I've been playing around with this character for a long time. He needed a backstory. There's an arc here - this is the same guy who did the cab ride and crashed the helicopter - but I think I need to establish his attitude and explain why he starts playing with drugs and (spoiler) eventually bites it. What do you think?
My name is Marty Gibbons.
I'm a 42 year old white guy who has spent most of his life playing the game.
Chasing "the dream" - 3,000 square feet of custom-designed construction, a 4 car garage, white picket fence.
The Life with all the trimmings: maid service on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. A maintenance contract to keep the four acres nicely trimmed and properly landscaped. There's even a company that came once a week to maintain the pool no one ever uses.
Hell, I had a guy who's sole job was to maintain the fleet: make sure the oil is changed; that each car is started once a week and ready for use (even though they never were driven; miles equal depreciation, you know). He would wash and polish the cars every other month and, of course, handle my transfers to and from the airport twice a week.
See, there's this weird catch-22 in The Life... if you want to reach "The Level" - to be in a position where you have the income and resources to really be able to tell The Firm to fuck off - you have to first meet the appearance requirements.
And those requirements. Boy, howdy. Do you know what a monthly mortgage payment is on a spread like that? Plus property insurance, life insurance, car insurance, "error and omission" insurance?
It runs you north of $25,000 a month just to keep up the fucking image. That's over three hundred large every year. Before you account for all the travel to and from clients and offices and seminars and meetings.
You gotta spend it to make it, they say. But, the axiom is true: play the game, look the part and collect the $2,000,000 salary.
But here's the catch: it costs so much to look the part, and it is such a comfortable existence, that you never really find freedom.
See, after taxes, you bring home maybe $950,000. Less the lifestyle expenses and you've got a tick over $600,000. Then the insurance comes out and you might - maybe, possibly, if you play it all right - pocket about $450,000.
It took 17 years to climb this fucking ladder. And then another three to build the right image and "establish" myself as "stable and reliable."
After twenty years of this shit, you know what I've got to show for it? Probably less than a million of liquidity. And most of that is subject to capital gains, so a whopping $650,000, assuming the market doesn't take a shit.
A tick over a half-million is far from Fuck You money.
Don't get me wrong. By any standard, this was not a hard life. It was, as best as I can describe it, a sort of numbed existence. Everything around me was beautiful and soft and curated. My life had turned into one of those candid snaps from a 1970's color camera - softly blurred, nearly nostalgic.
But inside... inside it never felt right. I noticed the first inkling that something wasn't right around the time I crossed the million-mile mark on American Airlines. I landed at Sky Harbor International in Phoenix, deplaned, handed my bag to the driver and followed him to the car.
He was smirking a bit, like he knew something I didn't. Which, given the fact I was jet-setting the country interpreting implied fiscal policy messages for any bank willing to cut a check with five zeros, was highly unlikely.
"Office or hotel first, sir?"
No one ever asked that. The contract with Carey International was pretty cut and dry - the driver was supposed to track the flight, arrive 10 minutes early and meet me at baggage claim before ushering me to whatever office I was visiting and loiter outside awaiting my return.
I slipped on sunglasses, stuck my headphones in my ears and tried to avoid looking like someone you should engage in conversation.
Sometimes the drivers would get chatty and I hated that. That's why I always kept my guy on the payroll at home; he knew to leave me alone and just take me home.
I don't want to talk to you about traffic, sports, politics or "what I do for a living."
Because frankly, I couldn't fucking tell you. I give people my opinion of what other peoples opinions mean? How that might effect the economy in three, six or twelve months?
Basically, I speak out of my ass.
And hey, I could never be wrong because if I was there was always the old fall back written into every contract: "The Firm provides analysis based on the best available information as of the date of this contract. Certain economic, geopolitical or other factors may render any opinions issued null and void. Under no circumstance is this engagement or any communication delivered pursuant to this contract to be considered a formal communication or analysis available for dissemination to a wider audience. The Client agrees they are responsible for assessing the validity of any opinions offered prior to taking executive action
Thank god for the lawyers.
Anyway, we pulled into some generic corporate campus and as I waited for the driver to come around and open the door, I noticed the shades on the fifth floor moving.
Someone was looking out. Waiting for my arrival?
"Enjoy the afternoon, sir."
I just looked at him. He really did know something that I didn't. What did I miss?
I found out as soon as the elevator doors opened. There, gathered in a roughly 20 foot by 8 foot hallway, flanked on both sides by banks of elevators, was the entire team of analysts from the Phoenix office.
They had cake. And they were clapping.
Carrington - a real smug asshole, but also my "internal Firm Champion" - was in the middle of it. He was beaming. This was unusual.
"You did it!" and then cheers erupted.
"You finally hit the million mile mark! Congrats, Marty! How's it feel?"
And that's when it happened: that vague feeling of discontent - that I was doing everything and nothing right all at the same time - it finally came smashing through.
How's it feel? It feels like I've been stuck in cramped coach seats on regional fucking airlines for the last 15 years of my life, John. That's how it feels. I'm lucky I haven't died of a deep vein thrombosis yet. I probably need a new liver from all the tiny little bottles of Jack I drink in order to dull this fucking monotony.
Honestly, John, it feels like a participation trophy.
Now get the fuck out of my way. I have to get this deliverable out so
I can get to the hotel and starting hitting on the cocktail waitresses.
The team went slack jawed. Carrington, in his patrician and condescending accent, could only blurt out "Jesus, Marty."
He pronounced it "Mah-dee." I just walked into my office, closed the shades and sat down.
It should go without saying that I was contacted by the Managing Partner within the hour. His email - subjected "Traction Discussion" - was terse and to the point:
It has come to my attention that there was incident in the Phoenix office earlier this afternoon. I would like to discuss this with you at your earliest convenience.
According to your calendar, you are free for a call at 4:30 Local Time (6:30 Eastern).
I will be in touch at that time.
P. Scott Ozanus
Carrington, that rat-faced fuck who only knew how to fall up and never forgot to tickle the balls of the Big Boss, had dimed me out. Big surprise.
And Ozanus, the guy at the top of the pyramid, the getting his balls tickled - the fucker who made sure everyone had the Right Image but only collected 20% of their billings - was probably looking at my book of business and drooling over the cash flow he would see once I was gone.
I decided it wasn't even worth hanging around to have the chat. It was pushing three in the afternoon and they probably already had my email routed to a proxy server so I couldn't contact any clients.
I decided it was time to go. So I walked out, ignoring the furtive glances over the cubicle walls.
Outside, the car was waiting and the driver - obviously in on the whole thing - smiled a big, yellow, crooked smile. "Time for the party, sir?"
Just the hotel. And keep your mouth shut, please.
I assumed at this point I would be paying for my own flight home. So why not go get shitty?
I had no idea at the time that, within three years, I'd be broke and dying.
What I did know was that if I moved quick - got the sell orders in before 3PM, scheduled my flight for the next morning, moved from the Marriott to the Four Seasons - I could pocket some cash and be nearly invisible to The Firm.
Sure, they'd find me when I got home. But that was tomorrow's problem.