Sunday, March 22, 2015

Aphrodite Shuddered - Chapter 12

Chapter 12
Capitalist Propaganda

Sept. 1987
On a rare day away from the Servercomp offices, I was relaxing on the balcony at home that early-autumn afternoon, enjoying what was probably the last warm weather we would get for the next eight months. While I reclined in a deck chair and read the novel Atlas Shrugged for the third time, Tina and Angie conversed loudly over the dreadful pop music blaring from the living room TV. Just as I began reading the part where John Galt goes-off on a 63-page didactic diatribe against collectivism, Tina's voice screeched from inside the apartment, through the open sliding glass door, "Hercules, git yer funky ass in here!”


Marta is on fuckin' TV! HURRY!"

“BULLSHIT!” Then I stuck my head inside the apartment and took a gander at the screen. On a music video on MTV, Marta's ass gyrated wildly as she sang her brand-new release, something called Love Me Up and Down. Gobsmacked, I rushed back into the apartment.

While lip-synching to the awful disco-flavored tune, Marta tossed her ice-blonde mane and flashed a perfectly white, Look-Ma-No-Cavities, open-mouthed smile. As my eyes were riveted to the TV, Tina glanced up at me and said, “Look, Angie - Hercules is gittin' a hard-on.”

That wasn't exactly true. “Yeah, right,” I grumbled distractedly, while cold sweat beaded on my forehead.

After the video mercifully ended, Marta was sitting in the company of a fatuously hip MTV host, who started babbling: "Marta is in the studio with us tonight to discuss her new recording career. But let's start with a little of your background, Marta.”

“Vell, I grew-up in Frankfurt, Germany...”

“...Now, your father is an airline pilot and you recently lived in the United States?”

“Yes, in 1985 I lived in the marvelous city of Seattle, Vashington. Of course, having a 747 captain as a father, I have had many opportunities to travel all over the verld.”

“And until this summer, you were attending university in Leipzig, Germany, studying aeronautics. Excellent!”

“Yes. I had originally intended to pursue a career as a commercial pilot, but somehow I have become a pop star instead,” she concluded, tongue-in-cheek.

“Incidentally, your debut album - Seething Lust - is currently in the Top 100 throughout Europe, so congratulations!” The young male host with spiky bleach-blonde hair abruptly changed the subject, clapping his hands once and addressing the camera: “All right! As our viewers in Europe may be aware of, Marta began her showbiz career in adult films...”

Angie, discombobulated, asked rhetorically: "What the fuck!?"

Tina looked narrowly at Angie. "Surprised? Ya know damned well she made dirty movies while she lived here."

I jumped in and sarcastically offered to Tina, “I suppose this is all my fault too.”

Her sharp knuckles lashed out in rebuttal, jamming painfully into my ribcage as she scolded, 
"Quiet, you - I wanna hear what this slut has to say for herself.”

Marta continued, “...I also have a new adult video release on the market.” With a titter, she added, “It's called Orgasmic Fury tee-hee!” Then she gushed in earnest, “I am extremely pleased vith the response of all my new American fans. My videos have been doing quite vell in North America since I made the covers of all the popular adult magazines."

"That's really awesome - so Marta, how long have you been involved in adult cinema?"

"For about two years now. I began performing in adult films ven I vas 18..."

Indignant Tina erupted. "Eight-fuckin'-teen! That lyin' little cocksucka!"

The MTV host looked at the camera and announced, “Now here's another new music video from Marta that I know you'll enjoy - it's called You Hit My G-Spot, Baby...”

* * *
Early-Oct. 1987
Never in my life had I possessed so much money at one time. For the past two weeks, ever since Servercomp's now-diluted shares began trading on NASDAQ's Over-the-Counter exchange, there had been a huge run-up in the value of those shares (I then owned 250,000 watered-down shares worth, at the time, well over one million dollars). The true monetary value of the company did not appear to justify its current market valuation. However, investors were in the midst of a torrid love affair with under-capitalized high-tech start-ups like ours. Even a frugal financial conservative such as myself was caught up in the irrational fantasy of unending profits in the stock market. As a consequence, when the latest quarterly dividend check from Servercomp arrived in the mail, I blew it all on a large down payment on a turbocharged 1987 Chevy Corvette convertible. That was uncharacteristically impulsive and extravagant of me, but I convinced myself that the 'Vette was a well deserved reward for all the long hours I had worked all year. When I brought that flaming orange road racer home for the first time, Tina, suitably impressed, whistled low and said, “That's a hot ride, Herc - let's go for a spin! You rent that for the weekend?”

With a carefree grin I replied, “Hell no, I bought it.”

Her response to that left me crestfallen: “Do what! Ha,” she laughed without humor. “Yer gonna have lotsa fun drivin' yer kids to daycare in that thing.”

The blood drained from my cheeks in alarm, as I feared that this was her clever way of informing me that she or Angie was pregnant. “Er - I thought we all agreed that we don't want kids right now.”

“Yeah – er, “she mocked. “Don'tcha know by now that shit don't always workout the way you want it when you want it, Hercules? Anyway, ya told me you were sick of this apartment and thinkin' about buyin' a house. So how much was that muthafuckin' car? 30-grand?”

“Forty-two grand, actually, “I replied, clearing my throat. “But I'm still buying a house - and even that car phone you've been hinting-at for your birthday.” With a shrug, I added, “If I ever need money, I'll just unload a few thousand shares - a drop in the bucket, babe.”

“You been scarin' the hell outta me lately, Herc. I think I liked ya better when you were a cheap-ass skinflint. You must have millions stashed in the bank, the way ya been tossin' Benjamins around like a dope dealer.”

“Don't be ridiculous. Any extra money we do have is tied-up in stock.”

One of the more rational reasons why the price of Servercomp stock was skyrocketing was that the nation's number-one internet provider, Compuserve, was trying to buy a controlling interest in the company. Its takeover attempt was in angry response to our recent foray into the business computer services and support market, a market in which Compuserve earned the bulk of its profits. But Compuserve's hostile move was stymied at the moment as the only Servercomp stock available on the open market was of the Preferred type, which conveyed no voting rights. Nearly all of the voting stock was closely held by corporate officers Joey Blowers, Herb Toker and Rob Oldham. In addition, a small block of voting stock was held by the founders of Microno Software, the Seattle-area billionaires Milt Gaines and Allen Paulsen.

Friday, Oct. 16 - two weeks later:
It was almost embarrassing to dwell on how high the value of my shares had risen this month. All the stock markets had been trending slightly downward all week, but that had not lessened Compuserve's determination to swallow our company. Compuserve had recently tendered a stunning bid of $15 per share for a majority stake, and the Wall Street Journal fueled the rumor that Servercomp's board was very close to accepting the bid, which drove the share-price ever upward. That rumor happened to be absolutely false, according to what Joey, our CEO, had told investors during a stockholders meeting the previous day. Then he had gone on to declare, “It's obvious that they want to buy us out merely to shut us down permanently, but in order to do so they're gonna have to pay out the ass. Now, if they make us an offer we can't refuse, like 25 dollars or more per share - and I doubt they ever will - the board may well consider it. In the event that we do accept such an offer at some future date, I would advise everyone to hang onto your shares.”

As planned, Angie and I flew to Las Vegas on that Friday morning and spent the weekend there. To Tina's misfortune, she couldn't come along since it was impossible for her to get time off from work right then.

While staying at The Mirage, which at the time was the most luxurious, expensive hotel in Vegas, we burned through many thousands of dollars gambling at casinos up and down The Strip. Thousands more were spent on gold jewelry and fancy clothes for Angie and Tina. I was just relieved that I hadn't succumbed to the temptation to unload a bunch of stock earlier that week.

On Saturday, Angie and I stood on our balcony at The Mirage and watched the sunset saturating the entire sky with deep shades of orange and red. She hugged my side and said in happiness, “Oh Denny I think this has been the best weekend ever - I love you!”

“I love you too, sweetie. Life is damned good right now and it's gonna get even better. Come on, let's go back inside and get naked.”

“Hell yeah!”

* * *
Black Monday”: Oct. 19, 1987
When the alarm clock went off at 7am, I awoke with a loud groan, still feeling the aftereffects of our fun weekend. Having drunk much more alcohol than usual, I suffered from a pulsating headache. After leaving the bathroom, I noticed the red light flashing on the phone answering machine, so I played-back the single message which had been recorded at 5:30 that morning: “Hi Mister Smith, this is Doug Feld at Barnum & Barnum.” It was my stockbroker. “Hey call me back as soon as you can - the exchanges in New York are in free fall, and Servercomp is down two points already, so you might want to buy a put option...” I called him back immediately but all there was on the line was elevator music, and every so often a soothing female voice assured me that a representative would assist me shortly. While waiting impatiently on the phone, I watched the Today show on TV.

Stock tickers were crawling along the bottom of the screen as a financial reporter gloomily informed viewers: “...This is shaping-up to be the worst day on Wall Street since the infamous stock market crash of October, 1929. With six hours still remaining until the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down a whopping 380 points from Friday, and NASDAQ is down 72 points...One of the few winners today is Compuserve, trading 50 cents a share higher after withdrawing their $15-dollar a share bid for smaller rival Servercomp, whose over-the-counter shares today fell from Friday's close of 11.25 down to 98 cents before trading was halted - a drop of over 90%...”

Copyright 2015 by K.D. Bishop

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