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Myshuno Prompt: Black Tuesday

Name: Crash
Characters: Jefferson, James, Marsha, Cindy, Sterling, Nicky
Rating: PG for language
Summary:  Read the prompt.  Bad things be happening in Simsfield.
Notes: Canon.  Full-on spoiler.  This scene has been in my head for a while, and it’s good to have it out on paper at last.
Word Count: 1,966
My Card
Jefferson looked over the newspaper at breakfast that morning, and frowned.
“Have you seen this, James?” he asked, handing him the financial section.
James took the paper from his father, and he too began to frown.  “That’s not good.”
“Is something wrong?” Marsha asked.
“I’m not sure,” Jefferson remarked.  “The stock market reports indicate that it’s not as stable as it was, but I spoke with our broker yesterday, and he said that these things happen from time to time.  I don’t know if I should be worried or not.”
“I can stop by his office on my way to work,” James offered.  “See if my presence causes a different reaction?”
Jefferson nodded.  “I think that’s best.  No need to get too worried just yet.  Of course, if he says something’s wrong, go ahead and sell off what stocks we have.”
“Will do, Papa,” he said.  James got up from the table, kissed his wife and son, and left the room.
“Do you think it’s a real cause for concern?” Marsha asked.
“Maybe.  I’m sure James will get it straightened out, though.”
* * * * *
“James!” Jefferson called up the stairs.
The young man stuck his head out of the bedroom door.  “What do you need, Papa?”
“I need you to come down here right away.”
“Sure, just let me get dressed.”
A few moments and quick bath later, James hurried down the stairs, buttoning the last few buttons of his shirt as he did so.  He went into the dining room, where he found his father and mother staring at the front page of the paper.
“Did you know about this?” Jefferson asked, pointing at the headlines with a shaky hand.
James pulled the paper towards him, and righted it so he could read.  Black Thursday – Stock Market Loses 11% of Value, he read.
“Damn,” he swore, and for once Marsha didn’t reproach his language.  He looked into Jefferson’s worried eyes.  “I’m calling the broker.  I don’t care if it’s Sunday morning.  He needs to sell our shares off first thing tomorrow.”
“I was hoping you’d offer to do that,” Jefferson said, relief evident in his voice.  “You can be much more forceful than I.”
“Not a problem, Papa.  Mama, can you go check on Cindy?  She says she’s not feeling good.  Maybe bring her some tea and toast?”
“Of course, James,” Marsha said.  “Let me put the kettle on, and I’ll go right up.”
As soon as Marsha had left the dining room, James looked at his father.  “How bad will it be if we can’t get the stock sold?”
“Not completely horrible, but it would be best if we could recoup some of what we put in.”
James nodded.  “I’ll turn the intimidation factor up on him a bit, and make him see that.”
James left the room and headed to the foyer, where the telephone was located.  Jefferson poured himself another cup of coffee, and began to reread the paper again, the worry creases in his forehead deepening as he did so.
* * * * *
The next morning, breakfast was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.  James got up to answer it while the rest of the family, including a rather green-looking Cindy, remained in their seats.
“Are you sure?” James’ voice said as it drifted back to the rest of the family.  “Futz!  And he’s giving you the runaround too?...No, I’ll go with you.  Tell him to dry up in person.  See you in a few.”
They heard the receiver slam down, and James’ heavy footsteps return to the dining room.
“That was Sterling.  The market’s taking a nosedive, and he hasn’t been able to get through to the broker – the ‘phone lines are clogged.  We’re taking his father’s automobile into the city, and I’m not leaving until I get him to put in the order to sell.”
Jefferson nodded, his face looking grave.  “Go get me a pen and some paper from the study.  I’ll write out my authorization for the sale.”
James went quickly to the study and returned with the items his father had requested.  Jefferson quickly dashed off note and signed it.  Marsha, who had disappeared into the kitchen, came out with a basket.
“For you and Sterling,” she said.  “There’s bread and cold chicken, and some apples to tide you over.”
James smiled at his mother.  “Thanks, Mama.  Hopefully, we won’t need it.”
They heard the sound of tires on the dirt road outside their house, and then a knock on the front door.
“Come in, Sterling; it’s open,” James called.
Sterling came into the dining room, a grim expression on his face.  “Mr. Bradford, Mrs. Bradford, Cindy,” he said.  “I’m so sorry about all this.”
“It’s not your fault, Sterling,” Jefferson said.  “We knew the risks when we made the initial investments.”
“Still, if I hadn’t done it James wouldn’t have gotten the idea in his head.”
“Shush,” Marsha ordered.  “Can I make you something for breakfast?”
Sterling shook his head.  “We should get going, James.”
“At least takes some bacon and toast,” Marsha implored.  “It’s a long drive to the city.”
“Okay, Mrs. Bradford,” Sterling agreed, knowing it was easier to accept than it was to argue.
James leaned forward and looked at Cindy.  “You’ll be okay?”
“Of course I will.  Your mother will take care of me.”
James kissed her forehead, and then turned to the toddler who was making a mess of himself with his mush.
“Papa’s going to do some work, Nicky.  You be good for your Mama.”
“Yes, Papa,” the little boy replied.
James kissed the top of his son’s head.  “I’ll let you know what’s going on as soon as I do.”
“Be careful, James,” Jefferson said.
“Don’t worry about me, Papa.  I’ll be fine.”
James and Sterling walked out, Marsha’s basket of food in hand.  They heard the car start, and the tires roll away.  The dining room remained silent.
“I think I’m going to go lie down,” Cindy said, getting up slowly and a little unsteadily.
“I’ll take care of Nicky.  You look like you need a good sleep.”
Cindy smiled weakly.  “Thanks, Marsha.  You,” she said, looking at her son, “Be a good boy for Grandma and Grandpa.”
Cindy left the dining room.  It was only then that Marsha realized how little of her breakfast Cindy had touched.
“I hope she’s all right,” Marsha muttered as she began to clear the plates.
“I hope we’ll be all right,” replied Jefferson, mentally calculating how much of the family fortune was tied up in the stock market at that moment.
* * * * *
It was past dinnertime the next day before James returned home.  The family, excepting Nicky who was already in bed for the night, was sitting in the parlor in front of the fire with the radio on softly.  They all looked up when James walked in, and when they saw the expression on his face they knew the news was not good.
“It’s gone,” he said simply, flopping down into the empty spot on the sofa next to his wife.
“All of it?” Jefferson asked in disbelief.
“All of it,” James said with a nod.  “Sterling and I got to the broker’s office with no problem, and he saw us right away, but the ‘phone lines to New Sim City were clogged, and it wasn’t able to put the sell order through until this afternoon, and by then the market had dropped even more than it did yesterday.  Since it had already lost all its value, I told the broker not to bother selling the stock – maybe in a few years when things bounce back we’ll be able to recoup some of our losses.”
Jefferson and Marsha sunk back into their seats, looking defeated.  “What do we do now?”
James shrugged.  “The broker gave me copies of all the paperwork.  Papa and I will have to sit down and figure out exactly how bad the loss is.  But basically we’ll have to live very frugally until Papa and I can replace the lost money from our jobs.”
Jefferson nodded, a resigned look on his face.  Marsha looked devastated as she smoothed her skirt absentmindedly.  James let his head fall forward, and supported it with his hands as he stared into the flames in the fireplace.
Several moments passed in worried silence, each family member lost in their own thoughts.
“For crying out loud!”
Three pairs of eyes looked up as Cindy jumped out of her seat and turned to face them.  “Look at the lot of you, acting like somebody died.  It’s not that bad.”
“Cindy, we lost a lot of money today,” James said, giving her a look that said clearly begged her to shut her mouth.
She leveled a glare at him.  “So what?  We’re better off than some of those New Sim City millionaires who had everything in the market.  You and Jefferson still have jobs; we’ll come back from this.”
“Doll, it’s not as simple as that.”
She moved to stand directly in front of him, and James had a flashback to his college years when Cindy had stood up to Stanley for him.  She had the same look in her eye as she did that day.
“You’re right.  It’s much simpler.  We still have a roof over our heads, and thanks to your mother and her garden, we’ve got enough food to get us through the winter.  There are fish in the pond if we need them.  We’re luckier than some, James.  You should do well to remember that.”
“Be quiet for a moment.  James, I’m not afraid to be poor.  I spent my whole life poor until I met you, and it wasn’t so bad.  And this time around, I’ve got you.  You need to buck up, James Bradford.  You have a wife and children to think about.”
James’ head shot up.  “Children?”
She smiled a little sheepishly.  “I wasn’t sure until today.  Nicky’s going to have a brother or a sister.”
The revelation of Cindy’s pregnancy snapped Marsha out of her funk.  “Cindy’s right.  We are lucky.  We have a home, we have food, and we have each other.  Jefferson and James will do what’s necessary to bring the money in, and Cindy and I will do our part to be economical in running the household.”
Cindy smiled at her mother-in-law.  “Exactly.”
James looked at his father, and both men nodded.  “First things first,” Jefferson said, getting up from his seat, “Is to figure out how much damage has been done.  James, why don’t you get the paperwork from the stockbroker and meet me in the dining room – the table’s bigger and we can spread things out.  I’ll get the household accounts.  We’ll figure things out from there.”
James got up and hugged Cindy.  “You have no idea how happy I am about another kid.”
“If you’re half as excited as I am, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea.  I know the timing isn’t the best…”
“We had no idea the market was going to crash.  As you said, we’ve got the essentials.  Plus, there’s a ton of old stuff up in the attic that we can get down and clean up if we need it.  I’ll make sure we’re taken care of.”
“I know you will,” she said, caressing his face.  “Now go get the paperwork your father asked for and join him.  You don’t want to keep him waiting.”
James kissed her, and did as he’d been told.  Marsha, Cindy, and Jefferson were in the dining room, Jefferson seated at the table, with Marsha standing behind him and Cindy off to the side.
“Okay, let’s crunch some numbers,” he said, sitting down next to his father.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2011 06:22 am (UTC)
Definitely good that they have the house and the land and even their jobs! And I knew Cindy was pregnant before she said so - the nausea and such was rather obvious! :D I'm glad they should be able to weather it, and I hope things don't go TOO badly.
Nov. 10th, 2011 02:39 am (UTC)
They are in a better position than some, that's for sure. I'm not surprised you figured out about Cindy - again, it was pretty clear to everyone but her. Of course, Marsha had other things on her mind, otherwise she would have known it too.

Things will be different for a while. Once the next chapter is out, I'll explain what the restrictions for the Depression era are.
Nov. 9th, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
I love the history behind your legacy! You're doing a great job bringing it to life and making it interesting.

This kind of reminds me of the stories I would hear about my grandmother's family when the market fell. She was just a girl, about 14 or so, and said the biggest difference she remembered was that they didn't have a maid any more and she had to do more household chores. They lived in New Jersey and were very close to the heart of Wall Street. I imagine that there were very similar conversations going on in their household at the time.

In contrast, my husbands grandparents, who were in the fairly young city of Denver, told stories of jumping trains looking for work and walking the train tracks looking for spilled coal to heat their homes. My father-in-law's father was arrested on the night he was born for that very reason. He was only trying to warm up the house for the new baby.
Nov. 10th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
Thank you! I always thought that history was more interesting when you put personal files behind it.

I remember my grandmother telling me stories about the Depression as well. She was a young girl, and her father, my great-grandfather, ran a dairy, so they were better off than many since people managed to find money to buy milk for their kids. My grandfathers never talked about it; they viewed it as something in the past that you shouldn't talk about.

Your stories about your family are really touching.
Nov. 12th, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Is it normal to get emotional when reading about another sim players pixels? I felt the family's loss and was moved to tears of pride when Cindy spoke up. Nicely done. She's a Bradford through and through :)
Nov. 13th, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
Thank you! If you're emotional, that means I'm doing my job as a writer. I love Cindy's attitude, and that will be one of the reasons the family rallies.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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