The Mississippi Company
by Mark Kertzman
Mrs. Sidha leaned forward, putting down her teacup. “Would you like some?” she said, proffering a plate of cookies at the younger woman sitting across from her.
“No, thank you,” Parminder replied politely. She took another sip of her tea, and copied her host by setting the cup down on the low wood-inlaid table between them.
Even though Parminder and Mrs. Sidha had been neighbours for many months, this was the first time they had actually sat down to tea together. Still, they had seen each other many times in the past, passing each other on the crowded streets or waving to each other across the two fences and the tiny yard separating their back balconies.
Parminder mused that it was pleasant enough visiting Mrs. Sidha’s home. The front sitting room was quite nicely appointed, filled with comfortable brocaded divans and colourful patterned carpets. The tea was quite good, and the conversation had been surprisingly pleasant. She was amused to find that they had a number of things in common, despite their age difference. They had spoken of their own children. They commiserated over difficult husbands. They laughed about cooking mishaps, and promised to swap recipes. Parminder’s initial skepticism was giving way to the warm comfort of convivial companionship.
“You know,” Mrs. Sidha was saying, “it’s so nice to talk like this.”
Parminder was jolted back to reality. “I was just thinking the same thing,” she replied, smiling.
“I’m really happy for you,” Mrs. Sidha continued. “It looks like you and your family are very happy.”
“Oh, we are.”
“And you must be so proud of your husband.”
“Sure, I guess so. Why?”
“Well, he must be doing so well in his business.”
Parminder laughed at that. “I really wish that were the case.”
“But you and your family seem to be doing so well financially.”
The warm feeling in Parminder’s gut made it easy for her to confide in the older woman. “It’s easy for it to look that way, but, well, we are stretched pretty thin.”
Somehow, Mrs. Sidha didn’t make it sound like a question.
Parminder nodded her head, stopping to pick up her teacup and take a sip. As she did so, she locked eyes with the older woman for a moment. Something subliminal passed between them just then, some form of sub-vocal understanding.
Mrs. Sidha leaned forward, dropping her voice conspiratorially, “You know, I may have something that can help you.”
Mrs. Sidha nodded, “Yes. I know of this company that is doing very well. All you have to do is invest in it, and it will pay you wonderful returns.”
Parminder was interested in spite of herself. “What is it called?”
“I will show you.” She got up, and left the sitting room for a moment. When she returned, she was holding the black- bordered holobrochure.
“It’s called the Orbital Heavy Metals Extraction Company.”
Parminder took the brochure, leafing through it. “Looks like an asteroid mine.” She stopped to read a little bit, then continued flipping, “Aren’t these risky ventures?”
“Ordinarily, yes they are.” Mrs. Sidha stopped a moment, considering. “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this if you aren’t an investor, but the company has reported that they have already made a number of strikes. It looks good; like the company is going to be making lots of money.”
Parminder was still reading, her eyes skimming the pages and widening each time a hologram leapt out at her.
“If you get in now, you may be able to make a lot of money,” Mrs. Sidha continued.
“Fifty percent back in the first year. It sounds fantastic!” Parminder exclaimed, showing the older woman one of the holocharts.
“Oh, but it’s true.”
Parminder looked at Mrs. Sidha, saying nothing for a long moment.
“How do I buy in?” she finally asked.
“Oh, that’s easy. I can take care of that for you and get the investment units from the man who sold them to me.”
“Units?” Parminder asked.
“Yes. The man who sold them to me explained all of this. The company sells units like one of those trusts, and pays some of its income out to the unitholders, like you and me.”
“That sounds easy enough.”
“Oh, it is.”
Parminder stopped, and thought for a moment. Finally, she said, “Alright, I’m going to buy in. Can I bring you the money tomorrow?”
“Sure. You won’t be sorry.” Mrs. Sidha beamed at the younger woman.
“I hope not.”
“Don’t worry. You won’t. And the best part about this investment is that you can make even more money.”
“It’s easy. All you have to do is talk to your friends, and...”
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Kertzman