Claudius Barnum Grabit
Claudius Barnum was successful. Not poor-but-happy successful, but really the most plastic-definition-of-the-word successful. He was moneyed. Very moneyed.
People wondered how he made his money. Famous moneyed people write books about their talent, but Claudius Barnum didn’t write books. He refused to even consider it. The only clue people had of his money-making method was this response to a quick-interview-question:
“When the opportunity comes, I grab it.”
Sure, like most moneyed people, he bought properties, stocks and companies at rock-bottom prices and sold them at mountain peaks. But unlike most moneyed people, Claudius Barnum didn’t make mistakes. Not once. He didn’t make more money than he lose it; he simply never lost.
In the summer of that year, something gave. Claudius Barnum-watchers saw, for the first time, some with terror – some with delight – a stain on his impeccable money-making record. The terrified felt god had fallen. Who else could they copy their trades from? The delighted gloated, rubbing their greasy hands with the ghee of jealousy. Maybe Claudius Barnum had fallen due to their scepticism and evil eyes. How powerful were they!
Students of wealth had reason to rejoice. As much as they admired him and hated for him to lose (because in him was the secret to the perfect attainment of wealth), losing for the first time in his rich life (before, he had a poor one, but that’s another story), would perhaps make Claudius Barnum write that book.The Secrets to My Wealth, they had envisioned,and How I Lost it Once. Claudius Barnum was going to reveal to them all, one-by-one, step-by-step, the path to cornucopian bliss, and of course, that one-trick pony mistake. They’d all make – those steps and that one-trick pony mistake – a full abundant circle. There’s perfection after all. Claudius Barnum would make the whole world moneyed. Their world, of course.
So they waited. Everyone. The terrified, the delighted and the students. All in the upper-class or in its inner circle. They waited for Claudius Barnum to leave his house and say something. Make a statement. An explanation. An apology.I’ll write that book. Anything, as if they were investors in Claudius Barnum’s very private life. As if he owed them something.
Claudius Barnum stayed indoors, unseen for months.
In the winter of that same year, markets peaked. Everyone waited for Claudius Barnum’s perfect timing to sell. He didn’t, but they did. Everyone made money, and everyone knew the longer Claudius Barnum waited, the more money he’d lose. They waited for him to cut his losses. He didn’t.What’s wrong with him? Is he on a suicide mission?(the students).Does he know something we don’t – making a billion when we’ve just made pennies?(the terrified)Is he dead? Would someone check on his rotten corpse!(the delighted).
The waiting reached a point of impossible return. Claudius Barnum had lost again. Bigger, this time.
Still, Claudius Barnum did not leave his house.
A recluse, but by no means a destitute. He still had the means to buy, and owned lots to sell. But for several years Claudius Barnum was struck by the bane of inactivity. No activity, no money, that’s how the people put it. Of course, no activity, no loses either, but everyone had bills to pay, properties to maintain, their very upper-class lives to fund. As far as everyone was concerned, Claudius Barnum kept losing and losing.
In the autumn of 1986, more than 10 years after his first shocking lost, Claudius Barnum made a surprising move. Surprising, because he made a move at all. There was some buzz, not frenzied like before, but enough to feel in the air that Claudius Barnum still had the ability to climb back up to the pedestal of legends. He bought a million acre land in the east for many millions more. Before people could speculate why, he bought another million in the west, then another in the south and another in the north. Four consecutive purchases in a period of five days after 10 years of inertia. A plunge in still water that cost him his fortunes save the mansion that he slept in and then some to maintain himself and his thoroughbreds for the rest of their lives.
People looked closer. Cost. Value. Asset appreciation. What did Claudius Barnum see that they didn’t? Someone had observed (likely the student) that the focal point of his new properties was not just the town centre, but his house, and those lands had nothing but swamps, marshes and bogs if not barren.
Did he want to be the king of north, south, east and west?King of swamps and sloughs more likely!(the delighted).Had Claudius Barnum finally lost his marbles?(the students).Had anyone did a test if the lands had gold, real ones or black?(the terrified). If he had development in mind and be king of a new country, Claudius Barnum had better hidden fortunes in his attic and cellar to scrape from.
But he did nothing. He didn’t invite investors, form partnerships or offered any insight at all to his investment decisions. Geological companies had volunteered to test for minerals, but he declined. Instead, he put up no-entry signs and barricades.This is my life, he seemed to say – stay out of it!
No one had a clue what went on inside Claudius Barnum’s head.
Finally, in the spring of 1995, a clue, though inconclusive, surrendered itself. A rumour, believed to be fact, circulated that Claudius Barnum spent his years, after his massive land purchase, exploring his lands, first on his own on his thoroughbred, then in the company of freelance rangers who were paid handsomely for their time and his safeguard. No prize for guessing where this rumour(fact) came from.
They had explored the lands days and mostly nights on the rangers’ jeeps. Silently. No one was allowed to speak unless the engine was running. When it stopped, Claudius Barnum listened intently, so intently at some nights he pressed his cheek to the ground and stayed there till morning. Such dedication, the rangers were thinking, perhaps he could hear, and only he, running oil below.
Was it running oil that he heard, or was it fortunes running, for Claudius Barnum declared his project finished and the rangers’ employment terminated. Leathered face and toughened hands replaced the youthful appearance of Claudius Barnum. A year later, he engaged the services of a private nurse.
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