My name is Victor. My father is a self-made millionaire. He is also a tyrant and a tightwad. An ultraconservative in his politics, he rants about liberal causes, taxes and government spending. That didn't stop him from building up a lucrative business relying in large part on government contracts. One of his favorite rants is about American kids being spoiled rotten.
"They all ought to be tossed out on their own as soon as they reach the age of majority," he declared loudly and often. "Let 'em sink or swim."
Knowing that, it still came as quite a shock when Dad turned me out of the house with not much more than the clothes on my back on the day after I turned 18. I'd just graduated from high school the week before.
"Why? What have I done wrong?" I asked him.
"You haven't done anything wrong," he replied. "I've just decided to practice what I preach. Please understand it's nothing personal. I'd like to see what kind of man this makes out of you."
"This is kind of sudden, Dad," I said. "What about my college plans?"
"Figure it out for yourself. Just assume that I died suddenly and left you penniless."
"What does Mom think about this?"
"I think you'll discover your mother agrees with me completely on this so it'll be a waste of time to go crying to her."
Well, Mom didn't really agree with Dad on this. She just didn't argue with him which she knew would be pointless. She slipped me some cash Dad didn't know about along with a telephone number of a personal contact. I still had to give up plans to attend the university I'd been accepted to.
I got a job through Mom's friend, rented a two bedroom apartment with three other guys and enrolled in the local junior college. I had zero contact with my father. It was okay if I never saw him again as far as I was concerned.
Mom called me a couple of months later and advised me to beg, borrow and steal whatever money I could drum up and invest in a particular stock. It was obvious she had some inside information learned from her influential social circle but I wasn't about to rat her out to the Securities and Exchange Commission. She even hocked a bunch of her jewelry so I'd have plenty of money to invest. I did pretty well by that information and was able to pay her back so she could get her jewelry out of hock. I didn't suddenly start living it up though. I began to seriously study the stock market and found I had a talent for picking undervalued stocks. I reinvested my profits and continued to live a Spartan existence. Also, Mom continued to send me stock tips whenever she could so that helped, too. Fast forward two years. I received a call from my mother.
"Your father wants you over to the house," Mom said when I answered the phone.
"That's a surprise. What's the occasion?"
"I don't know. He's being very mysterious, but he says it's important and the sooner the better."
"Do you think I should accept?"
"I don't see the harm in listening to what he has to say. Maybe it's good news. I'd love to see you back home."
"In that case I'd be more than happy to accept."
Dad greeted me as if he really missed me when I arrived yet he seemed kind of nervous. I probably wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been around for a while but this was a marked change from his usual self confident aura.
"I'm really proud of what you've accomplished, Vic."
"I really haven't accomplished anything, Dad, other than to support myself."
"Well, that's an accomplishment in itself in this day and age. For a while I thought your mother was somehow supporting you on the sly, but I would have found out if she did." I wondered if he'd been having me spied on. I was glad I kept a low profile; very little social life and no girlfriend.
"I think it's time I brought you into the company, son."
"I still want to get my degree, Dad."
"You don't need no stinkin' degree when you have an executive position waiting for you in the family business. There's money to be made and I'll show you how to make it. Of course, the work is hard and the hours are long but the rewards are well worth the effort." Well, this was a change of heart. Dad was of the opinion that bringing me into the company was outright nepotism which he thoroughly disapproved of unless I had proven myself elsewhere first. I wondered if he was ill.
"I'll certainly consider it," I replied. I didn't really want to work for my dad. He was a total jerk in my opinion. With my own fortune, I wouldn't have to work for anyone.
"What's to consider?" He took a long pull on his drink and then said, "Come into the study. There's something I want to discuss with you in private." I shrugged my shoulders and looked at Mom. She responded by shrugging her shoulders, too. I followed Dad into the study and closed the door behind me.
"What I have to say has to stay private between the two of us," Dad said. "Agreed?"
"Agreed." He picked up a black and white photograph up off his desk and handed it to me. It was a picture of a young and beautiful woman.
"She's gorgeous," I said. "I think I'm in love." Dad smiled at that.
"She looks even better in person. Her name is Ana and she's 19 years old; a daughter of a wealthy Mexican client. Not only is she gorgeous, but she's smart and charming also. She speaks five languages fluently. Any man would be lucky to have her as a wife."
"You want me to meet her?"
"I want you to marry her."
"You want me to what? Uh, I haven't even met the girl, Dad." She was a beauty all right but what if we didn't get along? I wasn't ready to settle down anyway.
"You'll meet her as early as tomorrow. You'll be a married man by this time next week. Where are you going?"
"I'm leaving and I'm not coming back."
"This is matter of life and death, son." He sounded panicky.
"Whose life, Dad? You better stop dancing around and start being straight with me."
"I, uh ... had a brief affair with Ana on a recent business trip to Mexico. She's carrying my child. Her father was about to have me tossed into a vat of acid when he found out. The only thing that saved my life was me agreeing to this match." I nodded my head. It began to make sense.
"Well, I didn't agree to anything."
"He'll have me killed if you don't go through with this. He's a man of his word."
"Money talks. Pay him off."
"He's not interested in money. He has plenty of wealth. He's interested in his sense of honor and saving face."
"So, in order to save your ass, I have to marry some bimbo who doesn't know the word 'no' in five languages and raise your bastard as my own?"
"You won't regret it. You'll be well compensated."
"But you've always preached that a man has to take responsibility for his actions. And I know you're a man who practices what he preaches. Don't take this personally, but I think you won't have me to rely on."
"Just assume I died suddenly and left you childless."
"Goddammit! This isn't funny!"
"I'm not trying to be funny."
"I'll make sure you don't get a dime of my money."
"Take your money and shove it! I've found I can get along quite well without it."
"What the heck is going on here?" Mom was standing at the open door looking at us. We'd been raising our voices and that attracted her attention.
"We're having a private discussion, dear," Dad said. Mom looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders.
"I'm pledged to secrecy, Mom. I'm leaving anyway."
"Talk to him," Dad exclaimed.
"Talk to him about what?"
"Go ahead and tell her, please, Vic." He seemed resigned.
"Your husband knocked up a client's daughter and I have to marry her so her father doesn't have him tossed into a vat of acid."
"And just when was I supposed to be told about this," Mom asked.
"After everything had been agreed to," Dad replied.
"I wasn't to have any say in the matter while you ruined our son's future?"
"I assumed your agreement. I don't think you would have thought otherwise given the consequences."
"Oh, I don't know. I think I'm beginning to like the idea of being a rich widow." Dad looked stricken.
"Even my wife is against me!"
"Don't worry about being cut out of the will, Victor. Everything goes to me anyway."
"You two are talking like I'm already dead," Dad screamed.
"You made your choices, dear. Victor and I have made our choices."
"The company won't be worth a dime without me."
"I'm not naïve, dear. I know I can sell it for quite a lot based on the existing contracts the company has." Dad sat down and covered his face with his hands.
"I might as well blow my brains out to get it over with."
"Could you do it outside? Then I won't have to ask the housekeeper to clean up the blood and brain splatter."
"Too bad you can't run the company yourself, Mom."
"Oh, I think I could do it and quite well, too."
"You were a cocktail waitress when we met."
"I was working as a cocktail waitress when we met. I was also a fulltime student finishing up my business degree. You seem to have forgotten that part. You also seem to have forgotten about me helping you out in the early years of the business. And don't think I don't have my sources within the company that keep me up to date on what's going on." The poor man looked as if he was in shock. My dad wasn't used to not getting his way and it was going to cost him his life.
"I'll marry Ana and join the company," I said.
"That's great," Dad shouted. He was grinning from ear to ear. Mom didn't look too happy.
"So you're going to sacrifice your future in order to save your father's life, Victor. That's very commendable. What happens the next time your father knocks up another girl? We don't have another son to save his worthless hide."
"That will never happen," Dad swore. "I've learned my lesson."
"Well, I do have an important condition," I said. "And it's a non-negotiable take it or leave it proposition."
"Mom will take over the company's operations. You and I will be working for her."
Mom liked the idea. Dad ranted and raved and claimed it couldn't be done. My parents were the sole stockholders so that was bullshit. I reminded him there was a vat of acid waiting for him if he refused. We called in the company lawyer to get the agreement prepared and Mom called another lawyer to review the other lawyer's work to check for loopholes.
Mom and I wanted to wait until everything was signed, sealed and delivered before meeting Ana and her family. Dad claimed there wasn't any time. Ana's father wanted to meet me right away.
"Don't worry," Dad said. "I'm going to sign the damned contract. I mean, what choice do I have?"
The contract arrived the very day I was to meet Ana. Dad immediately found fault with the wording even though both lawyers had approved it.
"Your mother and I will discuss it further while you're on your honeymoon."