Song of a Taoist Sage by Maurice Evans.
A small flying bird in the winter morning sun
Dances in the air whilst catching insects
Outside the window
And becomes a shadow upon the wall.
Spring is not far away
Frosts will fade and cease
Wattle trees are in bloom
And there is a stirring within myself
Signs of a new life to come.
There is much trouble and strife
In the world today
Wars upon wars with
Much gross cruelty causing large scale human suffering.
This brings tears to my eyes and a pain to my heart
But Mother Nature continues on
Not missing a beat
For She is solace to the soul and
Medicine for the heart
by Allan Jamieson
Robertson was late. This could now be stated with
surety. When he did arrive, he would be blasted by those already sitting
or standing in the room.
"We'll blow him out of the water", said
Al. "He's a goner". Tom nodded. So did Bill, but he added: "Yeah, we didn't
come here for some cookies and coffee, did we!" They were on the 53rd floor
of a building in New York - Robertson's home town in fact. Perhaps strangely,
neither Tom nor Bill nor Al lived in New York. Each had flown into town
for this meeting.
What they were doing was highly illegal - and
dangerously so too. Meetings of this group of people always took place
outside America; in Jamaica, Canada, Italy and elsewhere. Because? Because
the US Anti-Trust law was tough - it had teeth - and any meeting of representatives
of companies in a particular field of business could simply not be held
in America without raising the spectre of law courts, fines and jail sentences.
Tom stood, looking at the skyline, what there
was of it, and then turned to face the others. He spoke slowly. "Do you
think we've been set up? Look at us. Sittingducks. CEO of X Incorporated,
owner of Y Inc., President of Z Corp.. What a catch! All in one room at
the same time. Our three companies combined sell over half the market pulp
in the world. By any standards, we look like a cartel. Robertson knows
we don't like what he's doing in our markets. What proof have we got that
he is coming? Bill - you only got his word over the phone, didn't you?"
"Yeah, true", said Bill and shifted uneasily in
his chair. Tom was saying what Bill dared not say, more so because Bill
had agreed over the phone - after Robertson's brusque demand - that they
meet in New York. "All right, you guys want to meet me! Then let's meet
here in New York!" Robertson had challenged. Bill had accepted against
his better judgement. Had he put his head and the heads of Tom and Al in
Al sat still, except for his fingers which were
folding a piece of paper into a smaller and smaller - and thicker - rectangle.
There were already two such rectangles on the table in front of him.
Time went. Nobody knew how long the meeting would
take once it started, but each man in the room had another meeting to go
to before flying out again. These meetings were the alibis each man needed
to be able to 'explain' why he was in New York on the same day as the others.
"Must have been a coincidence, Judge" each might say if the Feds did drag
them off to court sometime in the future. After all, it was well known
that the Feds would pore over travel records to trace where executives
of companies were travelling and a sharp eye might detect that Al, Bill
and Tom were all in New York on June 14, 1977.
At some point, each would have to leave to honour
these second meetings. Did Robertson know that? Could he read their minds
and predict that each man had a 2 pm meeting?
"When's your next meeting, Al?" Bill asked.
"2 pm on 34th. I'd like a spot of lunch but if
we don't see Robertson soon, I'll have to go anyway."
Tom nodded. "Same here". He looked at the clock
on the wall and then, just to be sure, glanced at his watch. Nope, no doubt
about it. It was gone 12:30. Tom had expected the meeting with Robertson
to be over by now, he thought to himself. His son was at Columbia University
and they were going to have lunch together. Tom cursed. "I'm supposed to
be meeting Robert for lunch", he said aloud. "It's too late to ring him
re. a change of plan. Another 15 minutes is all I can spare, I reckon".
Al probably spoke for all three when he said:
"What a stuff-up! We should have bided our time for a month. You know,
Robertson is down to chair our next gathering, in Milano in July. We could
surely have got a pound or two of his flesh then with minuscule risk to
Bill saw a way to minimise his role in convening
this precipitous and precarious meeting in New York. "Look, Al, you're
the one who insisted I ring Robertson. July was too far off, you said.
Quote 'I'm bleeding, Bill,' unquote you said. 'Eight million dollars a
month’, you said".
Bill would have continued but there was a noise
at the door. Two voices? Who could they be? Seconds passed. No one came
into the room. Was it a false alarm; people heading to the elevator and
lunch somewhere in New York? Three hearts were pounding in the room.
Silence, except for a regular 'thump, thump' in
the ears of Al, Bill and Tom. If it wasn't for that noise, a 'tick-tock'
sound might have been heard by the three persons in the room. To hear that
sound, however, one would have had to be in the mood to hear it and these
three persons were not in the mood. Between them, they had created an electric
Tom was idly looking at the door when he saw the
knob turn. No sound. In walked Robertson. Those in the room were speechless.
Vital seconds were lost while they got their pounding hearts under control
and - by then - Robertson was speaking.
"Sorry for being late. Bankers are persistent
people, aren't they? I've got to go to another bank in five minutes, but
I am here now because I owe you guys an appearance".
Tom felt his heart returning to its normal place
and he opened his mouth to speak. Too slow, however, because Robertson
was in full swing.
"I know exactly how you feel. In fact, the mere
fact that you are here in this room in New York is statement enough. I
don't need to hear you speak. I'm here too, now, because I feel I owe you
some respect. You've put yourselves at risk by coming here because I've
upset the market and pushed prices down below where they've been at any
time in the last 20 years. That's a fact and I know it. You know it and
you also know that I have three other, older pulp mills that are hurting.
Don't think those mill managers aren't screaming at me too. But, my latest
mill - at Point Townsend - is still in the hands of the bankers. I need
He paused, but before any in his audience of three
could speak, Robertson continued: "I'm paying off the first loans in ten
days. By the time we meet in Milano, I will have stopped selling at $200
a tonne. I promise you, in a month's time the price will be $300."
With that, Robertson turned. He hadn't even sat
down since he entered the room. He strode to the door and disappeared from
sight. The door closed.
The only sound in the room was that of three pairs
of hands clapping.
Did Robertson hear this sound? Did it matter?
He made his way to the elevator. It arrived and two men stepped out as
he stepped in. They looked at each other but no word was spoken. Robertson
noticed out of the corner of his eye that the two men walked purposefully
along the corridor; in step.