by David S. Grant

an excerpt from the new novel

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E




I hope this email finds you well. This is how Ski (pronounced "sky") ends all her inter-office emails. I can only surmise that this is how Ski ends all her personal emails as well. All Ski's funny little jokes, humorous observations, funny attachments, and links most will be unable to access. This is what I picture. Ski. If I didn't know her as the Vice President of Sales for Jameson Investments, I would assume Ski was in the porn industry based on her name alone.

Ski only knows me by email. We have never met, nor have we ever talked on the phone. All we have is our limited correspondence via email. Every month Ski sends me an email that begins with: Hi Jeremy, how's life treating you? and then continues on, requesting the monthly cash budgets. Every month I reply, telling her she needs to contact my boss for the budgets. Ski then replies to my reply, apologizing for the confusion, and then asks me to forward the request to my boss. This has been going on for two years. Twenty-four emails. (Forty-eight if you count all her replies, seventy-two if you count my replies, ninety-six if you count the emails I forward to my boss as well.) This is my job. I work for Jameson Investments as a cost accountant. I'm thirty years old. I grew up during both the eighties and nineties, sandwiched between the Me Generation and Generation X. I want moneyI just don't want to work for it.

As I forward Ski's message to my boss, a reminder window pops up on my computer screen. It's Friday afternoon, time for our weekly staff meeting. This is the worst two hours of my week.

"So let me reiterate what I said last week regarding the firm's debt ratio. Folks, I'll be frank, the ratio is low, meaning we need to finance more of our assets with liabilities, giving us more financial leverage." Maury. The Financial Controller. Despite there being eight of us in the room, he'll talk for most of the meeting. This is painful. All you need to know about Maury is he's old, somewhere between fifty-five and sixty, he spits when he talks, and he addresses everyone as folks, even when it's just a one-on-one conversation.

"Folks, we also need to discuss our payment obligations." Maury pulls a yellow-colored packet from somewhere under the table and grins as he distributes a document titled "Fixed Asset Payment Coverage Ratio" to everyone in the meeting. Maury drops my document a foot to the right of me. I wonder for a moment whether this was done intentionally. This is another one of Maury's political games.

"Folks, take a look at the earnings before interest and taxes for a moment. Now if we add the lease payments and subtract interest, principal payments, and preferred stock dividends, then take the total and…"

I zone out for a while. When I come back, Gerald, the Credit Manager, is discussing a problem he's found with the commissions program.

"We have brokers getting paid double commissions due to a glitch in the sales software program. I don't want to be held responsible for a computer problem." Gerald looks around the table. Everyone is nodding their heads in agreement.

What you need to know about Gerald is that he's in his early sixties (maybe seventies), is bald, has gray sideburns and a poorly-kept goatee, and refuses to take responsibility for anything where technology can be blamed. Everyone at the table knows it's not the system, it's the user. Gerald himself probably entered in the commission percentages twice. Gerald sighs and then continues, "It was different when I started. We didn't have these convoluted software programs, we calculated the commissions ourselves." Gerald glances my way. "Of course, some of you don't know any better."

I smile. I feel ill, unsure as to whether it's the fake office camaraderie or the boredom of this meeting that's making my head pound.

Next up is Howard, the V.P. of Finance. You only need to know one thing about him: he's the V.P. of Finance, a corporate man whose life dream was to be the V.P. of Finance.

Howard is not a fascinating man. Anything in the world not related to finance is a constant distraction in Howard's life. "We are working on establishing the amount investors are willing to pay for each dollar of earnings. We've implemented a new strategy called price earnings multiple approach. This technique uses the estimated firm's value, calculated by multiplying the firm's expected EPS by the average PE."

My head is killing me. I may have to get up and leave. I look around the table at the confused faces and wonder what will happen if I throw up right here on the glass conference table. Maury looks perplexed and slams his hand on the table. I should point out that this means Maury has something to say. My head is pounding. The constant distraction in my life.

"Isn't the…" Maury looks down at the table, where his precious brown Day-Timer lies. It is filled with notes he's been scribbling. A pink sticky note is on the cover of the Day-Timer. The sticky note simply reads: MAURY. An example of an approach to monogramming by a finance manager. "Isn't the multiple approach used mostly for valuing private firms?"

A speck of spit from Maury lands inches from me.

Maury looks around the room, where everyone is nodding in agreement with his genius idea. To Maury, the approving nod is the equivalent of smack to a junkie. Maury has a speck of tomato sauce on his tie.

Howard is getting defensive. "Well, yes, but it can be used to value public firms as well."

Maury slams his fist down again. "Is this the only indicator we're using from now on for calculating share value?"

Howard is holding on to his light blue tie. I've seen this before; he's nervous, his voice cracking. "No, Maury, we will also be using other calculations, but this is a new value we want to include in our valuation of the firm's stock."

I have no idea what they're talking about, but I'm pretty sure they had this exact same conversation during last week's meeting. Howard was wearing the same light blue tie at that meeting. I really need a hobby.

Maury continues, "Folks, we need to make sure we use everything available to us. Efficiency is the key. We need to be more than a necessary evil to Jameson. Gerald, you set up a meeting with I.T. to discuss the commissions problem, and Howard, don't put all your eggs in one basket when calculating share value." Maury slams his fist on the table. "Folks, we need to focus!" Approving nods all around the table. Maury is such a star.

After the informative staff meeting, my boss, Jake, calls me into his office. All you need to know about Jake is that he's old, senile old, has a doctorate degree in Finance, and reeks of a rancid combination of Stetson cologne and cigar smoke.

Jake starts talking before I'm through the doorway.

"Is Rick up to speed on your projects, just in case any of the guys have questions while you're out?" Jake points up as he says the word "guys". I guess that means the executives one floor up, ironically consisting of four women and two men.

I sit in the chair opposite him, his pretentious mahogany desk separating us, and I tell him, "Yeah, Rick and I talked earlier today. I'm only out for a couple of weeks, and it's the holidays, so I don't anticipate any problems."

Jake's shaking his head. "Good, very good, but you can never have too much information, Jeremy. Remember that."

You can never have too much information. You can never have too much information. Got it.

"In case we need to get a hold of you, you'll have your cell phone with you?"


"Your pager?"


"Your laptop?"


"Your PDA?"


"And you'll be periodically checking voicemail?"


"Good, very good."

Thank God we're moving toward a paperless society.

Jake is now staring out his window. The sun is setting over the Manhattan skyline. The Empire State Building is casting a shadow over Midtown. Jake continues, "And you'll check in with me during the week?"


"And you're sure Rick is up to speed with your projects?"


I believe Jake is starting to lose his mind. I bet he smokes cheap cigars. It's hard to find a finance person who enjoys the finer things in life.

"Good, very good. You're sure Rick can handle this?"

If you looked up the word "old" in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Jake.

"Hmmm hmmm," Jake hums as he stares out the window.

After a minute, I finally break in. "Anything else?"

Jake spins around like he's surprised to see me there.

"No. Since I won't see you, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." Jake continues to look at me like he has something else to say. He's studying me, squinting. "Jeremy, you're not Jewish, are you?"

I have bleached blond hair, pale skin, a few freckles, and a small nose.

"No, I'm not Jewish"

"Good, very good. Merry Christmas."

"Anything else?" I ask as I stand up.

"No, enjoy Minnesota."


"Oh yeah, Wisconsin. Well then, have a Merry Christmas, Jeremy."

"You too, Jake. Happy New Year."

* * *

"Wad up JJ?" Rick is waiting at my desk. "What did Dr. J want?"

"Same old," I reply. "He wanted to make sure you wouldn't destroy everything I've worked on over the past four years while I'm out during the next two weeks."


Rick is the same as me, with even less ambition and the vocabulary of Puff Daddy, P Diddy, Diddy, and Sean Puffy Combs combined. It is also important to note that Rick is Irish. Rick is wearing a black shirt, black tie, black pants, and a pair of black Doc Martins. Rick has red hair.

Rick holds out his fist. "Don't worry, dawg, I got your back, most def."

I make a fist and bump it with his. I'm down with it.

Rick cracks a smile.

I pull my fist back and scratch my face, despite not having an itch. Rick's ignorance makes me uncomfortable.

It's now my turn to continue this meaningless office conversation. "Thanks, man. What's up for the holidays?"

"Oh, you know, I'm heading upstate to kick it with my moms."

"Cool. You need anything from me, or are you all set?"

"Yo dawg, we've been through this, we cool, I'm aight."

"All right then, I'm out of here."

"Yo, have fun in Michigan."


"Whatever, yo."

I walk over to Karin's cubicle. She's staring at her computer screen. A Free Tibet bumper sticker is attached to the top of her monitor, a miniature Zen garden rests on her desk, the Knicks pre-game show is on her Panasonic portable. Latrell Sprewell is hurt and won't be playing tonight in New York. He's already left the team to be with his family for Christmas. "Enjoy the holidays, Karin. I'm taking off."

Karin is a middle-aged black woman with long braided hair who has entered accounts receivable transactions all day, every day, for the past ten years at Jameson Investments.

"You too, hon. Have fun in Iowa." She says this without taking her eyes off the screen.

"It's Wisconsin."

"Oh, right, hon. Have fun."

Karin holds up a peace sign as I walk away, her eyes still focused on the important work at hand.

Jenny pokes her head out of her office. All you need to know about Jenny is that in her early twenties she was a swimsuit model, she's now forty-two, still attractive (but showing her age nonetheless), and she hosts a Botox party every couple of months for the girls and gay men in the office.

On a scale of one to ten, Jenny is a seven. Today Jenny is wearing jeans and a tacky blue and red print shirt. It's Hawaiian Shirt Friday at Jameson Investments.

"Jeremy, I hear you're off for the next couple weeks. Now don't go getting any ideas about not coming back. We need you here."

Jenny begins yelling over Karin's cubicle, "Karin? Karin! Who was that guy who went back to Oklahoma for vacation and never came back?"

Karin replies without missing a keystroke, "Adam."

"Oh yeah, Adam, that's it. Jeremy, you better come back, unlike Adam."

His name was Aaron and he was from Washington. I keep this information to myself. I don't want to ruin their wonderful memories of Adam from Oklahoma. What would they talk about?

"Don't worry, I'll definitely be back," I lie.

"You better come back," adds Jenny.

I start walking away. This conversation is getting painful. "Okay, Jen, enjoy the holidays."

"You too, and make sure you come back. We need you, Jeremy."

I return to my desk to find six unread emails. The first email is from Human Resources, a reminder to everyone that next Friday is red, white, and blue day. The second is a response to the first email in which Doug from Marketing decided to reply to the entire company that he has just the shirt to wear next Friday. "It's fabulous," replies Doug. Doug regularly attends Jenny's parties. Don't ask me how I know. I just do. Three emails are from people who decided to reply not only to Doug but the rest of the company pointing out the difference between replying to sender and replying to all. You can never have too much information. The final email is from Joe in I.T. He wishes me a happy holiday and hopes I have a good time in Indiana.

I push my chair back away from my desk and look across the aisle, where Chris is sitting at his desk eating a cold chicken leg. What you need to know about Chris is that every day while sitting at his desk he eats two chicken legs, two apples, a baked potato, and has five cups of tea. Not weak fruity-flavored tea, as he's quick to point out, but strong green shit called Gun Powder. Chris also lifts weights. Today is Friday, so it's bench night. Yesterday was Thursday, squat night. His license plate reads: W8SRUS. These are the things you find out when working ten hours a day next to the same person for four years.

"Ready for your vacation, Jeremy?" asks Chris, pointing at me with his chicken leg.

"As soon as I'm finished up here."

"Good." Chris is nodding his head while smacking his lips. I notice a piece of skin is hanging from the chicken leg as he points it at me. In my head I try to quickly calculate the odds of the skin sliding off the leg and hitting the floor. As much as I hate to admit it, I have a little Jake in me.

Chris's phone rings. He looks at the incoming caller ID and picks up the phone. "Hello, sport."

It's his wife.

I shut down my computer, change my voicemail message, turn on my email out of office assistant, and raise my hand to Chris as I walk out.

"Hold on, sport." Chris puts the phone on hold. "Hey Jeremy!"

I'm already starting down the hall, but still hear him.

I yell back, "Yeah?"

"Enjoy your vacation in North Dakota."

Four years.

"Thanks, Chris. Have a good Christmas."

Walking down the hall, I announce that it's "Miller Time" to no one in particular and proceed to the elevator.

As soon as the fresh air hits me, I light a cigarette and grab my iPod from my bag, wrapping the headphones around my ears. "Everlong" by Foo Fighters is playing. Up next is "1979" by the Smashing Pumpkins, followed by tracks two through nine off Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory. I check my Nokia: two text messages, one from Chip that reads: DUDE I'LL PICK YOU UP AT THE FUCKING AIRPORT, the second from Angella that reads: WE NEED TO TALKMEET ME AT THE W.

While listening to Dave Grohl belt out obnoxious lyrics, I walk north, stop, turn, look back at the building that's home to several investment firms including Jameson, and wonder if I'll be back.

My doctor is optimistic. He tells me there's an eighty percent chance I'll be back. The constant distraction in my life.




Copyright © 2008 David S. Grant

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

David S. Grant was born in West Allis, WI. David's first novel, Corporate Porn, was published in 2005 by Silverthought Press. Major writing influences include Bret Easton Ellis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chuck Palahniuk, and Hunter S. Thompson. David has also published several short fiction pieces with various literary journals and websites including The Writing Journal, The Reader's Retreat, The Falling Star Magazine, The Sink, and Lifted Magazine. Grant has three corporate degrees and now lives and works in New York City. He is currently working on a prequel to Bleach titled Bliss. For more information, please visit David's website at:

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