Authors: Bill Rolfe
The Living Room
A Novel of Life, Death, Love—and Miracles
by Bill Rolfe
A Novel of Life, Death, Love—and Miracles eBook ISBN : 978-0-9878778-1-9
Paperback ISBN : 978-0-9878778-0-2
Copyright © 2012 by Bill Rolfe All rights reserved—no part of this book may be produced in any form, or by any means, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review, without permission from the publisher.
Living the Dream Publications Blitzprint Inc.
The Living Room: A Novel of Life, Death, Love—and Miracles First Edition
Late one night back in July 2002, I fell asleep and had a dream. It was unlike any dream I’d had before, or since. It was like watching an extended movie, and it ended with instructions for me in the rolling credits. I awoke in shock and glanced at the clock next to my bed, only to discover that what had seemed like hours of sleep had only been a few minutes.
I got up, sat at my desk, and spent the rest of the night writing everything down. Never having written anything before, I took the next few weeks to follow the instructions from the dream—and tell the story as a novel.
After a few months of being inspired by the story, but at the same time feeling overwhelmed with the project, I put it away. However, I couldn’t forget it.
Now, after more than nine years of struggling with the process and battling against my own self-doubt, I’m ready to share the story.
The Living Room
was my dream.
The alarm clock sounded needlessly. Daniel was already awake, just as he was every morning at this time. He rolled out of bed and walked across an expanse of plush carpet to the massive bedroom window of his downtown New York high-rise.
As he gazed over the skyline from almost seventy stories up, he had a choice of hundreds of sights: historical landmarks, buildings that were architecturally appealing, even a few adorned with company names displayed for all to acknowledge and admire. But only one of these structures really captured his interest. Modest in comparison to the other giants of the cityscape, this one served as the outer shell for a firm to which he had dedicated his whole adult life.
The building itself didn’t outwardly display the names of any of the financial companies that operated within its walls, but for Daniel, that wasn’t of any importance. While he was already receiving considerable respect from within the investment community, having his name included on his firm’s stationery was still his greatest desire.
He lived alone. Occupying a corner apartment in one of the most coveted buildings in the city, as evidenced by the lengthy waiting list, he possessed one of the most exquisite views money could buy.
Daniel’s home was spotless. Weekly visits from a cleaning lady, whom he had honored with her own key, made sure it stayed that way. White walls, black furniture, and colorful paintings made it seem more like a display home than an occupied dwelling. The paintings, which a coworker had talked him into buying, weren’t to his taste or of any real interest to him; but he knew they were worth a small fortune, and he had the depleted bank account to prove it.
While entertaining female company was a rare occurrence, Daniel was blessed with natural good looks worthy of a
cover. He kept in shape with frequent visits to his favorite gym.
This day started out with the same routine as on any other day. He didn’t need much time to prepare himself after a shower. Then, after straightening his tie in the doorway mirror and whispering a few positive incantations to himself, he headed out the door.
Right on time at 6:00
, the elevator was at the top floor waiting for him. The operator, Ronny, as most tenants referred to him—other than the elderly living in the building, who insisted on calling him Ronald—was always there. Daniel figured that Ronny’s consistent punctuality was not because it was his job and he was good at it but, rather, for the investment tips that Daniel offered on the ride down.
Ronald (the name on the worn tag pinned to his uniform pocket) was well past the age of retirement. He could have financially settled down years ago, thanks in part to the morning trips on the elevator with Daniel. He just couldn’t bear to give up the job that kept him connected to the outside world. Even mindless conversations were more stimulating than the near silence that filled his home. A widower for over fifteen years, with no children, his reason to get up each morning was the belief that people depended on him, and that gave him his life’s purpose. As long as he could hold onto his driver’s license for the long commute, he would never leave his long-standing post as head elevator operator.
Daniel managed investments for some of the largest companies and wealthiest individuals in the state and beyond. He always took the time to answer questions from the working-class people around him. He was naturally kind hearted, which went a long way toward making him one of the most sought-after brokers in his profession.
As he walked out of the building, the doorman greeted him with a smile. The valet held open the door of his sleek silver BMW. The vehicle was just one of the many outward signs of the success that Daniel had achieved at a young age. He wasn’t overly materialistic, though. The sports car, much like the paintings in his apartment, was purchased more for others to appreciate. To him, they were just expensive objects that he felt a certain social obligation to own—instigated by skillful marketing gurus in the commercials and magazines he had flipped through while growing up.
Hidden in his success were the sacrifices he had made in his personal life. Now thirty-four, he had started working as a sorter in the mailroom at the age of nineteen. The entry-level position was given to him without the protocol of an interview by his legal guardian, who was a partner at the firm. Although it was openly known throughout the company how he had gained his initial employment opportunity, no one ever directed a silver-spoon accusation toward him. He earned respect from all of his coworkers, and jealousy from some, for his hard work and self-motivated climb up the ranks. He completed evening courses for licensing and certification and relentlessly prospected to build his own reputation and portfolio of clients.
It was only a short drive from home to the office, barely time for a stop. But, as always, he pulled over to the curb at the end of a block and waited as a boy in his late teens hand-delivered the morning edition of the
New York Times
“Here you go, Mr. Clay,” the boy said.
“Hey, how many times have I told you it’s okay to call me Daniel?” At the same time, he handed the boy enough currency to cover the cost of ten newspapers instead of one.
The boy knew that the familiarity of being on a first-name basis with his customers would be acceptable, but he preferred to show as much respect as he could to the man he owed so much to.
“I got my books over the weekend and my mom asked me where I got the money. Thanks again, Mr. Clay—I mean, Daniel.”
“You’re welcome, and remember the deal. Once you pass the course, you let me know, and I’ll see if I can get you in somewhere at work.”
Daniel was serious about trying to help but knew the boy had to help himself first. Passing his high school equivalency exams was a necessary first step.
Daniel had helped others. Never looking for a payback, he found joy in watching others strive for their goals. Although he was a charitable person, it wasn’t just about giving a handout, but instead a hand-up. He believed that some people just needed a chance to earn their own opportunities.
The rest of the short commute to work was usually reserved for taking stock of the personal issues or concerns that he tended to neglect. Once at the office, it was all business, and home was simply a place to sleep.
Inside the parking lot, he drove to a stall only a few paces from the elevator and pulled in under the sign that said “Reserved for Daniel Clay.” This was a perk he had earned years ago. Without it, he would probably still be jogging or biking to work as he had done in his early days. Then, the nearest available parking was almost the same distance as home. Increasing demand for downtown parking would make it even worse now.
His mind briefly considered an attorney that kept leaving him messages at work—concerning the death of a foreign relative. This person’s existence had been unknown to Daniel, and was possibly a piece of history he wouldn’t want to revive, so he rarely thought of it.
Was this attorney trying to collect fees of some kind? Was this some new scam being perpetrated on people known to have wealth? He had heard stories of the schemes inflicted on his clients over the years. Regardless, there was nothing more to know this morning than there was last week, so he again relegated the lawyer’s calls to the back-burner.
Daniel entered the elevator alone and smiled at each new passenger as the carriage made its slow journey to the twenty-first floor and the offices of Rothschild, Bowman and Duke Investment Corporation.
“Way to go, Daniel.”
News traveled fast within these walls. Landing another major account always made for news. He took the congratulations from his coworkers in stride and made his way through the spacious hallway toward his secretary’s desk.
The ceilings were high, and the lighting on this floor had taken months to perfect. The partners had hired a second consulting firm after the first had failed to produce the desired decor and image. When you stepped off the elevator, you were immediately struck with a sense of comfort, success, and safekeeping. Burgundy colored walls and deeply stained wooden fixtures promoted strength and security. Image was important in any business, and perception was everything.
Nancy had worked for him for eight years now and knew him almost as well as he knew himself. She always greeted him cheerfully.
“Good morning, Daniel. The board is waiting upstairs for you.”
“The board?” What did they want? “Any other messages?”
“Yes, that attorney called again regarding your uncle’s estate.”
“You mean my supposed uncle.” Doubt colored his words. “I’m not sure how to help him when I’ve never heard of the poor man that died.”
“I left his number on your desk.” Nancy had heard Daniel complain about this matter numerous times in the past weeks and regretted having to relay any more messages from the caller.
He thanked her with another smile and walked into his office. He picked up the note and set it carefully on his phone, shaking his head at this inconvenience creeping into his work life, but still slightly curious about the intent behind the repeated requests for contact.
Daniel’s office was well organized and filled with trophies and certificates, but it was noticeably bare of the family portraits or personal memorabilia that featured in many offices. This was his domain. The room housed numerous years’ worth of research reports, analysts’ recommendations, and personal client information, even down to their usual choice of beverage during appointments. Everything was kept out of sight and organized in the drawers and cabinets. There wasn’t anything left out that could distract a person’s attention when speaking with him and, more importantly, when he was presenting himself as their best option to invest with.
He checked his tie in the mirror one last time and sauntered out to the elevator, still joking with Nancy: “Hold my calls.”
A short ride up three floors gave him no time to guess the meeting’s agenda. As he entered the boardroom, eight men and two women were already seated around the table; they were talking in hushed but excited voices. Silence descended immediately at the sight of him. Daniel nervously scoured his memory for any recollection of a scheduled meeting.
Though he wasn’t an official member of the board, there was rarely a meeting held without his knowledge. Feeling a little uncertain, he reluctantly lowered his frame into the only chair left at the highly polished table.
The others stood when he was comfortably seated. Daniel stood quickly in confusion and searched the faces around him for a clue to their intentions. In unison, the others applauded.
“Great job, Daniel.”
“Good work, Daniel.”
The congratulations were quick and spirited, like a surprise celebration, lasting just long enough for him to realize that all this must be about the new account. The board members took their seats, and silence once again pervaded the boardroom.
At the head of the table sat Art Rothschild. He had been in the business for over forty years. His face showed the wrinkles of everyday stress accumulated through dealing with the markets. He was short in stature, maybe five foot six; however, he appeared to grow a little taller when he wanted to make his point in a discussion.
A decade earlier, on the advice of his wife, he had tried shoe inserts to settle any height anxiety he had while climbing the corporate ladder. It was too shallow a concern for him now.
Art was also a little portly, though his figure wasn’t overexposed in the loose and aged suits that he wore. They were clean, mostly light in color, pressed, and conservative, but certainly not of any style sold in this generation.
He was the toughest man Daniel knew, but also one of the kindest and most honest. While maturing into adulthood, Daniel had thought of him as family. Art was the last of a generation—old-fashioned in both values and ethics. You could trust him with a secret, or with your life, and he’d expect the same in return.
Art broke the silence. “Daniel, this is the third account we wanted this quarter but didn’t think we would get. It doesn’t take an investment broker”—he opened his hands to include the others—“to forecast the revenue it will bring to our firm. We’ve asked you here simply to congratulate you, and thank you for the excellent effort you put into work each day.”
“And night,” Daniel added with a grin.
The others smiled with him, but Art remained serious.
“Yes, and nights,” he agreed quietly.
Art continued, “It’s no secret the firm will be adding another partner after the fiscal year. As a group, we are considering you in the selection process.”
Daniel tried unsuccessfully to hold back a smile. This was it. Everything he had been working so hard for. It would make him the youngest partner in the firm and would elevate him to another level of success, both in current and future earnings potential.
He surveyed the table in appreciation, looking one by one into each person’s eyes, and then turned back to Art.
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you.”
The promotion was the one thing that drove Daniel the most. Almost a decade of sacrifices, early mornings, late nights, and working most weekends—which kept turning into the next week. Now it might finally be paying off.
“Well, the markets are open and we have people to help. Back to work.” Art rose from his chair and turned his back on the dispersing crowd of well-wishers. They each took a turn congratulating Daniel once more on a much-deserved nomination. From the overwhelming positive response, it seemed like his promotion was within reach.
Only Art’s voice was recognizable above the buzz in the room. His harsh tone sped the exit of everyone else.
“Close the door and have a seat over here.” Art pointed to the chairs set away from the table, next to the picture-framed window with its panoramic view of the downtown city core.
After both were seated, a moment of silence passed while Art seemingly searched for the right words.