Seattle, WA. 11:25 am. The trendy green products markets open at 11:30. It’s game time.
“Look sharp people, we’ve got a big day today. Fair-trade handbags closed up 65 points and we’re expecting heavy buying at open. Fixed gear bikes just got an article in Vice, looking promising. There’s an eco-friendly alternative to the desert boot, it’s handmade in France, up 30% in a week and it practically sells itself, but you need to be the ones selling it, so let’s get to work!”
Rotary phones and fair isle sweaters exploded into a frenzied buzz whirling around Buddy Wolf’s desk.
RING RING RING!
“I know it dropped a bit but—no you’ve got to hear me out, man, it’s about the long term…Well, I don’t know how grocers will bag in five years, but right now they’re ditching recycled for bring-it-yourself! It’s the goose that lays the fucking golden egg!”
RING RING RING!
“Alright sir I’ll put that down—Jake! Get me a buy order on organic cups! Eleven and a half shares!”
RING RING RING!
“Go bigger! Why stop at all-natural neckties when the whole damn wardrobe’s on the table?! Buy! Buy! Buy!”
All of Buddy’s colleagues seemed to be going places, fighting their ways to big commissions, but Buddy was stuck. He moved out to Seattle hoping to strike it rich, cash in. He’d done his background—four years at NYU, two years freelance writing in Brooklyn and Portland. Now he tried to put his knowledge to use for himself, and suddenly he was stuck. Only it had been three years and it didn’t feel so sudden anymore. He hadn’t quite given up hope, but most days he was starting to doubt he had what it took. He whittled down his ambitions and dreams of glory to one achievable goal: bag Gordon Greene, founder and CEO of GoGreene. The man was a green genius, a whale in the industry. And every conservationist knows the best way to get ahead is to go whaling. Every day Buddy would call his office, a beautifully remodeled industrial space, right downtown in the pulsing heart of the market.
“Jessie, guess who?” By now, he knew Greene’s assistant by name. “C’mon, just a minute of his time! That’s all I’m asking you for!”
“I’ve already told you, Mr. Wolf: I’m sure you’re very green-minded, but Mr. Greene only works with divestment bankers.”
The line cut out. Buddy sighed and went back to work. No luck today. A few minutes later he felt his leg vibrate and checked his phone:
“Hey Buddy, at the market and need to kno what scent of recyclable tp u prefer…lavender? Also good news from harriet. the EPA is letting her start production on her boxed water idea, she thinks they’ll announce it tmrw. c u at supper <3 dad”
He really needed his own place.
* * *
“This is the kid. Calls me fifty-nine days in a row, wants to be a player. There ought to be a picture of you in the dictionary under ‘persistence,’ kid.”
Buddy couldn’t believe that Gordon Greene was standing right in front of him. After months of effort, Buddy had been able to wrangle a meeting. He had finally harpooned the whale—not like a literal harpooning, you know, like a good one—you can’t harpoon a good whale—like it’s bad to harpoon, not like they’re bad—a good metaphorical harpooning…forget it. Anyway, he had five minutes to win his business—five minutes to change his own life. Gordon addressed Buddy briefly until his flip phone rang. Of course, thought Buddy, he’s too legit to use a smartphone.
“Did he respond to the offer…What?! This is goddamned ridiculous. Is he brain-dead or something…Well, tell him one of us is getting screwed on organic toothpaste and it sure as fuck ain’t me! Dilute the son of a bitch!”
He snapped the phone shut and tensed his face.
Gordon Greene was a killer. Nothing got past him. He saw biodegradable plastic packaging coming a mile away. He bought up half of the recyclable record sleeve industry before vinyl even came back. He had come out of nowhere in 2007, and already The Atlantic and Current TV had both profiled him four times, once calling him the “king” of renewable markets. “King,” however, wasn’t enough for Gordon Greene. Gordon Greene wanted to be emperor. Gordon Greene wanted to be on the fucking moon.
“Alright kid, five minutes. You got a deal for me, or what?”
Buddy thought through the best recommendations that had come up in the office recently.
“The fixed-gear bike. It’s an alternative to driving and a very up-and-coming lifestyle item-”
“Yeah, yeah, kid, tell me something I don’t already know. If I wanted to cash in on fixies, I’d get a time machine, go back five months and buy then.”
“Alright, umm…There’s a new all-natural shoe company, Le Brodequin—”
“What, the French one? It’s alright, but it’s a dog.”
“What about this new hemp hand-bag company, Woven?”
“A dog with different fleas, kid. Listen, don’t waste my time.” Gordon’s phone buzzed again. “Like I said, I’m a busy man. But I’ll give you one last shot,” he said, letting the phone buzz on his desk. “Give me something special. What’s tomorrow’s trend gonna be?” There was a glint in his green eyes.
Buddy hesitated for a moment. He knew it was wrong—illegal even—to do this, but how wrong? Before he could contemplate it, he blurted it out.
“Boxed water! It’s aesthetic, green, recyclable, and the biggest manufacturer in the region just got cleared for production by an EPA decision that hasn’t gone public yet.”
“If the decision’s not public yet, how do you know about it?”
“I just know.”
Gordon flashed a satisfied grin.
“Alright, kid, you’re hired. I’ll send you about a half a mil for my account; go ahead and buy boxed water as quick as you can.”
“Fantastic! You won’t regret this, Mr. Greene.” Buddy extended his hand, and Gordon pulled him in close and spoke to him forebodingly softly with hot, garlic breath.
“I’d better not regret it, kid. Let me explain something. I don’t lose, understand? I own green markets, and no one can touch me—not even that old trickster Paul Newman when he was around, or those crazy fuckers over at Dr. Bronner’s. So don’t mess it up, and don’t lose. And if you win, well Buddy, I can give you more greenbacks than you can possibly imagine.”
“I mean money, kid, not the product.” Gordon was referring to a moss-based tarp product his company had bought up that had been a bit of a flop.
“Well, actually I mean both. I’d appreciate it if you took a few Greenbacks home—we’ve got, like, five thousand of them…See you around, Buddy.”
* * *
The next day, Buddy checked The Huffington Post. “EPA APPROVES BOXED WATER COMPANY FOR PRODUCTION, AND IT’S THE GREATEST THING EVER (VIDEO)”
Yes! He had put in the buy order at the end of the day on Monday, and by Tuesday morning he made $30,000—a better rate of return than months of, say, collecting cans, considered easy money in the green market. Buddy shot up from nothing, fast. And as the weeks went by, he earned a reputation for giving good tips and a talent for picking up newer, better ones. Reusable bandages. Organic razor blades. Heirloom-tomato-flavored biodegradable condoms. It was a cash avalanche. The trends kept coming, and Buddy did whatever he could—spying, cheating—to stay one step ahead of everyone else. Within two months, he had a new apartment with a rooftop garden, a new Prius, a new sense of self-worth. He was a somebody, rolling around downtown Seattle with the big players.
But then, after a year or so, the winnings started to go as quickly as they’d arrived. Trends began to lose steam as the mainstream caught on to them. Complaint calls starting pouring in about “srat girls” and “gross Republican uncles” buying canvas backpacks and eco-friendly products, much to the chagrin of the people who knew about them before they were, like, a thing. Finally, one unfortunate April day, Buddy lost a full third of his clients. He was hemorrhaging money faster than oil from a hypothetical Keystone XL pipeline.
At about five, Gordon pulled up in front of Buddy’s office on his road bike.
“Let’s go for a ride, Buddy. C’mon.”
They rode to Gordon’s gym. After an hour in the spin room and a steam, they headed for the locker room. Gordon sat down Buddy in a corner and demanded he explain his losses. Things got heated.
“It’s just not possible, Gordon! They’re backing out! They don’t trust me.”
“You see these glasses, kid?” He took off his tortoise shell lenses and snapped them in half. “You think I fucking need these glasses? I’ve had perfect eyesight since birth.” He pulled off the Vibram Five Fingers he’d been wearing during his workout. “You see these goddamn toe-shoes? I don’t need these! I don’t even have toes!”
“What? Why don’t you have toes?”
“The point is: image, Buddy. That’s what counts out here. I don’t give a shit about the environment and I practically run this town now. If you can’t win these people’s business, it’s because you can’t. And let me tell you something else. Most of these Berkeley-types don’t amount to jack shit. Do you know why most organic farmers can’t outdo Whole Foods? Because most organic farmers are sheep, and sheep get slaughtered—not on vegetarian farms, but, you know, in general. So don’t give me some trendy environmentalist, give me a kid who’s poor and hungry—and no conscience neither.” He put on his jacket and started to walk away. “I’ve got plenty of divestment bankers already, Buddy. I don’t need another.”
A hateful fear seized Buddy. The money, the glamour of conservationism could all be gone if he walked out of that door. “Gordon, wait!”
Gordon smirked. The walkout had worked.
“I’ll do whatever it takes! I’ll spy, I’ll even compost my feces and tell my neighbors it’s a thing so they’ll buy those containers we make—anything you need.”
“Alright Buddy, I’ll give you one more chance.
* * *
you are cordially invited to a soiree
The invitation was minimalist, tasteful, sent via Paperless Post. Gordon was a man of refined taste, and when Buddy arrived at his house on Mercer Island—the weekend playground of divestment bankers—he got a sense of just how much money Gordon had to throw around. The glass mansion was elegantly empty, stylishly unfurnished, although packed momentarily with a chic crowd of Seattle socialites—a fancy 4/20 affair catered with locally sourced produce, craft beer, and choice weed. Buddy went to the bar and bumped into Gordon.
“Hey-y, Buddy, glad you made it. I want you to meet someone. This is Smiles Patrick.”
Smiles’s long blonde hair glowed angelically around her slim, pale face and figure and her horn-rimmed glasses. She wore high-waisted, patterned pants and a white oxford. Her voice had the same quiet elegance.
“Hello, Buddy. I’ve heard so much about you.”
She passed him her joint.
“Not too much, I hope. I love your name, by the way.”
“Thanks, I chose it myself when I was six.”
They exchanged flirtatious clichés like this for some time, until Gordon suddenly inserted himself into the conversation.
“Buddy, come upstairs to my office now. We have a situation.”
Buddy tried to focus and followed Gordon up the stainless steel steps, into his private smoking lounge. An older-looking hippie sat in the corner.
“Buddy, this is Dr. Jarvis, from Portland. Dr. Jarvis was interested in that handbag company Woven, the one you recommended I get an angle on. Well, I did, and—”
“Are you gonna tell him what’s happening, man?” Dr. Jarvis sat up in his beanbag chair, mojito in hand.
“Your boss tried to fuck me over—and he failed, because I don’t play, bro. What do I look like, man? Some, like, small-timer with dreads and a flannel? I can burn your ass, man. I can afford to. I know it. You know it.”
“It’s a made-up degree, Jarvis.”
“That’s one more than you have, kimosabe. Anyways…” Jarvis lost his train of thought and began to talk about his hands and the walls. This went on for several minutes. Eventually Buddy remembered to interject.
“Were you going to tell us something?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah. I’m going to make an offer for, like, sixty tomorrow and I expect your commitment.”
“Doctor Jarvis wants our block of shares. What’s the value on those shares, Buddy?”
“I’d say about eighty, eighty and a quarter.” He deliberately overestimated. Gordon winked.
“Slim chance. Seventy-four.”
“Sixty-nine.” The room giggled.
“Hehe, sixty-nine. Deal.”
Dr. Jarvis stood up, tersely fixed his peace-sign necklace, and walked out of the room. He paused briefly, getting right in Gordon’s wide, bloodshot eyes. “Don’t ever try to fuck me again, Gordon. Watch yourself.” He bowed. “Namaste, asshole.”
After he left, Gordon said, “He’s right, you know. He’s a bigger player. But hey, we made a bit off him.”
* * *
“Wake up kid.”
Gordon’s voice came through scratchily on Buddy’s rotary phone. He looked at his alarm clock.
“It’s only 10:45 am.”
“Money never sleeps.”
Buddy rubbed his squinting, tired eyes.
“I’ve decided to buy up Boxed Water, Buddy. It’s more than a day-trade. I’m going to expand it. I want you to put in a buy order today that’ll take care of that. You’ll have to spread it all over multiple accounts cause of the…tip you gave me. Oh and by the way, that girl Smiles—you can’t afford her. Not yet. But I’m gonna get you to that level. You’re welcome, Buddy.”
“Now go rip some fucking throats out, kid. That’s what the eco-friendly, small business world is all about. Power. Money and power.”
“Will do, Gordon.”
A few years passed. I could tell you that there was some Boxed Water craze, that Buddy and Gordon struck it rich. Or maybe they went too far, got busted for insider trading, something like that. But the fact of the matter is, Boxed Water just kind of…was. It was chill. Nothing too crazy. That’s the nature of natural products. There’s no end game, no grand scheme, try as Gordon might to make one. He gradually lost his edge in the industry and ended up middling along for some years. Eventually he died as he lived—he had a heart attack while yelling at an aged hippie on a #12 bus. As for Buddy, he did alright. After Boxed Water, he got into the hemp business and messed around with some vegetable farms.
– MSS ’17