Stanley Bing

A Halloween tale

The apparition was horrifying. Even worse, it was familiar.

By Stanley Bing

(Fortune Magazine) -- It was a dark and stormy financial environment. A bitter wind flapped in my coat and rattled my bones as I scurried down the deserted street toward my office. I don't like being out that late, but I had no choice. I had work to do. These days when something has to be done, there's nobody to do it for you. It's barely worth being a manager anymore.

I suppose I was woolgathering, walking with my head down, and I didn't see the ... thing ... until it was almost too late. It came at me from around the corner, and I almost bumped into it. "Hewwo," it said in a greasy, scabrous voice. "Where ya goin' so fast? Don'tcha wanna stay and chat?"

"What are you?" I asked. My mouth was very dry.

"You know me," the creature said. I realized with a horrible start that I did. "I thought I would never see you again," I said. "Or at least not so soon."

"Oh, I think you know me better than that," said the creature, with a mucilaginous chuckle. "I'm Exponential Growth. I go away for a while. Then I come back. Most people are happy to see me."

"Well, I'm not," I said, and tried to step around it.

"Come on now," said the thing. "Walk with me awhile." I noticed it left a trail of slime. "I see the Dow Jones industrial average is about to go over 10,000 again," it said. "Can 20,000 be far behind?"

A tiny squirt of stomach acid launched itself into the back of my mouth.

"Of course, to achieve that kind of growth, corporations are going to have to do a couple of things right. Costs will have to remain low. And mergers and acquisitions will have to kick up again. Nobody can be expected to grow the top line to achieve double-digit bottom-line growth without nonorganic expansion."

I felt sick. Its breath was like 10-day-old egg salad you forgot in the back of the fridge.

"Of course," it continued, drooping a paw around my shoulders, "nothing can be accomplished if the government keeps poking its regulatory nose into our business. But I wouldn't worry about that. Once dawn comes, investors will forget what they were scared about on a night like this. They'll be on my side. I'm all they hope for. They will be my friend, because I am producing value for the shareholder, and that's all that counts." With that, it wrapped me in its musty cloak, which smelled of death, and attempted to bury its fangs in my neck.

I was too fast for it. We had reached my building, and I made a break for the revolving doors. I had remembered a crucial fact: Creatures such as this do not live long inside, where there is light and heat and actual people who can see them clearly. They also cannot pass through any doorway when they have not been explicitly invited. "Be gone, vile creature!" I yelled, when I knew I was safe.

I rode the quiet elevator up to my floor. I had never been so happy to get to work. When you have your head down and are doing what you are supposed to, monsters seem a world away. Perhaps that's why I didn't see the shadow of my boss, Barry, filling my doorway. "Hey, bro," he said. "Whatcha doin' here so late?"

Barry didn't look right. His face was in darkness, and he was making a quiet, slurping noise through the place where his nose should have been. "I don't know, Barry," I said. "I had stuff to do, you know?"

"Yeah," he replied. And then he just stood there. "Things are better than they were," he went on, and then, with a strange chuckle, said, "but there's still a lot of fat around this place." And that's when I knew. I had escaped ... it. But the thing had gotten to Barry. And now he was with them.

I screamed, of course. But you do what you have to do.

I've got to go now. Barry and I have an appointment at a bar down the block in a couple of minutes, and you don't want to keep you-know-what waiting. It's bad for business.

Stanley Bing has recast his book "Executricks" for the paperback edition due out in November; it is now titled "How to Relax Without Getting the Axe." For more Bing unrelated to the Microsoft search engine, go to  To top of page

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