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Floozman: First Episode
Figs* and Riesling

* Depending on availability

by Bertrand Cayzac

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Part 1: He Goes Down

“With a scandalous abundance, he brings deliverance.”

Fred Looseman used to be the head risk assessor at World Wide Credit Corporation and the chairman of the Anti-Money Laundering Commission. Now he works as an automated teller machine repairman.

Sometimes he hears voices, and sometimes what he hears moves him to tears. His bank account overflows with the money of deliverance, and he becomes a financial super-hero: Floozman.

Fred Looseman loses sight of the light and the glittering Rhine. Towards the seminar rooms he goes down, down, down heavily with the crowd, together with the old consultant he has just met by the broccoli tray (what no one could see: the globular reflection of their bellies inside the roll top lid).

“The sessions will resume in five minutes!” announce the hostesses from Wisdom Rock Consulting, the number ONE of change management. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please go to the presentations.”

So down they go. In the dining room deserted by the last guests, the golden grain of the air flows freely through the warp and woof of things, taking their weight away. Only a few waiters amble through this subtle wave. Dressed in black, indecipherable, they arrange the silver spoons that will sleep one against another until the coffee break.

Fred would love to stay behind and inebriate himself some more. He would like to have a last drink and offer himself to the floods of blessing cast by the summer sky. But now it is his turn.

Not far from there, in the lobby, the assistants are chatting. A banner is unfurled above their heads, reading “Wisdom Rock Consulting — 16th Executive Excellence Management Conference — Risk and Innovation: to become or not to become.”

“Have you seen Fred Looseman?” asks the first assistant. “He’s completely drunk.”

“It’s always the same thing” says the second one. “But today, it’s going to be scandalous!”

“He has fallen really low since he was fired from Worldwide Credit,” adds the third assistant. “And he has really put on weight.”

“You wouldn’t guess he was the Chief Risk Officer when you see his paunch and creased trousers. He used to have style in those days. And stock options. He was popular. He was feared! You could feel his power even before he came into the room: a stir, a wave of servility. And now, not a soul will tell him he has awful hairs in his ears.”

“He’s given up.”

“He’s letting himself go.”

“He’s a loser, that’s what. He’s a sort of risk specialist at Wisdom Rock. Underpaid. That’s why he’s making presentations here.”

“Jenny Appleseed, now, she’s the one on the way up: Worldwide Credit’s Chief Operating Officer. Have you seen her? A splendid woman for her age. And the funny thing is that she’s a Wisdom Rock customer. That’s why she’s here today: they got her to participate in exchange for a huge rate discount.”

“She got what she wanted. As always. She succeeded in buying the Banca Nella Figa. Fred Looseman had frozen the deal. There was something disturbing in the audit report, I have to say.”

“Something out of line.”

“Lots of money, for a small Italian bank.”

“Much more money than it normally should have had. It’s not clear why. This is risky business.”

“Worse: it’s uncertainty. But Appleseed had Looseman fired because she wanted money.”

“For her projects.”

“Her unnatural cosmetic projects. She must have succeeded in that, too. Did you see her eyes during the plenary session this morning? Her phosphorescent eyes? The eyes of a madwoman!”

“She’s gone money crazy.”

“And Looseman: lack of money has driven him crazy. And alcoholic... He’ll soon become really poor.”

They go downstairs. Fred is not listening to the old consultant. I don’t care, he thinks. I just have to hold out a little longer...

“Did you hear Jenny Appleseed, this morning? She was very interesting. She thinks that strengthening financial regulation would be counterproductive.”

Jenny Appleseed! He’s telling me about Jenny Appleseed...

“Yes, yes. That’s her point of view...” he mutters.

A competent-looking lady in sea blue catches up with them, slowing down her black and blue stride: blue, black, blue, blue. She’s a gentle, attentive soul, a young woman calling to Fred in a low voice.

“Mister Looseman! I am Marinella, from the Marketing Operations department. I’ve been looking for you everywhere! Where have you been? We were waiting for you at the speakers’ table, in the Zurich room. Jenny Appleseed was there with the other VIP’s. The World Reserve Bank’s vice-governor could even escape the meeting of the banking system regulators for drinks, do you realize! Jean-Pierre was counting on you. He called you several times.”

“I was having lunch... up there...”

“Mister Looseman, you’re not feeling well, are you? Do you want us to cancel your presentation? And J-P can replace you at the round table. You can...”

But Fred staggers as he turns to her. He nearly topples full length on the staircase. It is precisely that minute amount that separates the flow of real events from the possible. But has he really recovered his balance?

“Watch out...!” breathes the old consultant through his small yellow moustache (where a drop of white wine glistens).

Surprised, Fred feels himself weakening. His loses courage. If he rolls down the stairs, everybody will see he has a sock with loose elastic, and they will see how big and white the calf of his leg is. No!

He is dizzy. Things are suddenly pressing into his consciousness like beggars. Like all those protesters out there (already ten dead since the riot in the mall). What do these things want from me, with their colors, their shapes, their texture and all this weight... all this weight? A place in my will? A dime out of my will? And these dull wall lamps, this low ceiling, the continuous humming of the air conditioning?

He falls, he rolls. He remains lying at the bottom of the stairs. Ms Marinella can see his white leg.

At the same time, in the long basement corridor, the Scientific Director of the Center for Financial Crime Studies is hurrying towards the stairs. She dashes by at full speed, and the English carpet — 80% wool, 20% nylon — absorbs her heel prints.

Despite the high quality of its colors, the flooring exudes weariness in an exertion to extend indefinitely the existence of its yellow grapes and artistic green spirals. It resists silently, like the waiters, the elevator cables, and the computers where the price of packaged conventions is calculated.

She bumps into the small group forming around Fred’s motionless body.

“Fred! Ms. Marinella! What happened?”

An athletic thigh cleaves the sides of her skirt as she gracefully kneels. She gently puts her hand on Fred’s shoulder.

Fred indulges in a few additional seconds of blackout before answering. His whole body hurts. He would like to know what this tiny voice is saying, which seems to come from the depths of the earth. What is it? How strange! It sounds like a nursery rhyme. A little child’s song:

The atom’s song

I was a small atom at the heart of a star.
I was a blazing spark in the merry cosmos.
I was the one who was way back afar,
Alas, I’m enmeshed in this mat ’neath your toes!

We’ve all been falling since the dawning of time,
Gleeful innocent quarks from the very first knot.
We were pure bliss. But did I hear a chime?
Why is there something where something was not?

So I was to be, ponderous and base.
Go down as I did, then out of the maze!

He opens his eyes. The voice vanishes. Absurd! The two young women are leaning over him. Only a short time has passed.

“You are drunk,” sighs Marinella.

“I am feeling better. I am feeling better, I assure you. A stupid fall...”

Someone comes hurtling down the stairs: it’s Jean-Pierre. Slim, with a high brow, his symmetric features are likeable at first sight. Still his face is not governed by any kind of grace, and any favorable impression is almost immediately mixed with feelings of uneasiness and disappointment.

“Fred, we have to know if you can deliver the presentation,” he splutters with controlled anger. “Out of courtesy to the participants.”

Fred gathers himself and nods. “I’m coming, I’m coming...”

Why, why this resignation? For how long? He dreams of evaporating into thin air. Poof! There would be a small sulfur-yellow burst of energy, and then people would simply look at their programs and find another session to attend. Insurance would pay for his pension and mortgage while his dispersed parts would take on a different form than the one that makes up Fred Looseman.

“Fred, I was looking for you. I have to talk to you,” says Melanie, the Science Director, catching up to him.

“Really, I’m all right, Melanie...”

“No, it’s not that! Haven’t you heard the news? La Figa: you were right! We’re reopening the investigation. Financial stability is in danger!”

* * *

To be continued...

Copyright © 2005 by Bertrand Cayzac
Dépôt S.A.C.D. 174 627

to Challenge 346...

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