Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Fortune

The thing is, Ben never believed in horoscopes. He considered them an indulgence for the lazy and weak-minded who didn't have the gumption to make it ahead on their own steam. Luck was something you made. Not something you were born with.

The man who had supported a family (his mother and sisters) from the time he was 11 knew what he was talking about. He arrived in Malaya with only the shirt on his back, a fair command on the English language garnered from deciphering Dickens under a streetlamp.

Within a few years he was a millionaire.

Ben had a toughness, a resilience that gave him the strength to bounce back whatever the business reverse. Take the crash of 1929; he negotiated with the bank so they forgave the loan to the tune of a million pounds. Nothing got him down for long.

One day, he was having tea with the Indian High Commissioner: "What can I get you from India? You know something that you couldn't get here?"

"Nothing old chap, don't trouble yourself, I have everything I want."

Unsatisfied, the High Commissioner went home to think. And then he slapped his knee in glee. He would get Ben's horoscope done. He had once broached the subject, but Ben had dismissed it. "A man makes his own fortune, Ram. I don't believe in all that nonsense."

Nevertheless, the High Commissioner called to get the date and time of birth and within a couple of months, a package arrived from India, many pages of closely typed paper bound together, Ben's horoscope in fact. He had gone to one of the top men in India.

Ben smiled indulgently, put the package away in a drawer and promptly forgot about it. A few years later, when ill in bed, he asked his wife to get him something from that particular drawer, and she found the horoscope.

"What's this Benny?"

He stared at it hard, trying to remember. "Oh that's just the horoscope old Ram did for me. You can throw it away if you want."

"Now Benny, that's not very nice. If he went through all that trouble, surely the least you could do is read it."

"You're right my dear."

He started to leaf through the pages listlessly and was struck by how accurate it was in regards to his early life and his subsequent rise in fortunes. Everything up to the present was dead centre. It took his breath away. The former sceptic read eagerly on to see how his life was to turn out.

He would lose all his money (he already had, through a series of reverses). But he would make it back several times over. And he would die at 84, rich and powerful and satisfied.

Ben leaned back on his bed and sighed. 84 was a good time to die. And he would make it all back. So there was no need to worry. Since everything up to that point was accurate, it had to follow that the rest of it was spot on too.

There crept a flabbiness into his character, that hadn't been there before. Where before he pushed and capitalised on every opportunity, using the force of his character to create deals, now he lay back and waited. wny work hard when it was up to destiny? And everything was going to turn out fine anyway? The horoscope said so. His "luck" would return. It was just a matter of time.

He allowed it to sap his customary energy. It may have had something to do with his illness. It may have had to do with the loss of two children from which he never recovered. It may be that the British, whom he had hitherto loved and admired, returned after the war to accuse him of being a Japanese collaborator because he was responsible for helping set the town to rights after the invasion. This was although his two eldest sons were in the British air force, the eldest dying while firing at German tanks in France and the second, a decorated war hero, while the rest of the family were incarcerated and tortured for a year.

Ben emerged from the war, ill, bruised, broken, penniless. And heartbroken.

Every day he waited for his "luck" to change. When he was hospitalised at 55, he didn't think much of it. After all, he was only going to die at 84. Still many years left for his fortune to shift, for his star to be in the ascendant.

But something happened before any of this could take place.

He died.


quilldancer said...

I hate it when that happens.

goldennib said...

My mother calls me to read me my horoscope, but only when it's bad. When I ask her why, she says it's so I can be prepared. I'm so lucky.

A thinker said...

Wow, that's a sad story. Bad idea to rely on someone else's version of the "future" and not act responsibly...very sad.

Jenn said...

Quilly: Me too. Of what use are the position of stars if not to tell us about tomorrow?

Nessa: You are. Sweet thang your Mommy.

Thinker: Insidious, I think.