This is based on a true story. Names, places and dates have been changed to protect the innocent, and in the case of one guy, the very stupid. Some scenes have been dramatized for that extra oomph.
Matt had to work for everything he got. Life never gave him an even break. His mother died when he was still an infant, and his father – a man who couldn’t tell the difference between a diaper and a rag – left him at his maternal grandparents’ home.
His grandfather worked as a newspaper deliveryman while his grandmother scrubbed toilets for wealthy homeowners. Matt could see the hard work they put in day in and day out, only to reap measly financial returns. He knew, at a very young age, that he would never become like them. He would never be poor. And he would do anything to avoid such a life.
Matt was a sensible young lad. He never dreamed of striking it rich via lottery tickets, or by getting a stable job in the government sector and work until he retires so he could live of the pension. He was smart enough to recognise that the truly rich were people who created opportunities, not simply look for them.
At the age of 11, he began doing homework for classmates who were not academically-inclined. Of course, he charged for the service. It helped that he was a very bright student and was able to grasp many complex subjects very quickly. His “business” grew so popular that he would soon be taking orders from dozens of students to complete their homework for them. He ended up outsourcing some of the orders to other bright colleagues – in return for a small cut of the profits.
His enterprise hit rocky waters after the school headmaster found out about it from a disgruntled student who felt it was unfair that he got a B for an honestly completed assignment while another student received an A using Matt’s Homework Express Service. Matt was suspended 2 weeks for the misdemeanour.
He spent the two weeks taking orders via telephone.
When Matt began life as a secondary school student at age 13, he decided it was time to embark on a new business venture. It was the year of the World Cup, and football fever was in the air. Matt wasn’t a keen footballer (he preferred hockey), but he knew there was money to be made.
He began by obtaining football posters and pin-ups on credit from a fellow student who worked at his uncle’s magazine store (he’d tear the centre-fold posters from the magazines with utmost care) and sold them for 50 cents each. He paid his “business partner” 10 cents per poster acquired.
Matt then got bolder and enlisted a group of 5 burly friends to assist him in expanding his business venture. At a pasar malam (night market) on the other side of town, Matt and his pals scouted around until they found the stall they were looking for: a couple of guys selling knock-off World Cup football jerseys. They were not identical to the original football kits, but Matt knew that not many schoolkids could afford to buy original kits anyway. With 2 of his buddies distracting the stallowners, two other kids made a lunge at the jerseys, grabbed a handful and raced away separately. The two stall owners ran after them along with a handful of other stall owners. The two friends of Matt (the ones who provided the distraction) then reacted as if they were going to help but knocked over the generator powering the lights around the stall, which resulted in the power going out for a brief period. In the confusion, Matt and another friend quickly grabbed as many jerseys they could and stuffed them into a bag. They quickly walked away before power was restored. The two kids who had ran away with the kits earlier then dumped the jerseys on the side of the road. The stall owners, once they had retrieved the jerseys, gave up the chase – only to return and discover that most of their other kits were gone too. Matt and his business partners made a financial killing out of selling the jerseys. His customers even included teachers who couldn’t afford original products with their low income.
By now, Matt was growing into a handsome young man with a penchant for making money. People gravitated to him, for he was a natural leader. He always listened to his friends’ troubles and helped whenever he can. He wasn’t simply being generous or kind, although he may very well have had some genuine altruistic motives. Mainly though it was because he was smart enough to form alliances with people who he felt could help him achieve his goals in the future.
By the time he was 16, he was a reasonably wealthy teenager. He’d never spend his money on anything ostentatious as a gold watch (he’d buy knock-off Rolex watches from Petaling Street) or expensive sneakers (he always wore a pair of cheap Bata shoes). He had his hands in a half-dozen business enterprises – only some of which were legal. They included football betting, renting pirated videos (some of them porn) and even a protection racket where he’s charge rich kids a small monthly fee in return for protection from bullies. He always neglected mentioning that the bullies worked for him as well.
But he always appeared neat and tidy and projected an image of classy sophistication. He maintained high grades in school and was quite an active participant in extra-curriculur activities. It was one of these activities that would bring him to the attention of an attractive young female student. A young girl whose eyes would make Matt’s heart flutter, the way a sparrow shivers in the palm of your hand. A young girl who would one day force Matt into making the biggest gamble of his life.
A young girl named Mina.
Next: Vol V
Much thanks goes to Ash.Ox for his very crucial and timely assistance in the completion of this chapter.