Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Chapter 1 - Draft 2 (old)

Danny Vandervere is a very lucky young man, liberally endowed by the goddess Fortune with almost everything one could want by way of genetics and circumstance: plenty of money, a family name that opens doors, a fine and well-educated mind, an agile and energetic body, and a degree of physical beauty so extreme that only a handful of the world's young men could possibly match it.

The family name will be immediately familiar, especially to those who frequent public restrooms: Royal Vandervere Mills supplies the toilet tissues, seat covers, and paper towels for eighty percent of the restrooms in the western half of the United States; the name "Vandervere" and the Mills' logo of four acute triangles (meant to represent evergreen trees) is embossed on metal or plastic covers in rest-stops and restaurants from Burbank to Butte.

But in those rarefied circles of Society-with-a-capital-S, amongst that breed most frequently seen at symphony galas and museum openings, the name Vandervere is rich with cache: very old money, the family tracing back to Old Dutch New York, transplanted to California when it entered the Union in 1850; a huge land grant of one million acres covered with pine and fir trees in the Coastal Range lent added respectability despite the lowly nature of what those acres eventually produced. It is land, after all, rather than money, that makes a true aristocrat.

All of that respectability is, fortunately, nevertheless wed with lots and lots of money: old wealth constantly fed by paper-mill profits, sheltered and thriving in a family trust that reinvests the wealth, makes charitable donations, keeps the town of Vandervere, California running, and administers allowances to all of the Vanderveres. And while Danny's allowance is fairly small in comparison to the other Vanderveres', being only a young bachelor with no dependents, it is still a cozy sum, enabling him to live in a good deal of comfort if not actual luxury.

Danny also inherited some money, several million from his Great Aunt Mathilda Vandervere (who, though limited to a maiden lady's allowance and a small salary as head of the Vandervere Town Library, had managed to amass a weighty fortune independent of the Trust through a successful gambling habit and winnings reinvested into booming resort property. The family had assumed she'd lost all the money she'd gambled during her monthly visits to Reno). Danny transmuted most of the legacy into San Francisco real estate, in the form of three apartment buildings (one of which houses his own spacious flat); the leftovers went into a vintage Jaguar convertible, a lot of antique furniture, opera and ballet subscriptions, and some quite dazzling clothes.

So he is very well set-up as far as material needs: his allowance will increase as he gets older, his rental property will appreciate while filling his pockets with income; and if he ever needs a job, all he has to do is flash his name around and he can walk straight into a career with the Old Boy Network that still controls much of the corporate industry in this country, or into a lucrative position with any charity, museum, or performing arts institution still run by the pedigreed old ladies who have always run such things.

On the other hand, riches are as nothing compared to the blessing of a sound mind in a sound body. And since Fortune heaps her gifts on Danny Vandervere with a ladle rather than a teaspoon, he is of course endowed with an exceptional mind in an extraordinary body.

Danny Vandervere has never had a pimple, or a cavity, or athlete's foot. His body repels germs, and he's never had anything more serious than a flu, and then only once. He is allergic to no kind of dander or pollen, no type of food has the power to disturb the ease and regularity of his digestion, no amount of alcohol has ever succeeded in making him sick. He gains muscle easily, a few hours exercise always has visible results, but he couldn't put on a significant amount of fat if he lived on chocolate cake and bacon for a month.

His muscles respond to his will easily and immediately, any new movement is mastered on the second try if not the first, and remembered by those muscles forever after; he excels at every sport he tries, can dance ballroom and disco and a few basic steps of tap and ballet, and can bend himself into intricate yogic postures; he can't ride a bicycle, but only because he has never tried. His eyesight is remarkable, able to pick out tiny details a hundred yards off and discern the difference between nearly identical colors; his nose and palate are abnormally acute, fitting him for a career as a parfumier or vintner; his ears can hear a bunny fart in the forest, and have perfect pitch, enabling him to parrot back any musical note he hears.

This exquisite machine is operated by a mind of almost shocking acuity: Danny's IQ hovers in the middle genius range, he can give speeches and construct arguments and counterarguments extempore, he can do complicated math in his head, and he can remember every fact he's ever learned with immediate and perfect recall. If he sets his mind to it, he can do just about anything.

And, unlike many young men of his social stratum, he does set his mind to things: the remarkable brain has been well-trained, disciplined and socialized into a wonderful tool. Danny speaks French, Italian, and Spanish as well as his native English and can follow an opera in German or a simple conversation in Russian; he can even trot out several useful phrases in Japanese and Mandarin. He can read music, recite the Periodic Table, and effortlessly quote classic novels, cult movies, and highlights from most of Shakespeare's plays.

Best of all, he remembers people. He can meet someone at a crowdwed party and remember years later not only that person's name and where they met, but all of the topics of their conversation. He remembers birthdays, phone numbers, favorite ice cream flavors, and how people like to be greeted in public.

And it is all done quite effortlessly, every amazing feat of physical or mental prowess carried off so gracefully that one might not even realize it was amazing.