Authors: Art Bourgeau
To Donald I Fine, with Thanks
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best,
"Our chief want in life is somebody
who shall make us do what we can."
1. And in the second year of (his) reign,
Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and
his sleep brake from him.
2. Then the king commanded to call the
magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans,
for to shew the king his dreams . . .
3. And the king said unto them, I have
dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.
4. Then spake the Chaldeans . . . O King,
live forever: tell us thy servants the dream, and we will shew the
5. The king answered and said to the
Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto
me the dream, with the interpretation thereof ye shall be cut in
pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.
6. But if ye shew the dream, and the
interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and
great honor . . .
Ch. 2, Vs. 1-6
LORING WEATHERBY took his tea and moved to the club
chair that looked out the window at the park trees. It was days now
since the crash of the stock market, and he had slept once since
then. Outside it was still dark, the trees rely more shadows in a
land of shadows ranging from dark to black.
The house was quiet. There were no sounds of people
sleeping, pets snoring or even clocks ticking. The only sound was his
own breathing. The only light a glimmer from the kitchen. Loring took
a sip from his tea and sat down in the club chair.
The chair was his favorite possession. It had come
from an auction at Freeman's, and before that from a parsonage, as
attested to by a small brass plaque on the rear leg. The leather was
old and cracked but not torn, and the parade of clerics whose backs
and bottoms had graced it before him had given it a shine more than
skin deep. A shine that seemed to go down, down, down, like a warm
red bottomless oxblood pool. The house was cold. He pulled the collar
of his silk brocade dressing gown tighter to keep out the chill and
settled back to wait. The four days of sleeplessness had taken a
toll, and there was nothing so much that he wanted as to walk away
from everything around him. To be released. To chase rainbows or
butterflies. To be carefree. But he knew it was not to be.
The stock market crash had come on Thursday last. It
had started in the morning with just a downside trickle. A little
profit-taking. A minor market adjustment. Nothing to be concerned
about, but by afternoon a hurricane through downtown Philadelphia
could not have wreaked more financial havoc. Blue chips, high flyers,
utilities, transportations, mutual funds, even over-the-counter penny
stocks were savaged. Nothing was spared. Fortunes were wiped out in
He settled deeper into the chair, its warmth for a
moment taking his mind off the past four days. True it was nothing
more than the leather reflecting his own body heat, but in the
darkness it seemed a powerful circle that surrounded and kept him
safe from the cold of the house. He allowed himself to relax with it
and for a moment tried to envision the faces of the clergymen who had
enjoyed it before him. Good men, kindly men, like Father Frank and
Father Mike at St. Ignatius. Outside, the darkness was giving way to
the gray of the false dawn. The shapes of the trees were becoming
more distinct. Gone were the leaves. The late autumn rains had seen
What was left was a January landscape in November.
One that would have depressed many, but not Loring. Winter was his
element. He was strongest in cold.
The grayness drew his focus outward and brought his
mind to the present. He reached for his tea and raised it to his lips
before he realized the cup was empty. For a moment he was confused.
The cup had been full when he sat down. Then he smiled. The chair, it
always felt so good. After he sat down it had probably lulled him
into that half-asleep/half-awake state where people did things
without thinking and he had drunk it without conscious thought. Four
days without sleep could make one forgetful. At least of the little
He picked up the cup and saucer and went to the
kitchen for a refill. As he pushed open the door the light above the
stove seemed to blind him. He stopped and looked away, blinking
rapidly until the sensitivity of his eyes diminished. Then he crossed
the kitchen and poured more Earl Grey, being careful not to look at
the clock on the stove. It was Monday, that was all he needed to
know. The rest would come soon enough, he told himself as he felt his
stomach begin to tighten, the first stirrings of the cramps and the
pain Monday pressures always brought.
He added cream and sugar to his tea and stirred with
the spoon nestled on the saucer. In the light it was obvious he was a
handsome man, with blond hair and aristocratic, chiseled features
that in profile seemed to belong on a coin. He was above medium
height and lean. Under his robe he was nude, his skin alabaster white
and smooth. He had the muscle definition of a swimmer: light and
graceful rather than the heavy slabs of a wrestler or football
players. But this morning he felt tired, leaden, older than his
thirty-one years, a feeling he tried to shake off. Time was a game
men played with other men. To give it, take it away, control was the
key to winning because time was life. Time was money. But it is no
more than the passage of suns. It was not God.
He took a sip of his tea. After the crash on Thursday
had come Friday. A day for digging out and placing the blame, except
there had been no relief. The market began where it had left off and
continued downward, dropping hundreds of points throughout the day.
By mid-afternoon one broker was heard to remark that he felt like he
was on an elevator whose cable had snapped and he was just watching
the floors fly by. Another one updated the old, old garment district
joke: "What's the only thing worse than Thursday? Friday."
No one laughed. By closing, over twelve hundred points had vanished
in two days.
Loring took his cup and returned to the living room.
The room was now light enough so that everything was visible. The
house was a single story cottage, the living room long and narrow.
One side was almost entirely taken up by windows that looked out on
the woods of the Wissahickon. The leather chair sat near the windows.
One end of the room was dominated by a fieldstone fireplace,
well-worn furniture was clustered around it. The furniture had the
look of a men's club, a room of leather and wool, a room for winter.
The rest of the wallspace was covered in bookcases, filled to
capacity. There was no television in the room or the house for that
matter. He did not like television.
He carefully set his cup down on the desk before
turning on a lamp and going to a bookcase filled with matching
volumes. He selected two. At his desk he removed three files from the
lower righthand drawer, an exercise he had repeated throughout the
weekend as he steeled himself for today.
The books were filled with graphs. He opened them to
places already marked. Pushing his blond hair out of his eyes he
studied first one and then the other to be certain they were what he
wanted. Satisfied, he turned his attention to the filed. Each was
also filled with graphs. The graphs in the first file represented the
ups and downs of his clients' portfolios. The second represented the
ups and downs of the market as a whole, and the third represented the
events of the past days.
the graphs in the books represented the growth of Iowa corn since the
year 1976; the other represented a graph of sunspots for the same
period. He compared these graphs with those in the file folders. They
matched. He was right. He knew it. All he had to do was stick by his
guns and not be afraid of what happened last Thursday and Friday.
Gazing at the old inkwell on his desk, he tried to clear his mind.
Loring Weatherby was a chartist, or so he told
himself. He believed the world operated on a higher order than chaos,
even the stock market, and that to be successful one had to find the
beat, to get in sync with an all-governing internal rhythm. The trick
was to discover the rhythm. To that end some years earlier he had
joined an institute in St. Louis whose sole function was to provide
people of a like mind with graphs charting the ebb and flow of
virtually everything chartable, from Florida orange production, to
female babies born in Hawaii, to the sale of men's felt hats in New
York City, to Ohio State football. For him there was a link, a key, a
thread that ran through it all, tied it all together. And from these
mountains of graphs he had found that key, at least he thought so
until last week.
Outside a bird landing on the feeder attached to the
window distracted him. He stopped and watched it feed. It wasn't much
of a bird. A drab winter sparrow, was all. Barely enough to hold in
your hand, but one cheerfully pecking away at the unexpected bounty
in the feeder. Then a blackbird arrived. Even though there was enough
seed for both and a dozen more like them, the blackbird did not peck
at the seed, it pecked at the sparrow until it drove it away.
Loring felt anger. He did not want the blackbird in
the feeder, not like that. It had to go. He reached across the desk
and rapped on the window with his knuckle. The blackbird looked up
from its feeding but didn't fly away. For a moment man and bird
stared at one another. The bird's eye was black and soulless. Loring
rapped on the window again. This time the bird raised its wings in
flight, but there was no haste, no fright in its departure. Loring
watched for a few more minutes. The sparrow did not return.
His mind turned to the task before him. It has not
been an accident but the product of months of intense research when
he discovered that the graphs of the stock market's performance
matched the graphs for sunspots and Iowa com production beginning
almost a dozen years earlier. That was the beat, the rhythm he
needed. All that was necessary was to put his clients' money into
stocks that were known to be market sensitive, then to sell and
repurchase as the graph dictated. It had not been foolproof. Nothing
could allow for minute day-to-day fluctuations, but on the whole he
had made a great deal of money for his clients with his method.
He closed the books with a sigh and went to his
bedroom to dress for work. Friday’s trade papers had blamed the
computer for the crash. As the drop began it was fueled by the
automatic sell-orders stored in it. It was a crash caused by
technology. The Wall Street Journal quoted several sources but took
no stand. The people there, Loring was sure, knew better, knew that
the computer was the effect not the cause.
He pulled on a heavily starched white shirt with a
medium-spread collar, made for him like all his shirts by Vittorio,
an aging shirtmaker on Seventeenth near Locust. From his closet he
chose a Brooks Brothers charcoal pin stripe suit and red-and-blue
He believed the real cause of the crash was too much
prosperity. There was no room to trade. Prices were too high. No one
was making any money. Things had topped out, so a few money managers
began dropping large blocks of stock in an effort to stimulate some
downside action, and then to buy back, making a profit on the spread.
The result had been larger than anyone could have dreamed. Over
twelve hundred points lost in two days.
Many of his clients had been hurt badly. They had
panicked against his advice to hold tight, and they had turned their
portfolios into ashes. Others had listened, even bought what he had
advised and were now in a position to regain their losses and turn
short-term profit phoenixlike. But he was concerned about the losers.
Somehow he had failed them, when the chips were down he hadn't come
How could he know? He kept asking himself through the
long, sleepless weekend. Men against Order. They should not have
prevailed but somehow they did. Not right. They were screwing around
with things bigger than themselves. So little regard for transcendent
forces could bring everything tumbling down.