It could be worse

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Suffering the after effects of failed banks and a forced financial bail-out, modern day Ireland can be a tough environment in which to survive. (Feedback welcome first ever submission)

6.30am. “It could be worse”, he muttered through frozen breath. The bus trundled past him remorselessly, gradually fading into the frosty distance. He would have made it only he had to placate a distressed 2 year old who didn’t think too kindly of him going to work today. “Great start”, he mused as he turned to start the walk towards the tram station. An option which entailed a ten minute walk either side of a 20 minute tram ride. His wife worked locally which afforded her more time at home in the mornings.

For over 20 years now he had been traversing Dublin city daily to the insurance company offices situated in the financial district on the less salubrious north side of the inner city. An area of the city best avoided outside of necessity he thought.

That said, however, somehow the juxtaposition of (mostly) sober suits and gaunt, shuffling, glass eyed drug addicts and ne’er do wells seemed to function rather well as if one had become used to ignoring the other as a matter of course.

The daily commute was necessitated by 2 rather large mortgages and child care bills for their 2 children. They had bought an apartment 5 years previously when still single and childless. Houses were too expensive for their means at the time due to effects of Ireland’s property boom/bubble which pushed property prices to hugely unrealistic levels. Fortunately they had not bought at the very peak of the property boom but they were currently in negative equity and would be for some years yet. Ireland had experienced a property bubble fuelled by cheap credit with banks bending over backwards to offer people mortgages/loans regardless of prudence or future ability to repay. This in turn led to inflated governmental coffers due to enormous stamp duty returns. This then led to the powers that be turning a blind eye to the obvious eventual consequences of such a boom and bust cycle which was so clearly playing out in pain view for all to see. Dissenting voices warned of the inevitable crash to come and the government countered with talk of a “soft landing” to reassure the masses that they had a handle on matters and knew what they were doing.

When the fall happened it was brutal. Exacerbated by the world financial crisis Ireland entered a downward spiral of failing banks and escalating national debt which eventually led to a bail out by the European powers who took the reins of Ireland economic sovereignty and assumed the role of fiscal overlords for the following number of years.

The birth of their first child eventually meant they needed more space than their apartment afforded. Their assumption was that in the prevailing economic environment any bank would have expected them to sell the apartment before issuing a new mortgage for another (larger) property. To their surprise, and after a number of refusals, one bank agreed to issue mortgage approval for a house and allow them retain the apartment as a rental property. They rented their apartment successfully (so far) and had found a house in good location which suited family and transport links and their second child arrived shortly thereafter.

Fortuitously they both managed to retain their above average (if less than stellar) salaries throughout this uncertain period of financial armageddon and did not feel any real pinch from budgetary adjustments until almost the end of the European bailout programme. Even then it was more a case of not being able to put as much aside as before and experiencing the occasional (yet increasing) necessity to dip into existing savings. Reaching the tram station he broke his train of thought and nodded to the newspaper distributor who smiled and handed him a copy of the free newssheet they distributed daily. Descending the flight of stairs he read an opinion piece discussing how successive budgets had massively increased the onus upon those taxed at source. Tell me about it he thought, Even more so if you happened to own any property in addition to your primary residence. Property tax had been introduced, domestic water charges were on the way. Tax on deposit interest was now at penal levels. The government even introduced a “temporary” pension levy essentially stealing citizen’s pension money. Not much incentive to put something aside for a rainy day. It seemed that the wolf had moved from circling the perimeter to knocking on the door. The reality of being only a few pay checks from being unable to service their obligations was increasingly pervasive, like a brain worm furrowing ever deeper. Against that backdrop who could blame him for taking an opportunistic punt?

The oil exploration company was called Excobex. They planned to drill off the southern coast of Ireland. Excobex stock was listed on the alternative Investment Exchange. It was a sure thing, once they secured funding to drill that is. The share price was currently “artificially” low due to the unusually low oil price at present. But he believed that would not last for long. Eventually oil price would rise again, a funding partner would announce themselves and the share price would be re-rated to multiples of its current value. He had secretly cashed in post office bonds and certs, index funds and other equities with less potential return and plunged everything into Excobex shares in one fell swoop. It was only a matter of time until they struck oil. Then he would reap enormous rewards. Enough to make their lives very comfortable and enable his wife to leave her job and spend more time with the children, maybe he could work part-time or do something he actually enjoyed instead? Fortune favours the brave he thought at the time, be greedy when others are fearful. He reasoned that if you don’t take chances you cannot reap commensurate rewards.

He turned to the business page of the newssheet. His breath caught in his chest, his heart skipped a beat. He read the headline again and again. "I guess it could be worse," he told himself, at least he had kept up the payments on his comprehensive life assurance. Looking around he found himself becoming irrationally annoyed by his fellow commuters. With that thought he dropped the newspaper at his feet, stepped from the platform and met the underside of the oncoming 7.15 tram with a sickening crunch. Screams echoed around the platform as realisation struck the early morning commuters. On the platform the newspaper fluttered against the side of a metal bench. The blood speckled business page was still clearly visible to passer-by’s: “Excobex Oil Campaign dead in water, trail of corruption leaves Investors wiped out”.


Submitted: November 18, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Padre2000. All rights reserved.

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