05-02 Games for Children

by Ernest Bywater

Tags: Drama, Politics, Workplace, Extra Sensory Perception, Young Adult, Vignettes,

Desc: Action/Adventure Story: In March 2009 a company is taken over, and the new owners renege on an arrangement with the View Port Orphanage. Gerry is notified, and he steps in to help. The result is a major change in the situation, and more fun for the kids. But there are some problems to be overcome. Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord, except in the corporate world - never let kids down, it can hurt you.

At 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday 3rd March, 2009 Marcella is standing in front of the View Port Internet (VPI) Head Office taking a break when she notices a man leaving the View Port Orphanage with a fast long stride, and a sour expression on his face. Looking up at the orphanage front door, it’s next door to VPI, she sees Stella, the orphanage manager, with an odd look on her face, and she appears to be about to cry. Marcella walks closer, and calls out, “Stella, come on in, and have a hot chocolate. You look like you can do with one.” While nodding yes Stella speaks to someone behind her before closing the door, and walking over to VPI.

Together they enter the VPI offices, and head for Marcella’s office. She asks one of the staff to organise hot chocolates and some biscuits for them. Once in the office Stella starts to cry. Marcella takes her in her arms, and gives her a cuddle. She’s shocked by this, because Stella is such a strong and very much in control person, this isn’t like her, not at all. You don’t manage an orphanage for twenty years without being strong. They stand like that for several minutes, they don’t move when the staff member walks in with the hot chocolate and biscuits. Betty, the staff member making the delivery, is shocked to see Stella crying and in need of comforting, because she’s usually the one comforting others.

Betty knows Stella well, because she spent six years in the orphanage after her parents died in a car accident near here. She remembers how strong Stella was in helping her get over her grief, and how she watched Stella help the children deal with the recent invasion. Returning to her desk she wonders what she can do to help. Suddenly she smiles, she knows exactly what she can do. It’s a standard rule in View Port: ‘If you have a tricky problem talk to Gerry. He can fix anything, and if he can’t, no one can.’ Picking up her phone she hits the speed dial to call Gerry. She often wondered why Gerry’s number is in the business speed dial system, and now she knows - she thinks.

Gerry is in the View Port High School Study Centre on a free period when his mobile phone vibrates, he has the sound turned off while at school. Answering the phone he listens to Betty talk. Leaving the Study Centre he stops at the school administration centre to let them know he’s leaving the school, and he may not be returning this afternoon, they enter it into the records.

He walks to the VPI offices, and enters the building. He goes direct to Marcella’s office, knocks on the door, and enters when she says he can. Entering the office he sees Stella is distraught, and Marcella isn’t happy, either. He looks at them, sits down, and says, “Talk to me.”

Giving him a weak smile Stella sits up in the lounge more, and says, “You know how Farly Ferries has the class leader of their new cross between a ferry and a cruise ship touring the region, and how we’ve assisted them for the last year with their publicity while they fit it out?” He nods, because he knows a lot more about it than she does. He, as the Royal Protector, approved their involvement. He’s also starting to get a bit ahead of her, because the company underwent a hostile takeover in mid December. She says, “Part of the deal was for the ship to be here during the coming school holidays to take all the children for a cruise down to the tip of the Dareed Peninsula and back. Spending five days and four nights at sea in the cruise ship. I’ve just had a visit from Mister Farly. He was the junior partner in the business, it used his name and expertise while the senior partner provided all the funding. The senior partner recently died, and his children aren’t interested in the business at all, they sold out their interests in a way that’s forced Mister Farly to sell up for less than his share was worth. The new owners have cancelled the holiday trip, because they see no financial return to them for going ahead with it. Mister Farly is leaving them, but his last official duty is to inform me of the change of plans. This morning he explained it all, and handed me an official letter cancelling the arrangements. He’s not happy, and has gone back to the View Port Arms to get drunk. For months the children have been looking forward to the good holiday on a fancy ship, and now I have to tell them it’s off. And after all the hard work they did helping to promote the ship and company. It’s so unfair to the children.”

Gerry looks up, and says, “If I remember right, the trip was for April eleven to April fifteen, correct?” Stella nods her head. Going to the desk he picks up the telephone, and signals for the reception desk. When Betty answers he asks her to call the View Port Arms, and to get Mr Farly on the phone for him. She’s to signal when she has him. He looks at Stella, and says, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but the orphanage currently has one hundred and twenty-nine girls plus twenty-seven boys in residence?” She nods her head while she wonders how he knows the exact numbers. He smiles, and answers the phone when it rings. Betty connects him to Mr Farly. Gerry asks, “Mister Farly, I hear your association with Farly Ferries is finishing, is that correct?” He listens for some time.

New Player

Finally Gerry says, “That’s all well and good, Mister Farly, but I wish to speak with you about employing you. I’m currently in the office of the CEO of View Port Internet, please come and see me now before you get too drunk. I wish to discuss employing you at my new shipyard.” Stella is looking very wide-eyed at this, while Marcella is smiling. He hangs up the phone.

Walking around Marcella’s desk he sits down, and uses the intercom. When Betty answers he says, “Betty, Gerry. I’ll be here in Marcella’s office for a while. I’m expecting a Mister Farly to arrive shortly, please show him in. In the meantime, please get me Captain Harding, he’ll be aboard either the Sea Dream or the Dream Girl, try Sea Dream first. I also want to speak with Major Lancer of the Protector’s Office, and Lee Mills of the Department of Tourism and Development. All the numbers are in the phone book. When you get through to them tell them you’re calling for Mister G. Mannheim, and put them through to me here. Thank you.”

Stella’s eyes go wider and Betty is a little bit shocked, but she’s a good professional, and she gets on with following the instructions. Turning to Stella he says, “Stella, you’re about to see and hear some things, things you never saw or heard. Understand?” She slowly nods her head. He smiles, because he knows he can trust her to keep quiet.

A moment later the phone rings, it’s Captain Harding. Gerry says, “Hi, David, what bookings do you have for both boats for the period April eleven to nineteen?” He listens, and says, “OK, I’ll talk to the VPI people, you ring the rest and tell them I’m pre-empting the bookings. As of now that period is reserved for the View Port Orphanage, the boys will sail on Dream Girl while the girls will sail on Sea Dream. Leave just before dusk on April eleven, return late afternoon of the nineteenth. Please prepare suitable itineraries for them, try and organise for them to be out of sight of each other for most of it, but close enough for mutual support, plus some joint activities on some of the islands. Thanks.” Hanging up, he turns to Marcella, “Please explain to the staff about the change in the arrangements for the staff party. I’ll arrange for you to have access to the ballroom at Highcliff.” Both ladies go wide-eyed at that statement.

The phone rings, and Betty is about to put Major Lancer through when Gerry says, “Betty, I also need to speak to Colonel Rochester at Highcliff, please.”

He explains the situation to Major Lancer, and requests him to get some lawyers onto the matter to see if they’ve legal grounds to take Farly Ferries to court for breach of the contract. He authorises the Protectors Office, through the Child Welfare Office, to do this on behalf of the View Port Orphanage and its children. The Major promises to get on it straight away. Gerry hangs up just in time to meet Mr Farly.

Gerry welcomes him, and asks him to sit down. Mr Farly is surprised to see how young Gerry is, and to see Stella is there too. The phone rings. Gerry excuses himself, and answers it. Betty tells him Mrs Mills is out of the office and will ring back when she returns. She’s expected back in about thirty minutes. She puts Colonel Rochester’s aide through to him.

Gerry says, “Hi, Steve. Yes, it’s really me! Put Erica on, please.” A moment later he’s talking to Erica. After explaining the situation he says, “I know the ballroom is free on April eleven so I’m shifting the VPI staff party to it because I’m kicking them off the Sea Dream so the kids can have it. Please sort out the arrangements at your end so it’ll happen, and fax Marcella at the VPI offices with confirmation.” He listens for a while, and hangs up.

Turning to Mr Farly he says, “Everyone calls me Gerry or sir, choose the one you’re happiest with. Do you mind if I call you George?”

Mr Farly laughs, “Go ahead how you wish, I think you’ll do that, anyway!”

Grinning, Gerry replies, “OK. You’re about to be out of work and are very pissed off with the new owners of Farly Ferries. How would you like to work for me as a ship designer and manager of a new shipyard well down on the Dareed Peninsula? The designs you’ve done for Farly Ferries, how do you stand with regards to the copyrights on them?”

A smiling George says, “I’d like a job as designer and manager again, but don’t expect me to do anything more than that. I’ll want a long term contract. I gather you’re reopening the old Dareed Naval Shipyard. If so, I know a number of the people who worked with me at Farly Ferries who are now looking for new jobs because they heard I’m leaving. I can get them to come across with me, especially the fifty-six Berant citizens I employ on special work visas in Australia. The design copyrights are mine, but they’ve exclusive use for ten years. If I change more than ten percent of the design it constitutes a new design, and is outside of the restriction.”

With a large grin Gerry says, “That’s good. You’ll have to make a lot of design changes, anyway. I own Dream Boats. I’m resurrecting the Dareed Naval Shipyards and restructuring them to build with Nolar Two. We’re expanding into a whole new range of larger ships, cruise ships and ferries to start with.” All in the office have big grins, because they realise he intends to compete with Farly Ferries. Both Marcella and Stella are surprised he owns Dream Boats. “I’d prefer multi-hull designs, since they can get into shallower waters. You’ll find Nolar has a much higher tensile strength than steel, so you can get away with such designs. I’ll employ anyone who follows you over, provided they’re employable under the Berant laws on foreign workers. Many of the Australian citizens can look forward to yearlong contracts to train locals in their skills, but I can’t be sure of going past a year. You may wish to inform them I expect Farly Ferries to be changing hands again within two years of my new yards becoming fully operational, and I want that happening within six months.” George gives him an odd look. Gerry adds, “Farly Ferries are the top contenders to supply the cruise ships and ferries for the new Berant tourism expansion program, as I’m sure you’re aware. The Berant government doesn’t do business with people who don’t keep their word. No contracts have actually been let. This failure to meet their contract with the children means they’re now out of the running for the tourism contract. The whole matter has to be re-examined, and I want to be ready to place a bid before the committee when they review it all. As a local company we’ll have some major advantages over the foreign bidders. I’m looking to you to provide the designs and ships to win the contract. The shallower the draught of the ships the more places they can get into, and the better they’ll rate.” George nods his agreement with it all.

Gerry is about to speak again when the phone rings, and he answers the call. It’s Lee Mills of Tourism and Development, and he says, “Hi, Lee, Gerry. You better do some checks of your own and note them for the record, but I think you’ll need to review the whole expansion program from scratch. Farly Ferries are the leading bid for the ferries and cruise ships. They’ve just voided their promotional contract with the View Port Orphanage, and aren’t delivering on their promised cruise. The new owners, Wilday Investments, see no need to meet this agreement by the prior owners. I’m pretty sure they also own Westly Developments, the leading contenders for both the island resorts. I think it’s time for me to step in. Send me the details of the small bidders who got cut for lack of funding support, and include notes of what you liked or disliked with the bids.” He listens for a moment, and says, “Oh, I’m sure I’ll be able to work out something. Their ideas, their management, my financial support plus extra ideas. You’ll get some really good bids this time around, and it’ll only be a few hundred million. Take your time getting this sorted, because I need to outfit a new shipyard to construct the ships for the task.” He listens some more, and hangs up. The rest are staring at him, because he’s telling senior government staff what to do. He sees their expressions, and just smiles at them.

Betty knocks on the door, she enters with a fax, and a wide-eyed look. She hands the fax to Marcella. It’s the confirmation from Highcliff Palace they’ll have the ballroom for their annual staff party this year. She shows it to him, and he smiles. She hands it to Betty with orders to inform all the staff of the change of venue. She leaves, stunned, because many people request use of the facility, but it’s impossible to get for a private function, yet they have it for this year’s party.

Gerry is sitting there while discussing some of the details of hiring George as an Australian based contractor when Betty knocks on the door to show in Princess Carly, and shuts the door behind her. Princess Carly quickly looks around the office. Seeing Gerry she says, “OK, Gerry, now how do I announce the use of the Highcliff Ballroom for a private function without opening the flood gates?”

He smiles, and says, “Make a joint announcement from the orphanage with Mister Farly, Stella, and Marcella. Get the Palace Public Relations machine involved to explain how the orphanage children had worked with Farley Ferries on public relations, and were really looking forward to the promised holiday cruise. Tell how the new company owners have cancelled it, show the official cancellation letter. Tell how Dream Boats have made Dream Girl and Sea Dream available to give the kids their promised sea cruise. But in order to do that the booking of Sea Dream for the VPI annual staff party had to be shifted. Tell how the Palace has stepped in to help with this by providing an alternative venue for the party to make the ship available for the cruise. This isn’t a commercial booking for a private party, because King Harold is taking a direct and personal interest in this to help the children. He’s intervening, and he’ll be on hand to dine with his guests. He’ll meet all the costs of the party, because it’s now his party. The money the VPI social club would’ve spent on their party on Sea Dream is being spent on gear for the orphanage children to enjoy their cruise. See, it’s simple! If you and Robert smile happily when you announce all this no one will think about the issue at all. You both tell things so convincingly, and not a word is a lie. All I’ve done is cut out the time lost in people finding things out.” Everyone but Carly is staring at him, because he’s telling the King’s personal public relations representative how to do her job, and how to deal with this situation.

Carly is slowly nodding while she notes down all he says. Looking up she says, “Put that way it just might work.” She turns and looks at the others, “Anyone got any problems with that, or any suggestions on how to make it work better?”

They all agree, and Marcella says, “Have some of the children in the back of the shot smiling about going on their cruise.”

Carly nods, and agrees. Turning to Gerry she says, “OK, this pretzel may work. But next time you’re messing around with Palace Standing Orders please talk to me first, so I can work out how to present it well.” Turning, she leaves the office. All the others stare at Gerry.

Shrugging, Gerry says, “You think she’s pushy now, you should have seen her when she was a teenager and someone was using the TV when she wanted it. She’s always been pushy. But I shouldn’t complain, because I’ve always just gone ahead and done what I thought was best, while relying on her and others to help tidy things up afterwards. She’s really a good stick when she’s not caught short.” They stare open mouthed. He smiles at them, and looks at his watch, “If I hurry I can still make my last class for the day!” Making his goodbyes he leaves them sitting there. On his way out he thanks Betty for alerting him to the problem.

The combined public announcement is well timed for the main local and regional media news that night. It makes some of the international news programs the next morning. The whole affair is good publicity for the King, Dream Boats, George Farly, VPI, and adverse publicity for Farly Ferries and their new owners.

Preparations

In the weeks following the meeting at VPI Captain Harding and the ships’ crew members visit the orphanage three afternoons a week to make sure the children all know basic water safety and first aid. All are tested by the captain or senior crew under his direction. He gets to know a lot of the children and staff during this time. On the Friday afternoon the week before the trip he tells them all about the minimal clothing rules for on-board the boats. Standing before the children in the main lounge room he says, “The actual standard of dress is up to the owner or the supervising guest on-board each boat. However, the very minimum is the wearing of ship shoes or boat shoes while outside your assigned cabin, and a swimsuit while in, entering, or exiting any harbour. Outside of the harbour you can go topless or nude or fully dressed as long as you wear ship shoes while moving about the boat. This is for safety reasons. I believe arrangements are in hand for you to get ship shoes, tomorrow. When you get them take good care of them, and don’t wear them anywhere except on-board a boat. Ship shoes are like special socks, and they don’t handle cement or normal ground well.” He stands there studying the expressions on his audience.

One of the older girls timidly puts up her hand, and asks, “Are you saying we can go nude on-board ship if we want?”

He nods, and says, “Yes, if the person in charge of the group permits it. The boys will be sailing on Dream Girl while the girls will be on Sea Dream, so what you wear is up to Stella. We often take single gender parties out for weekend cruises, and when the party is all females they often take it as an opportunity to work on an all over tan. Just be sure to use plenty of suitable sunscreen.” With that he leaves them to think about, and discuss, the options. He’s found it’s best to get such matters sorted out before they board the boat.

During this period Gerry and George spend time working out what’s to be produced at the shipyard first, and arranging the reactivation of the shipyard. George’s contract is very quickly sorted out and signed. George is now very busy doing the basic plans for two new ferries and three new cruise ships. They’re all for use in Berant waters, and are made out of Nolar Two with multi-hull designs. He’s sure they’ll outperform anything he’s previously designed, due to the lighter materials used plus the more efficient hull design.

Next Day, Saturday

Immediately after breakfast the children move out of the orphanage to the park in the square in front of the orphanage. Once there they’re grouped according to their names. Four light trucks drive up, and stop beside the park. The trucks are parked about three metres apart. Some VPI staff get out, and climb into the back of the trucks. Picking up some backpacks with sleeping bags attached they start calling out names. As the children respond to their names they’re handed the pack, and told to move away from the vehicle. When they get their packs the children open them up to examine them and the contents. The pack has their name stitched into the front, and inside are some items which also have their names on them. Each child has a pack, a sleeping bag, a silk sleeping sleeve, a stuff-it bag for the sleeping bag, a padded ground sheet, an inflatable pillow, two large towels, a face washer, two drinking flasks, and a basic first aid kit. They’re all well set up for their coming holiday, and any future camping trips they go on.

The media people get lots of photos of smiling children examining the packs and trying them on for fit. By 9:30 a.m. the bags are handed out, taken inside, and put away. The children are again lined up outside the orphanage in a long column of twos, and ready to walk off.

They’re no sooner ready to move out than Gerry walks across the square with a dozen of the high-school senior girls. He waves his hand, and the girls spread out along the column of children, each is going to be looking after a small group of children during this activity. Gerry has promised them a nice surprise for helping him out; they don’t know what it is, but are happy to help with the kids, anyway.

Gerry shouts out, in a fake French accent, “Com-pan-eee, atten-shoon. Com-pan-eee, right face, queeeck march.” He’s saying company, but the way he drags it out makes it sound very funny. Laughing hard, the column of children starts walking through the town. They know they’re going clothes shopping, but they’re heading away from the shops, and they don’t understand it. The column soon reaches the beach at the edge of town, and many think they’re going for a swim first. But he keeps on walking past it. They reach the entrance to the View Port Marina with a guard on the gate to restrict access. Today he opens it wide, and salutes the column while it walks by. The children are wide-eyed, and they slow down while looking at the luxury boats they’re passing. In a very short time they’ve passed along the front of the cliff face the marina stretches out from, and are leaving by the main entrance on the Carmel side.

Arriving in the main Carmel shopping area at 10:15 a.m. Gerry leads them to one of the best beachwear shops in the region. When they near the door one of the staff opens it wide for them, and the group marches in. They spread out around the shop, there’s no other customers in it, and one of the staff locks the door. Gerry says, “OK, people, you all have about twenty minutes to select two swimsuits, two beach shirts, two pairs of ship shoes, a beach towel, and take them to the counter for charging. Now be quick, and make sure everything fits well. Make sure you end up wearing one of the swimsuits and beach shirts.” With wide grins they all start examining the quality clothes on display. The staff are soon very busy helping people. Everyone has their new clothes, and are ready to leave just after 11:00 a.m. Longer than stated, but much sooner than was really expected.

Leaving the store they spend the next half hour window shopping. The children are beginning to wonder why they’re not leaving to go back or go for a swim yet. The change to swimwear makes it clear they’ll be going for a swim soon. At ten minutes to midday Gerry is ushering the group into The Landing’s Field restaurant for lunch. Everyone is awed, because this is the region’s most prestigious place to eat, the food is marvellous and it’s always being written up in gourmet magazines. Also, the staff are all retired military heroes. The children quickly spread out, and sit at the indicated tables, anxiously awaiting whatever they’ll be served here. Within minutes they’re handed specially printed menus, and are asked to choose from the items listed. By ten past twelve they’ve all selected their meals, and have been served with their choice of drink.

Photographers wander in, and are directed to vantage points while the children wonder what’s up. People enter with boxes, and set them up on a large table at the room’s centre with a sign about the Claymore Association Anti Skin Cancer Campaign. The children gasp when King Harold walks in. He’s waving and smiling at the children while the media people record everything. Going to the display he stands there, and gives a brief talk about the dangers of skin cancer. People open the boxes, and hand him some belt bags. He opens one to display the sunblock cream and anti-burn gel in them. Going around the room he talks briefly with each child when he hands each a bag with sunblock and burn gel. The King rarely leaves the palace, yet he’s here handing them things while talking to them. The children are very delighted with the situation. They’ll have something to talk about during show and tell this week, something very interesting; an unusual event for these children. The King can’t stay and have lunch, but he does spend a moment with each child, and seems to know quite a bit about them. He leaves at 1:15 p.m., as he has many other duties. The meals are served soon after this. That night the photos and video from the restaurant are the main items on the news. A very good anti-cancer campaign launch.

At 1:45 p.m. they get ready to leave the restaurant after a leisurely meal, their bags of new clothes and original clothes are collected by the orphanage staff, and placed in a van to be taken back to the orphanage for them. The whole group is taken down to swim on a restricted area of Carmel Beach, an area usually reserved for people from the marina. The whole day is becoming a bit surrealistic for them, as everything is so much more than what they normally get to do, and so nice, too.

About 4:00 p.m., after they’ve all had a good swim, some coaches are on hand to drive them back home. Very excited and tired, they board the buses and head home to the orphanage. Quick baths, early dinners, and off to bed; most are very quick to fall asleep. They’ve had a long, tiring, and happy day; they’re all smiling when they fall asleep.

Gerry hands his schoolgirl helpers vouchers for free hair styles from the Salon of Outrageously Beautiful Hair. They’re all quite happy with their day. They helped make some orphans happy, got new top line swimwear, a great lunch, met the King, and now this! They all thank him. When he promised them something for helping him out they expected something like a free meal, that’s all. The buses drop them off at their own homes before heading back to the bus depot.

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