Short Story: Time Marches On

The clock slowly reaches 6:30 AM.  And thus, the day’s business is underway.

We start work at 6:00 AM to stage all the trades that came in the night before, and any that came in the early morning.  Today is a big deal.  I need this one stock to reach $27.00 a share.  If it doesn’t, my quarterly analysis is going to be off the mark, and I’ve not been doing so well the last few years.

I’ve been off the mark too many times, and too close too many times, and the boss has noticed.  If I can’t turn the corner this time, I’ll be fired.  I’m 48, I’ve been stuck in these junior trade positions my whole life.  I can’t say that I’ve pursued advancement very hard, but I’ve made my plays.  And you would think after a certain amount of time, someone would realize I know the job well enough to manage those doing it.

But I never get noticed.  Instead, I’m passed down.  And now, with 26 years in the market, I sit too far away from retirement, even though I’ve prepared well, and am getting too old to be picked up for yet another junior position.

“Can I have everybody’s attention please!”  Our trade manager, Wes shouted; everyone became silent.

“Assuming that everyone has their trades in for the day, here’s a quick announcement.  We are coming down to the wire on some small stocks that we hedged on this past cycle.  It’s not looking good.  Today is close of the quarter, and baring a miracle, we’re going to be looking at some losses.  That means some of you are not going to make it to see tomorrow.  However, I’m going to ask that you all push forward like you can make it tomorrow, because if any of you can find a way to shore up the loss, that will ensure you’re staying put.  We all have mortgages and college funds, and the Joneses’ to pay for, so put your foot to the pedal and let’s right this shop.”  Wes shouted all at once, slamming his office door behind him.

Swell, the pep talk ends with the realization that we create lifestyles we can’t afford, ever.  People would be better suited to buy a residence, and sink any money they get into that, never buy a car, maintain a spartan wardrobe, and never splurge beyond that until the home is paid off.

It really says something about consumerism in this country when employment and everyone is still living paycheck to paycheck, and employers know to threaten your home immediately, especially when they’ve done something to cause the problem that is now creating yours.

The clock is already reaching 8:00 AM, and the trades I’ve put in have nearly all executed.  Some are still staged waiting to hit their thresholds.  Some clients have the biggest of pipe dreams, but I guess we’ll take their money either way.  I heard that we may go to a pay-for-phone support system because so many in that crowd make poorly informed decisions for themselves, and then try to blame us in hours-long debates about the market, or why we don’t intervene on their behalf, or how it’s not fair.  Life is not fair, ever.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that.

I start getting notices of new trades that clients want, I’m answering the phone and talking to clients about new stocks hitting our radar.  Time is ticking away on that clock, and I already feel like I’m behind.  It’s exhausting.

“So, if I buy now, you think this stock will achieve a profit in six months, and then increase even more over the next few years?”  Lester asked bluntly.

“I think this stock provides you a great chance at netting a profit by the end of the predicted cycle.  It’s a young startup, they have good books, they are savvy in their industry, offering new tools that will be of great use.  There’s very low visibility on them now, but over the timeline I’m proposing, they’re going to be recognized widely, and thus increased production will lead to share profits.”  I said, almost in rhythm with the anxious feeling boiling in my stomach as I looked at the clock.  Tick-tock, tick-tock.

“How do you figure they’ll be recognized?” Lester asked inquisitively.

“Because as potential clients become more aware of their products, more of those potential clients will prefer their tools and service than that of more established firms in this industry.”  I responded, flatly.

“Yea but, how does that awareness come around?”  Lester asked again, louder.

“Through the reputation of their products being used.”  I stated.

“But how would anyone know to use their products to begin with?  I don’t see a marketing strategy.  If they’re so good, why aren’t they airing commercials?”  Lester annoyingly asked.

“This isn’t that kind of industry Lester.  I am more than happy to send you information about their industry, so you understand better how it operates.”  I responded, hoping that was the end of this interrogation.

“No, I’m going to pass, this doesn’t make sense to me, frankly I don’t understand why you call me anymore.”  Lester said as he hung up.

Lester is a reluctant buyer, and not my first option to call, but it’s been awhile since we spoke, so might as well get that out of the way.

The clock looks bigger.  My eyes feel like they’re throbbing.  I could feel burning in my veins, and the sounds of a kick drum in my heart.

“Message for you Pete.”  Anna said to me with a glance.

If I was ten years younger, I’d probably wine and dine her after this day.  Maybe I will anyway.

[Call Mr. Edmunds, Account 566-787-8989.]  I dialed his number.

“Mr. Edmunds?”  I asked.  I don’t know this client.

“Yes, I’m calling to get an update on my account.  I was told the person I worked with no longer works there.  And that was a surprise to me because I didn’t receive an email.”  Mr. Edmunds was glib.

Great, a “Thomas” customer.  Thomas is played by one of us every month, and we give a new client a “deal.”  We line them up with an investment account for fifty dollars, and we put one-hundred dollars in to put our money where our mouth is.  We trade the money over a choice of several companies we know are going to perform reasonably, and that’s our hook into them.

“I’m sorry Mr. Edmunds, I take it you were working with Thomas?”  I knowingly asked.

“Yes, I was, where did he go?”  Mr. Edmunds demanded.

“I’m Peter, and I’m taking over for Thomas Mr. Edmunds.  Thomas made some mistakes.  He was giving away a hundred dollars on accounts, when it was supposed to be only fifty.  Thomas was a nice guy; wish he was still here.” I said deliberately.

“Well I got an email saying the return is what we expected, but maybe it’s time to invest elsewhere?”  Mr. Edmunds asked.

“Mr. Edmunds, you have impeccable timing.  I have a stock that I’ve been putting my clients into.  It’s going to be a barnstormer.”  I said, readying my pitch.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The clock continues to tick, now just past 2:00 PM.  I felt I accomplished very little.  I’m looked at my numbers.  I’m up twenty percent.  I need to be up forty to make up the difference in my quarterly picks.  I could feel the sweat beading along my hairline, my eyes are pinned as the clock becomes the size of the wall.  The heat I was emanating could power the whole office.

“Pete, can I talk to you a minute?”  Wes asked, walking back to his office.

“I got up from my cubicle, and followed him to his office, where the big boss, Charles, was waiting.

“Pete, we’re glad you’re still putting together trades today, you took my speech to heart.”  Wes said.

“I’m just part of the team Wes.”  I responded.

“Great.  Listen, we’re appreciative of your work.  But frankly, it’s not going to be enough.”  Wes laid the sentence out like it going to kill me.

“Well I still have a mountain to climb, but if you look at- “I said, but was interrupted.

“Pete, look man, you’re a good worker, you don’t cause waves, don’t shit where you eat, don’t trade in rumors.  Seriously, there’s a lot of good qualities.  But your numbers aren’t great.  Occasionally you hit pay dirt, but not enough to make up all your chilly days.”  Wes said, while Charles looked on with beady eyes and a stone face.

“I see.”  I said, resigned to the fact that this was the talk.

“Pete, like I said, you’re a good guy, we’ve never even written you up for so much as a policy violation.  But you’re not making trades at the rate we need.  And your recommendations have been less than desired.”  Wes said on cue.

“I don’t think you need to spell it out any further.”  I said.

“You can pack your things; HR will be contacting you concerning next steps.  We really appreciated your work around here Pete.” Wes said.

“That’s not necessary Wes.”  I said.

He looked at me puzzled, but I know that he knew exactly what I meant.  What a hologram.  Meanwhile Charles continued to look as smug as he ever has, adding nothing but an inflated sense of ego and financial obligation for the company.

“Wes, of course we’re going to pay you severance, you weren’t a shithead bud, just not at our level.  I’ll make sure to put in a good word for you moving forward, I don’t want to hold you back.”  Wes said as I walked out of his office.

He offered his handshake, which I reluctantly accepted.  It took him eight years to figure out I was ‘just not at their level?’ Time to get out of here.

The clock looked smaller now, almost in the background, meaningless.  My, how simple that was.

“Message, Pete.”  Anna said as she placed the paper on my desk.

[Call Mr. Edmunds – URGENT!]

Oh boy, Mr. Edmunds.  Cold feet I presume.  But he’s going to be someone else’s problem now…what the hell, I’ve got nothing to lose.

“Mr. Edmunds, this is Pete calling back.  Everything ok?”

“Pete, I looked into that company, and I think you’re more than right.  I know we set this up for $2,000.00 to start, but I want to put more in.”  Mr. Edmunds said.

“Ok.  How much are we talking?”  I asked, getting ready to hand the call over.

“One million.”  Mr. Edmunds said.

“Ah, what?”  I asked, feeling like I lost my hearing in the second he said it.

“One million.  You’re right Pete, this company is going to be a real dark horse, and over the next few years they’re going to capitalize on it quickly.  I’m in!”  Mr. Edmunds beamed.

I didn’t know what to say.  I had to think of something quickly.

“Mr. Edmunds, give me an hour, I’m going to call you back from a different office.”  I said.

We hung up, and I hurriedly collected the things that mattered.  I waved at Wes and Charles who just watched me as I left towards the lobby.  What sleaze-ball place this was.  A sense of happiness came over me as I realized I was finally out of there.  I passed Anna’s desk, and turned around.

“Anna, I’m taking you to dinner, tonight.”  I said, in a way I had not spoken in years.

“Ok, where?”  She said, sounding in shock.

“I’ll pick you up and go from there.  See you at seven.”  I said as I headed for the elevator.

“How will you know where to pick me up?”  She asked.

“Well, you’re going to text me your address in about five minutes.”  I said while holding up my phone, entering the elevator.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Looking at the clock now is relaxing.  A reminder of where I’m at, and where I’ve come from.  I don’t have a corner office.  In fact, I don’t have an office at all.  I work from my apartment.  It’s good thing I maintained a business license all those years.

“Mr. Edmunds, are you ready for your update?”  I asked.

“Is it what we expected?”  Mr. Edmunds asked excitedly.

“Just about, an eighteen percent return, so not twenty, but not bad for an honest year’s work.”  I said through a grin that took over the bottom half of my face.

“I KNEW IT!  YOU WERE RIGHT!”  Mr. Edmunds said ecstatically.

“I’m pretty excited too Mr. Edmunds, this is a huge day.”  I said still grinning.

“Pete, I’ve got some friends that need to work with you, do you have time to come down and do a presentation in a few weeks?”  He asked.

“I don’t see why not, let me know next week when you want to set it up and I’ll keep my calendar open.”  I said.

“It’s been a pretty good year.  Great talking with you Pete, talk soon!”  He exclaimed as he hung up.

It’s been a pretty good year indeed.  And time keeps marching on.

[Phone rings]

“Hey dear, how’s work?”  I said to Anna.

“Kind of sucky.  We’ve all been laid off, they are going out of business and liquidating everything to make up their debts.”  She said, sounding panicky.

“I’m sorry to hear that honey.  Are you leaving the office early?”  I asked, still grinning.

“Hell, I’m leaving now.  They said I could stay for three months during the transition period, but that they would only be paying severance, so I said forget it, enjoy hiring a temp.  Wes is such a creep, he asked me out at the end of ‘the talk,´ and I was just like, are you serious?”  Anna said in disgust.

“Well Wes has never had good situational awareness.”  I said, grinning even more.

“Now I have to hit the interview circuit.  That ought to be lovely, more ogling from another peanut gallery.  And rent is going to be hard, their severance packages are a joke, five grand.  They said it’s because they in bankruptcy.”  Anna said, still in disgust.

“I’m sure you’ll find something better.  But you know, why don’t you move in here and sublet the place.  You can always move back when you find work again.”  I said.

“You mean it?  That would be so awesome!”  Anna said excitedly.

“Yea, I mean it.  See you soon.  I need to get back to it.”  I said as I hung up.

The clock over my desk caught my eye, full of afternoon sun, lighting up and reflecting into the entire room.  I could feel the cozy warmth of August summer pervade my skin.  What a feeling.

Thinking back to all the worry, and fusing over each decision, what a waste.  The only thing I did was abuse myself for nothing.  For a clock that I could not manipulate any more than I could the stock market.

Time always marches on.  What you do with it at any given second is all that matters.

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