Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by David Macpherson
She told me that after a while, even she smelled of flop sweat. She would get anxious and look at the board constantly. It was not an issue for her, she had a weekly paycheck. Her livelihood was not affected by luck, the market or even the tides. But desperate failure is not a theory; it's a living organism like a virus, a parasite or a nasty rumor. It skips across the pond like a flat stone perfectly tossed. Failure is airborne and even she began to cough and shake.
She was tech support for a brokerage firm in the twin towers. Though brokerage firm gives the company too much a sense of worth and accomplishment. This was a cattle car, a hog pen and this little piggy went to market. It was a day trading firm. People were lulled there by the dream of wealth. They would rent space in the office where they could use a computer and a phone. They would buy stocks in the morning and sell them when the price was fractionally higher later in the day. The mantra of the day trader was, "Start the day owning no stocks, end the day the same way." The wee fractions would add up and they would become rich, or so they were told.
She made sure the computers worked after all the abuse the day traders subjected them to. From the tears in the keyboard to the hitting the monitor as if the computer personally took their money. No trader lasted more than 3 months, she told me. Most were broke and done in two. They would get that gambler's curse of hitting strong early and then slowly piss it away to nothing. The firm would loan the day traders money if they were short, attaching interest levels high enough to make a loan shark belch with envy.
She began to not learn their names. It was a prison ship; they were rowing like galley slaves and she was the poor schmuck banging the drum telling them, "Stroke. Stroke." She began to pray for them, wearing her rosary smooth. She began putting money down in the market. Seeing if she could succeed where the others could not, that her luck would free them all. She was investing like any day trader, which is to say blindly and with no hope.
It was a relief when she was laid off. The company folded like any other smoke oasis. In 2001 the feds started cracking down on these firms. The company was out of business and their World Trade Center office was empty by September when it all settled down.
Last time I saw her she was the tour manager for a Led Zeppelin cover band. "Booked solid through the season!" she beamed. She stood behind a card table selling merch: t-shirts, bumper stickers, visors, pushing the mailing list. The table was doing brisk business. She didn't even see me as I waved goodnight and left the bar. I don't know what she's doing now.
David Macpherson is a writer living in Worceste, Mass.
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