Adam and the Goat – Chapter 1 – The Decade Before Goat
Perfect was the sun’s warmth, though not at all fitting for a funeral, especially the funeral for the late Armand Coi.
Very few tears had been shed, and the hundreds of overdressed visitors to the Sierra Estate seemed more interested in the mountain views than the starring casket: car-sized, repulsive and adequately plain and wooden.
With much effort, effort he had withstood for days now, Francis pulled himself from the sight of his father’s ridiculous coffin, considering the ear splitting mechanics of the casket crane couldn’t be ignored, its overworked metal arms lowering Mr Coi’s five hundred pound body into what looked like the foundation dig for a new building.
With the air thick with the crane’s exhaust fumes and the overpriced stench of oud-based perfume, Francis, from behind his five thousand dollar shades, caught the smarmy looks of the congregation. How embarrassing, all of them watching the descent of the coffin with a mix of tension and humour, as if they expected the chains to snap, the casket to drop, and the gargantuan body of Armand Coi to spill out like some sort of suited raw chicken. Oh what a sight that would be, what a fantastic display the newspapers would headline on their front pages, had they managed to slime their way through the gates of the estate.
But regardless of the embarrassment of having a dead father the size of a tank, not to mention being left to pick up the man’s filthy pieces and subjected to the more than obvious inner-judgements of those somehow at the funeral, Francis wasn’t really as mortified as he knew he should have been. In his mind, this was the best birthday present a twenty year old could ask for. His teenage years were finally behind him, the years of being a child. That pathetic past of mediocrity would be buried with the slob now lowering into the dirt, dirt not even worthy of its own title compared to the human excrement destined to remain embedded within it.
Francis looked on, his chin held high. The universe had finally realigned. His father had it coming. With calm composure, Francis rearranged his mental plans efficiently. His moment was now, and even if the best time to start were yesterday, today would be the reign of a new era. This family company of his had been screaming and begging for decades for someone like himself to fix the weakening cracks. The Coi International Corporation, regardless of its global and market-dominating success, was but a collection of well-selected words to its name with someone like Armand at its helm. The perception of corporate power had been lost for years, and Francis knew this, even as a child, and he’d be damned if this pompous bunch of idiots would imagine him too to be as careless, unimaginative and ambitionless as the now, and appropriately, dead Armand Coi.
So careless in fact, the so called business-man went and gave himself a heart attack, a fitting and unsurprising end to the grotesque fool, found floating on the water of his custom-made hydro-pool, a perpetual replay of dominatrix pornography on a television opposite him, along with the morsels and scraps of fast food burgers and fries, not forgetting the magnum bottles bouncing around him with the bubbles, the pool’s gold tap buried into the man’s back rolls.
With an inner smile, Francis recalled the pleasure he took having his father’s personal burger restaurant demolished and wiped from the estate. He imaged Armand’s desire to hold the commoner’s takeout packaging as something of a connection to the marketing world Armand was so proud of. After all, the CIC was the owner of America’s largest fast food chains, but for Francis, the idea of mixing something so enjoyed by the average mass, with somewhere so perfect as his home was pure self-ridicule. They were supposed to be business gods, not blind sheep.
The service ended, and the fancy flock of attendees dispersed to exchange compliments on outfits and business success stories, as so-and-so from this company, and what’s-his-name from that company discussed how the late Armand’s investments had contributed to their own corporate empires, their own niceties as false as the loyalty to their customers. It was a world Francis was very well aware of.
Francis rose, dusted his suit, and repositioned his shades with a nudge of his finger to the nose bridge. With a fascination of poise and royalty, he extended his back and exuded a triumphant allure, even when performing something as normal as taking the push handles of his grandmother’s wheelchair.
What a ridiculously prolonged service. His father hadn’t deserved such a nice day. It was as if the sun had mocked Francis, giving everyone a bright clear view of the enormous gap in the ground, judged down by the grand marble mausoleums of past Coi family members, their tombs all different, though all impeccable and impressive, laughing at the modesty of Armand’s dirt hole, soon to be nothing but a flat stone slab with his name on it. A gesture Francis had ensured on.
Francis pushed on and leant down to the elderly lady in the wheelchair.
‘Shall we get some shade, Geegee?’ He smiled to her nickname and brushed a hand over her thin shoulder.
But Georgette Coi said nothing, as Francis knew she would. Her face remained placid, hidden too behind a pair of oversized sunglasses, staring forward, her hands in her lap, her somewhat paralysed condition as unchanged as the day after her son’s death.
But as Francis pressed on in his attempt to avoid the shareholders, lobbyists, and the friends and family, the gazelle-like figure of Miss Sofia Lung approached him, her red hair in its usual tight bun, her face a mixture of orientalised American sharpness, and a tablet screen glued to her hand as always. And though she acted as his highest available business asset, Francis respected the fact she knew her place, ordering her to sit obediently at the back of the funeral to keep a keen eye on the graphs displaying the company’s share value.
Francis’ PA, Sofia Lung, tucked herself close to him, as she did many times in an attempt to conceal whatever information she had from anyone else.
‘How are you, Mr Coi?’ she asked. Even her face moved very little, as if this were in respect to Francis’ control over her actions. Too much raised eyebrow, or too much blinking, well, she wouldn’t dare. Francis hadn’t given her permission to use that pretty face of hers; at least not yet.
Francis continued to stroll, barely making an effort as his grandmother’s wheelchair glided the family cemetery path.
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I’m well thank you. I’m taking Geegee back to the house to rest.’ Though the word house was an understatement. ‘I’ll brave the reception alone. In about an hour maybe. What do you have for me?’
Miss Lung presented the tablet before him.
‘The NY Daily has praised your father in good light. A philanthropist to the world, they’ve called him. That’s nice, isn’t it? They say his donations to paediatrics across America has helped millions of future generations.’
Had Francis been in control of that headline it would have read: ‘A man with the potential to embrace altruism had he ever learnt to surrender his vices,’ or something convoluted like that. The bigger the words the more impressive it seemed to the uneducated masses.
‘Ridiculous,’ said Francis. ‘It was a prolonged PR stunt he threw money at for years. He was nothing but a putrid swine, sorry Geegee.’ He cupped his grandmother’s ears. ‘It’s just as well I had enough sense to turn off the pornography before the doctors could show up. I suppose that’s one advantage of finding your dead father before anyone else. What about the board? Have they said anything yet?’
Miss Lung charged forward to open the door to the limousine, her heels echoing expensiveness; something Francis revelled in, knowing his gifts to her had not been wasted.
‘Unfortunately the usual,’ she said. ‘They still fear your lack of a tangible business preparation. They want to know more about what your plans are, moving forward.’
‘Why we ever went public is beyond me,’ said Francis, though he knew exactly why, having people like his father behind the wheel.
With a quick swoosh, Francis whisked his grandmother out of her chair, and settled her light body into the leather of the limo. He had never really been athletic as a child, having unfortunately been exposed to a family with the genetic makeup similar to that of a western-style pygmy: short and slender by nature, though influenced by pale skin and a large waistline characteristic. But the truth was his fuel, and ever since realising this hereditary flaw, Frances had ensured his level of fitness, nutrition and mental awareness had, and always would, overshadow any Coi that predated him, the result being the fine agile figure he caught a glimpse of in the tinted reflection of the Mercedes Maybach.
‘Are they aware of Project Bedrock?’ Asked Francis, pulling a stray black hair from his face. He looked back at Sofia, snapping his fingers to a member of the security surrounding the area, who whizzed over to stow away the wheelchair in the trunk.
Miss Lung shook her head. ‘Not that I’m aware of. I’m sure they’d bring it up with me if they had any concerns.’
‘Let’s make sure it remains so.’ Francis looked passed her to the group of company directors, their hands shaken by Francis’ distant family, and his newly acquired friends since his inauguration. Francis wasn’t convinced the sneaky board and the shareholders they represented weren’t onto him. And he had to look nonchalant as a few of them looked over, presumably to catch him and Geegee before they drove away, most likely to offer their phony condolences for the hundredth time.
But Francis knew he had to save face. If he let on about Project Bedrock, it would jeopardize his position in the corporation. Too much upset on his part, and they’d most likely suggest he take a somewhat permanent sabbatical.
Francis looked back to Miss Lung, only to invite her into the back of the limo.
‘Miss Lung, I want the resurrection of Project Bedrock to commence immediately.’ With his wristwatch, shaped like a black ceramic snake, Francis checked the time, as if to monumentalise the occasion.
Upright in her seat, her back arched, Miss Lung pushed up her glasses and crossed her legs over, giving Francis a certain unavoidable view.
‘We can commence as soon as you’ve presented your proposal at the succession summit in New York next week,’ she said.
Francis remained still. Through the tinted window he watched the New York countryside whip passed, and glimpsed sight of a hill-like mountain in the distance. He hated knowing he had to wait for everything. Why couldn’t Bedrock start now? And now he had to prepare a ridiculous presentation for his company’s continuation, only to somehow secretly reallocate the whereabouts of company capital, as he planned on feeding his project with it.
Francis looked to his grandmother, still as expressionless as before. The back of his neck burned with pity. He caught sight of the mountain once more through a gap in the pine trees.
‘Miss Lung,’ he said. ‘As I prepare my business plan I would like it seen to that Wystan Mountain is redeveloped first and foremost.’
Sofia blinked in surprise, and crossed her legs the other way, her red nails against the tablet.
‘The Mountain?’ she asked. ‘But, Mr Coi, y- you don’t have access to company capital yet?’
With a deep inhale, Francis ran a hand through his hair, unhinging a kink in his neck, following it with a familiar click.
‘Then exhaust my personal accounts…all of them.’
Miss Lung paused, but only for a few seconds, before tapping away once again.
‘As long as you’re sure, Mr Coi.’
‘And the primal weapon,’ he said. ‘I want its location changed. To the mountain also.’
Sofia nodded, knowing exactly what he meant by this.
Francis eyed his grandmother at the other end of the limousine, and his decision was finalised, his chin resting on his knuckles.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Make certain it’s done, immediately.’ He momentarily paused his seriousness and offered Miss Lung one of his captivating smiles. He lowered his voice. ‘And why not get yourself something nice? My treat.’ He leant towards Sofia so his grandmother would not hear. ‘Something revealing. You know what I like.’ He reclined back in to his seat and gave Miss Lung a seductive glance, before reverting back to his former seriousness. ‘If I must wait for the company to officially become mine, I at least want Bedrock to have a head start. And whilst we wait, let’s have some fun.’
Miss Lung blushed, tapped away, and crossed her legs once more.
‘It shall be done, Mr Coi.’
With a hint of a laugh, Francis opened a leather-clad chilled compartment between the seats, took out the champagne bottle, popped the cork with the accompanying white cloth, and took a well-deserved swig – the glorious taste of a golden future…