It was a Friday in August in Austin, Texas, and the sun had become downright vengeful. As Louis walked down the street, heat waves danced up from the pavement and the whole world seemed to simmer.
Louis ignored the other pedestrians on the street, staring down at his cellphone instead. He had recently downloaded a new app he was very excited about. Cryptovest, as it was called, enabled small business owners to issue stock to anyone in exchange for capital which could then be used to develop the business, expand it, or even just keep the doors open awhile longer.
The app had been out for several months at this point and the initial hubbub had died down considerably. Local businesses had almost unilaterally joined in, however, and the free flow of capital represented by the share price of a given bar or restaurant was the subject of many conversations.
Louis arrived at his destination: The Tributary Bar & Grill. It was a rustic, slightly dingy venue with a two-story external façade made of brick which rested behind a southern style two-story porch. The first floor was the bar, and the second floor housed a few small offices. The patios extended around the side of the large structure and into the back, where a large deck spanned several times the width of the patio on the first floor.
The Tributary was a local watering hole whose source of novelty involved a small stream flowing through the patio area before cascading down into the newly renovated Sabine River. As he walked through the venue to the rear patio, he reflected upon the strange and likely stupid decision he had made earlier to purchase $1000 worth of stock in this ugly little antique bar and grill.
The stream was definitely a bit out of place. A few feet deep at its deepest, the slow-flowing stream had been diverted from a point of origin which was now fenced off. It was spanned by a wooden bridge and surrounded on each side by a wooden deck. A screen covered the top part of the waterfall, ostensibly to prevent any trash or discarded beer cans from polluting the river, and a country band played on a stage at the far side of the creek adjacent to a small dancing area which was faced by the stage and had no tables.
Louis ordered a beer and sat down in a questionable-looking wooden chair at one of the wooden tables in the seating area across the stream from the band to conduct a cursory review of the establishment’s financials on the Cryptovest app he had installed on his cell phone. They weren’t great—his decision to purchase had been heavily influenced by a low share price and the possibility of a substantial return if the management was able to use the new money to build a more solid business. Judging by the tattooed waitstaff, however, Louis felt less than confident in the management’s ability to do anything at all.
“Hey, how are ya?” asked a rather gruff voice from the table next to where Louis had chosen to sit.
“I’m good, how about you?” Louis replied without looking up.
“I’m good. Haven’t seen a shirt that nice in this place… well, ever,” the voice conceded. “What brings you out?” it continued.
“I have a new app. I decided to invest in this place on Cryptovest because it was cheap, but I thought it would be country and instead it seems almost… punk.” Louis grimaced, making eye contact with his interlocutor for the first time.
The large man had opted to cut the sleeves from his t-shirt for some reason. His exposed biceps were large and covered in tattoos. Louis felt intimidated but tried to keep his anxiety in check.
“Do you come here often?” Louis stammered, sensing an irritation in the stranger’s steely gaze.
“I do. Maybe you aren’t the clientele this place is looking for,” the man shrugged, pointing to Louis’s clothing.
“Hey, these are nice clothes,” Louis protested. He was wearing his best loafers, a pair of khaki shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt he was proud of.
This drew an audible laugh from a few of the big man’s friends who had gathered around, and then Louis leaned back in his chair, feigning relaxation despite his social anxiety and looking again at his phone. One of the chair legs gave an audible crack, and Louis tried—too late—to regain his balance.
Louis fell backwards in his chair, landing on the edge of the deck. He tried to catch himself, but his hands missed the wood. He overbalanced, continuing to fall beyond the deck and into the stream, into the screen. The chicken wire gave a mild amount of protest, but it was merely stapled into the wood and could not support the sudden weight thrust upon it. It gave way, staples flying outward, and Louis went over the waterfall to guffaws from above.
When he emerged from the Sabine River, Louis had lost both loafers and his phone. His beer bottle was full of water, but he had somehow held onto it the entire time. He tossed the bottle into a trash can and sighed, listening to a fresh peal of laughter from above. He hung his head and started the long walk home. It would take almost an hour to reach his apartment.
Louis awoke the next morning without his alarm going off. His cell phone had served that function in the past, and without it, he slept well into mid-morning. It was about 11:00 when he made his first cup of coffee, and he entered the cell phone store at noon. Louis explained his situation and paid $200 for a new cell phone, settling for a crappy android one. His first action as he walked home was to download Cryptovest so that he could sell his shares of the Tributary Bar & Grill—and he was shocked to see the shares had more than tripled in price.
Selling his $3241 in stock made for a solid gain, but the notification icon flashed a few seconds after the transaction had posted. Louis tapped the icon:
You Have A New Gift From XXXXXXXX
Wow! You had the best 24-hour performance in town! How
did you manage a 325% return?
Louis stared at the screen, mystified. He closed the popup window. Immediately, his inbox icon flashed again. He waited a few moments, then tapped it. His inbox had 20 messages in it, and the number was growing in real time. He watched it hit 50, then 105, then 250.
Louis knew it was possible to send a gift of $25 or more to someone and track what that person did with the money over time, but he’d never heard of anyone receiving hundreds of donations in such a short period of time. If everyone had made the minimum donation, he had just received well more money than he had made in his short-term investment. He clicked over to his crypto token account and watched his balance climb beyond $15,000 worth of tokens. His actual 24-hour return was over 1500%.
Soon, he began receiving messages from friends. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Signal all had badged icons. The phone began to ring, announcing a caller: Madeleine.
“Hello?” Louis said into the microphone.
“Louis! You have to open YouTube right now! What were you doing at that dive bar last night anyway? Are you okay?” a voice yelled.
Louis hung up the call, but the phone started ringing again. He silenced the ringer, sending the new caller to voicemail, and navigated to the YouTube app. In Top Videos, a familiar sight appeared. The title of the video was Epic Water Fall. Tapping on it, he was surprised to see over 8 million on the view counter. It looked like the scene from the Tributary, and as the video began to play, he realized someone had recorded his fall the night before.
The video started with a man making a funny face, then after an audible crack, the camera operator pivoted just in time to catch Louis fall through the wire litter screen and into the Sabine River. After Louis had disappeared, the camera pivoted back to the original subject, who was making a new face, somewhere on that genuine spectrum between shock and mirth.
Louis’s own face contorted a bit as he watched the video, first once and then twice. In the comments below it, a user identified the locale as the Tributary Bar & Grill—this must be the source of Louis’s gains on the Cryptovest app!
Louis laughed out loud, still making his way home from the cell phone store, it dawned upon him that the internet’s collective attention paid suddenly and completely to the Tributary Bar & Grill had directly caused his healthy profit. He navigated back to Cryptovest, an idea forming in his mind. It probably wasn’t possible to manufacture this sort of success, but maybe…