Theo Volschenk, when he isn’t scratching new ideas on a legal pad, is currently working as a teacher in an English camp in Korea. He is originally from Cape Town, South Africa.
“I can’t do this.”
“What do you mean? Sure you can.”
“No, I can’t.”
“Well, why the hell not? You’ve been working just as hard as that guy. Sure, he used some savvy—”
“A hell of a lot of savvy.”
“A hell of a lot of savvy. His wits, charisma, and, apparently, kindness brought him all these riches.”
“What riches? That’s what I’m talking about. Not a single piece of priceless memorabilia, oil painting, gold-rimmed drink ware, furniture older and more expensive than The Ark. Nothing!”
“Well, doesn’t that show you then! You can, if you work hard enough—and have fat bitch Lady Luck on your side—you’ll be able to—”
“No, I won’t.”
“Yes, you will.”
“No. I won’t.”
“So you tell me then why you can’t. You’re so gung-ho to prove me wrong. This office can be found in every skyscraper in the world. Why can’t you get one like this?”
“It’s quite simple, James. If you, say, walk into, for example, King Midas’s hall, gold washed like you’re drowning in the sun, would you say that you’d be able to see it.”
“Of course. The fact that I can walk in it dictates that I can see it.”
“If there was enough of the stuff, and it had a distinct smell, sure.”
“If the guards would let me— Look, I don’t get where you’re going with this—”
“Okay, so we’ve established if you walk in King Midas’s hall, gold dripping like water in the Amazon, you’d be able to see it, smell it, touch it, measure it, and use all the other senses you’d use to make sure. You’d know that you’re in the king’s presence, right?”
“Well, that’s obvious.”
“So, that’s my point. If the king’s power is external, its halls awash in gold, his whole palace a giant brick of glinting mineral, then we know one thing.”
“Yeah, and what might that be? What do we know except that the guy has a lot of gold.”
“At least the whole world isn’t covered in gold.”
James stood in silence.
“We know that, as powerful as King Midas is, that his domain, that which is covered in gold, is all that he has. That’s it. Nothing more. He doesn’t own the world. For example, you can imagine him, or yourself, owning more. More than the man that stands in front of you. You can measure it. ‘Well, he doesn’t have two palaces covered in gold. I could do that. I can achieve that. I can do better. I can do better than the king. I can be better than King Midas.”’
The two looked into the shabby office, empty, without a trace of the world’s most powerful man. The Man with the Empty Office.
“I can’t beat this. I can’t be better than this. There’s nothing here. Nothing! If he had an oil painting of Picasso stuck on his wall I could say, ‘That’s a goal. I’ll have two Picassos on my office wall someday. Two. I’ll have the Flying Dutchman’s captain’s table for a desk, not Shakespeare’s. I can be better.'”
James, again, was silent and staring into the office. A beam of light rested on the floor, motes drifting up to the ceiling.
“If a man doesn’t show his wealth, his power, you don’t know how much he has. It’s immeasurable. Whatever I do, whatever I show, add, do . . . It will be measurable. It’ll be—”
He looked to his side, hoping to see his friend’s face. But he only stared at the space where James once stood.
He was now alone.
He looked back at the office and sat down on the ground. His hands were clasped between his legs, his mind crawling with past failures, as he waited to see the most powerful man in the world.