Short Story Of the Day – The Economy (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”
― Oscar Wilde

Virtual money flowing across the surface of the sculpture.
Fountainhead
Charles Long
Northpark Center
Dallas, Texas


 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#65) Two Thirds of the way! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


 

The Economy

Monday, I was coming out of the tunnel on to New Jersey 75 when I saw this guy standing on the little triangle of dad grass between the Abdulla Gas Station and Hamburger house and the exit for the crosstown feeder. He was wearing an Armani suit, Donna Pliner shoes (don’t even ask me how I knew that), and a two hundred dollar haircut. He was holding a torn piece of cardboard that said, “WILL TRADE STOCKS FOR FOOD.” I got a good hard look at him before the light turned and I had to go – my kid had forgotten his skates and I had to get them to the rink.

On Tuesday he was still there and on Wednesday I decided to stop at Abdulla for a cheeseburger and hummus – and I took him some falafel and a pita. I handed him the food and he took it, stared me in the eye, and without hesitation said, “HGBindustries.”

“What?” I said.

“HG-B,” was his only reply.

He sat down and began to eat – didn’t say another word to me. Well, I had a little cash my old aunt left me sitting in a savings account, not a lot, but some. So I went online and bought a few shares of HGB. I really didn’t want to; Wikipedia said its biggest seller was a line of rubber duck bathtub toys.

“Not a lot of future in that,” I said to myself.

But the guy with the sign seemed sure of himself, so what the hell. And the stock was cheap. I didn’t used to drive by there very often, but I changed my route some and started to go by the guy almost every day. He was always there, except for federal holidays. And you wouldn’t believe it, but my HGB stock started to go up. So, this last month, Freddy down at work actually paid me back the money I had lent him for his daughter’s nose job.

I never thought I’d see that cash again, but old Freddy was so pitiful, talking about how his daughter would never find a man and leave his house with that big ol’ shnozz of hers. Well, she looked fine to me, but I loaned him the money anyway, mostly to shut him up.

And then, by God, he paid me back. I wasn’t ready for that, you know; so I had to do something with the cash, and I figured I’d drive down to Abdulla’s and spring for another Falafel Pita. I felt generous, so I added a large grape soda, crushed ice. When I walked across the parking lot to the stock picker and his sign I was surprised to see a line. There were four people standing there, waiting to talk to the man, each one holding a bag of food.

I sidled up to the guy at the back, he had a brown bag with a spreading grease stain.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“He’s on break.”

The guy was sitting on his sign in the ditch, smoking a cigarette. Up close, he looked pretty ragged; his suit looked like crap – that Italian Wool isn’t designed to take in that much sun. He’d picked up an old Styrofoam cooler from somewhere; it looked like it had a bite out of one corner. After a half hour, he climbed out of the ditch and began taking food from the first person in line, dropping it in the cooler and whispering in his ear.

It didn’t take long to get to me. Nobody seemed interested in conversation. I handed him the pita and drink and he crammed them into the cooler with the other stuff. Nobody else was left around so he didn’t whisper.

“HGB,” he said.

“Crap, that’s a ripoff, that’s what you said last time.”

“Falafel gets you HGB.”

“But I bought you a drink. Grape!” I pleaded.

He shot me a look like he’d found me stuck to the bottom of his Pliners (which were starting to come apart at the seams, I noticed) slapped the lid on the cooler and started off with his sign under his arm. Well, that pissed me off, now I’m back on my old route; don’t ever want to drive by there again.

And wouldn’t you know it, those Rubber Ducks turned out to have some sort of water-soluble waste oil in them, it caused hallucinations in the short term and nasty hives later on … it was on Cable news and everything. Now that stock is in the toilet and I’m not going to get to go on my cruise this year. Now I need some investment counseling… you know there’s this guy on television, he’s dressed as an Indian, on the Spanish channel … it says his advice is always good, the first call is free…

 

Get Your Shit Together

Morty [to Summer]: Well then get your shit together, get it all together, and put it in a backpack, all your shit, so it’s together.

[pause]

And if you gotta take it somewhere, take it somewhere, you know. Take it to the shit store and sell it, or put it in the shit museum. I don’t care what you do, you just gotta get it together.

[pause]

Get your shit together.

—–Rick and Morty, Big Trouble in Little Sanchez

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Money (L’Argent) by Zola

Money (L’Argent) by Emile Zola

“In love as as in speculation there is much filth; in love also, people think only of their own gratification; yet without love there would be no life, and the world would come to an end.”
― Émile Zola, L’Argent

 

Ok, for awhile now I’ve been working my way through Zola’s Rougon-Marquat 20 novel series of French life in the Second Empire – Reading them not in the order that they were written, but in the recommended reading order.

Money (L’Argent) is the eighteenth book written, but it is a sequel to La Curée, the 3rd book in the recommended order, so I read Money as the fourth. It has the same cast of characters – a little older but definitely no wiser.

I really enjoyed the book. It is a tale of rivers of money, oceans of gold, all stolen, gambled, speculated on. It is, of course, more relevant today than it was when it was written. I couldn’t help but do some re-research into the latest financial crisis and how similar the disaster was to the greed and insanity described in the novel.

In La Curée Aristide Saccard (he changed his last name from Rougon to avoid embarrassment to his powerful politician brother) rose and fell on naked ambition and audacious financial manipulations. In the sequel he finds himself broke, but with the same greed, reckless daring, and collection of equally devious connections. He sets out to turn the world on its head. The story of speculation and deceit is fascinating and engrossing and worth the careful reading it takes.

The whole adventure comes down to a final cataclysmic battle between Saccard’s bulls and the bears that oppose him. I still don’t completely understand how the bears make money – other than the destruction of Saccard and his allies – I didn’t read much about how they went about short selling for example – but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

So now it’s on the the next, The Dream (Le Rêve). I have already taken a look, started it, and it seems to be completely different in style and theme from the rest of the series. We’ll see.