Sunday, April 3, 2011


Yup, it’s a’ crashin’. The large, flat desk in front of the tense but relaxed young man took a disproportionate amount of the small room. He didn’t care. It was fit out to trade, and he had no need for anything else. He was a pro.

His chair was standard management-style; it was thin-leathered but comfortable. Long broken in, it touched his middle back as his lower arched slightly while his eyes fixed on the screen. Its sleek black sheen was worn on the right side from him bumping it against the credenza, but he didn’t care. Trading was work, and his suite was a work desk. Looking over at the left monitor, he saw Flow Resources – symbol FLW – flowing downhill. That was his fire alarm, his snap-to, his alert message.

Having sieved it with his filter program, equipped with real-life quotes, he jerked the chair rightwards and looked at the other monitor. That held his brokerage account, with more than sixty thousand cash in hand. It was time for him to make another twenty thou or so.

But not yet. First, he had to see how far down this sinker would go.

Edward Campbell was indeed a professional. A day trader, he was disciplined and systematic. It showed in the gear he had in his bachelor apartment. Dark purple sheets and a black duvet embraced the single bed on a simple platform: no headboard. It was arranged so he could leap out of it and get right to his system. It was close enough to his credenza that he could use the far end as a nightstand if he had to. There were no books, as Edward was digital. EBooks aplenty were in his left hard drive.

His professionalism showed in the computer system he was working. His internet was ultra-DSL. As a stock trader, he needed it. His dual monitor system was not two screens connected to one box; it was two standalone computers connected to the DSL with a router. Cat 5 Ethernet cables connected each to the router and to each other. Both desktops were gamer level. They made for a quick, smooth, powerful system. With chair facing the desk, his back was to the door.

Quickly, Edward jerked left, opened up a new browser on his left computer and shot it to his other stock tracking service. Smoothly, he wheeled his chair rightward to the other, mini, keyboard and mouse on the credenza. As was habitual, his neck angled to his left. Moving the other mouse with tight, powerful strokes, he clicked on the order-form link and confirmed that he was still logged in to his brokerage account. Discount, of course.

As it had so many times before, the right side of his chair bumped against the credenza as he rotated leftward again and entered the symbol FLW into his stock tracker. Rewarded by real-time quote data and a chart underneath, he dug in for the trade data. This service provided no sieve, unlike the other one, so he didn’t leave it on as the default. It was only there for a close look at a stock. It was crucial because it had trade-ticket data.

That’s what Edward relied upon for his system. Rather than playing the gold bull market by buying exploration stocks outright, he watched and waited for ones that were pummelled by bad news. Despite the bull, there had a fair few. Edward knew that the exploration bull was still climbing a wall of worry. Stereotypically, in retrospect, those babies fell way too far when bad news scared them. That’s where Edward Campbell came in. Once he saw bottoming, he moved in with a big order and waited for the bounce-back. Even if an explorer was really damaged goods, he often got enough of an upturn to make him a profit. That’s what he was: a businessman. He lived by profit and died by loss. A player.

Scanning Flow Resources’ trades of the day, he saw the cave-in; it almost sang to him. The lucky fellows who got out first exited with only scratches; the later sellers were true-to-life punctured. As the morning dragged on, the sellers were more hurt. Recently, they had been hit bad. Getting down to the most recent, his eyes caught a whopping trade of 1.5 million shares at 23 cents. Most of the trades were in the low five digits. Flow had been at 37 cents at yesterday’s close.

It looked like time. Refreshing the list, he saw several more trades. It looked like it was bouncing. Not yet, baby, not yet… he thought. And he glanced over at the half-body portrait of his girl Kaliyah between the two monitors. Her booty was arranged fetchingly in sitting body profile, while her enchanting eyes beamed in her turned head.

Looking at his left monitor, he clicked the FLW symbol – Venture exchange, of course – on his sieve. That called up a streaming chart, with real time data too. Edging his chair back, feeling the wheels move on the floor, he watched and saw another downward blip. Flow was now at 21.5.

Making his decision, he swung back to face the credenza. Swiftly clicking the account-balance link of the left of his browser, he got his balance of $61,294 up. All cash, all liquid running cash…just for this moment. Flow, he decided in a snap, was an all-in.

Edward was going for 21. Engaging the calculator, he tapped the number pad and got 290,000 shares rounded off. Damn. He had been hoping for 300,000. A quick re-calc said it was impossible, even at 20.5.

Still, he could try. So, he entered in 20.5 cents into the price box and 300,000 shares. His dark eyes quickly flicking over the rest, he made sure the order form said a Canadian stock. Pressing the “Next” button, he flashed his teeth when he saw the system let him have it. He could spare a few hundred bucks from his chequing account. Sure, he had it.

Hitting the complete-order button, he saw the bill of $61,509.99. Like lightning, he shifted the mouse to the left part of the window and called up his order list. Yes, Edward was a good customer. His discount broker knew him, and would front him the 200+ bucks for the few days until the trade settled. All he needed to do was to transfer the funds from his chequing to his brokerage. Easy as logging in to his bank account.

The order showed unfilled, unsurprisingly. Shifting his head further left to the streaming chart, what he saw made his abs grip his stomach. Live price was now 20. Jerking his head back, he refreshed the screen and saw he now owned 300,000 shares of FLW at his price of 20.5.

Bumping the chair again, he shifted over to his main screen. He was all in, so there was no more need to worry about whether or not he was logged into his account. He could let his brokerage work slide for now.

Like so many other traders, he couldn’t stifle his reactions; he could only compensate. Right now, his belly was speaking loudly and sourly as he watched Flow fluctuate between 20 and 19.5. A momentary blip to 19 got his gut watering. Thankfully, it lasted only for seconds; 19.5 came back again. So did 20 as new buy orders fortified the market.

It was now safe to look away, so he clicked for the trade-list window. Refreshing, he saw what had to be his trades after a cursory survey. Five of them: 40,000, 30,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 80,000 from three different brokerage houses. He hadn’t been the first in at that price, but he had been uncomfortably close. Some other players must have pulled their orders down or out.

Grabbing the mouse and smoothly calling back the live chart overlaying the filter, he saw the price now fluctuating between 20 and his price of 20.5. Damn, I was lucky, he calmed his abs with. His stomach, on the other hand, was still refractory. Unconsciously showing worry, he looked at the picture of Kaliyah again. If this worked out…

After seeing stabilization, he realized it might. Flow had fallen damned hard; there had to be something wrong. It stuck out of his filter like a stricken bus rider, especially since he reversed the order of filtration by percentage change. Losers top, gainers bottom, in order. He needed the losers in order to swoop in. Crawl in is more like it, he heard his mind-echo of his mother say. As a professional trader, he was far from alone in considering economic theory a joke – even though he could have added to it, by a very first-hand recounting of the psychological disutility of buying a plunger below its equilibrium price.

Calling the live chart back up, he saw Flow still at the 20 band with blips at 19.5 every now and them. Because the service let him set for trading by the second, the previous action passed him by. He didn’t relax until the screen froze. Trades were no longer coming in by the second. The next one went at 20, and he had to wait more than two minutes to see it. Ten more minutes passed, and he didn’t see many more trades. He then set his chart to the minute, which brought back the plunge alongside the stability.

Much to his surprise, he then saw a buying wave come in. Edward had no clue as to where it came from, but seeing it made his face shine like the sun itself. 21, 22, 23 – it was rocking. His profit was assured, and was coming more quickly than he had thought possible. Fascinated, he spent about an hour watching the thing tick up. By the time his attention lapsed, it had stabilized again at 25 to 26 cents.

Sliding his chair back, and sliding the mini-keyboard for his second computer back, he congratulated himself on doing it again. He was the man!

Edward hadn’t made the mistake of counting his profit before it hatched. When he was still new at the game, at the other end of the broker chain as a quote giver, he had made the mistake of hyping himself when he was still going long. Buying a dead explorer, a shell, he counted and multiplied his profits while sitting out the boring months it took for the CEO to get the company reactivated. Rewarded by the announcement of a property acquisition, his fantasies disappeared and reality set in. The stock was moving, but sideways. Made panicky by the contrast between comforting fantasy and cold reality, he got increasingly skittish until he sold half his position for a commission loss. Since he had been a smaller buy-and-holder at the time, that loss was not negligible. A week later, he saw the thing take off. Instead of being a bum property, as he had feared, it was welcomed by the market – once word had finally spread. He had gotten a triple out of it, but half his profit had been yanked out of his hand by his fool fantasizing. It was true that he has sold down to the sleeping point…but, the way things had turned out, he had really sold down to the fool point. He had been right all along, and could have gotten a major reward for it. Instead of an almost-triple, though, he had gotten about a 45% gain on the deal. The rest flew out the fool’s door.

He vowed never again to self-medicate through fantasy, and had kept his vow ever since. Thus, he was psychologically prepared in a crucial way to make the step to full-time day trading. Instead of junking, he had another ritual.

Getting up, he sauntered to the kitchenette-and-shower that made up the second and other room in his place. The bathroom, whose door was beside the shower far away from the appliances and pantry, had little more space than a closet. Stopping to look at the mirror, he smiled at what he saw. Bright dark eyes, semi-square head, semi-fine features, a natural grin on his face, close-cropped hair for those times when he had to jump right out of bed and double boot, distinct chin, thin, with a smart collared dark brown casual shirt resting on his upper body. The top of the mirror was set six feet off the ground; standing straight, his hairline met the top border. He was looking like the player he was.

Now, for the kickback. Reaching into the fridge, he eased out one of seven chilled 375 ml bottles of Moët and Candon Impérial champagne. As he brought it back to his desk, condensation collected on the dark bottle below the gold foil. The Moët name ran up it towards the mouth of the bottle. A dark red seal was below, resting on a gold-lined black band.

Smiling explicitly now, he gentled off the foil and exposed the cork with the golden-wired holder. After his practised exposure, the “T” was gone from the Moët as was the star above it. Now more gently, he pulled down the handle for the cork holder. He then untwisted the cork holder six times to the right, eased it off the top of the bottle and laid it down on the credenza. The bottle itself was in front of the mini-keyboard. It was real champagne; none of this sparkling-wine nonsense for Edward.

With practiced working of thumb and index finger, feeling the condensation on the rest of his hand and the other that held the bottle snugly, he gave the cork three twists counter-clockwise before being rewarded with the pop. His grip had to be tight to loosen it; the cork couldn’t fly away. He placed it by the ripped foil.

Sure, he knew how to be classy. But, he was alone and at his post. There was something liberating about forsaking the shallow wide glass and sucking it straight from the bottle. Edward’s next move was to put the bracing, cold champagne to his lips.

The taste of white grape lingered in his satisfied mouth. Smacking his mouth roof with his tongue, he took another draft from the bottle of success. Subtly muffling a burp as he swallowed the bubble-infused tangy liquid, he pulled out his smart phone.

Edward still had a land line, but it was reserved for strictly business. His good friend Roger Reed was a business friend, but he counted it as a social call because it often was. His phone was fully vid-call compatible, and took a fair bit of change out of his monthly expenses. It was one of his few luxuries.

Feeling the tang change into a warm glow, he added to the effect by taking another bubble-infused swig. Then, his lips resting against the sweet mouth, a third. Speed-dial got Roger’s line up instantly.

The boy had vid-call too – even a vid-answering machine. That’s what Edward saw.

“Hello, you’ve reached the corpulent Roger Reed. I’m feeling lazy, so I’m sleeping. Stick a message in the answering box if you can deal with it. If not, just stick it.”

Edward, now fortified with more heady success, bent his lean face over to the came and replied:

“Wakey time, F-A-T. Flow Resources. Goin’ up fast. I’ve got the Moën out, so you know what I’ve done. Twenty point five.”

Truncating the call, he got back to his main computer. A quick check on Flow yielded 26. He had held on to his snap gain. Swigging again, and feeling the warm, he slot over to YouTube and called up Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” Two grapey, tarty swigs interrupted his YouTube prep for his serenade.

Naturally, he got the long version. He wanted to see Beyoncé running wild. He wanted to see her while the heady tightening of his scalp was kicking in. He wanted to see the official version, with Gaga in prison with that other babe. He wanted to see it while his own head was filling with bubb – the real stuff.

Oh, Lordy, it was going to be great!

As the opening scene with the barbed-wire-topped chain wall kicked in, Edward turned up his sound. The taste of grape – real, Champagne grape – lingered in his mouth as the bass kicked in with the opening credits. That was the babe’s name – Ty-reen Gibson, he thought as the credits ended and the prison appeared. He was ready for it.

Not paying attention to Lady Gaga being hit on by the prison babes, his alcohol-influenced mind drifted to a reverie where he was in a real bubb club. Kaliyah was at his side. Lady Gaga herself was sitting at the table front of them, facing them, with her own escort and two friends. Beyoncé was one of them. He smiled coolly but warmly at her, and she waved briefly before turning to Beyoncé. Now, that was making it. Sitting in the club, sliding down some bubb, with Lady Gaga herself in front of him. He and Kaliyah.

They would fit in, all right. He just needed to make a series of big scores and then he’d made it. He would get to that club some day.

The incongruity of he being in an exclusive dance club while slugging champagne directly out of the bottle didn’t even occur to him. After all, if he had made it, doing so would be part of his style. He’d be known!

Pausing for yet another swig out of a now half-full bottle, he da-de-dah’ed through the exercise yard scene while consumed with his fantasy. In his mind, the prison babes’ din became the club chatter. The song started, and he began undulating from side to side in his chair.

He didn’t care much about the lyrics; the only tie he knew was to the bubb - and to the busyness. After all, he was doing the busy. He had just put in an order that, if circumstances favoured, would net him well north of ten thou. The champagne was now disappearing rapidly as the song came pumping out of his speakers.

The booty in the video didn’t get him ruttin’; his head and heart belonged to Kaliyah. Besides, he never had much of an attraction for starved white flesh. A champagne bubble kissed his lips as he continued grooving to the song. As it and he continued, his gulps grew bigger and more frequent. Beyoncé appeared after the first stanza and chorus, and he went back to his club fantasy. Even she and her booty couldn’t sway his head and heart from his Kaliyah.

The bottle was almost at its end when he started at the new noise. His telephone – not his cell, his landline – was ringing.

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