Read by Cliff Chapman
How to explain about Mr Funny? It's no easy task. Was Mr Funny a kind man? Was he a humanitarian man? Perhaps only in the sense that he'd sometimes talk about kidnapping our business rivals, putting them 'in a frikkin' hog oven', then serving them up with 'mash potatoes and apple sauce, the goddamn, ingrate, limey faggots.'
He used to see himself as a sort of Donald Trump figure, just a dreamer really, a regular, blue-collar schlub, who hadn't gone to a fancy college, and wasn't prepared to sit around on his keister, waiting for the big shots to throw him a bone. Certainly, when it came to striking a land deal, no one ever accused Mr Funny of letting the grass grow under his feet. There, or anywhere else much. Though he did make an exception for the golf course, I guess. The greens, he'd say, outlining his vision in one of our meetings, would be fertilised by 'the hearts, the guts ... the frikkin' ground-up skulls' of our competitors.
So I was troubled, I admit, when I took to the stage on that seaside afternoon. The hotel, the casino, the Nineteenth Hole, in fact everything to do with the marina development that was, we hoped, finally going to bring the Isle of Man into the twenty-first century, drugged if necessary, metaphorically speaking, depended on what happened in the next forty minutes. Months of planning had gone into this, and we'd laid on a lunch. So the island's great, good and not-so-good (perhaps especially the latter, if the footage I'd seen was anything to go by) were assembled on the dock.
Mr Funny once said that the Isle of Man's political scene was like an evergreen bowling club, if everyone involved was ' a goddamn Nazi', and there was a lot of pastel out there, a lot of leathery skin. But while palms had been greased and, as Mr Funny put it, 'assholes had been lubed', I was still unsure about my presentation. This is the trouble with having a silent business partner: draw up the agreement as clearly as you like, you still never quite know when he's going to speak up.
So I'd first met Mr Funny in downtown Manhattan, in the late October of 2006. In what I wish I could say was a prescient step, I'd taken voluntary redundancy from Lehman Brothers, having made a couple of trades that even in terms of the market back then, were considered not far off the acts of a terrorist, or some Radiohead-listening anti-capitalist douche. Seeing as Lehman Brothers, famously, weren't big on acknowledging failure, at least in public, I had been given my golden handshake. But it had been made fairly clear, during my leaving do, that what I should have been given was a golden kick in the ass, and that my days on Wall Street as a senior trader, or in fact as anything senior to a toilet trader, were now over.
So, surfing the net on that fateful Friday, I was looking round, long-term, for new career opportunities. And also, in the short-term, for a Halloween costume for the party that night. I wouldn't usually have been after a full-face mask, because as a single guy dressed up as Spider-Man or Leatherface, even from the neck up, you may as well order your lonely cab home before the night even starts. Still, on this occasion, when former work colleagues were sure to be attending, a disguise of some sort seemed a solid investment.
So I'd found this shop, deep in the Village. Later, I was asked where I'd managed to get such a 'butt-ugly' mask; tellingly perhaps, the place where I bought Mr Funny closed down shortly afterwards. But they had quite a selection. Leftover stuff from Goth rock videos, Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, that sort of thing. Gimp masks, torture masks, masks with nails hammered in. Masks with appendages so distended they could have been props in the kind of underground, experimental adult films that are best not thought about. Basically, it was downtown. There were all kinds of horrors. But there was something about Mr Funny, about his twisted, scary clown leer, that seemed to speak to me somehow. He looked blue-collar basically, like a janitor from hell. So, in the spirit of irony, I suppose, given the way my career prospects looked, I got my credit-card out.
Anyway, the party was fine. From what I recall (not that much, it's true) Mr Funny was something of a hit. Certainly, nobody asked me to clean up afterwards, or suggested I leave. But, although this hasn't been covered in any of the books yet, the Lehman Brothers party set was prone to extremes. At the bash there were pills, there was cocaine and angel-dust, so much so that the last thing I remember is regaining consciousness in the meat-packing district at three in the morning, while attempting to negotiate with what a strange, rasping voice in the back of my mind referred to as 'a fine slice'a tuchas.'
'Honey,' said the lady, 'I'll make you feel sooo good … But it gonna be extra, if you wearin' that thing.'
'Fool, fuck you! You so outta yo head, you don' even know? Irv? Yo Irv, come over here and fuck this motherfucker up! Fuckin' stupid-ass whiteboy motherfuckin' clown …'
'Okay, okay … Your place or mine?'
'Motherfucker, dressed like that, y'all best believe we goin' to my office.'
'I suppose the old place is a bit off-limits.'
'Oh yeah? Where you work, honey?' said the courtesan, perhaps now registering the Armani, the Rolex 'Uptown, maybe? Y'know, if ya pour on some more sugar, we could do it on ya desk? Y'all like that, honey? Yeah, I'm feelin' you would ...'
'Perhaps my pass still might be effective ...'
'Lemme see … Ooh, no doubt, baby. No doubt ...'
The next morning, I woke up with a thumper behind the eyes. There was a feeling of latex glued to my anatomy. Ah, wild, crazy nights. Half-asleep, on auto-pilot really, I made my way to the facilities. But in the mirror, past the overturned furniture, the graffiti on the walls, I was confronted by Mr Funny. He said;
'Davey, ya gone to the frikkin' john in ya pants here.'
'Where is here?' I said, talking, but also not talking to myself, in effect. To the spectral, red-eyed presence in the glass. This is difficult to explain.
'Dave,' I said. 'It's Dave.'
'Fuck you, ya fuckin' mook. Now here's the thing. You did a hooker in ya goddamn office, and then you wrote all this crap on the paintwork …'
'Look at it, Davey.'
I looked around. Emblazoned on the walls in magic marker were lines like 'Seinfeld was the Baptist, and Trump the Christ! But Mr Funny is God!'
'I don't remember any of this.' I said
'Okay, maybe you were nudged a little. But we gotta get outta here now. Where you from?'
'Where am I … from?.'
Mr Funny reared up in the glass.
'All right, steady on. The Isle of Man.'
'Where the fuck is that?'
'Britain, sort of.'
'The land of faggots and warm frikkin' beer? So be it, I guess. Okay, Davey ...'
'Dave … Jesus Christ.'
'Don't get ya panties in a frikkin' bunch. You gotta passport, yeah?'
'Best pack ya bags then, Davey.'
'Mr Funny's too pretty. You know what happens to guys like me in jail?'
Some facts about the Isle of Man, then. This, from Wikipedia, is the kind of thing I'd put in the brochures.
'The Isle of Man is a low tax economy, with no capital gains tax, wealth tax, stamp duty or inheritance tax, and a top rate of income tax of 20 per cent. A tax cap is in force. The rate of corporation tax is 0% for almost all types of income.' Add some bumph about the scenery, the golf and the excellent restaurants, and you're almost bound to attract a certain clientele. I mean, it sounds great, doesn't it?
And to begin with, it was. From my time at Lehman's, I'd salted away enough of a stake to establish myself in the island's property market. You buy a couple of houses for cash money down, and after that, you keep on flipping them, or using them as security from ever more elaborate and fantastical developments, until you're a player. In a small place like that (population 80,000) it's only a matter of time. And the market was going like a fair back then, or possibly a circus. We went from flats to a hotel ('La Commedia', we called it, in homage to Mr F's Italian roots) to more grandiose schemes, in surprisingly short order.
Until, that was, we hit the glass ceiling. Because on the Isle of Man, however much money you throw at the problem, there's only so much lebensraum to go around. And we were still new faces (very much so, in Mr Funny's case) and by no means the only developers in town.
And as with all great visionaries, Le Corbusier, Albert Speer, Trump, Mr Funny wanted everything done yesterday. He wasn't content to wait about 'like an asshole', while the wheels within wheels of our planning applications ground their sleepy way on. So as our great lost golf course, planned for an island that was, admittedly, already littered with the things, became increasingly mired in its own legal sand trap, he began to talk about extortion. About oiling the committee with poison if necessary, 'if the mothers won't take cash!'
'But some of them really are mothers,' I'd say.
'Oh yeah?' he'd seethe from the mirror, 'You tell 'em I'll fuck 'em anyway.'
Drugs, prostitution and gambling were mentioned. In a town like Douglas, the island's capital, discretion is the watchword when it comes to vice, but Mr Funny wouldn't listen. So as the marina development became the focus of our efforts (because where could we go now, except into the sea?) I started to suffer from blackouts again. Whole days would go missing. Strange business cards and mysterious wraps would be there on the bedside table, as I woke up into the confusion of dawn. It was uncomfortably like the last days in Manhattan.
But I hadn't been quite sure what he was up to until a few days earlier, when I'd gone out for lunch with potential investors. I'd locked Mr Funny in the cellar at home, just to be on the safe side, but had, nevertheless, still come to my senses an indeterminate time later, back at the mansion, in the midst of spiking the punch with Viagra or something, while nubile young things with Estonian looks cavorted in the pool with key island luminaries, and Mr Funny held court, like a lord of misrule from darkest New Jersey. As the closed-circuit cameras whirred away in the background.\
At this point, Mr Funny and I repaired to the study. Key Point One was who in the hell was running this company -
'It's not just a business, it's my brain!'
'Fuck you, Dave! You ain't got no balls! Lemme show ya sump'n ...'
And so to Key Point Two: the footage Mr Funny had acquired, both there at the mansion, and in the low-end house of ill-repute that he had, quite impressively, managed to turn La Commedia into.
So there I was on the dock, a day or two later. In my pocket, there were two DVDs. Disc A, my work, listed the benefits the marina would bring to the island. Disc B, on the other hand, was a quite different kind of waterside production. But as to which was which, or who'd be conducting the post-presentation Q&A session, once the film had been shown, on the wide-screen, looming over the quay, well, who knew?
Still, in business you're screwed if you show any weakness, so I straightened my collar, and hit the stage.
© Quintin Forrest, 2012
Quintin Forrest is currently preparing Tales of Modern Stupidity, his debut collection of short stories, for publication as an e-book. He lives in London.