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Fiction

The Preserve: Part 2

Morgan Cartwright had been a part of the up-and-coming crowd since he had been an up-and-comer himself. He liked the young, he said, because they kept him young. It’s possible that really is why he kept their company. It’s just as likely that he found them mailable. He could tell them what qualities ought to be admired, and then convince them that he exemplified those qualities. He used this technique to carve out a niche for himself that he had occupied as long as anyone could remember. He acted toward them as a benefactor, though in reality the roles were reversed. They treated him as a convenient sort of guru.

Under his tutelage, the would be leaders of the future practiced an easy activism. That kind of thing was important when a young trust fund beneficiary was trying to secure an even greater place in the world. “Yes, yes. We ought to do something to help the Russian Marmet. Here’s a check, make sure they get my name right on the plaque. This caviar is absolutely rancid, don’t you think? Here, boy, take this away!” A little philanthropy covers a multitude of sins, at least in the mind of the giver.

Morgan Cartwright, therefore, took over the ancient business of indulgences from the Catholics. He hopped from one cause to the next, discovering the need, (or the grievance as it often was), structuring the relief, and garnering the funds from the guilty rich. He never went in for commonplace activism. Let the Red Cross worry about flood relief, let Greenpeace scrub the Gulf, (or whomever it was). Morgan Cartwright cared about orphans in Uzbekistan and political prisoners in Bangladesh. A review of the history of his projects would have been like a stroll through the museum of random association. As soon as Morgan Cartwright got the ball rolling, with his cut in his pocket, he was on to the next thing. Whereas his cronies contributed as an annotation to a party of a golf game, Morgan Cartwright made it his life.

But then it happened, and all those old problems ceased to be problems. Nobody gave a thought to Bangladeshi Nelson Mandelas when they had a grip on an aluminum baseball bat and the next-door neighbor’s dead body was climbing through the window. All those up-and-comers melted into one side of the battle or the other. But not Morgan Cartwright. He managed to come through to the other side with both his brains, and his sentiments intact. Not to say that he wasn’t damaged. Nobody could live through the dead plague without losing at least something.

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