After the Gold Rush (Version 1.0)—Clark Humphrey
On the day that the last lawsuit was finally, quietly settled, Milla rang up her best friends the Fosters. She said she could finally talk about everything that had happened.
They agreed to meet up at the new bar and bistro, ironically just across Boren Avenue from the office building where it had all gone down. The place turned out to be one of those “upscale” pits, one of those places where hyper-“casually” dressed would be alpha male techies yelled their allegedly brilliant business plans at one another. From what Milla could overhear, the plans shared one trait she knew all too well: none of the loudmouth brodudes seemed to say a thing about selling products or services to customers, only about selling shares in the companies to investors.
Milla and the Fosters sat in a back corner. In theory, everyone there could hear what they said; in reality, none of the walking egos in the room could even pay attention to the other dudes at their own tables.
Faye Foster waited until their drinks were all on the table before she said the inevitable. “So, at last, you can tell us all about it, right? So start at the start and don’t leave anything out. We can sit here ’til closing time.”
Milla shook her head. “I can’t even think of it all in chronological linear form any more. During all the proceedings, everybody kept contradicting each other about the time lines of everything. Sometimes people contradicted themselves. Besides it all seemed like a different time, like two centuries ago, even though it was just from ’99 to 2002.”
Berny Foster set down his rye Manhattan. “So tell me how you think it all happened.”
“Still not that easy. With all the different versions of the so-called truth, I stopped trying to figure it all out for myself.”
“Well,” Faye said while clutching her infused vodka martini, “then just tell us the things you are sure of.”
“I can tell you how I feel, is that enough?” Faye motioned for Milla to go on, while Berny sat back and took another sip.
“So how do you feel? Relieved, maybe a little exhausted but relieved, right?”
“Relieved? O I suppose. I mean I’m glad it’s all over and I can get back on with my life. Maybe rebuild my career somehow; even if it means going back a few steps.”
“Look,” Faye said. “Any company, anywhere, would shoot itself in the foot if it didn’t take you on. You’re a TERRIFIC number-cruncher. And the fact that you were out of the loop during the lawsuits: it’s really another plus for you. It means you weren’t around to get involved in anything stupid back when all those Bush-era bubbles were going on.”
“Yeah, I know. I lost my house, but at least I didn’t help anybody else to lose their houses. You know, Faye, I know you want to reassure me and all, but that’s not the way to do it. There were lots of things I did do, and didn’t do.”
“OK then: tell us something you did. No. Tell us something you didn’t do. Something you’re now sorry about.”
Milla sat there for about 15 seconds. “Yeah. There’s one thing I didn’t do that I wished I’d done.”
“Turned prosecutors’ witness sooner?”
“No. I’m just sorry I stopped the rest of the staff from looting the office on the last day.”
“What? Never heard of that one.”
“When everybody knew for sure they’d been conned, that there was no second round of financing, that nobody would get a cent for the last three months, they wanted to take out everything that wasn’t bolted down. I stopped them. I shrieked at them, men and women alike. I told them it wasn’t right. I should have let ’em loot away. A Mac Pro tower or a Cisco networking hub wouldn’t have replaced three months’ salary, deferred in lieu of underwater stock options, but at least they’d have gotten something. Something to remember from their time.
“I mean, can’t you see a nice couple like yourselves setting up an old water cooler, or a digital wall clock, right along the most prominent wall of the living room? Maybe with a plaque put up next to it: ‘I worked for RevolutioNet-dot-com for three years and all I got was this lousy machine.'”