From Jester To King LIII
By Simon Barget
Building a tower for Alain Zaquin or at least we’d die trying. But we needed his permission. The thing was they weren’t the same person, perhaps one was father and one was the son. The son, the nice Alain; accommodating, charming, urbane all the things that made it a pleasure to do business, then the father; the beast, the sadist, the hoops you would go through, the u-turns, the phone calls we tried not to fall foul of some caprice when we thought it was dusted.
The tower block was huge and black and granite with polished marble everythings and impossibly high ceilings (no ceilings at all) and in bits that were out and windowless windows and those lush interior-cum-exterior gardens on each floor you could land a helicopter on. With the hedges and the grass like Velcro. All the new features. Bits that protruded and bits that went in. It went up and up with an atrium of blackness of nothing at all except void. Until you hit something on one of the higher floors when it burst into a flourish. It looked exactly as it would have on an architect’s card or agency sheet, the typical artist’s rendition, with the little brush strokes for people the black dots for cars. We wanted to buy just one plot initially, develop it, my sister having calculated that the margin was just a tick more than a 100, and all you needed was Alain Zaquin’s say-so.
Alain Zaquin owned the whole area. He basically owned the sky.
But how we tried everything, floating up to each and every floor as we called him, trying to outsmart him, to make him think we were much higher, or even on the perimeter flanking which went all around the tower on about the 30th level – there are no levels as such, at least not at this stage – but he always seemed to have an exact pinpoint on us and so knew what we wanted. The flanking resembling part of a Darda car racetrack. Because if he knew where we were he could second-guess our intentions, our potential gain and put a spanner in it. The game was to trick him, to dissemble your intentions ‘cos he never let you have what you wanted. The young Alain Zaquin, well he was probably in favour. But the old, just plain nasty. The old Alain Zaquin. And such was my pessimism. I mean I never believed any deal would go through until it actually did, and on top of that could we just take the blank space and put in whatever we wanted, taking it all the way up to the sky, and then the climate being haphazard and there being nothing around for miles, it wasn’t a place you could work in. We called him and he was skiing, we called him and he was in Israel. And the aggression, the force with which he came down on you if he happened to catch you, I mean found where you were, and then you had to excuse yourself for so much as asking in the first place, how dare you even want it, but you knew that if you managed to wheedle your way out of his clutches, it had a chance of going ahead.