Initial Public Offering
In our cubicles at dawn, staring at monitors. Four hours ahead, the New York market is opening. We lean forward. Our baby offering, dear God, make it happen. Numbers start crawling across the bottom of the screen. Our stock opens and the price declines, unsteady, then it gains 2 dollars.
The floor trembles.
For a moment, the market ponders, watching itself. The stock ticks, ticks, ticks, ticks up 5 dollars … 8 … then 12 and surging now, gaining traction and we take a breath and everyone starts talking ….
On the roof, the bright sails flair open
and belly tight in the wind, cables humming,
and our building lurches, starts to move,
grinding forward with the windows shaking,
market numbers climbing on top of each other
and we’re cheering now and the building scrapes
across the lawns of the office park, leaving raw earth
and tiny figures running through the parking lots,
shouting and waving their papers,
and our building advances across the freeway,
cars screeching, slamming into each another
as we pass like a grand hallucination, like a dinosaur
crushing the bridges, red lights flashing
and then suddenly it’s silent. We’re aloft
and rising, power lines dangling
beneath us like wild nerves, broken pipes
spitting and swaying in the wind.
Everyone stands at the windows, unbelieving.
The CEO clears his throat. His eyes glitter
kindly as he stirs his coffee and gets up to speak.
“A billion per year,” he says.
A hush fills the room. Our eyes shine like his
and our minds are racing as we calculate options,
and he talks and talks us higher, our dreamweaver,
our knight of faith, and the stock keeps rising
and we’re sailing faster and we all grow silent,
staring in wonder as the clouds rise up
before us, massive and brilliant, like solid rock.
We’ve been up in the air, our great white sails ballooning and lifting our offices higher, then higher as we bang out the code, lines taut and executable. And even when the revenues faltered, when the market went sideways for six months, ten months, when the last round of funding was abruptly pushed back, then again with deferrals and murmurs, with broad promises and further studies, and even then we still had faith.
The building is beginning to list, down to zero, then under, and we’re starting to hemorrhage, the ground slowly rising to meet us, rough hills of limestone racing below us, and streams of smoke begin trailing furiously past our windows, gauges spinning, doors slamming, the senior management smiling calmly, hiding the terror behind their eyes, talking of issues rather than problems.
Then a jolt.
Then a long shudder deep in the belly, muffled explosions, and the computer screens tremble, flickering, almost collapsing in on themselves as the office lights dim, then recover, then flicker. And suddenly the company is seized with awareness. We’re headed downward, it’s obvious, and we throw ourselves into projects and proposals, the xerox machines thumping like combines, spewing paper. We’ll save the company! And management scrambles like masters in a frenzy, grim soldiers trimming the fat, throwing out bodies, beating their drums , and the VPs slam down their phones and shut the door and roar to themselves in silence. We’re calling New York, New York. We’re calling L.A. and Boston. We’re calling Cincinnati and the windows are trembling.
We’re in deep shit and we know it. Our backer backs away, leaving voice mail and a dry kiss on our foreheads. Hopelessness sweeps the company, the managers talking too loud, accountants staring at their monitors, pupils dilated, searching for numbers, and the secretaries are chattering brightly on the phone, “Oh we’re busy! Quite busy!” and the hills are rushing straight toward us and filling the windows and now we’re screaming.
The building whips across the tops of the cedars, branches exploding in front of the windows, and we hit a hilltop, hard, then a terrible floating for a second, then another impact, another and we’re crashing down into cedar trees and brush, bouncing heavily, bulldozing the trees in front of us, the building breaking open like an egg, walls collapsing, smoke gushing through the hallways. Then silence.
Whispers across the rubble. The phones are dead. Gradually we pick ourselves up, trying to understand, trying to think of next steps and that’s when we see them — the first strangers approaching through the trees, tall and hooded, with pale, alien faces. They fiddle at their calculators, bony fingers flickering, restructuring debt. Then they help us to our feet without saying a word, and they lead us, one by one, through the broken trees, along quiet paths, and we approach the edge of the highest cliff. The country below us looks so crisp, so clear. We stop at the edge, and they silently encourage us forward, looking intently into our wild, bewildered faces, as if we could teach them, as if we could fly.
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