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by MikeC 

Posted: 13 July 2004
Word Count: 1488
Summary: Revised 5th Aug 2004. This was inspired by the Elastic Book of Numbers. All comments are welcome.

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7.59 a.m.
Mervyn had never had so much money. Today he was going to make a lot more. This was the big day. He scrutinised his appearance in the mirror in the smart restroom of Harbinger and Harbinger investment brokers. Dark blue tie precisely positioned in the collar of the light blue shirt. Hair neatly trimmed and the parting just so. He looked good. The money from the re-mortgage on the inherited property was sitting in the bank. He was ready. He strode across the spotless tiled floor, down the corridor and into the main dealing office.

The market had opened. He watched the news ticker on the wall opposite and waited for it to scroll round with the opening values of the index. Then he picked up the phone and rang Cyphel Securities.

“It’s Mr Cutlinker. I set up an account last week. I want to invest £250,000 in your FTSE100 fund.”
“£250,000 in the FTSE100 at….6305.…transaction charge of £150... Do you have your switch card ready sir?”

He gave them the switch details and a minute later they confirmed the money had been transferred. When you’ve got money everything is easy, he thought, that’s the way it’s going to be from now on.

Not for much longer would he be a junior admin assistant, everybody’s dogsbody. He hated office blocks, open plan offices and neon lighting. He hated being bossed about, being at their beck and call. But most of all he hated the snide remarks they made about him, they knew he didn’t dare answer back.

Mr Grindel shouted across the rows of desks and screens from the other side of the open plan office.
“Cutlinker, I told you to replenish the stationery store yesterday. Go and do it now.”

Some of the brokers looked round at Mervyn and smirked.

"Yeah, go one plonker, get me some paper clips." hissed one, just out of hearing of Mr Grindel.

They can smirk, he thought. But I’m not as stupid as they like to think I am.

For months he had been eavesdropping on their conversations. They reckoned the recent bear market had created a once in a lifetime opportunity. Once the rebound started there were fortunes to be made. Fast. Soon. Today! It was a gamble. He realised that on a salary of only £17,000 a year the mortgage repayments were unaffordable. He needed a quick profit.

“Too late for second thoughts now, Mervyn.” he told himself. Buckling down to the task in hand he clicked on the stationery management icon on his screen and started checking the stocks records.

After he had selected the stocks that needed replenishing he submitted a print request and checked that the report had started printing. The ticker told him the index was 6352. He felt relieved, the market was going up. He tapped at his calculator.
With a glow of satisfaction he saw that he had made over £1800 in less than half an hour. A little smile came over his face.

9:01 .
He slipped on his anorak and stuffed the printout into his inside pocket. For a few seconds he stood and watched until the ticker showed the latest index value. 6443.
Just as he expected, the market was rebounding. He’d done the right thing. Smiling, he swaggered out of the office and headed off to the office supplies shop.

When he returned from shopping he was surprised at the amount of activity. The brokers were talking fast into their headsets, tapping furiously on keyboards, standing up waving paper about and shouting information across the office. What’s going on? he wondered. A glance at the ticker told him. 6557. He plumped himself down and excitedly keyed the number into his calculator. Nearly 4 per cent up, nearly £10,000 profit!. He couldn’t believe. He was over the moon.

“I’m gonna be rich, gonna be rich!” he murmured to himself. He wanted to dance down around his desk.

With an effort he calmed himself and went to the storage room to put the stationery away.

At 10:21
When he came back into the office it was just as busy. A quick glance at the ticker told him then the index was now at 6610. Over £12,000 profit he calculated. He laughed out loud.

“It’s so easy. I should have invested more.“ He sat done and started to work out if there was any way he could borrow more money

A puzzled look came onto his face as he looked at the ticker. 6331. The brokers around him were still busy, perhaps more busier than before. One or two seemed to be getting angry, shouting into their headsets

6305. Right back where I started, he thought. He allowed himself a few moments to consider what he should do. He could sell now and come out even or he could hang on for the recovery to resume.

He decided to hang on.

6225. Over £3000 down. “I’m losing a lot of money, more than I can afford on my salary,” he said to himself, “should I get out now?”

“Cutlinker, take this lot and get it filed.” Mr Grindel was pointing to pile manila files.

5981. He could barely bring himself to do the calculation and when he did he wished he hadn’t. Nearly £13,000 down. Have didn’t have £13,000. If he sold out now it would take him years to pay if off. He turned his face to his display screen and started work on time sheets. He tried not to look at the ticker.

As he looked up from his work his eyes strayed to the ticker.5634. His hands were shaking as he tapped the number into the calculator. Over £26,000 down. His mind was starting freeze. Four hours ago he had been nonchalant about handling £250,000. The loss of £26,000 weighed heavily on his mind. He was too deep in to stop now.

5166. £45,000. He felt sick. It was lunchtime. He didn’t feel like eating so he went out for a walk.

12:32 5222
When he returned he had almost made up his mind to cut his losses. He planned to ring Cyphel Securities, to sell up and salvage what he could. The latest index of 5222 persuaded him to pause that plan. There was still hope. He decided to hang on for a little longer.

Through out the early afternoon the index rose and rose. Each time he checked the ticker the index was higher, 5417, 5601, 5934.

The index was above 6000 at 6078.
“Most of my loses have been wiped out.” Mervyn was becoming cheerful again. ”If I keep a steady nerve I might come out ahead by the end of the day,”

He was stunned and disappointed to see that the index had fallen to 5653. Half an hour later the index reached 5251. All around him the brokers were going frantic. The words he heard the most were ‘sell…sell…sell’. He was forced to confront the truth. The market was in full retreat. It was a rout.

Mervyn was like a rabbit caught at night in the glare of headlights. Rooted to his chair, a cold sweat seeped into his body as he watched the ticker. The numbers scrolled by and each time they became smaller and smaller. The collapse of the index continued. Mesmerised he watched helplessly as it crashed through 5000 to reach 4847 by 16:24.
A cold hand squeezed his heart as the plunge continued unchecked. Hurtling down the index swept past 4500, 4400, 4300.

By the close the index had slumped to 4263. He dreaded the thought of calculating his losses, he knew they would be large. Drained and weary he keyed in the number and paused before pressing the final ‘=‘ key. He tried to compose himself, tried to summon up the emotional resources to handle this. Finally, when he could put it off no longer he pressed the key. £80,976 lost. As he stared at the little display panel his eyes glazed over. Leaning his elbows on the desk he buried his face in his hands. His body shuddered as he fought to suppress the sobs that were welling up in him.

Mentally, he sealed himself off and waited. All around him he could hear the brokers packing up to leave for the night,

"That was a good day, I made a huge number of trades."

"My clients were shorting like mad, they made a bomb."

"We should be in for a good bonus, just for today."

"Hey, Cutlinker, don't forget my paper clips."

When they had left all he could hear was the faint hum of air conditioning.

Lifting his head up he stared at his phone through damp bloodshot eyes. He lifted the handset and dialled.

“It’s Mr Cutlinker here. I want to sell my investment in your FTSE100 fund.”

** END **

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Comments by other Members

Becca at 20:37 on 13 July 2004  Report this post
What a sad story it is. I've never understood how the stock market works, but I have met the boy-men brokers you are writing about.
To give the story more depth I thought you could describe how awful they are more, - that way Mervyn loosing his money is even more poignant. I do know the Elastic Book of numbers thingy. This was a good idea here in that vein. Maybe even describe your MC's horror and elation more dramatically.
Hope my thoughts are of use. Waiting to read more of your work.

MikeC at 07:16 on 14 July 2004  Report this post
Thanks Becca,

I bought 'Characters and Viewpoint' by Orson Scott Card this week. I hope this will help me to create stronger characters.


Becca at 15:31 on 14 July 2004  Report this post
Just go over the top with them, and then edit them down to fit the story. I mean, imagine your way into your MC's head. Actually, that's a point, try writing it in the first person, you'll get a lot more emotion into it that way.

TheGodfather at 19:27 on 17 July 2004  Report this post

A dismal situation. That point comes across clear. I do think you could do a lot more

"All around him he could hear the brokers packing up to leave for the night, boasting about how many trades that they had done on this busy day, swapping jokes and anecdotes." --> How did they come out positively? How does that work for the guy? Does he have any feelings about that?

"He was too deep in to stop now." --> Maybe a short diversion of a friend who had gotten out and the thing rebounded.

"One or two seemed to be getting angry, shouting into their headsets." --> Maybe offer some of this dialogue.

No doubt additions like these would add to the tone and deepen the pain of the loss. You've got a great start here.


MikeC at 19:11 on 18 July 2004  Report this post
Thanks for your comments. I particularly like the idea of 'hearing' more dialogue from the brokers, also the idea of developing the MC's reaction to what they say and do - possibly feeling jealous, ostracised, etc.


Hamburger Yogi & PBW at 04:24 on 09 August 2004  Report this post
I thought there a was a bit to much emphasis on the market movements - a commentary - and more of the trader's thoughts, feelings and actions would have upped the tempo as a dire situation.

His downtrodden condition was well depicted.

Hamburger Yogi

MikeC at 11:13 on 09 August 2004  Report this post
Thanks for your crit. I'll think about what you have said, The effect on the trader is central. I'll look at your story soon but I am pushed for time at the moment.

John12345 at 22:00 on 24 May 2005  Report this post
The first few paragraphs were very energetically written, with lively changes in sentence length coupled with some nice use of imagery. Once we got into the nitty-gritty of the story, though, I felt that the story was too focussed on what was happening rather than the interesting use of language that was so nice to read at the start.

MikeC at 07:04 on 25 May 2005  Report this post

Thanks for your comments.


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