&D team had presented him with a new alloy they'd produced by accident one night when mixing together scrap for the hell of it. Rearend knew that this here was the Great Metal his Great Mind had conceived of after all those highballs.
Because it was shiny. Rearend had gazed upon himself, reflected in its shinyness and declared, "I shall call it... Spankmeum!"
And there below, his peons were butting his Great Big Idea into production. Spankmeum forges as far as the eye could see! Rearend would be grinning like an idiot if he weren't busy looking all somber and important.
His R&D team had protested - as those who lacked vision always do. "Sir, we don't fully understand its properties!"
Well rot them, because Rearend understood. He had consciously decided this new metal, this Spankmeum, would revitalize the flagging Rearend Metals and conscious decisions were more than enough to produce material results. Oh, how those of lesser intellect had been crying that he would fail from day one. How Rearend Metals would collapse any day.
Rearend had shown them! He and he alone - with the help of some generous government subsidies - had put the lowly peasants of this town back to work in his forges and factories - which he'd inherited from his father and grandfather as the metal industry hasn't been known as a place for start-ups in sixty or seventy years. And now, with them doing all the work, he would unleash his Spankmeum across the country!
But poor Spank felt just so tuckered out from being so up in himself. Turning about purposely, he walked out of his poorly set office or factory scene and strode purposely down the sidewalk to his purposeful house with purpose.
But Rearend felt all that purpose perturbed as he reflected - "Oh right! I have a wife!" Not a woman he loved but simply "a wife" as that was just such a conventional and icky sounding word. Why couldn't he have something more like a "lover" or a proper "sub"? Not that his wife didn't do her wifely duties... but Spank couldn't help feeling she didn't appreciate his greatness. None of the common rabble really did. Why, were he do march up to one the many faceless nobodies he found himself among and demand "Look at me!" they probably wouldn't grasp the significance of him, Spank Rearend!
Inside his not so purposeful anymore house, Spank was surprised to meet not just his wife Lily but also his mother, brother Bill, and British author Philip Larkin - what the hell is he doing here!?
"You read that wrong. I'm Paul Larkin."
Well, alright. How 'bout we call you "Snarkin"?
"Fuck you, buddy!"
Snarkin it is.
So - Lily, Bill, Snarkin, and Spank's mother had all been sitting in the living room having a deep philosophical discussion about plumbing when Spank came in to give them something much better to talk about. Himself.
"Dear, we were worried about you," his mother, or maybe Lily said. Spank never good differentiate between concerned womanly voices because women don't really matter.
"Oh, I was just at the factory. Or maybe it's the forge. We were pouring..." and here Spank trailed off, mind too caught up in the image of that hot, molten Spankmeum splattering all over the yielding molds...
"Well you could've called," his mother - he was sure this time - protested. "Could've called, could've called..." she muttered mostly to herself.
"Mom, how did you get out of the home?" Spank demanded.
"She's just visiting, dear," Lily said, trying to calm him. "So is Saul," because that's Snarkin's first name now.
"Really?" asked Rearend with genuinely hurt surprise. "You're not here for anything else?"
"Nope. Just came buy to say 'hello' to everyone," Snarking replied. "And I don't care for that name."
Rearend felt ill. The grand day of his grand new project and none of these people - who didn't really matter that much to him of course, that would be irrational and non-individualy - they didn't seem to care.
It put him in a funk, which Lily tried to draw him out of - "Have you eaten? I'm so sorry but you missed dinner here."
And she was sorry. Lily tried to be a good and devoted wife, even doing the chores and the cooking so Spank wouldn't have to "soil their domicile" as he put it with hired help. Which they could afford in spades.
"I wasn't hungry," Spank replied. Or maybe lied - no, martinis didn't count as a dinner, even if he'd had enough to constitute one in volume.
"You spend an awful lot of time at the factory," Bill said.
"Because I like it!"
"I'd like just watching other people work too," Bill retorted.
Fighting anger, Rearend told himself that this was Bill's form of solicit... solicin... of being a jerk-face!. They were all trying to show concern for him but concern is for the weak and Spank Rearend wasn't weak!
But he wished they'd ask him something important - like how fantastic was his fantastic new Spankmeum? Couldn't they look past their petty concerns and focus on his achievement?
"You could have called," his mother continued to harp. "You could have texted. Hell, even I know how to do that! Then you wouldn't have missed Mrs. Beeker. She's been running a metal-working class at the local middle school and so wanted to talk to you, get you to come around and talk to her kids. They all really look up to you for some reason."
Spank scowled - because scowls are sexy! - and pondered what his mother said. A woman doing metalwork? Absurd! "Well I'm sorry I missed her," he said without a shred of sincerity.
"No you're not," his mother grumbled. "You're never sorry about anything. I bet you're not even sorry your own wife had to plan everything for the tenth on her own."
"Tenth? Tenth of what?" demanded Rearend. Something that involved him? Finally, a topic that mattered!
"It's nothing, really," Lily protested. "I didn't want to bother him with it because I know he's only concerned about business and it's non-commercial."
"Non-commercial? Than what's the point?"
"...It's our anniversary," Lily said softly.
Now this, Spank suspected, was certainly some sort of guilt trip. She clearly wanted more shiny baubles and hoped to shame him into providing them in front of others. She assumed the repressive social norms of marriage and how human beings show affection to each other would force him into it! Well, he didn't feel shame. He didn't feel anything, except a little gas, but still produced something for her from his pocket. "Here! I made you a chain! Happy annunservicey!"
As she accepted the shiny chain - shiny because it was made with fantastic Spankmeum - Lily softly asked, "Is... Is this for later?"
Her shoulders slumping, her eyes dropping to the floor, Lily said with great resignation, "I'll get out the KY and the leather chaps."
"Oh, that's just nasty!"
Shut up, Snarkin.
Pleased with himself - as usual - Rearend took off his caught and sat down by the fire place some ways off. He mused how they could all be so blind to what made him great, why they should acknowledge his greatness, and caught bits of their conversation because it directly involved him.
"I can't believe I ever crapped that out."
"Mother! Please!" Lily had a surprisingly good relationship with her mother-in-law. Misery loves company afterall and loving Spank Rearend was a misery on both a physical and emotional scaleEmotionally, he was closed off and dense to her concerns and affections.
Physically, he usually ignored the safe word...
Snarkin left the group to approach Spank. "I have word from your man in Washington," he said. "So wait, I did come for a reason?"
"And what does my man say?" asked Spank.
"That you're not very popular at the moment," Snarkin explained. "It's this new alloy of yours, it's a total unkown and you know how the Pentagon feels about unknowns when it comes to their contracts."
"I'm not doing this to be popular," Spank said petulantly. A transparent lie.
"Sure, right, but you are doing it to make money?" Snarkin asked.
"I'm doing it for the principle of being able to make money!" Rearend declared self-righteously.
"What the hell does that even mean!?"
"Something entirely different from what you said!"
Bill interrupted them, "I hate to bring this up but unlike Saul here, I know perfectly well that I came here for a reason."
Straightening up all important like, Rearend replied, "Of course you did."
"Oh, so you remember your promise?"
"Of your donation to the Prosperity Foundation?"
Spank stared at his brother dumbly.
"Spank, I asked you months ago if you wanted to chip in anything, get a nice tax write-off, and you said 'sure!' You haven't given me anything though. Were you just drunk then?"
Spank was flabbergasted! How dare his brother demand money he'd promised to pay! "Well, I only said that to make you happy."
"So... That means you were drunk and didn't mean it?"
"I wanted to make you happy," insisted Rearend. "I don't care who it goes to."
"Yeah, I remember you said the same thing back when I was..." Bill let his past drug abuse and general misdeeds linger. When he'd been a hopeless junkie, his brother had happily lended him money. Now that he was clean and running one of the biggest private philanthropies in the world he got the damn run-around. "So just so we're clear, you don't feel like donating anything? Because I'm fine either way?"
Rising from his seat, exhausted at dealing with all these lesser intellects. He said ponderously, "I want to help you Bill, if only you could help yourself. I honestly don't know what you're getting at because you clearly don't desire it as strongly as I desire my metals." And he left them there, in the wake of his greatness.
"Your brother's kind of a dickweed," Snarkin said once Rearend was out of earshot.
"You don't know the half of it!" siad Rearend's mother. "Bill, remember when I first started giving him an allowance? The ungrateful little brat said he didn't owe me anything for it! I cut him off when he wouldn't take the trash out, just mucked around with his Play-Doh, and he copped an atitude about how I was opressing his expression or some nonsense!"
While those three commiserated on what an overblown prick Spank Rearend really was, Lily sat silent. Oh, they didn't know Spank as well as she did. She knew he was one of those strong personalities, always working - though how was never really clear in Spank's case. He mostly gave long drunken speeches to his employees. But Lily knew he wasn't the horrible things they were calling him. Really.
And she knew, from how upset Spank Rearend had seemed when he walked out, that tonight was going to sting...