The World’s First Publicly Traded Man
(an excerpt from the novel of the same name)
by Kevin Mandel
Editor’s Note: the following text was discovered intact in a 2018 Dell laptop computer, and appears precisely in the order and format in which it was found. Except for font type and size, and a negligible number of spelling and grammatical corrections, it has not been altered in any way. For instances when background information was deemed either potentially necessary or of high interest to the general reader, footnotes have been added. The intention is to give all readers an opportunity to encounter the material as closely as possible in the form and spirit in which it was created.
August 28, 2025
To my ex-Board of Directors,
I don’t know if you’ll remember me but together, just a handful of years ago, we launched an enterprise which in short order rendered me a hunted fugitive and rained upon you some combination of public humiliation, criminal and civil prosecution, financial ruin, cardiac arrest, impotency, attempted suicide and—though the diagnosis seemed somewhat, well, slapdash—insanity. My name is Zakary Nimmler. The trading symbol was NimCo.
You’re smiling, I hope, and excusing my attempt at humor, the only calling card I saw as even remotely appropriate in light of the contempt you hold me in, the epithets I can feel you’ve bound me in—rightfully so, I should add, absolutely one hundred percent rightfully so. Fault is not in question here. It belongs to me. As it was my sudden single blunder that created the entire mountain of woe referenced, albeit with slight exaggeration, above.
Why this reach-out? I’m smiling now (or at least almost), as I recollect upon our seemingly countless meetings, and the hearty “cut to the chase” spirit that typically prevailed. Why do this, you must wonder; after years of successful fugitive living, despite the all-out efforts of federal marshals, bounty hunters, private investigators and viewers of the hit reality TV show America, Find Your Crooks!, why bear the risk that contacting you avails? It’s simple really. For far too long I’ve been pained by guilt, and harassed by memories of my misdeeds. What I’m saying is, I want promotion from the lowly position I occupy with you, and if it can’t be immediate—I’m aware promotion can’t be rushed—I want to at least submit the deliverable that for far too long has been overdue. I am sorry. From the very depths of my heart. Please forgive me. You were a sensational, an outrageously fantastic board of directors, and I let you down. No. Worse. I betrayed you.
Wait. There’s something else. Something, quite frankly, I have a moral duty to point out. You see, as from the moment of my Fall it has been my goal to redeem myself, I have made myself into a student of our individual and collective plights. And what I’ve concluded is right now, as I write this, we find ourselves at the rarest of instances for any association of individuals, let alone one as seemingly rotten with conflict, mistrust and bad will as ours. I refer to an instance when suddenly, as if out of nowhere—poof—interests align; thus opening, if only for a fleeting instant—poof, again—a window of opportunity; thereby enabling a sequence of simple actions to deliver a Success so stupendous—poof100th—that those it will benefit may be excused for not having previously even fantasized its possibility.
Indulge me here, while I try to sketch out a fuller, clearer picture. Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, and this is all hypothetical because of course I would never suggest, nor does this letter constitute a legally actionable suggestion that we break any local, state or federal law that pertains to this or any other matter… But there’s this guy, a guy who might desire to come out from hiding and turn himself over to the authorities. Yet, though he’s ready to humbly accept a just and reasonable penalty for his infractions, he is not by any stretch ready to swallow the combined seventy-five years he currently faces.
Additionally, this guy, this hypothetical guy, he’s got no connections or resources, in fact he has only powerful enemies. And he certainly has nowhere near the kind of scratch to pay for the cracker-jack legal team for which his predicament calls. But he does, at this time of rapidly approaching trials, have something of enormous potential value—the truth. For example, on the topic of his ex-board, he knows that taken collectively they were not guilty of gross negligence of their fiduciary responsibilities. And he gets irate at the mere suggestion that, in connection to his management, certain former corporate officers, for example his ex-Chairman, someone like you Uncle Bill, or his ex-Chief Operating Officer, someone like you Nick Clapman, might have been guilty of the intentional pattern of criminal activity that the overzealous, publicity-craven, politically ambitious district attorney is using to go RICO* on you, I mean them.
Want more? Okay, consider this. Hypothetical Guy still possesses the Ninja-esque, White House-spokesman-caliber communication skills you trained him with (thank you, Xana Vickers); and would enjoy nothing more than applying them toward the resurrection of not only the personal reputations of his various ex-board members and ex-management team, but also the very industry which, in tandem, he helped launch. Hypothetical Guy would. That’s right, in addition to directly refuting in a court of law the charges I mention above (and thereby keeping you out of prison, a place where I suspect none of you will fare well), Hypothetical Guy will swoop in and take point in a public relations jihad with which you clearly appear to need some help. How? It’s simple really (which, as you know, all great plans are). By tirelessly, humbly, relentlessly declaring that all fault for the unfortunate event which lead to the bankruptcy and delisting of NimCo, and the near, soon-to-be-complete devastation of the human-backed security industry lies with one person, and one person only. Me. I mean him.
Fascinating, isn’t it! That such an opportunity, fleeting as it might be, currently exists? I know all of you, my esteemed former board members, even the most demoralized among you, must feel it and as rational, self-interested human beings, want to take action. So here’s what I propose ahhhhhhh no fuck it fnrieodkdpepdj dddff fuck it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!@#@#$$T^^&\ I can’t go on with the bullshit!!LJIO]p[
Okay, so, uh, Captain’s Log… this is officially nuts. It’s been hours now. The sun is halfway set, and since I typed out the above, I’ve barely moved. What’s more, I’m somewhat out of control, which is to say, what I mean is, I don’t know what I’m doing… In fact, as I sit here, my still shapely butt pressed to an old red plastic chair, except this question—i.e. “que fucking pasa?”—looping in my brain like an airport shuttle bus, I’m all fuzz and static and white noise. And kind of unsure of… well, just unsure.
Another hour passed! Now, out my window, I see only blackness and shards of my reflection, cockeyed, staring back. But there is loud sound—grizzlies, grasshoppers, hyenas, coyotes, bull-frogs, wart hogs, minks, vultures, panthers, baboons, komodo dragons. All right, I’m not one hundred percent certain about all of these. But I am certain that, all around, are wild things. I live in a cabin deep in the woods.
And, uh, yeah, another thing: now might be a good time for a disclaimer. I’m not interested in cutting some kind of deal. I might have been. At least, I thought I was, when I began typing, but now I’m not. (At least I don’t think so). And further, my ex-board, all that bull about my being wracked with guilt, a student of our collective predicament, etc., so on and so forth, was, well, bull. The truth is, since I skedaddled I’ve managed to block the past completely. No, more than block it, I’ve buried it. Buried it deep beneath a mound of something—perhaps indifference. Or maybe it’s self-preservation. Either way the result is the same. The past—I am happily without it. And all I know about your upcoming trials and the dying state of the human-backed security industry I picked up with twenty minutes worth of research at the local library.
I just got up to stretch my legs and survey my little kingdom—key word being little—and it occurs to me that this cabin could use a good cleaning. That beyond my ongoing procrastination on a minor tidying job, I’ve also put off the initial scrub-down and ordering I typically undertake upon a move-in. And perhaps the reason for this, if I’m to be truthful, is I’ve resisted the idea of settling in here. Two years coming, going, but always with a vague assumption that these quarters are temporary; that the day after tomorrow I’ll be moving on.
How was it being publicly traded? What was it like? Amazingly, not one of you ever asked.
And another thing. Re: Dan “Duck” Warshovsky. The popular line that it was my association with him that did me in, corrupted me and caused my downfall is way, way off—not to mention dumb. Hello! My stock closed at a 52-week high the day before my arrest! Of course I won’t sit here and pretend I don’t understand how such a misperception could arise. Duck was certainly part of a world (a non-financial world), and had a way (a provocative and unsparing way), that drew me, and over time had real influence. So I can see him serving as a kind of lightning rod for all the things I did and became that you didn’t necessarily agree with, or profit from. But as for the truth of it, our relationship I mean, it really wasn’t much. For example, I’ll confess something that might surprise you. Despite all that went down between us I’ve never even felt toward him a speck of anger. A fact that makes me wonder: how important could he have ever been to me? Did I even truly, in my heart of hearts, consider him a friend?
There is a moon… I didn’t know, but there is, and it’s managed its way above the steep tree line around my cabin; and this moon, right now, but who knows for how much longer, has a clear angle on my window. This moon, right now, is lighting up my desk.
Know what? I don’t even know who it is I’m addressing—is it you all my ex-directors and ex-management team? Myself? The world at large? Or something else altogether, some other kind of, you know, whatever?
I will tell you this though: until a guy or gal’s issued publicly traded stock… I mean, they may gab about elite college entrance exams, Nobel Prize winning parents, Olympic trials, Paris Island, Ph.D.’s, hives, amphetamines even razor blades and psychotic snaps… Yet, take my word, comparatively, they are rank amateurs when it comes to the topics of Scrutiny, Expectations and Pressure to Perform.
Curious to know how this letter came to be? Because curious, for sure, was its genesis. I was riding my deep-silver mountain bike through the woods on my way home from work, weaving between towering, ancient trees, when suddenly as if on a bolt of lightning—Zappo!—I was afflicted with an excruciating pain in my right big toe. Berserk it was, I still don’t understand the what or why or perhaps even who; only that the effect caused me to convulse, waver uncontrollably, and steer into an oak tree. Afterward, and for the next twelve hours, the toe was the size and color of a mid-size eggplant. And, I might add, paralyzed. I kid you not. It’s one of the strangest things that ever happened to me. And even wilder yet, immediately afterward, I had this distinct sense that somehow an even larger transaction was at hand. That together with the physical injury, in balance, like a double-entry on a company’s ledger, a psychic process had also begun, the evidence of which was simply this: as I limped home through the woods, slowly dragging the wobbly, warped frame of my bicycle, I was with you all again, as I hadn’t been—and I mean this literally—since the day I took flight.
And yet another hour passed! It’s pushing eleven o’clock. You’d think I’d get tired, or at least want to eat something or masturbate… And in fact, I do feel my groin tonight in a way, frankly, I have not for quite a while.
And on that note I’m going to take a little break from typing, and redistribute some of this energy (no, not there). I’m going to get down and do two sets of push-ups—because my pecs are starting to resemble Grandma Moses’—and then straighten this joint up a bit.
Interlude While Cleaning
I wish you could see my floor… It’s not expensive, it’s not even finished, but the wood, the strips of wood, odd-sized and varied in their shades of amber and black, nicks and grooves and tiger stripe markings… is good. I have the lantern next to me as I clean, and the effect, when I look around, but also from the corners of my eyes, is of dancing shadows, eddying knots and illumination, pushing out toward the perimeter, softly, gradually, fading to black.
Interlude While Cleaning #2
Being public?! Pioneering your, our goddamn industry? Fuck all, where do I start? It flicked me through the dark mirror of my own dreams, to a view of myself I was not ready, I never wished, I still do not wish to see, where appetite, my appetite, tortured me mercilessly and ceaselessly. The shame… The cringing… The wincing. Going public? Becoming NimCo? It was a disaster. A catastrophe. And had I not done so I would have avoided several life-times worth of misery and conflict, detoured pain and despair which not infrequently had me on my knees, vomiting food then bile then blood. And I won’t go back, dissect, analyze, re-live… Certainly not here, not now, in this cabin, on this old laptop, with you. I’ve kept away for two years and can identify not a single rational motive to head that way… Really, I’m certain, like all days, they were shadow days, leaving nothing behind, believe me, (somehow I know), not even ash.
Back at my desk, a pretty decent cleaning job behind me. In addition to a general pick-up and floor scrub, I created some order around my dishwashing area, chiseled away the mold-crust around my compost bucket and also had a breakthrough or two with storage of books and clothes. This has been a long time coming. And tomorrow, I will take it even further.
Because if there’s one thing I got lucky with—since fleeing—it was finding this place; which is the same thing as saying meeting Mrs. Miller, my landlady. She’s been, really, no exaggeration, a savior of sorts. Absolutely. Thinking back, there’s little chance that without her, or someone similar, I’d still be free.
It almost didn’t happen either—our meeting, that is. I’d only come to this area on a whim, thought of it as merely a temporary head-clearing diversion, and not a little bit risky one—FYI-Shout-Out to all the fugitives out there: conventional wisdom holds that dense urban areas are generally preferable to remote rural. Anyway, I was sitting on a shellacked cedar bench outside the local food co-op/café/DVD rental place (they still have DVD rentals here!), enjoying a cup of certified fair trade organic shade-grown Mexican coffee, when she plunked down next to me and began chatting me up. She thought she knew me. Or wait, maybe—it’s a bit hazy now—she thought she should. Regardless, something about her put me at ease. Maybe her looks—she’s stout, fair, crew-cutted, with a delicate mouth and soupy brown eyes; or her age—she’s pretty old, precisely how old I don’t know, but old enough to have campaigned for John F. Kennedy, smoked pot with Ken Kesey, slept with Miles Davis—so you do the math. In any event, we’re talking, or actually she’s talking, and I’m nodding and making grunt-like sounds of interest and affirmation, when after just ten minutes or so, totally unsolicited, she shared that she had a cabin to rent, “Perfect for someone who liked his alone time.”
And since that day we’ve grown pretty close. Not at first. At first I was by necessity standoffish. But steadily, methodically, as one might approach a stray cat, she put me at ease. Though with me, instead of milk, she employed barbequed shitake mushrooms, jumbo corn on the cob, tofu shish kabob. Within six months we were regularly—at least once a week—breaking bread and also doing a mini book club thing with vintage noir detective paperbacks (she’s a huge collector). And so it went, quite pleasurably I might add, providing me with what felt like the ideal dosage of neighborly interaction. Then, about two weeks ago, out of the blue, she began hinting that she understands more about me than I’ve yet confided. There are opportunities, she gently revealed, she could introduce me to.
“Opportunities?” I said, “like what?”
“Oh… I don’t know… People you might like, trustworthy people. Including some very attractive young women.”
“It is. It is no doubt. But not only. Something else too. Business opportunities: perhaps you’re ready to take on more. And I can think of several people, small business owners that is, who I bet would just jump to work with someone whose resume, let’s say, far outstripped their own.”
My response, both that day and since, has been one of polite disinterest. And not because I don’t trust her (I do). But because, well, I’m not sure why. Maybe because I’m not ready. Or maybe because my disinterest is sincere. Anyway, an escalation of sorts seemed to have occurred just the other evening. We were outside my cabin, saying our goodnights as she climbed into her banged-up siren-red jeep, when suddenly, apropos of nothing, she told me how lucky I am and when I asked why she beamed kind of beatific and replied, “So then you really don’t know.”
“No, uh, I don’t,” I said, “why would you say I’m lucky?”
“Because,” she said, before popping the clutch, kicking up pebbles and driving away, “you’ve stumbled into one of the world’s best places to live off the grid.”
* Editor’s Note: RICO statute was not ultimately applied. Actual criminal charges were gross negligence related to Zakary’s management and the filing of fraudulent reports to regulators.
Kevin Mandel is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY (unusual, he knows). He writes fiction and plays and is a contributing editor for Defrag: The Digital Magazine of Global Culture, coming in Summer 2013. Kevin can be reached at KPMandel at gmail dot com.