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Extract from ‘The Power to Hurt’ by Vincent J McArdle

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vincent mcardle

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I have decided to name my current project (2nd novel) – THE POWER TO HURT. Here’s an extract.

Grandpa didn’t go to my graduation. It didn’t bother me. He had a business to run. That’s what he said.

“Every guys wants to buy his girl her ring on a nice sunny day. I can’t close on a Monday. I gotta be around. Why should Joseph Shallock get the business? I don’t shut down for graduations – funerals maybe, not graduations!”

He had told me this as soon as he heard about my graduation date.

“You’re not sore at me, Harvey, are you?”

Of course, I couldn’t be sore. I wasn’t sore. He was right. He had a business to take care of.

“Just make sure you keep a job for me, Grandpa. I want to work in diamonds. You know that.”

“Sure, I know that. I haven’t forgotten. I got big plans for you.”

We had that conversation way back in November when I told him about my graduation schedule. I was full of anticipation. I had learnt a lot from him but he didn’t tell me everything.

I knew about the syndicate but that was something he didn’t open up about. He had to trust me before he would do that. I could understand. Why should he tell me those things? Gordon had the West Coast inside track. And he wasn’t even a Jew. But he nearly blew me out when I got curious. That had been embarassing.

So Grandpa would probably do the same. I reckoned Grandpa was prominent in the East Coast trade. He had been so long in the business I knew he must have all the wholesale contacts. Those contacts must track back all the way to Africa where a lot of the diamonds come from. With the shareholding he had built up, he had a lot of clout. I don’t think he even realised that I knew a lot about his affairs just by doing his accounts for him.

Share returns come in regularly and have to be accounted for. You can’t hide share transactions or he could end up in a federal penitentionary. I just had to be patient.

“For the moment, just help me keep the books.” He said to me.

“ I’m lousy at that. And I never got no one to help – ever.”

“But what about your IRS returns?” I asked.

“I’m OK writing things down and I got special books for everything. And I know when I’m making money. You buy, you sell, you make money. And every year Nathan van Dam gets it all in shape. Takes him weeks, but he does it.”

“Maybe you don’t need ………..”

“I need you, you’re family. Of course, I need you. I told you, I’ve got plans for you. Not only the books, everything. But let’s start with the books.”

I looked out the window, over the racks of beautiful rings and high quality watches and delicate pendants and necklaces. I could see grandfather’s name written in gold on the glass – all back to front from my angle inside the shop. I started to dream of the future. I imagined my name written on the glass instead, also back to front.

The artificial lights made the merchandise glitter and reflect. Nobody can walk down 47th Street without looking into a jeweler’s window. The tiny close-cut diamond rings, the long boxes with gold and silver inside, the men’s watches with their coiled straps set against rich black and purple velevet, act like magnets to the eye..

There was very little sunlight breaking through to this street in November. The tall skyscrapers created a deep dark canyon. The small diamond shops were dwarfed. But all that merely served to emphasise the wealth and glitz on display.

Cold breezes outside the shop blew the litter from one corner to another. Passersby were muffled with scarves and high collars. But I was becoming warm with anticipation.

“I’ll start with the books, Grandpa. Soon as I can. I’ll get everthing straightened out. You don’t need to worry about that.”

I dragged out a heavy ledger and started the drudgery. Book-keeping. Most people hate it, even those who have all the qualifications to tame the figures jostling about inside. But I love book-keeping. I shift the figures into more refined sections and I carve away at them until somehow a living body of work emerges. The body of a living company. It breathes and the figures tell me whether this is healthy or whether it is slowly dying. Maybe, like a doctor, I make a diagnosis that will save its life. That’s what a good accountant should be able to do.

Sometimes it is already dead and so it must be buried.

Sometimes it is a thing of beauty which will yield far more treasure for the future. Sometimes, like a priest, I can bind it to another company and iit will grow into a family of companies.

It was at times like this I knew what father felt like when his dynamic wood carvings grew out of the raw wood. He could infuse the wood with the gift of life.

Strangely, after all these years, when he seemed frustrated that I never had in me any skills with the chisel, I realised he was never chiding me. He never actually demonstrated disappointment. Sympathetically, he always said. “Don’t worry, Harvey. You have something great in you. It’s just not this.”

That’s all he said. And he was right.

(c) Vincent McArdle

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