Allegations made by the Catholic girl in the room that Miss Kaboodle was musing on a fiendish plot to become the first female Pope were rigorously denied by the girl who insisted that she was not musing on a fiendish plot to become the first female Pope.

Understanding that the first rule of engagement when you are under attack by a scurrilous opponent is to deny everything, and make counter accusations, Kitty Kaboodle stuck her tongue out at Madge, and said, “I know you are, but what am I?”

Miss Ciccone did not deny the accusation that she wants to rule the roost at the Vatican. In fact, she laughed manically, and confessed, with an absence of contrition, “It has always been my wet dream.”

Then, getting serious, Madonna asked, “You okay?”

Kitty Kaboodle was just fine, thanks for asking. She pretty much confirmed what the others had suspected about her sudden departure, and gave the following details.

“You triggered it,” she said, meaning Madonna, “when you asked if I wanted to sue someone. It was a blinding flash. A vision. There and gone, in a second, but that second lasted an eternity, and the scene is seared into my psychic circuitry. I saw packs of scummy lawyers gang-raping Lady Justice. She was screaming. They were laughing. Dozens of them. And then… a hand. A hand smote them. The few that survived, begged for mercy, groveled for forgiveness. And then it was all gone, and I was telling the two of you to shut up, and then leaving the room.”

“The hand of God!” Stephen proclaimed.

“Diego really knows how to use his hands,” Madonna confessed, with an absence of contrition.

‘Oh my God! Is there anyone you haven’t fucked? You really are the Whore of Babylon,’ Kitty thought, with absolute admiration.

“A bolt from the Bard!” bet the boy who would, one day, be King Lear. “A challenge to write a merry murder mystery, in which all the barristers bite the dust!”

“Laid low, one and all, perhaps by a plague, exclusive to their ilk?” offered, King comma Stephen.

“No harm, no foul!”” quipped Babylon comma Whore of.

“Maybe we can see our way to sparing John Grisham?” asked one of the few authors who has outsold the master of litigation lit.

“We can see him in chambers,” smiled Lance. “I am sure he would make a very compelling case for his clemency.”

“And who, then, will play the role of Devil’s advocate, in this courtroom drama to decide the fate of Mr. Grisham?” asked the only mother in the room.

“That would be Scott Turow,” Stephen informed his honey.

“Who dat?” his honey asked, by way of reply.

“Precisely,” said Stephen, who had, apparently made himself judge, as well and King. He banged an imaginary gavel, and declared, “Case closed. Grisham lives. I call y’all in the bar. John’s buying.”




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Neither of the old folks were worried about Kitty’s state. Although he was wise well beyond his years, Lance, however, didn’t understyand what had just happened, so he was worried about the well being of the girl who would be his Queen, even though he still knew nothing of that business. So, the boy got up and turned toward the door.

Madonna, who understood that Lance was constitutionally disinclined to listen to anything his absentee father had to say that was even mildly instructional, jumped in to prevent what could be a mistake. “Leave her, Lance.”

The boy stopped. And pondered. He was acting more on instinct, than logic; he had no idea why Kitty left. Is it a girl thing, he wondered?

“She’s fine. She’s not angry. She’s not upset. There’s nothing to worry about. Nothing you can do,” Madge assured him. “She had a vision. A flash of one. Something beautiful. Something transcendent. Something unifying. And then it was gone. She’s trying to find it. She’s trying to find her way to wherever it went.

Stephen nodded in agreement. “It happens to all of us. Not just artists. Even the most wooden of dullards gets those glimpses into something better. A look through a pinhole in the fabric of reality.”

“Yes,” said Lance. “I understand. It happens to me. I’ve never thought of them as visions into somewhere else. Just ideas. And I always wonder where all those ideas disappear to. It has to be the most amazing place imaginable. The place where everyone’s amazing ideas go, not to die, but to live, and shine and laugh. I know that place is full of laughter. All the time. Laughter, laughter and still more laughter. Almost like a nadhouse. A madhouse where all the madmen are happy. Really happy, not Prozac happy.”

Stephen digressed a bit, “I had a correspondence going, a few years ago, with a guy who had an interesting idea. Canadian guy, actually. From Ottawa. Accountant. With an imagination, if you can imagine. Told me he’d embezzled a bunch of money from some government agency he’d worked for, and retired to fulfill his dream of being a writer. He had a great idea for a book, could have been a series, in fact, but he couldn’t write to save his life.”

“I love the idea of an accountant with an over active imagination,” Madonna grinned. He has a little friend, a decimal point named Danny. Danny’s got ants in his pants, and loves to dance. Danny the dancing decimal point. And one day, Danny the Dancing Decimal Point dances all over every reconciliation roll on every ledger sheet in the world, and merrily disappears down Alice’s rabbit hole, leaving the world in absolute chaos.”

“Funny stuff,” Stephen aid.

“Sure, but you had the floor. Sorry, please carry on.”

“Yes, so this guy’s idea was that there’s a parallel universe. We all have doppelgangers in the parallel universe. Nothing new, about that, but here’s his twist; the doppelgangers, our twins, get all our karma. So, if we do bad things, they get punished. If we do good things, they get rewarded.”

Lance loved it. “Oh, I love that!”

“Yes, me too.  I tried to encourage him to write it. I gnawed on it for a couple months, sending him suggestions about plotlines. His whole premise, his question, was: if we knew, would we be better people. Fear based behaviour modification, like we were talking about earlier.”

“Wow!” Lance literally gasped as he exclaimed his love of the idea. “That has so much potential.”

“Doesn’t it, just?” King asked rhetorically. “You‘ll like this, Madge. One of his plotlines involved a confessional. A doppelganger finds his way to our universe through a portal in a confessional.

“The doppelganger is the doppelganger of one of the priest’s parishioners. Someone who attends services regularly, tithes generously, but keeps to himself, otherwise. Has never even been to confession before.

“So, when he appears in the confession booth, the priest is surprised. And when he confesses to a murder, the priest is shocked.”

“It’s delicious,” Lance whistled. “So, what happened?”

“Nothing. I couldn’t convince the guy to sit down and write it, on his own, or with me. He wouldn’t sell me the idea. And I have no rigt to abscond with it, so it just disappears. Goes to that wonderful place, full of all the wonderful ideas we get a glimpse at, but never much more than a glimpse. The place Kitty is searching for, as we speak.”

Madonna, who had been waiting patiently, finally interjected. I was picturing a gloryhole in the confessional.” Neither Lance nor Stephen found the confession the least bit surprising. “I’ve always said that we will know we are truly in the End Times when the Vatican puts gloryholes in confessionals.”

“That’s hilarious. It will be the first honest thing the Catholic Church has done in a century, or more,” laughed Lance. “And it will surely queue the second coming of Martin Luther. Luther 2.0”

“I think the Pope is walking the path to meet Luther 2.0 already,” Madonna opined. “I read, a few days ago, that His Holiness was addressing the subject of confession in a time of quarantine. He advised his followers to confess directly to God, all on their own.”

No one had noticed that Kitty had slipped back into the room, so they were all delighted when she said, “If i were Pope, I’d just say, ‘Look, it’s very simple; just stop doing bad things, and we can skip all this confession and condescension bullshit, retard. If you do that, God will look away when you touch yourself, and he will give you a cookie, when you get to Heaven.”




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Betting that the conversation was about to run off madly in all directions once again, and having explained the fundamentals of Commonwealth, Lance told the others he would send them a link to a hidden, password protected page on his website, where they would find a more detailed conceptual overview of the idea. No doubt, three highly imaginative minds would have many questions, and many answers for those questions, all of which could be dealt with if and when they found, or made the time to sit down in a formal meeting, with a preset agenda, and Lance told them as much. The boy added that they should consider whether they wanted to convene such a session prior to heading down the Yellow Brick Road to see Branson, wherever he might be.

Kitty chummed the waters, “It’s a shame my father isn’t alive. He’d love this. We are now living n the most interesting of times. This story has a billion angles, and a million more develop every day. It’s a carnival on every corner, from a reporter’s perspective. A carnival and a car crash. In my mind, I can see him reading the first reports of the virus, back in January, and staring into the void, mumbling, ‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.’”

Madonna picked it up and ran with it, “You’re rigt about there being a carnival, and a car crash on every corner. And where there be car crashes, there be ambulance chasers. I’ve been wondering when the lawyers would enter this circus of a million rings. And now those bad clowns, with writs up their yin yangs for ladies, and gentlemen, and children of all ages, have crawled out from under their rocks, and screamed for a spotlight.”

Madge had drawn the spotlight to her, and the others waited to see the old bird sing and dance. She accommodated them.

“The Attorney General of the ‘Show Me’ state has climbed up on his hind legs, pointed a cloven hoof at Beijing, and commanded, ‘Show me the money, chinky-chinky Chinaman!’”

“How much does the suit ask for,” asked Lance.

“Hundreds of thousands of billions of trillions, would be my bet,” Stephen laughed. “Missouri huh? It would be a joy to have Samuel Clemons covering that shitshow. They should hold the trial on a paddle wheeler, chugging down the Mississippi to the House of the Rising Sun, where Madame Fifi La Belle and her femme fatales will be happy to take the money of the winners, and the losers, too, if they have any left, which they surely will.”

Lance piped in, “It’s interesting that a State Attorney General would file an action in one of his own courts… I assume he did, rigt?” Madonna nodded her confirmation. “Interesting because, as a general rule, sovereign states enjoy immunity from prosecution in the courts of other sovereign states, so his own courts will refuse the case, saying they have no jurisdiction.”

“So, why did he bother,” Madge asked.

“I don’t know. A piss poor attempt at election year show boating?” was Lance’s first guess. “But what he should do, if he really wants to stir the pot, and get headlines around the world, is file actions in the courts of Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Beijing insists that Taiwan and Hong Kong are parts of the People’s Republic, so the CPC could not ask for the immunity from prosecution they enjoy from other sovereign states. The CPC would be cornered, and the whole world would be laughing.”

Stephen liked it, and added to the fun, “The CPC could file counter suits, of course.”

“Yes, but if I were the Grand Wizard of the CPC, I’d file them in Cuban and Venezuelan courts. They could conjure up the ghosts of Castro, and Chavez to adjudicate.”

Chuckling, King said, “Those fucking Germans started this, didn’t they? Didn’t Merkel send Beijing a bill for a couple hundred billion bucks?”

Lance laughed uproariously, but corrected his father on the fake news folly, “It was actually a tabloid that sent the bill, but yes, the Chancellor is getting the credit.”

“Oh, I can see why she would get the credit. That’s a woman who looks like she’s always looking for someone to spank. She’d be a great repo man. You gotta know the CPC politburo boys piss their PJs nightmaring about her coming for them, with smiley face, and nasty intent.”

“She’d also be a great frontman for Ramstein,” King exclaimed. “Can’t you just see her, ‘Du. Du hast. Du hast mich!”

King loved the idea so much he got up and started doing the goose-step funny-walk, a la John Cleese in the Don’t Mention the War episode of Fawlty Towers, and singing,

Du hast
Du hast mich

Du has
Du hast mich
Du hast mich gefragt
Du hast mich gefragt


Kitty Kaboodle was laughing, and singing along with King. For some reason, Madonna felt compelled to command the girl’s attention, so she asked, “What do you think, Pretty Kitty? Are you litigious? Do you wanna sue somebody?”

A switch flipped open in Kitty’s head. And it flipped shut, just as quickly. She stopped laughing. Her face froze. Her mind tried to find the switch again. She’d seen something in the light that came with the flipping of the switch, and she desperately wanted to see it again. She wanted to touch it, to taste it, to fuse with it, whatever it was. It was electrifying. Orgasmic beyond sexuality. A mindfuck.

Madonna was aware that Kitty was elsewhere, and cautiously called the girl’s name, “Kitty?”

Kitty kept staring into the void, threw out her rigt arm with her hand signifying STOP, and commanded, “Nein!”

Lance became aware of what was going on, or at least that something was going on. He, too, felt compelled to utter her name, “Kitty?”

Lance got the left hand, “Nein!”

Unable to concentrate with the others fixating on her, Kitty got up, walked purposefully to the door in silence, and left the suite. She had to find that switch.




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52 A


51 – ANTE UP


“What goes up, must come down, according to Sis Isaac Newton,” Lance stated. “Whether he actually said the words, or not, doesn’t really matter, please and thank you, and the truism may not even be true outside the field of physics, but that doesn’t matter, either, because I am going to apply the quote to one thing, and one thing only, for the moment, namely Yooutube.

“After attempting to compete with Youtube, with Google Video, Google gave it up, and purchased Youtube for $1.65 billion, about a decade ago. Present value is estimated at $160 billion. And we are going to completely destroy it, using nothing but pennies.

“Since we have a genuine Youtube superstar here, let’s use her as an example. Give me a song, if you would be so kind, please, Madonna.”

Before Madonna could pick one, Kitty yelled, “Sorry!”

Stephen cringed, thinking, ‘Good God, she could be singing that to me, next week, when she finds out I’ve had my way with you, little Kitty cat. What in Hell possessed you to pick that, of all tunes?”

Madonna instantly flashed back to watching Kitty strip to the song at the pool. Sex started to spark and sizzle through the sexagenarian’s central nervous system, as images of Kitty stripping, teasing, taunting, stroking, smirking and finally climaxing strobed through Madge’s recall/imagination circuitry.

Kitty and Madonna stared into each other, oblivious to the boys. Aroused and afraid was Madonna. She was flooded with pure, raw, animal emotions. She couldn’t think.

When the room service knock was delivered on the door, Kitty sprang to her feet, “I’ve got it!” Mesmerized, Madonna watched the girl saunter in her direction. The Kaboodle girl stopped, and stooped, for a second, as she was walking past Madonna. She leaned into the pop star’s ear, and whispered, “When I think about you… I touch myself.”

Madge’s mind melted. Oh, she wanted the tawdry tart, in the worst way! She wanted to put the saucy, little harlot over her knee, and spank her until they were both on the verge of orgasm, and then… and then Kitty flounced past again. This time she kept moving, but made direct eye contact, and whispered, “I honestly do.”

Neither of the great writers in the room were using their amazing powers of observation to observe what the girls were doing rigt in front of them.

Takin’ a sippa his cuppa, King interrupted, before Lance could even restart, ““Wait a minute. What if Google, or Amazon, Facebook, Miscrosoft, or any of them want to buy Commonwealth?”

“It’s not for sale,” said both the kids, Lance matter-of-factly, Kitty defiantly.

Everything is for sale, for the rigt price,” King countered.

His son took him on, “Wrong. That’s your generation’s bullshit. Greed is good, and all that Masters of the Universe tripe is all done. You know what Abbey said about growth, rigt?”

King nodded that he did, but Madge asked, “Abbey who?”

“Edward Abbey,” Lance clarified. “Writer, He said, regarding economics, ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.’ Well, wealth for the sake of wealth is the ideology of the dinosaur money zombies.”

Kitty blew Lance a kiss, pointed at the old people, and sang:

But everybody’s like

Cristal, Maybach,

diamonds on your timepiece

jet planes, islands,

tigers on a gold leash

Kitty alternated her pointing from the King of Horror, to the Queen of Pop, and back again, and back again. She was mocking them. She was mocking their whole generation.

Then, she pointed first at herself, then at Lance, and finished the chorus

We don’t care,

we aren’t caught up in your love affair

Trusting the point was made, Kitty let Lance get back to it.

“The video of Sorry at the top of the page, which claims to be the official release from you yourself, has 33 million views. Do you know how much money Youtube owes you for that?”

“Thirty three grand, I believe.”

“I believe you’re rigt. If you could make ten times that on a Commonwealth video sharing platform, would you pull it from Youtube?”

“Of course I would. Everyone would. But who’s going to pay?”

Pulling a pretty penny from his pocket, Lance Lear threw it over to the multi millionaire. “I am,” he said. “I am willing to pay you a cent to watch that vid. If I’ve got as much money as the three of you do, I might even pay two cents, maybe even a nickel, but let’s not get carried away. Let’s keep it to a pretty penny. I can watch a hundred videos for a buck. Five or more hours of entertainment for a buck.”

Stephen was adamant that, “People will hate that. No one’s gonna wana pay.”

But Madge understood. “You’re wrong. Our people will be happy to pay. When artists start making money, because of Commonwealth, they will see the shift that’s happening. And they will understand it’s all good for them. All good for all of us.

“And if the public don’t like it, fuck ‘em! Fuckers have a firm grip on their entitlements, don’t they? Well, if they wanna see what we are creating, they gonna have to put a penny in the hat, ‘cause our stuff ain’t going up on Youtube no more. What do we call it?”

“I’m kinda liking Penny Ante,” said Lance, “but if someone has something better, I’m not married to it.”

Stephen had questions, the first of which was, “So, Penny Ante is exclusive to Commonwealth members?”

“Not necessarily. We could simply allow posters to say whether their posts are free, by donation, or either or. But you have to be a member to post.

“If you’re just consuming stuff on the platform, you don’t need a membership. If you wanna consume vids that require a donation, or straight up payment, you can only pay with our own internal coins. Pretty Pennies, or Money Pennies, or something cute and clever. You don’t have to be a member to buy the coins, but you get better deals if you are.”

Stephen was satisfied with his son’s answer, so he moved to his next question, “When you pulled up the vid for Sorry, you said the official one was at the top on the page, but there are others, and Madge doesn’t get a hundredth of a cent for views of them.”

“I understand, said Lance. “ It won’t take long before Youtube is out of business. But, while it still breathes, we have to not only deprive it of content, but of advertisers, too.

Their ad rates will drop immediately; when we tell the world we are out to destroy their bad business model. But let’s say someone is still posting Madge’s songs on Youtube. They are doing so to make money, mostly. But what happens when Madge tells her tens of millions of fans that Rusty’s Root Beer is ripping her off? Bad news for Rusty and his rotten root beer.

“Every artist has to police their own stuff. But we have to help each other pounce, when Youtube allows this fuckery to go on, as it clings desperately to life.”

“But how long can Youtube cling to life, once we start Penny Ante?” asked Kitty. “I vote for Penny Ante, if you hadn’t guessed. Penny Ante for the platform, and Money Pennies for the coins. They have no content. No advertisers. That’s checkmate, mate.”

Madonna looked at Kitty, and asked, “Are you sure you wanna call the coins Money Pennies? If we call them Pretty Pennies, we can put your pretty face on them.”

Madonna winked at Kitty, and blew her a kiss. Kitty reciprocated in kind, and replied, “Maybe. But if we do, I get to decide what is written on them.”

“In God we don’t trust?” Lance guessed.

“I like it. A lot. But no,” Kitty answered. “We pick a fight with someone bigger than God. We take on Google. We take the gem they threw in the trash two years ago, the Arkenstone, and stick it rigt back in their face!”

Lance laughed. He knew.

King asked.

Lance laughed, “Don’t be evil.”

“Rigt!” Madonna said. “That’s the best corporate slogan in business history. What the Hell possessed them to drop it?”

“Bill Gates,” said Kitty.

“Huh? King grunted.

“Gates punked them. Pretended to be Sauron. Offered them total tax free status, in perpetuity if they relocated to Mordor. But they had to drop DON’T BE EVIL. When they dropped it, Gates revealed himself, and laughed. The Google guys howled indignation, and impotent rage. Gates laughed, ‘Don’t like it? GO TO HELL, evil fuckers!’”




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The girl who would be the Queen of the world realized that shit was running downhill. As fun as it all was, all the yuks would never bear fruit, so she threw a switch, and tried to get the train back on track.

“One of the reasons artists generally make bad business people is that we find it difficult, nigh on impossible, to curb our creative impulses long enough to do enough of the serious, often tedious left brain work that is required to move a predominantly linear project forward,” she said, looking stern, business like, and in charge.

“Conversations among artists always go madly off in all directions, and so it has been, just now, here in the executive suite of the Valhalla Inn, on the outskirts of Thunder Bay,” Kitty carried on unnecessarily.

“Perhaps Lance would be good enough to come back to the matter at hand, specifically telling us just WTF we’re going to do with all the money money money we accrue. In your first attempt to do so, all you did was tell us how we are going to make even more money money money, by starting our own bank, so now we have even more money money money to spend. Please, enlighten us, if you’d be so kind, my friend.”

Looking not quite pained, but certainly pensive, Lance started by doubling back, “Obviously, I’m not thinking of a coup d’etat in Iceland. But there is no better place in the world to headquarter Commonwealth. When I say it’s our own sovereign country, I mean that we are already in philosophical alignment with them. It already feels like home to me, and I have never been there. Together, Iceland and Commonwealth can show the rest of the word what is possible, if they follow the examples we provide. I can foresee a relationship so strong that the Icelanders would change the name of their country to, the Commonwealth of Iceland.”

Madonna took it upon herself to speak for the others, “I don’t think anyone here is going to challenge your assessment of Iceland, or the sagacity of headquartering there. But we’re all waiting to hear about the money, money, money. What do we do with it all?”

“We invest. First and foremost, in art. In artists. We support tens of thousands of crowdfunding projects.”

“We start our own platform?” asked Kitty.

“I see no need to. The field is full, and I assume they are doing a fine job. Why compete with them? Help them. Help them help others. It all helps us. Once an artist has a project ready to sell, they sell it through us, anyway, so we get most, or all of our investments back, or maybe more.”

“Great,” chuckled Stephen, “so we’re making even more money money money.”

“We invest in art. Physical art. Paintings, sculptures, fashion, architecture. We invest in art that can’t be sold, stuff like the Viagra Rape Squad. Mindfuck art. Eventually, we invest in festivals. We produce them in every corner of the world. We can have a festival going somewhere on the planet, every day of the year, forever.”

King liked it, “Planet Art.”

“Without art, earth is just eh,” Madonna reminded everyone.

“Yes,” laughed Kitty, “but if you add sex, it’s fuckin’ eh!”

“Fuckin’ eh, it is,” Lance Lear laughed. “I honestly don’t know WTF to do with all the money, money, money. There will be lots of things to invest in. Things that will make the world a better place for all of us. Science, technology…” Lance’s voice faded as he watched Madonna and his father smiling at each other. “What?” he asked.

“That’s where Madonna’s mind has been recently. Science and tech. That’s why you’re going to Vancouver.”

“Oh, yeah? The royal runaways are mad scientists, in regal disguise?” Kitty wanted to know. “They have all sorts of slick science up their sleeves to save us?”

“Probably not,” Madge admitted. “I am going to pitch them something that could be to the sciences what Commonwealth will be to the arts.”

Young eyebrows went up. Madonna disappointed them, “Harry and Meghan hear it first. I will not budge from that position. If you attempt to budge me, I will resent it. Understood?” It was understood.

“Besides,” Madge said, “I wanna hear how Lance plans to do away with Youtube.”

“Yes,| Stephen agreed, “but do let’s get some coffee up here, yes?” Madge picked up the phone and placed the order.




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50 a

50 b

50 c



One of the reasons artists generally make bad business people is that they find it difficult, nigh on impossible, to curb their creative impulses long enough to do enough of the serious, often tedious left brain work that is required to move a predominantly linear project forward.

Conversations among artists always go madly off in all directions, and so it was in the executive suite of the Valhalla Inn, on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, when Lance Lear, the boy who would be King, attempted to explain possible matters fiscal to his fellow conspirators.

Stephen King turned to his son and asked, “When you said we’d have our own sovereign state within five years, you meant Iceland?”

“Yes, of course,” was Lance’s answer.

“Iceland has no military, so we just recruit a bunch of gun nuts, and take the island?”

Kitty couldn’t resist cracking wise, TOO, “The Freedom Fries Fighters! The Freedom Fries Force!” And the whole thing went off the rails.

“Give me Freedom Fries, with plenty of ketchup, or I’ll give you death, you Godless, commie heathens!” King laughed.

And… Madonna jumped in, “But we have to invade Saudi Arabia, and Russia, first.”

The petroleum price war between Putin and the House of Saud had resulted in the price of a barrel of crude actually going negative. If you had somewhere to store it, traders would give you oil, and pay you to take to away from them. The world economy had officially gone down the crude-lubed rabbit hole.

Pretending she was holding a machine gun, Madonna affected a southern drawl, and pronounced, “We gots to go get that oil of ours, over there. We gots to seize the means of production from the commies and the A-rabs. We gots to intervene in the free market to restore sanity to the world, and make it safe for BIG OIL again! This crazy confusing communist collusion conspiracy gots to stop, brothers and sisters, amen!”

King took the baton, “I’ve got just the guy to lead the Freedom Fries Fighters. An old friend, he lives in Alaska. Got a few guns… well, a few dozen, actually. He’s gettin’ kinda bored, just sitting around waiting for a filthy Muslim raghead Hindu hippie commie junkie to break into his house, and try to steal his Freedom Fries, and rape his wife.”

“He’s probably okay with his wife being raped,” laughed Kitty, “but keep your filthy foreigner hands off his Freedom Fries.”

“Are there any filthy Muslim raghead Hindu hippie commie junkies in Alaska?” Madge asked.

“Sadly, no,” Stephen answered, “but his birthday is coming, so I’m gonna buy one for him, on dark web Amazon, and send him up by private drone.”

And… then Lance threw in, and off it went in another direction, “But all the Freedom Fries Fighters are white trash. We need more of a rainbow coalition, if we’re gonna go around the world liberating our oil. We need some brothers to throw down. We need some homeboys from the hood, to join this crusade for all that’s rigteous and good.”

“No,” said Kitty. “Can’t work. Home boys and Freedom Fries Fighters are oil and water. Fire and gas. They’ll kill each other in the invasion planes. But you’re rigt, we need a rainbow coalition, so here’s where the brothers and sisters come in.”

Kitty was laughing, and the others were grinning in anticipation. “If the goal is to make the world safe for BIG OIL again, people are gonna have to keep taking it n the ass at the pumps. So we get Snoop Dogg, and Missy Elliot to do an ad.

Snoop drives into a gas station. He’s dressed as Uncle Sam

Missy is pumping. She be the Statue of Liberty

Fill ‘er up motherfucker!

Missy points at the price, four bucks a gallon, and it’s goin up, and up

Snoop laughs, pulls out a fat wad of cheddar, and starts flippin’ Benjamins at Missy

Still laughing, Snoop pulls his pants down, and says, Fill ‘er up, motherfucker. Then he starts singing,

I take it in the ass
for the red white and blue
and if you love America
you do too, nigga!

And Missy Liberty pumps his skinny little ass with a gas nozzle strap-on.

Snoop keeps laughin’ and flippin’ the cash around. White guys, in five thousand dollar suits, fight over the bills, like a pack of bitches in heat, battling it out for a slick, stiff, pink dog dick under a full moon.

I take it in the ass
for the red white and blue
and if you love AmericA
you do too, nigga!

Then you see and hear the teenaged cheerleaders. Painfully beautiful, young girls, of all colours, chanting,

U S A!
U S A!

We take it in the A
for the U S A!
U S A!

we take it in the A
for the U S A!

And then Fiddy Cent rolls in. He’s got a posse of Men in Black. One of them hands him a briefcase with a big ass CIA logo on it. He opens it. It’s full of blow.

Fiddy sells kilos to the oil  execs. They chop out some big fat lines on the hood of Fiddy’s Caddy, for the cheerleaders, who get it in the A, for the U S A, from the oil execs, when they bend over to snuffle up the snow.

And all the way through it, you hear Whitney Houston singing God Bless America, underneath all the beats and the bleats and the cheers and the chants.

Kitty smiled, signaling that she was done, and was treated to a rousing round of applause. And then Madonna lead them all in a few rounds of

I take it in the ass

For the red, white and blue

And if you love America

You do, too, nigga!

“Did you catch the Freedom Fries Fighters in action today, in Denver?” King asked the kids. They had not.

“They were rolling a convoy through town, demanding their freedom. A couple health care workers, wearing scrubs and masks, blocked an intersection where they had stopped for a light. Asked them to go home. Stay inside. This fat fucking cow hangs out her passenger window. She’s wearing a USA t-shirt, and carrying a sign that reads LAND OF THE FREE. And the cow yells at the scrub, ‘GO BACK TO CHINA!’”

The kids sat silent, letting that one sink in. Kitty looked at King and asked, “Remember that scene in Terminator 2? Arnold is working on a truck engine. The kid, John Conner, is watching some real young kids, playing with toy guns, and arguing. He looks at Arnold and says, ‘We’re not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.’”

“Before you know it,” Lance laughed, “the Freedom Fries Fighters will be going door to door, telling people to get back to work, or get out of America, go back to China.”




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The King of Horror’s son rolled his eyes at his father’s announcement of the obvious. “No, it’s not going to be as easy as all that. But, again, this is why Branson is the perfect frontman for this. When I was researching him, I came across a brilliant quote, that explains his attitude perfectly. He said, ‘If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!’ He’s also said that a business is just something that makes life better for people.”

Kitty Kaboodle, the world’s newest millionaire, barged in, “And that’s what money is. It’s a tool with which you can make people’s lives better. It’s a boat in an ocean filled with drowning people. And most of the people who own the boats have them tied to the dock. And the people who don’t own boats worship the people who do own boats. The people who don’t own boats think they are going to own a boat some day, and never even wanna think of the possibility that they are gonna be out in the ocean, drowning, instead. They don’t even wanna know there are people drowning in the ocean.” Once again, passion and scorn was gushing out of the girl. “And, if they do manage to get a boat one day, they’re gonna sit at the dock, and drink cocktails with the other boat owners, because that’s just what the fuck you do when you own a boat.”

Not daring to utter a sound until he was sure Kitty was finished, Lance studied her. She felt his gaze on her. She smiled, telling him the floor was his, once again, and the boy got back to it.

“Well, that’s exactly what Commonwealth is all about. Making life better for people. And not just for a few people. We make life better for everyone directly involved, and even millions who are not.”

Kitty jumped back in, “We offer all the services other banks offer, but we keep our service charges etc. below what others charge. We can do that, because the bank is not even meant to be a primary revenue source anyway.”

Madonna was buying it, but wanted to know, “If not in the UK, where will the bank be headquartered.?”

Kitty knew the answer. “Iceland.”

“Correct,” Lance confirmed.

“How did you know that?” Madge asked the other female in the room.

Stephen laughed, “Because she read it in Riff n Raff. In book two, the kids solve global warming. But they also put the world’s banksters in their place, and they turn to Iceland to understand how to deal with the heartless monsters. I’ll not explain that, because I don’t wanna spoil it for you, but it’s funny as fuck, especially the trial.”

“A trial of banksters? Excellent! Very iInteresting,” said Lance. “Salmi used Iceland…”

“In the story, it’s called Snowland,” Kitty interrupted.

“He used Iceland slash Snowland, because they jailed their banksters in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. Conversely, the Wall Street banksters got bailed out by taxpayers, and stuffed their pockets with the still wet greenbacks, before lending the rest out to their friends.”

“Yes,” King confirmed. “That was his reasoning for Riff n Raff dealing with the banksters in Iceland. Snowland, that is.”

“So, back here in the real world, rigt here and rigt now, Iceland will be trusted by the global citizenry that will be Commonwealth members,” Madonna said. “They will know the Icelanders don’t put up with banky panky shit, so we will have their confidence.”

“Yes. And because it is a sovereign state, and not a member of the EU, the Icelanders will rewrite their banking legislation to allow us to have members banking with us from all around the world, without having to set foot in the country.” Lance added.

Stephen signified he was getting it by adding, “Iceland will love us because we will know our customers intimately, or at least their banking information, as will they, because it’s on a transparent blockchain. No hanky-panky in our banky.”

Madge picked it up, “Also, because it’s so small, less than a half million population, they will make enough money from the taxes we pay to provide guaranteed annual income to every citizen. People who don’t want to, would not have to work.”

Lance grinned, nodded, and added, “And we will be the largest employer in the country, for those who actually do want to sell their labour.”

“I love Iceland, “Kitty said. “It is, by far, the most socially progressive country in the world. They have an abundance of renewable geothermal energy, so we can run a clean and green operation. We will need a lot of energy for our operations, and we sure ain’t gonna be using Amazon Web Services. Everything about the place works for me, except…”

“Whaling,” said Stephen.

“But we can get them to give that bullshit up,” insisted Kitty. “Are the handful of knuckle draggers who still murder whales, because it’s their tradition, gonna deny the rest of the country, and the world, what we can offer, for the sake of clinging onto a barbaric tradition?”

“No,” Madonna concluded. “No, they’re not. But, if they try, I know just the girl to beat them into submission.”

“We’re going to see Bjork?” Kitty squealed. “I love Bjork!”




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“The problem,” Madonna explained, “is that Commonwealth will have millions of members all around the world, but Virgin Money is only in the UK.”

“Correct,” Lance confirmed, but Virgin Commonwealth Bank would be a separate entity from Virgin Money, and it will have to be located outside the UK. But let me come back to that.”

“Okay,” Madge said.

“Banks are obligated to adhere to KYC, Know Your Customer, legislation and regulations. The fundamental rationale for KYC regulations is to prevent money laundering, and funding of terrorist groups etc. This is accomplished by monitoring the customers’ transactions for suspicious activities. In our case, that’s dead easy.

“Let’s say an author, in Australia, has a hundred thousand bucks in his Commonwealth bank account. Is that suspicious? Not if all that money has come through Commonwealth sellers, and that’s the only way to put money into a Commonwealth Bank account.”

“So,” Stephen queried, “I can’t transfer money into my Commonwealth bank account from my Swiss bank account.”

“Nope. You can transfer money from your Commonwealth account to your Swiss account, or any other account, but it’s a one way street. That’s how we keep dirty money out.”

Madonna wanted to know, “So, everyone’s Commonwealth bank account starts at zero?”

“Yes. And the only way to get any money into it is through a sale.”

“But people with dirty money can buy,” Madonna pointed out.

Shrugging, Lance admitted as much, “Yes, but if a Mexican drug cartel leader wants to buy the Aussie’s book, for ten bucks, where’s the harm?

“Obviously, we will know exactly where all that money in the Aussie’s account has come from. No one is going to buy his book for $100,000. It will take 20,000 people to buy his book – at a price of $10, with a 50/50 split between author and sellers – for him to earn $100,000. Is a terrorist group, or criminal organization going to be able to find 20,000 people to make those purchases? Are they going to be able to get 2000 people to buy ten copies each? Even that’s difficult, and even if they managed to do it, why would that many people buy ten copies of the same book? That’s pretty suspicious, so the account is frozen, and an investigation is launched. The same is true for sellers, obviously.

Theoretically, the bad guys could manage to pump money through us, but they’d have to do it in hundreds of thousands of pissant transactions, which would get flagged. Why would they bother, when they’re already balls deep in HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, and the rest?

“You keep dirty money out by knowing your customer, and that’s how you KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER. No one will know their customers better than we will know ours.”

“And because this is all on a blockchain, the authorities have full access to all the information,” Kitty said. “We will be the teachers’ pet.”

“It’s not going to be as simple as all that,” King said.




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How does someone who has precious little of it, explain what money is to people who have a good deal of it? Lance Lear was tempted to ask his co-conspirators to tell him what money is. But he knew that could really bog things down, the discussion getting lost in all sorts of tangential shit, so he dismissed that as an opener, thinking he might come back to it once he had explained it to them, to see if they got it.

As Lance pondered how, then, to start this particular discussion, it came to him as if on the wings of an angel, a bolt of divine intervention. Start with something they already accept as being a gospel truth, so to speak, and run with it from there. “Can we accept that there is validity in Timothy 6:10?” He clarified, “Money is the root of all evil.”

The Catholic girl jumped in, “At the risk of sounding condescending, it’s actually, ‘the love of money, is the root of all evil.”

Lear smiled at Madonna and said, “I stand corrected. Thank you. It’s good that you corrected me, because I was going to, I am going to, offer my own correction to Timothy, and will now include your correction in my own. The love, and lack of money is the root of all evil. Money itself, is not evil, but the love of it does make people do truly evil things. But so, too, does the lack of it.”

No one was going to start an argument over his declaration, so Lance continued. “The two of you,” he said, addressing his father, and his father’s squeeze, “have a great deal of money. And you have earned every cent of it. At least I hope you have.”

If King and Ciccone begged to differ, they were not going to offer up confessions rigt then and there, so Lance moved forward. “What you need to understand, when it comes to Commonwealth, is that 99 cents of every dollar we ever pull in will be earned simply by starting the enterprise. Once it becomes a juggernaut, all we have to do is maintain it. Don’t break it. Don’t fuck it up. The money we rake in, in the initial stage of Commonwealth, will be earned by our intellect and industry. Once our sails are filled with wind, the rest of the money that we pull into our coffers will be earned by our partners, our members, the creators, and the sellers. So, in reality, we will have no moral claim to most of what comes into our coffers.”

The boy paused, just to make sure no one was going to challenge him, and continued. “The money that we make, that we, in fact, skim, that we purloin, from our members, has to be poured back into the greater cause, which is to make the world a better place. To do anything else, anything less, would be to negate our raison d’etre. Therefore, we are duty bound to do everything we can to make sure that as much of the wealth that is created by our members stays out of hands that will do evil with it.”

“And this is why you said we will have our own bank, the largest in the world, within a year of inception,” said the boy’s father.

“It is,” the son confirmed.

“I may be wrong, but I think we will have our own bank when we start, or at least have one in the family.”

“Richard,” said Madonna.

“Yes,” answered Lance. “Branson already has his own bank. Virgin Money. Commonwealth will have millions of members. The platform will do billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars, maybe trillions of dollars in transactions every year. So, why not bring it all in-house? Why fatten the already too fat banksters with  our money? We don’t need them. We don’t need their so called expertise, and we don’t need their money, which isn’t even theirs, anyway.”

“Yes,” Madge agreed, but there’s a problem.




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Consternation was writ large on Stephen’s face when he almost zombie-walked back into the suite. Kitty and Lance were looking at Salmi’s blog, so they took no notice of him, but Madonna did, and she did not like what she saw.

The moment King’s eyes met Madge’s she darted hers in the direction of the kids, and plastered a smile on her kisser. King caught the drift, broke out of his trance, and changed the worrisome look he was wearing.

“Hi, honey! Welcome home, How was your day?” Madge greeted her man, with a joking, loving tone. “We were just talking about your new favourite author.”

“Who, Salmi?” King wondered if that was pure coincidence, or synchronicity.

“Yes!” Kitty exclaimed. “Did you know that he was the Viagra Rape Squad? It was a hoax. He faked the whole thing.”

“He looks to be a character,” Madonna said, “Kitty and I want to meet him.”

King, who had just been talking to his friend in weird places about Salmi, laughed a little nervously, and said, “Good luck with that.”

“What do you mean?” asked the curious Kitty cat.

“Only that I was following his Riff n Raff blog, but he quit posting in early January.”

“Early January is when news of the virus first leaked out to the world,” Lance stated. “You think there’s some sort of connection.”

Stephen did, of course, and that’s what he had just been discussing with his friend in weird places, but he wasn’t going to say anything about that. “Oh, I doubt it. He is an interesting weirdo, but I doubt he’s that interesting.”

“Where is he? Where was he,” Lance wanted to know.

“India,” Kitty answered. King nodded confirmation.

“India borders China,” Lance stated.

“Yes,” Madonna interjected, “with a combined population of almost three billion.”

“Meaning?” asked Lance.

“Nothing, really, except that there are three billion people in the area, not to mention all the smaller countries, so the odds of Salmi having anything to do with the virus is what? Three and a half billion to one?”

“Higher than that,” said King, “given that he’ a nobody, just another struggling writer, who would have no connections to anything remotely like this, and would be an idiot to be trying to draw attention to himself, if he did.”

Kitty decided she had to state the obvious, “He’s no idiot. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“So, it’s just a coincidence that he disappeared, at the same time word of the virus reached the world?” Lance asked.

“I didn’t say he disappeared,” Stephen stated, making sure to maintain an air of nonchalance. “Just that he stopped blogging at the same time. If I were to place a bet on it, I’d bet that he simply sank into a state of gloomy self-doubt about sales, and is wallowing in a mire of alcohol soaked despair. It’s a common affliction with writers. Always has been, always will be, even more so as we march forward into this evil age in which people eschew the written word in favour of video, which, admittedly, is a much more powerful medium.”

Even at his young age, Lance knew what his father was saying was true. He had been there, done that himself. “I’m not a writer with a drinking problem,” he said.

Stephen laughed. Knowing the quote, he finished it with his son, “I’m a drinker with a writing problem.”

Kitty and Madonna laughed. Kitty guessed, “Wilde?”

“No, no,” Lance smiled. “One of yours. Dorothy Parker.”

“Good God, I’d loved to have known her,” King lamented. Lance nodded his agreement with a big grin. “Wait. I know. While the two of you are searching for Salmi in the jungles of West Bengal, Lance and I will find a holy man, on a mountain, in the Himalayas, a seer, and get him to channel Dorothy to us.”

Madonna and Kitty grinned at each other, liking the sounds of such an adventure. Kitty said, “Deal!”

Anxious to move the conversation off the topic of the whereabouts of the weirdo Salmi, Stephen said, “Shall we get back to Commonwealth? Lance was about to tell us what we are going to do with all the money, money, money, I believe.”




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