Pretty Much Fiction: Default Option

mapmazeWarner was a holder of European debt. Greek, mostly. But there were others. Gracious enough to grant a limited interview with CNBC, he was nonetheless unwilling to divulge the details of his exposures, nor would he let slip a juicy tidbit of gossip on the status of the negotiations being brokered by the IMF to avoid the declaration of default and the subsequent immense insurance obligations.

Speculation abounded. The Mayans. Myth superseded rumor trumped inkling topped presumption buried fact. The tabloids delighted in publishing their usual headlines only to find them confused by men who should have known better with the front page of the New York Times.

The Europe Desk editor, embroiled in an online love affair with a purported woman who purported to hail from Athens, omitted to recuse himself from the ongoing coverage, for fear that his wife might turn her nose for a scoop in the direction of his account at

Warner answered the questions as if he were strolling along the Champs-Élysées. His English, dusted with the finest powder of an accent, was otherwise flawless and utterly sans likes, you knows, or ums.

What were his thoughts on the prospect of a mutually satisfactory agreement (high), what would a default mean for the economy across the Atlantic (lower interest rates), was this a good time to vacation in Naples (magnificent), Barcelona (splendid), Paris (unparalleled). Where did he get his nails done (never manicured), really (really), well the lunulae are lovely (why thank you).

The lights in the studio seared a slice of bread left over from a hasty working lunch. Char marks unrecognizably familiar, or, to others, familiarly unrecognizable, drew comment from the camera crew, mouthed silently in a form of communication practiced universally by those with thoughts to share but active airwaves to keep in mind on set.

Aromatic tufts of carbon wafted towards the nostrils of Warner, beautifully ovoid and hairless. A Proustian memory of a breakfast from a happier time burrowed its way up from the depths of his hippocampus, leapt across a series of synapses, and nestled snugly in the front of his mind.

The memory was one of a Mediterranean cruise taken in his youth, sponsored by Grandma Marta in honor of her eightieth birthday. On that cruise Warner had purchased from Crete a miniature rendering of the mythological Minotaur carved from the pits of local olives. He wondered whatever had become of the trinket, which he had kept carefully balanced on a closet shelf atop a balloon reproduction of El Escorial.

In the final scene of his aromatic introversion Warner recalled dropping the olive pit Minotaur into the trash during a frenzied session of spring cleaning. Then, as now, he felt no particular regret at his action. A man does not attain such a position of prominence in the world of sovereign debt by getting attached, by becoming emotional, by being irrationally averse to loss.

Fifty percent if they were lucky, thirty even was optimistic. Not a haircut, but a scalping. This, of course, internal. Aloud Warner oozed faith in the future of European monetary union. He gushed admiration for the bold action taken by the European Central Bank.

They went to commercial. On his Blackberry Warner thumbed to his agent in Frankfurt to prepare the paperwork for cashing in the firm’s treasure trove of credit default swaps. He did love Europe, a charming place. It would recover, one day. Meanwhile he had a cruise to pay for. A surprise for Camille, for Valentine’s Day. She would love it. And if not, there would be other women.

The cameraman pointed. Warner smiled. They were on in three, two, one…

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