Victor Furbank grew up in a thrifty household. “Waste not, want not,” was one of the family mottos, and Victor’s father was as stern as a boat’s backside when it came to enforcing it. The cost of any excess butter Victor spread on his toast was deducted from his weekly pocket money (which was already well below the neighbourhood standard amount); when he left his bedroom light on once before leaving for school, he returned to find the light fixture removed and a small ration of candles and matches on his bedside table; and after the overdue return of one of Victor’s library books incurred a fifty-cent fine his father refused to speak to him for a month. The other family motto was: A Furbank never quits.
By the time he was twenty-two, Victor was the owner of a chain of pet grooming salons. He was an ingenious young man, and that, coupled with a strict adherence to the family mottos, saw him quickly multiply his meagre starting capital. On the night of Victor’s twenty-fifth birthday his father took him to an all-you-can-eat restaurant. What the establishment lacked in hygiene it compensated for with low prices. Victor’s father piled himself up a plate of contaminated prawns, and that, coupled with a strict adherence to the family mottos, saw him die of food poisoning within twelve hours.
Victor was bequeathed six thousand mechanical metronomes. How and why his father acquired them was unknown, but now they belonged to Victor. Waste not, want not. Victor closed his pet grooming salons, laid off his one hundred and thirty staff, and channelled all his efforts into selling his inheritance. A Furbank never quits. He went door-to-door, selling “Furbank’s Fine Metronomes” at thirteen dollars each.
Six years later, Victor’s trusty old Volkswagen van spluttered into the country town of Stork. Inside the vehicle were Victor himself and five thousand, nine hundred and eighty-seven metronomes. He rented a two-star motel room next to the pub, to serve as headquarters for his next selling assault. In front of the sole surviving shard of bathroom mirror, he ravaged his cheeks with a nine-month old disposable razor as he rehearsed his well-worn spiel. Whispering affirmations of success, he donned his Salvation Army Store suit and weaved a flawless Windsor knot into a neck tie that had faded to the point of no longer being polka dot. Victor tucked his briefcase under his arm (it had no handle), stood erect, shoulders back, and puffed out three quick breaths. “Showtime,” he said, and walked out the door.
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