A Letter to Nick Carraway from Alfred Buxton III, President of Equitable Trust and Bond


September 29, 1922


Dear Mr. Carraway,


Last spring, it was with great anticipation and promise that I personally approved your application for the Associate Bondsman position. As one of our newest employees, you—an ambitious and accomplished young man, a veteran of the Great War, and a Yale man—represent the enduring future of Equitable Trust and Bond. And if I may add a personal note: I know your father from our Skull and Bones days at Yale. In fact, I was recently delighted to read in Yale Alumni about his hostile takeover of a chain of underperforming Midwest hardware stores, and how he’s transformed them into a profitable empire. I have no doubt your father wishes the same success for you in the bond business.

And that brings me to the purpose of this letter, Nick (if I may be so informal), which I delicately undertake to address a number of concerns Human Resources has forwarded to my office regarding your performance. My hope is that these issues can be privately and expeditiously corrected without any punitive marks on your Annual Performance Review. With only the best intentions, Nick, I write to you, a young man with boundless potential.

The first issue, Nick, is your habitual truancy over the last three months, which, I assume from your deep tan and sun-bleached hair, isn’t related to a medical condition necessitating bed rest. In fact, the evening janitorial service has noticed a concentration of fine beach sand and confetti on and around your desk. Also relating to your truancy, an Equitable Trust and Bond courier recently observed you mid-afternoon, on a Thursday, entering a restaurant of ill-repute on 96th St. with a stout man who—I’ve learned through our company’s security department—is either a manufacturer of women’s lingerie, the head of a sophisticated criminal enterprise, or both.

Nick, I understand the allure and freedom of the big city after a quaint Midwest upbringing, the dazzling lights of Times Square, the long legs and silky voices of the chorus girls, the throb of that crazy bebop jazz, and the charismatic riffraff one encounters. But remember, Nick, that in the bond business, no one ever built his kingdom on forty hours per week. The ninety-hour workweek, my boy, separates the trailblazers from the bootlickers, the lame breadwinners from the empire builders. But not to say life is all work and no play, Nick: I can suggest a discrete Swedish establishment in Midtown that knows how to treat a young man who’s new to the city.

Another pressing issue, Nick, is your use of company property. Two weeks ago a secretary in your department discovered a funeral program for a Mr. James Gatz on a mimeograph machine, a program with your name listed as providing the prayer, scripture, obituary, and eulogy. My deepest condolences for your loss. And then last week, Nick, another secretary observed that you spent an entire morning on the mimeograph machine, where she later found what appeared to be pages from a novel-in-progress. I must remind you, Nick, that non-executive employees of Equitable Trust and Bond are strictly prohibited from using company property for personal reasons.

But I get it, I truly do. I am at work on a motion picture screenplay sure to be a hit in Hollywood, a romantic-comedy about a corporate president/serial killer who must manage his complex and erotic love life, all while ingeniously slaughtering the many suitors who impede his amorous conquests. In fact, if you have time, I’d love to get your thoughts on it. Still, Nick, I just ask that you pursue personal projects on personal time—unless you’re an executive, which I hope you aspire to, in which case you can pretty much do whatever you want, whenever you want, to whomever you want.

The final issue, Nick, is your mistreatment of company property. Last month, an employee in accounting observed you exiting a bathroom stall somewhat agitated, and upon entering the stall, he discovered the words “I LOVE YOU, JORDAN. I HATE YOU, JORDAN” carved a half dozen times into the stall door. It’s my understanding that this employee, who suffers from a complaint of irritable bowel, had occupied the stall twenty minutes previously and hadn’t noticed this defacement.

I understand, Nick. Really, I do. I’m not so old that I don’t remember those first flushes of youthful love and their precipitous deterioration into drunken screaming, telling all your friends what a pig she is, and then threatening to throw her and her French poodle off the Brooklyn Bridge. Because we care so much about our employees’ mental wellbeing, Equitable Trust and Bond provides unlimited access to professional, confidential counseling—if that kind of feminine, gabby pseudoscience mumbo-jumbo is your thing. Rather, may I suggest something a little more manly: a therapeutic weekend at Ralph’s Big Game Hunting just north of East Hampton, an African safari experience that keeps its ranges well stocked with the help of its nonprofit parent company Ralph’s Retired Zoo Animal Sanctuary. I’ll tell you, Nick, after a long week, there’s nothing like dispatching a West African giraffe or a Sumatra rhino to reassert your sense of superiority and control over the world. And if you’ve imbibed a little too much from the drink cart, Ralph’s happy to hobble the animal with a few sandbags, and if you’re really under the table, he’ll just tie it to a tree.

Nick, I hope you can imagine your gilded place in God’s great plan for Equitable Trust and Bond as we humbly labor to build an American institution reaching beyond our glorious, sacred shores. Equitable Trust and Bond is committed to doing its part—and handsomely compensating its loyal employees, especially its executives, as we forecast a revenue windfall this next year thanks to the company’s vast diversification. We’re predicting colossal profits from our recent partnership with a burgeoning real estate company, E. Trump & Son, that will cheaply build residential homes for inner-city families, which our subprime lending division will finance with high-interest loans and, through some contractual small print, will soon after, we hope, foreclose on and resell these homes if even a single mortgage payment is late. Our pharmaceutical division, brilliantly circumventing government opiate bans, will roll out this spring a synthetic morphine packaged as a delicious spearmint chewing gum. And just this week, we inked a lucrative contract with a very affable Belgian general in West Congo who’s partnering with us to procure some of the finest diamonds I’ve ever seen in exchange for M3 submachine guns, hand grenades, and a subscription to the French magazine Aphrodite Sauvage.

All of this is to say, Nick, that if you think the Roaring Twenties are fat for Equitable Trust and Bond, then just imagine the gravy of the 1930s! Climb aboard the boat, Nick, and together we’ll beat those oars faster than the current to that golden Promised Land where even our ungrateful children will say, “Dad, now I get why you were never around, why you were so emotionally distant. You were building an empire. For me. For America.” Nick, the future! It’s there for the taking.


                                                                      With Affection,


                                                                      Alfred Buxton III  

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