Through his investments, Joseph becomes gripped by a seething, uncontrollable obsessionby James Lasdun / June 25, 2006 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2006 issue of Prospect Magazine
Joseph Nagel slumped forward, head in hands.
“My God,” he groaned.
Elise snapped off the car radio. “Calm down, Joseph.”
“That’s four straight days since we got here.”
“What do you think we’re down now? Sixty? Eighty thousand?”
“It’ll come back.”
“We should have sold everything after the ?rst twenty. That would have been an acceptable loss. Given that we were too stupid to sell when we were actually ahead”
Joseph felt the petulant note in his voice, told himself to shut up, and plunged on:”I did say we should get out, didn’t I? Frankly, it was irresponsible committing all that money—”shut up, shut up “—not to mention the unseemliness of buying in when you did—”
His wife spoke icily: “I didn’t hear you complain when we were ahead.”
“All right, but that’s not the point. The point is—”
Her face had tightened angrily on itself, all line and bone.
“The point is…” But he had lost his train of thought and sat blinking, walled in a thick grief that seemed for a moment unaccounted for by money or anything else he could put his ?nger on.
Elise got out of the car. “Let’s go for a swim, shall we, Darcy?”
She opened the rear door for their daughter and led her away.
Glumly, Joseph watched them walk hand in hand down through the scrub oaks and pines to the sandy edge of the kettle pond.
He gathered the two bags from their shopping expedition into his lap, but remained in the car, heavily immobile.
Money… For the ?rst time in their lives they had some capital. It had come from the sale of an apartment Elise had inherited, and it had aroused volatile forces in their household. Though not a vast amount—under a quarter of a million dollars after estate taxes—it was large enough, if considered as a stake rather than a nest egg, to form the basis of a dream of real riches, and Joseph had found himself unexpectedly susceptible to this dream. The money he made as a dealer in antique prints and furniture was enough, combined with Elise’s income from occasional web design jobs, to keep them in modest comfort—two cars, an old brick house in Aurelia with lilac bushes and a grape arbour, the yearly trip up here to the Cape—but there wasn’t much left over for Darcy’s college fund, let alone their own retirement. In the past such matters hadn’t troubled him greatly, but with the advent of Elise’s inheritance he had felt suddenly awoken into new and urgent responsibilities. At their age they shouldn’t be worrying about how to pay for medical coverage every year, should they? Or debating whether they could afford the dental and eye care package too? And wasn’t it about time they built a studio so that Elise could concentrate on her painting?