At Cambridge Brothers Capital Markets Financial Group Incorporated, we had cock fights. In the stairwell after hours we’d strap razors to the birds and let them go at it. Dane, who specialized in emerging markets, was the organizer. Guys would come from all over the Street, and we’d generally get about four or five thousand dollars on a match. All in hundreds—that was the rule. Then we’d leave a mess of blood and feathers and go out to the bars. To this day, I have no clue who did the cleanup.
After a while, people started to get tired of roosters. All we were learning was that some cocks were tougher than other cocks, which is almost axiomatic if you think about it. So, Dane had the idea that we needed to pit different species against each other. Because then you really learn something. Fox fights a cat. Duck fights a turtle. Rabbit fights a dog. See, then you’re adding to your knowledge—you get a chance to learn the relative strengths of some of God’s medium-sized creatures.
Okay, rabbit fights a dog? You might see that as a mismatch, but then you probably don’t know much about rabbits. This rabbit was tall: on hind legs it practically came up to your hip. No one really knew the owner, but everyone said he was from Goldman Sachs, and when that bunny spilled out of his oversized briefcase, we knew we were in for a real fight. Cottontail had no tail and his eyes were huge and savage, the color of Merlot.
The dog belonged to a clueless bond trader named Rick. An ex-girlfriend had abandoned it when she’d gone to join the Peace Corps, or something. Rick was left with a shelfful of Alicia Keys and a Boston terrier named Evita. Why was the dog named Evita? Was it raised in Argentina? Did it have fascist leanings? I don’t know the answers to these questions. They weren’t the kinds of things you needed to estimate fighting form, and that was all any of us cared about at the time.
A few hours before fight night, the Dow closed over 13,000 for the first time, and nearly all of us had been doing a lot better than any of the indexes lately. We had cash, and there was the palpable sense that we wanted to throw it around, physically toss it up fully expecting that when it landed it would have increased in value by at least fifteen percent. We were all jostling and shoving and trying to prove that dropping two Gs on a terrier was more badass than putting 1500 on a rabbit. All told there had to be about eighty-grand on the steps while Cottontail and Evita fought to the death. At first the rabbit was winning, dipping and slicing, using its lightning quickness to baffle that poor hound. But finally the dog figured out how to defend, and Cottontail started to tire. When Evita took hold of the rabbit by the neck, it looked like it was all over but for the gloating.
A gunshot in a stairwell is just about the loudest sound you’ve ever heard. It’s also the kind of thing that can ricochet for half an hour, but this one nestled deep into Evita’s skull. Then the guy from Goldman stooped down to collect every single Benjamin on that staircase. He walked the rest of the way to the lobby and out the building, leaving his animal behind.
That was the last fight we ever had. After that we put a softball team together that was pretty good, and a few of us got really into felting. Dane quit Cambridge Brothers and took the rabbit up to Connecticut, where he nursed it back to health and dressed it as Bunnicula for Halloween. And the guy from Goldman Sachs? We never got a name, and everyone over there was evasive on the subject, which was very different from the kind of condescension you usually got from those people. There was a story, a reason, but no one was willing to push too hard because crossing Goldman was not something you did just out of curiosity or even the desire to recover 80,000 dollars.
Seven years later, I got a mass email from Dane. He’d started a FundMe page to raise eleven-grand to give Cottontail a proper burial. While I was debating whether or not to kick in twenty bucks, a single anonymous donor covered the cost in full, adding:
Because I liked you better
Than suits a man to say,
It irked you, and I promised
To throw the thought away.
Preston Lang is a native of New York and almost entirely a product of its public school system. His short work has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2019. He’s also published four novels with Down and Out Press and writes a regular column for WebMd.com.