“ I own the tents and the trucks and the equipment. The rest is…the rest.” He finished with a draw of his cigar.
Nigel was perplexed. ”But the acts. The people, the animals, the clowns. You sell the tickets.”
“Nigel, I do the logistics. I have a bank account. I can get permits and negotiate land leases. I’m the only one here that knows how to do that. So I do it and, I sell the tickets and, I give them the pay they will work for. I feed them and I give them purpose. As long as they think they are happy, they are happy. And, they are all miserable, by choice. I actually give them comfort, just by being.”
“But, what if they quit?” Nigel, emphatically protested, in an attempt to point out the obvious flaw.
And, where are they going to go?” The Major lit a cigar. “They can quit. Do you know of someone who is in need of a Dutch veterinarian with a psychotic orangutan?”
The next morning, the St. Pancras train station was light with passengers. Evidently not many people left London on a Tuesday morning at nine a.m. Nigel and the Major made it to the ticket booth at the station. The Roma King was nowhere in sight. They walked to the booth together. The Major purchased two coach seats for two adults.
Nigel’s heart swelled a bit by the casual compliment. His self-worth grew in that moment. Maybe not a man, but certainly not a child. In his mind, the visuals of the clip joint incident rolled through his mind. No one at his school had ever lived a story like that.
After sitting on the platform for about twenty minutes, the King appeared. It seemed funny that they were the only travelers with flaccid luggage. The sky was misty. One day of sun in June in England had given way to the precipitation.
There was no need to wait for an arrival. The train was set already waiting for the passengers at the platform, doors locked shut. An announcement came and all of the doors opened at once.
The men took their place in line and boarded near each other. They never spoke nor greeted each other. It was odd to Nigel that men of such proximity never showed true allegiance nor actual animosity.
Upon arrival in Wilmslow, the train station clock read 11:30. The grounds would be set and ready for guests, if all was as expected.
As the three men approached the entrance, all looked normal in every way. A few of the Roma’s men were sitting on the bales of straw next to the ticket booth. It was odd because they typically stayed in their encampment, which was way out past beyond the sewage field where no one would pay attention to them or bother them.
As the Roma King approached his menfolk stood. They spoke in the gibberish that was indistinguishable as a real language to Nigel.
“Michael.” The King spoke. “Michael, we have problem”.
The Major replied, “What’s the problem mate?”.
“We have three rides that need parts. Two gears and one piston. Your right hand, has no right hand.”
“Dammit!.” The Major exclaimed. “Where are the bad parts?” The King replied, “Ivan has them.”
The Major scratched his head and turned to Nigel. “Go to shed and get the parts, meet me back here in ten minutes.”
Nigel had to ask. “Who is Ivan?”
The Major snapped, “ You save a man’s life you should learn his name.”
So, the Slav had a name, Ivan.
A square, tan army tent stood on the corner behind the Roma’s camp. This was clearly a military issue tent that which stood out like a sore thumb. “Odd, he had not noticed it before.” Nigel thought.
He went out of his way not to cut across the circle of Roma trucks, cars and caravan that were arranged in circle about 100 one hundred feet in diameter. Inside the circle, he saw people milling about over campfires and tables and chairs. The collection of furnishings was much more residential furniture than outdoor furniture. It was like a gigantic parlor. The Roma’s never ceased to be unusual and surprising.
Upon making the entrance to the tent, Nigel saw Ivan at work, his back to him. He had a large workbench with, a variety of tools strewn about and four or five huge toolboxes.
“Ahh, pardon me.” Nigel raised his voice.
Ivan startled turned 180 one-hundred and eighty degrees to face the voice, his right arm strapped to his chest in a sling. A massive bandage wrapped the bicep. There was were no blood stains, just grease.
He motioned to the end of the workbench with his head. “They’re over there."
Nigel inspected the three parts on the steel table. Ivan poked at the parts with his good hand as he diagnosed the situation out loud.
“Dis von is no good. See da crack?”
Nigel noticed a vein of a crack running the length of a gear.
“Dis von needs to be ground. But, I need two handz to do.”
The second gear had worn teeth on the gear which were rounded by wear.
“And, diz,” he held up a piston dripping red fluid. “Diz needz to be opened and new gasget. Two hands, for that as well.”
Nigel smiled. “Let me help.”
Ivan snorted, “Okay, Nigel, yoo help.”
Nigel spent the rest of the day getting instruction in his new apprenticeship as a machinist. He had never worked with his hands in his life. He did not have the strength or the skill to do this but, when needed, he would use two hands against Ivan’s one good left hand to gain leverage.
It was extremely fascinating and fulfilling to do this work. He had no idea he would love it. He was certain he didn’t want to do it every day for the rest of his life, but having a second skill, or at least an interest in one, was enriching. He wondered, for a moment, “If this is my second skill, what’s my first, shoveling elephant turds?” He laughed to himself.
Mid-afternoon, Ivan sent Nigel to town with an empty can of hydraulic fluid, to get more. He suggested finding a petrol station and asking for brake fluid if he couldn’t find a machine shop.
He started at a petrol station. The mechanic asked him why he needed brake fluid. Nigel explained the situation. The mechanic told him that brake fluid was not a good choice. He suggested hydraulic fluid and pointed towards a shop a few blocks away. Ivan was surprised upon Nigel’s return and the quality of his purchase.
“Vhere d’yo vind this?”
Nigel quietly, but proudly, replied, “At the machine shop.”
“I vill zend you tomorrow for tree more.”
You would have thought Ivan trust had been given him in gold bars.
The week went on as normal. Cleaning. Hauling. Shoveling. Every afternoon Nigel would make it back to visit Dr. Baas and Edgar. Every day brought the same result, until Friday.
On this day, boy and ape went through their usual routine. Nigel approached Edgar’s cage and gently pushed the carrot through the bars. The ape took the carrot and retreated to his position across the cage. He sniffed the carrot and he clawed the carrot. But, to Nigel’s amazement, this time he took a bite.
“He chewed it, Dr. Baas!” Nigel sparked.
Dr. Baas came around the corner to witness the orangutan gently munching on the carrot.
“What the hell?”
Edgar finished the carrot and stuck his hand through the bars. Nigel took a second carrot and handed it to Edgar. The ape retreated and gulped it down. Again, he stuck out his massive hand and shook his head vigorously, as if to say, “Yes, give me another.”
Nigel grabbed a third carrot and offered it.
Edgar approached and took the carrot. But, this time, he sat on the near side of the cage and leaned in towards Nigel as he ate it.
“Can I get in the cage? Asked Nigel, enthusiastically.
“Absoluetly not, He’ll kill you.”
The stern response stunned Nigel. “But, he took the carrot?”
“He hates carrots.” Dr. Baas said as he leaned in examining Edgar.
“What do you mean, he hates carrots?” Nigel asked.
“He hates carrots!” his voice rose.
“Then, why have I been giving him carrots?” Nigel was puzzled.
The whispered reply came back, “Because, he hates carrots.”
“I don’t get it. Why have you been giving me carrots to give him?”
“Stupid, boy. I do not want him imprinting on you. He likes bananas. He hates carrots.”
“But, if I give him carrots, how do you think I could train him?”
“I didn’t want you to train him. You wanted to train him.”
“But, I’ve been paying you. I have been working my arse off to get the chance to train him. You were supposed to teach me.”
Nigel’s anger startled Edgar who became restless.
“How did you train him?”Nigel pressed.
Dr. Baas looked Nigel in the eye. “I didn’t. I told you that the first day.But you would not listen.”
“Well, how did he get trained?”
“I don’t know. I went to a cricket match fifteen years ago. He was a mascot. He would go to the field and a trainer had him on a leash. He was a baby, maybe two. He would stand on the pitch and throw da ball at the player with the bat. Perfectly. He threw six or seven balls. Then, a lady in the crowd screamed like a monkey at him. He turned and threw into the crowd and hit a little girl in the head. He hurt her very badly. I attended to her wound. They were going to shoot the ape. So, I took it. I discovered that the shape of the milk bottles, from a distance, was the same shape as the bat. He could hit the bottles, easily. So, I didn’t train him. He came that way.”
Nigel stood, stunned. Angry. He wanted to ask for his money back but, instinctively, knew there would be no chance of that. Money spent. “Well, I guess you will not be expecting me to pay you, today?”
Dr. Baas laughed. “No, I guess not.”
Nigel stormed off. Unbelievable. He had worked. He had followed all the directions. He had diligently, paid and done everything he was told. To what end? He had just spent eighty pounds on man who had, absolutely, no expertise in the training of an ape. In fact, Nigel felt he had made more progress with the carrots, himself. What an absolute, disheartening waste.
That night, as he was taking tickets at the Big Top, Nigel fantasized about stealing the bananas out of Dr. Baas’ jacket pocket. He visualized pinning him against the bars and reaching for bananas which weren’t there.
As the performance began, at the moment when Edgar was wheeled in, Nigel had a new thought. He was sure Dr. Baas was cruel and he wanted to see how the ape lived. It was the only corner in the camp he had true curiosity about. He wondered if the vet really treated the animal kindly or cruelly. He was sure a simple peek inside the ape’s caravan would offer insight.
The entire grounds were busy. Dr. Baas and Edgar were performing. There was no better opportunity to be had. Spiritedly, he hustled to the back of the camp. The Major’s caravan stood barren next to Dr. Baas’. The coast was clear. Nigel slipped around to the back of the caravan and approached the orangutan’s front door.
He froze when he, quite unexpectedly, saw the outline of two men hunched over the floor. The two men were startled by the opening of the door.
“Sorry!” Nigel exclaimed.
The Major and the Roma King rose to their feet, both with huge bundles of cash in their hands. Between them was a square metal plate slide to one side and revealed a large hole in the floor.
*40) Your employees are more inclined to stay than leave. People resist change so treat them well and they will stay.
*41) People lie about their talent. He allowed Nigel to believe he had trained the ape at first out of his own ego and later lied about it, blaming Nigel for his deception.
*42) Before you shell out money for someone’s 24 karat coaching program, make sure that they have excelled at what they are teaching. You can get taken by fraudulent experts.
* 43) Just because you admire the perception you have about someone, that does not mean that is what they are. He was not a particularly wise or exceptional man and his selfishness and deception made him unlikeable.