All was quiet in Tark and Mara’s penthouse (in the most ruinously expensive borough of Dublin city) save a seductive hum of contentment. Mara was reclining on her brand-new 16th century fainting couch following her weekly meal, languorously turning the pages of a glossy magazine. Tark had been miming at the baby grand piano for twenty minutes. Nobody could mime the piano quite like Tark. It was one of the reasons he was so popular at parties.
A promo on the 76-inch wall-mounted, razor-thin flatscreen caught Tark’s eye. He halted his silent rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Chanson Triste.
“There! I knew it. Another one on BBC2.”
“Another what, darling?”
Mara set aside the magazine to redirect her attention to her husband, peering at him regally through a bejewelled pince-nez.
“Another documentary targeting the super-rich, my pickled lemon,” he said. He waved at the TV, where the programme titles were embossed upon a dated pinstripe suit wielding an axe. “This one’s called ‘Revenge of the 99%: Robbing The Rich, The Rich Man’s Way’.”
“That’s disgusting!” Mara sniffed, quite fabulously. “Who made this documentary? Surely not the BBC? I mean, isn’t that like setting your own arse on fire just to run a bit faster for five seconds?”
“One and the same. But it is food for thought.”
“Good Lord, Tark. You’re surely not going to watch this sort of brain-washing drivel? How could you possibly support it?”
“It’s not about support, my poison sea urchin. It’s about business opportunities.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Tark swivelled on the piano stool before unfurling his five-foot four frame into a vertical position and striding away, his hands clasped behind his back.
“They say that to steal from the rich, you have to treat them they way the rich treat the poor. You take things away from them, but pretend it’s for their own good.”
“But I don’t understand. We are the rich!”
“I know we’re rich, darling. But are we super-rich?”
Mara thought sadly of the €100,000 couture stockings she spotted in Milan in November. She recalled – her throat catching at the memory – how she had been forced to concede that, given the likelihood of them running a ladder, and the unlikelihood of anyone in Dublin realising how much she’d paid for them, she was better off spending the money on two dresses and a half-pair of shoes instead.
“No,” she said miserably. “We are not super-rich, husband.”
Tark placed his steepled fingers to his mouth and surprised his wife with a wink. A wink! From the man with demonic eyebrows who never smiled! What was he up to?
“But would you like to be?”
“Of course,” said Mara, wanting desperately to frown, but being utterly forbidden, as always, by cosmetic-grade botulism. “Whatever you’re up to, Tark, spit it out. Don’t toy with me.”
“Don’t you see?” said Tark, clapping his hands. “This is how we become the super-rich! We take money away from the one-percenters, but we pretend it’s good for them!”
Mara laughed humourlessly. “Ingenious, Tark. But even you couldn’t manage that. The 1% will never fall for it. Only the poor are daft enough to fall for the ‘because it’s good for you’ line. How else did we manage to get away with the notion that taxing the rich would suffocate the economy?”
Tark stuck his hands into the pockets of his unicorn-hair smoking jacket, facing his wife squarely.
“Darling, who managed to make a £200,000 handbag made of brown paper the must-have accessory of 2007?”
“You did,” said Mara.
“And who popularised 2009’s smash-hit €1,000,000 dental treatment by convincing the world that there were waiting lists, unless one was connected to royalty in either Japan or Saudi Arabia?”
“You did, darling,” said Mara, excitement now audible in her voice.
“Precisely. Now you see, my vicious little herring’s tooth. You don’t steal from the rich by just taking from them. You steal from them by giving them something worthless, and charging them handsomely for it.”
Mara stood up from fainting couch and walked to the bookshelves by the north window which housed her collection of Hermès handbags, running a finger lovingly along her favourite vintage Birkin.
“You’re talking about luxury goods.”
Tark nodded approvingly. “After all, we’ve already set six trends since nine o’clock this morning. I predict that I can have our first billion banked by the last Friday in February, if I call up Angelina and Brad now and ask them to endorse my new and exclusive range of hand-knitted anti-terrorism spectacles.”
“But how can you be sure they’ll go for it?”
Tark raised his left (and most demonic) eyebrow. “They will, when I tell them that not only are they the must-have accessory for the freedom-loving celebrity, but they are also made by an autonomous commune of formerly subjugated women in the Gobi Desert.”
Mara looked off into the distance, and a glittering future of long-lasting expenditure upon non-durable goods.
“And let me guess,” she said breathily. “Anyone not wearing these spectacles hates freedom—”
“And is a potential terrorist, yes,” said Tark.
He strode over to his wife and turned her face down to his for a self-satisfied kiss. “After all,” he smirked, “why have millions when you could have billions? Hmmm?”