The following opening chapters are excerpted from Hedge Fund Grannies. The bankers and financiers of Wall Street meet the middle class living on Main Street in this satire about the latest investment craze. Pierre Beauty Products discovers a powerful cleansing chemical in crabgrass growing on the lawns of a commuting town outside New York City. It could be the missing ingredient for an all-natural shampoo and potential billions of sales for Pierre.
Excerpted from Hedge Fund Grannies Copyright © 2014 by Gerard Herlihy
This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part or in any form
ISBN: 0692241744 ISBN 978-0692241745
Allie handed the clipboard to Chris Reilly, the day shift supervisor at Holy Name Medical Center. Every morning following the graveyard shift in the intensive care unit, Allie jumped out of her superhero nurse’s uniform and into her civvies. Today her outfit was a simple medium-blue silk dress, a string of white beads, and black flats.
Allie was pretty, athletic, perky and smart. She was also very single and for now uninterested in dating. She was too busy as a single mom trying to keep her teenage boy from getting into further trouble.
She tore through the backroads toward Ben’s Deli. At a stoplight, she applied some lip gloss, dabbed on a little eyeliner, and poofed her hair. She always took the local route free of speed traps: along Queen Anne Boulevard, across the train trestle, take Windsor to Woodbine to Front Street until she arrived at Ben’s in Bergenfield, New Jersey.
Allie loved connecting with her friends before they left for their New York banking and lawyer gigs. It was an hour filled with intellectual conversation and lots of laughs. Every morning was different. It provided needed relief from her hectic activities of work and raising her rebellious kid.
In an hour, she would head home and beg her son to go to school, try to get five hours of sleep, then wake up, clean the house and make dinner. Breakfast at Ben’s was Allie’s daily oasis.
“Look at zie pig. She is beautiful!” cried Albert Schneider in his thick German accent. Albert was Pierre Beauty Products’ fifty-year-old chief scientist.
“Do you really think she’s pretty? Come on, Albert,” chuckled Steven Button, Pierre’s young health and beauty business unit manager.
“Not zie pig,” Albert said still admiring the friendly animal. “Look at its vonderful hair. It eez perfect.”
“Albert, I hope you tested the shampoo on humans,” said Steven teasingly. He and Albert had worked together on this project since inception and knew every detail of its progress.
“Of course,” said Albert. “You know ve have tested on many vomen. But, if I can make zie pig’s coarse hair zoft and manageable, imagine vhat I can do for zie vomen of zie world. She is zie prettiest piglet in all zie vorld. I am done. Ve must get zie chairman to approve our project. Zis vill revolutionize zie beauty business!”
Steven admired the happy little pink-potbellied oinker and thought, She really is the prettiest pig I’ve ever seen. And with four shampoos and brushings a day, she certainly has to be the happiest and the cleanest.
Ben’s Deli was packed as usual at six in the morning on Good Friday. Normally, Ben’s would be filled with executives on their way to New York financial jobs alongside construction workers and landscapers getting a hot meal before their outdoor jobs started. But today, everyone was a golfer. Good Friday officially opens the golf season in the Greater New York City area.
Ben’s was a good place to begin the day. The service was quick, food was always fresh and hot, and coffee was high-test-caffeinated. After the commuter rush ended, local store owners, students and housewives took turns at the counter. Eventually, job hunters joined the scene for free Wi-Fi and java.
Entering Ben’s Deli, you passed through a corridor of two large tables guarding the dining area, like Patience and Fortitude, the marble lions defending the entrance to New York City’s Public Library. Bergenfield’s Mayor, Hector Alvarez, chaired the Patience table presiding over the general dining area. Dealing with hundreds of daily issues facing town management required patience.
JB, Bergenfield’s restless resident retired executive, presided over the Fortitude table. His table had a panoramic view of the noisy side of the dining area where the food line, juke box and cash register stood. Fortitude, or courage while facing adversity, would be a great description for JB who often helped friends in need. Mischievous when idle would be the less flattering label for JB. He had salvaged the boardroom table as part of his retirement package from ITT. When the deli was barely open for business and Ben was struggling five years ago, JB convinced Ben to replace three badly cracked Formica tables with this imposing piece of furniture. It now dwarfed the surrounding booths.
Wall Street closed the trading and banking offices on Good Friday. Much of the rest of the country worked. Decker, Bret and Buyout sat with JB waiting for their 10:00 AM tee time at Ridgewood Country Club. Decker owned Decker’s Doors and Millwork, a struggling casualty of the real estate collapse. Bret was an overworked Wall Street M&A lawyer. Buyout, JB’s unpaid early morning assistant, was a first-year financial analyst just graduated from the Wharton MBA program.
Not everyone had the day off. At 7:00 AM, Michael Li joined JB’s table as he did most days before opening the doors as the branch manager of Consolidated Northern Bank. Allie joined minutes later, cool, calm, and showing no signs that she had broken three traffic laws on her way to the deli.
This morning, Mayor Hector Alvarez sat with his municipal posse including the chiefs of the police and fire departments. In an hour, Hector would be playing fire and rescue for a two dollar Nassau at the slightly downscale Rockleigh Golf Course, the local muni club. No valet parking. No locker room attendant. No driving range. Grass on the greens would be a luxury this early in the year. Under the rules of golf, snow on a putting green was a loose impediment and could be swept from the line of your putt. Enforcement of the rule occasionally came in handy during April.
Ben’s hummed like a kitchen symphony. The cooking crew served breakfast from the serving line. Diners filled travel mugs with Starbuck’s dark roast coffee. Ben rang the register. Twelve tables and another dozen booths seated ninety. Inexpensive Americana memorabilia hung from the walls. Diners watched STCK-TV closed caption daily financial news reports from a half dozen flat screen TVs placed at the register and around the dining area. Occasionally, Ben would crank up the juke box to announce the arrival of a favorite guest. Ben was a Deli Maestro!
This week, everything had been normal. Same old, same old. Wake up. Shower. Go to Ben’s. Get breakfast while watching STCK-TV. Rush to work. Work like a dog. Crawl home. Tomorrow, wake up. Shower. Go to Ben’s. But today was Good Friday and a day of rest. Because today was golf.
Ruining the serenity of the moment, former mayor Gilbert Gilchrist burst into Ben’s followed by a gust of bad karmic wind. A minute later, Gilbert’s guest made a more timid entrance. Mayor Hector and JB looked up at the startling entrance. At Ben’s, daily routines were well known to the regular crowd. Everyone knew that Gilbert never made it to Ben’s this early in the morning. Something was definitely up. More importantly, Gil never carried anything more than the local newspaper. Today he was toting a leather briefcase that served as his standard bearer of authority. Gil looked armed and ready for trouble.
Gilbert had employed an assortment of tactics to antagonize Hector since being unseated as mayor four years ago. Gil was friendly with the town managers, the police officers, the shop owners and the school board. He used every opportunity to seed discontent and undermine Hector. It wasn’t his style to resort to physical attacks. Besides, Gilbert’s guest didn’t look the bodyguard type, weighing in at 150 pounds at most, at least fifty graying years old, and not more than five-and-a-half feet tall.
If Gilbert’s guest wasn’t a bodyguard, then he had to be part of the arsenal. Something was definitely up, as foretold by the wide grin that Gilbert proudly wore.
Thirty-five miles South of Ben’s on the Garden State Parkway and five miles west across Route 24 are the Morristown, New Jersey offices of Pierre Beauty Products. Pierre was the top selling high-end, hair-product company and a leader in perfume and cosmetic products. Albert Schneider began his presentation to Olivier Gaillard, Pierre’s Chairman, and a handful of financial and operating executives.
Albert stood and reported in his heavy German accent: “Herr Gaillard, ve haf spent over two years testing zis new material. It’s zie best natural product aufailable to replace zie harsh degreasing chemical in our shampoo.”
Albert hesitated for a few seconds respectfully awaiting Olivier’s nod to continue. At fifty years old with a full head of white hair, Albert looked like a nice grandpa. In real life, he was a brilliant scientist and a leading floral chemist as well. He had what the industry called a “nose” for identifying scents. Unfortunately, he was so wrapped up in devising new formulas and fragrances that he never developed great social skills.
Olivier tried to put Albert at ease, saying, “Albert, please sit down. And call me Olivier. We have worked together for twenty years. Surely you know me well enough to use my first name. And you really have to slow down when you speak and try to enunciate in English. Try not to say the word ‘zie’. Please proceed.”
Albert was slightly embarrassed and sat sheepishly, his head slightly bowed. “As you are avare, our shampoo is not 100 percent all natural. For years, ve haf been trying to identify a replacement material for zie shampoo degreaser, sodium laureth sulfate. Zie orange peel based degreasers are not conducive to shampooing. Ve haf been tasked vith replacing zis degreaser vith a natural ingredient zat delivers zie same result. It must remove zie natural oils and dirt from your hair during shampooing.”
Albert looked up briefly over his reading glasses, then continued, “I von’t repeat zie details zat are explained in your printed materials. Zere is a grassy plant growing in Bergen County, New Jersey zat has a very high concentration of a natural chemical zat can replace sodium laureth sulfate. Zie plant creates a product zat is a natural derivative of cleansing compounds.”
Read more in Hedge Fund Grannies. Available on Amazon.com