Sundays were the worst. Andy Fastow was Jewish, and all the other kids on Elm Court were Christian so none of them were available to play until at least noon, usually more like one or two o’clock. He couldn’t understand it. What the hell were they doing for so long? Didn’t they realize that life was out here, in the streets and the swimming pools, the softball diamonds, the playground? Why did their rituals take all damn afternoon?
While he waited for his friends to get back from Mass, he liked to play XBox. XBox was awesome, totally awesome, but rumors had been floating around the blacktop at school that a new game was coming out – a game he was positive his parents would not let him have. Too violent, too sexual, too everything; his parents never let him have anything good. Fuck that. Fuck them and their old ideas of morality, fuck them. He wanted the goddamn game. And he was going to need it since every damn Sunday, all his friends were at church. He needed the game. It was all he could think about. The XBox game would make him happy, and did he not deserve happiness? At the age of ten, had he not accomplished enough to merit the XBox game? Since he knew his parents wouldn’t buy it for him, he had to procure it himself, and he knew just how to go about it.
It was nearly two, and Mike still hadn’t called yet. Andy pushed aside his snack, he couldn’t stand this anymore, he had to take matters into his own hands. He slapped on his velcro shoes, brushed his hair, and set off down Elm Court to Mike’s tudor-style home. They had a nice house, Andy liked it. Maybe one day he’d have a nice big house like that, damn that would be nice. As he approached, Mike’s mom’s SUV came around the corner and pulled into the driveway. As Mike emerged from the back of the car, Andy waved. Mike was still dressed in his Sunday finest, ridiculous tie and all. “Come on,” Mike said, and Andy followed him into the house.
Mike was rich. Mike had a newspaper delivery route since he was seven, and he’d saved up all the proceeds in a juicy little Money Market account that Andy knew contained the princely sum of $97. He saved his money, never spending it, and his bedroom showed it; it was decorated as his parents saw fit. Man, that $97 must be earning a bitchin rate of interest; Andy imagined one day Mike would cash out and buy Ironman bedding, Ironman curtains, Ironman nightlights to beat the band. That would be sweet. Andy liked Ironman; he’d talked his mom into an Ironman comforter, but so far, nothing else. Didn’t seem like Mike even tried to talk his parents into it; he just stayed quiet and let the money market account get bigger and bigger with every passing annual accrual. That was one smart bastard.
Mike stood before his closet and took off his necktie. “What’s up, Fastow? I haven’t seen you looking this disturbed since Susan kicked you in the shins when you asked if her Hello Kitty purse was a knock-off or the real thing.”
“Susan’s a bitch. It’s a knock off. She gets them cheap at the mall.”
“Yeah, well, you didn’t have to say so to her face. Women, they like to feel special and admired. You can’t go around telling them their stuff is fake.”
Mike disappeared into his closet for a moment to change into his shorts and a Batman t-shirt. He came out and laid himself across the plain blue comforter, next to Fastow.
“So what’s the problem, sport?”
“I got a problem all right. But I also got a solution. I’d like to invite you to invest in a company I’m setting up, by the name of LJM. Stands for Lemonade, Juice, and Milk. Full service drink company.”
“Drink company? How’s it work?”
“Well, that’s the thing. That’s the thing, Mike. I don’t have the liquidity to make it work the way it should. We need a pool of private funding. I’m thinking you get your paper route buddies in on this, we get maybe…three…four hundred, and we have ourselves a sweet lemonade, juice and milk stand. We set up outside the pool area, catch the whole freaking neighborhood when they’re nice and thirsty. You think they wanna go all the way home for a drink? Why go home? We charge em a buck fifty for a drink, they’re happy, we’re happy, we make tons of cash. Then divide the proceeds among the investors. I would, of course, require just a bit more for managing this private equity fund.”
Mike whistled. “Three or four hundred though? That’s a lot of cash, right there.”
“Yeah, it is. But we can raise it through private funding. No need to go to the parents.” Fastow thought for sure if his parents would kill him if they found out he was trying to raise money for the XBox game. No, this shit had to be kept secret.
Mike nodded. “Okay. Let’s set up some meetings with the Maple Lane kids and see what we can come up with.”
“I don’t get this. I really don’t get this, Pete.” Dakota ripped open a bag of M&Ms and popped a handful in his mouth.
“Oh yeah?” Pete asked.
“I can’t understand how we’re sitting out here in the scalding goddamn heat, mixing this delicious lemonade, and we can’t seem to find one customer to sample our wares.”
“We gotta find customers.”
“You think I’m not looking? You think I didn’t scout the park, the playground, the skate park for customers?”
Pete put his hands up, as if fending off his friend. “Just sayin’, dude. We gotta find customers to sell our delicious lemonade.”
Dakota was about to say something else when he saw two kids on bikes turning left into Maple Lane. Customers? Dakota said, “Hey, look.”
“I can see. I’m thinking we sell them some lemonade.”
“You bet your ass.”
It was Andy and Mike. Pete and Andy had recess at the same time last year, and he knew Kyle from homeroom. Easy customers. First law of salesmanship: sell to your friends.
The two Elm Court boys dismounted their bikes. Andy Fastow smiled and said, “You boys don’t seem to have any customers for your delicious lemonade today.”
Pete shrugged. Dakota said, “You’re the first.”
Andy laughed. “I’m not here to buy your lemonade, gentlemen. I am here to make you up to a hundred dollars in cold, hard cash.”
Pete and Dakota looked at each other. “We’re listening,” Dakota said.
They used Mike’s Money Market fund to hedge the price of lemonade, juice, and milk by investing heavily in cookies and candy – particularly the tart candies: Dots, Sweetarts, and Mentos which they sold at inflated prices right next to the cold drinks. By the end of the summer, they’d made more than any kid in the neighborhood had ever seen. Mike got one hundred fifty, plus the value of the original investment – which he sold to Fastow for cash while retaining an interest in a sub that was set up in another hedging vehicle. Pete and Dakota got a hundred bucks. Andy kept the rest, as payment for managing the equity fund.
A week from the first day of school, Andy biked to the mall and bought himself the XBox game. But he got weak. He got sloppy. His dad had gone out to pick up dinner, and his mom was in her office. He heard the clackity-clack of her computer keys, and figured she’d never know. He revved up the game and was in the middle of a play when suddenly she appeared before him, her arms crossed over her chest. “What is this, Andrew Stuart Fastow?”
“It’s just a game,” he said meekly.
Then she grounded him for six months for going behind her back and doing something unethical. Though because he was willing to explain everything to her, and even turn in Mike and Pete and Dakota, she allowed that he may be released in as early as three months. Ironically, Mike and Pete and Dakota were all punished much more severely – each got six months grounding and three more on probation.
As of this writing, all four are still grounded.