WATERS: 63 Million Gold Bars in the Land of Privilege

James Waters is a Greenwich native and resident with children in the public schools. He works at a private investment firm and served in the Bush Administration’s White House Office of Management and Budget and then as a US Navy SEAL officer.

Reclining in his velvet red chair, peeling grapes, Sir Michael the Mason, better known as Michael the Mistaken, pondered what he would say.

His nation was gripped in a pandemic that stifled its healthcare system and economy. Fortunately, Sir Michael only thought of his town, the Land of Privilege, and a long-held pledge. As Baron of Gold, Sir Michael wanted his name recorded in history.

“Times are tough, the plague places demands on resources,” he stated. “We only have 63 million gold bars stockpiled in royal vaults. It’s more than ever, but we must preserve the hoard. Can you believe the peasants demand their children be educated?”

Baroness Karen the Parsimonious sneered, “These peasants have wasted money for years on this folly, while we know to send our children and grandchildren to royal tax exempt schools.”

The Men in Dark Suits agreed, “And what of our pledge to Viscounts from favored regions? Their manors grow but they tire of paying 50,000 or 200,000 gold bars in castle taxes. We should help them plate new toilets with gold instead.”

Karen the Parsimonious added, “Yes, the Viscounts care little for peasants. The teachers have bags of gold stashed beneath their hovel floorboards. Just ask Lucia the Diligent.”

Lucia nodded eagerly, pulling out parchment with translucent numbers. Known to most as Lucia the Deceiver, the invisible ink she used showed nothing but a blank page. Yet Sir Michael saw a beautiful golden portrait, adding “Lucia, you deserve relief on your 43,000 gold bars in castle taxes.”

Countess Gladstone and Konspirator Kim interjected, “We see gold in every pocket we look. It drives us crazy when people say we betray town children. Everyone knows those children matter less than ours. Just look at how much we pay for royal school!”

A Viscount stood up, golden glimmer in his eye. “The plague provides a glorious opportunity to fulfill your pledge. You can claim ‘prudence’, a cunning ruse indeed. ‘Prudence’ to keep your 63 million for the Day of Reckoning and ‘prudence’ to give us the gold you promised.”

Never outdone, Peter the Sherrible, donning his prized wolf-skin cloak, pranced onto the stage. “As Master of Whisperers nigh 10 years, no one denigrates better than me! There is gold in the cracks of the decrepit peasant school buildings. Trust me, I know better than Toni the Valiant.”

Toni the Valiant protested, “Our teachers are working hard and our schools face great uncertainty. 31 copper pennies a day is all we ask. After a decade of belt tightening, you ask us to do even more for children with too little. ”

Sir Michael retorted, “I’m glad.”

3,000 reasonable townspeople flooded into the Great Hall, olive branches in hand.

Sir Michael peeled another grape. “Muzzle the rabble,” he ordered the guards.

The Manor Brokers warned “More peasants flood into Privilege. There will be crowding and even greater public health challenges at schools.”

Karen the Parsimonious yawned, “Perhaps, but I must nap on golden sheets.”

The Chief Historian reminded them, “Remember Triangle Shirtwaist. Our town faces extreme liability if you gut protections for schools.”

The Men in Dark Suits shrugged, “We have lawyers, don’t you?”

The Bean Counter produced verified numbers from Connecticut-dom, “Despite the pandemic, unemployment in Privilege is less than 10%. Town coffers will be fine.”

The Viscount cackled, counting his gold.

Messengers from Dareen, Westportland, Fairfieldton, and Canaan entered the Hall. “We refuse to take school gold and decided our schools need more.”

“Not so fast,” cautioned Lucia the Deceiver, producing another blank page.

In a trance, Sir Michael said, “This golden sketch shows what we must do. We’ll save the 63 million for a more trying time. The people gave us the money and I’m Baron of Gold!”

A young boy raised his hand, “But sir, her scroll is empty. Soon their schools will be better than ours!” The townspeople agreed, “Lucia the Deceiver is making things up!”

Enraged, Sir Michael flipped the boy upside down, grabbing the 2 copper coins and a “Wanted” poster that fell from his pocket. “LET THEM EAT CAKE,” he thundered. Karen the Parsimonious rubbed her hands, pledge fulfilled.

“Let them eat cake! Let them eat cake!” chanted the Men in Dark Suits.

“Yes, yes. Cake tastes good,” offered Court Jester Quixotic Dan, who never wrote his own jokes.

The townspeople sobbed in the corner. Not realizing this plot had unfolded for years, they lamented not voting in Privilege’s last election.

But they were committed to their children and each other – and the promise of a day when wrongs could be righted. Sir Michael the Mistaken would indeed go down in history.

Stay tuned to this column for more adventures from Sir Michael and the Land of Privilege…

James Waters is a Greenwich native and resident with children in the public schools. He works at a private investment firm and served in the Bush Administration’s White House Office of Management and Budget and then as a US Navy SEAL officer.