This is the letter a confused, old historian writes to his financial adviser.
Dear Mr. Warren E. Buffett*,
I am writing this letter to tell you about the situation I encountered the other day. I do not entirely understand its nature, but I thought you might find it of interest:
My books are so dry and dusty, they started making me cough and sneeze. When the doctor told me to stop studying for a while, I had to take a vacation and head out into the real world.
I hadn’t been there for at least ten years, but I found it just as I’d left it, filled with folks who grew rubber balls of stomachs and talked of nothing more exciting than “I love Lucy” reruns.
Tortured by such contact with the idiocy of the ignorant, I stumbled on a group of students discussing Buffett, the Vampire Killer.
Now, of course, I’ve always followed your advice in every matter, Mr. Buffett, and as I’m sure you’re aware, I own considerable shares in your Berkshire Hathaway and faithfully submit checks to you each month so you will continue to grow my portfolio in the admirable way you've done in the past, but hearing those teens discuss your advice made me eagerly hold my breath and listen avidly.
“Yeah, like man, did you get a load of those rags?”
If anyone could afford nice clothing, I knew that it was certainly you, since you are, of course, one of the world’s richest men. I couldn’t understand why the kids would say you were in rags. My ears pricked, and I listened harder, hoping for insight.
“Yeah, and the cartwheel with that karate kick. Man, that was awesome!”
Since you are a man who will never see his late sixties again, I couldn’t believe they’d observed you doing such gymnastic stunts, but then you’d just had that shareholders' meeting, and I was pretty sure you’d do anything for us stockholders.
A teenaged girl spoke up then, her face all lit up in admiration. I was impressed that somebody so young would esteem a financial guru like yourself.
“That’s my favorite show. It’s so cool," she said.
I was stunned to hear you were now televising your advice. I’d thought you said you didn’t like that kind of publicity. I shook my head and wondered if it was time for new hearing aid batteries. I took one out, refitted it, and tried again.
“ . . .way he stabs that stick into their hearts. You never see any red blood ‘cause they’re all dead, but it’s still so cool.”
I found that the most confusing of all, Mr. Buffett. I wondered what company you'd been stabbing. I thought you always said you didn’t touch dead companies. After all, when they're bleeding debt, isn't that a signal to let them go?
I moved closer to catch every word of the teens. Unfortunately, they noticed.
“Hey, man, what’s with you? You into us or something?”
Of course I answered. They looked horrifyingly dangerous. It wasn't a good time to play mute.
“Well,” I said, “actually, I found your conversation enlightening. It’s not often that I meet people who know so much about finance.”
“What’s he talking about?" the four teens questioned, scratching their stringy hair. I peered at their faces through my thick-rimmed glasses and realized that I’d erred somewhere. I never could figure out where, though, because they got up and left, calling me words I didn’t quite catch.
A moment later a black-suited man, wearing the kind of cape that went out in pirate days, oozed into the seat beside me. “You interested in Buffett?” he asked.
“I sure am,” I told him. “I’ve never met anyone as astute. That’s why I use Geico Insurance. I figure it has to be reputable with such an expert in the know.”
(Mr. Buffett, please understand I’m not polishing the apple, just relaying the night that passed which grows even stranger . . .)
“I see,” the pale, young man said, fixing me with a stare of rather reddish-looking eyes. “I’m not familiar with Geico, but I am knowledgeable about Buffett. What they tell you is all fiction, you know.”
“Is that right? Pray explain. I’m a social historian, so these kinds of things truly fascinate me.”
The man flashed his expensive watch, shot a glance out the window at the moon, and started talking.
“First of all, Buffett wouldn’t be able to cartwheel around like that. A vampire’s eyes would prevent the necessity for such action."
The man said that while tapping his cheek and pointing to his eyes. I understood him perfectly -- well almost perfectly. I decided that the vampire he was referring to must either be the tax man or a company that preyed on others.
“Do you mean that Buffett is the vampire. . . or is it the tax man?” I asked, searching for clarity.
“Ah, I see you’re interested in such things. Yes, there have been many vampire tax men. It is an interesting correlation, don’t you think? They suck blood while taking money from the helpless. That is, of course, how we derived the term ‘blood money'.”
This was all too good to be true. I got out my notebook and began to jot down the man's words.
“In Paris back in 1764, Jean Paul Gludot was strung up for taking a man’s life blood away. Of course the French couldn't kill him, since he was already dead. He escaped to America, it's said.”
I scribbled away, sneezing a bit, but happy as a clam gurgling in salt water. I asked question after question about the impact of that on the French. The man seemed happy to oblige.
But finally, I put my book away and said, “Yes, but back to Buffett. What other things are lies about the man?”
His red-hued eyes assessed me. “You remind me of a great friend I once knew in London," he said. "He ignored the reality in front of him. One day he was completely drained.”
“Bad investments?” I asked, nodding my head in understanding.
“'Blood suckers are all around you', I used to tell him, but he never believed me. Theodore Montane was his name. They found him one day white as farm butter.”
“That’s why I keep my money with Buffett,” I told the man. "I’d never risk it with anyone else."
“So you’re a supporter of the Vampire Killers?” the man asked, growling low.
I’d never had anyone growl at me before. I wasn’t sure what to say. I noticed that the restaurant was darkening, which rather worried me. I decided that cordiality might be a good thing to advance.
“Tell me about your friend, Theodore Montane. Couldn’t you help him in his adversity?”
The man’s teeth retreated slightly. I loosened my collar and darted a look around, wondering where the waiter was. I was way past ready to pay my check.
“Once a fellow is empty, there is nothing even one of us can do.”
“Of course,” I said. “Such a shame. Did he leave a family?”
“I adopted his daughter," the man told me. "She lives with me. She is one of us now, of course.”
“A good investor," I said, smiling and feeling a little more relaxed than I had a moment before. "I’m pleased to hear that. Young people today never think they need to save, but that’s the only way anyone can get ahead.”
“Very true . . .," he agreed, "unless they have an abundance of time.”
“You're right, my friend. Compound interest wins out every time.” I laughed, wondering what had happened to our conversation about you, Mr. Buffett.
“We, in my sect, have an eternity of time," the fellow went on to say.
The small hairs on my forearm stood up at attention as I wondered suddenly about the mental prowess of the man sitting beside me. Eternity? Sect? Was he into a new religion? Was he speaking about an annuity? I scratched my brain, trying to remember if I’d ever heard of such a company.
“Pardon me. Did you say you make investments in a company called Eternity?” I asked.
The man began to laugh. “Yes, I suppose one could say that. Eternity is the main asset after all.”
“I see,” I hedged, but I didn’t. I rose. So did the gentleman. I thought nothing of it since the restaurant was closing down. Yet, as I paid my check and walked out the door, the strange man remained close to my side. I panicked, wondering which car was his.
“So, are you interested in this Eternity?” the man asked as I stepped down off the curb.
“I work more with the past,” I told him. “Oh, you mean as an investment?” I had my key out, ready to bolt in case the man pulled out a prospectus.
“Yes, a long-term investment," he said, smiling with teeth much longer than I'd remembered, "or," he continued, as I backed away, "if you'd prefer, we can make it extremely short-term. Either option is available.”
I shook my head emphatically and said, “Not interested. I never deal with options.” Then I hightailed it over to my sedan. I was just unlocking the door when I felt the man’s black cape wrap itself around me. It paralyzed all movement. Almost immediately then, I felt his sharp teeth prick into my neck. Warmth spread throughout my body. I sighed and edged closer to him. I don’t know what came over me, but in my ecstasy I cried out, “Buffett . . . ”
The man broke away, screeched like a wounded bat, and cursed the name of Buffett. I clasped my neck, finished opening my car, and slid into the seat.
When I got home I studied my neck. Just as you’ve always told us there is a world of bloodsuckers out there waiting to throw their larcenous schemes in our faces. But I remained true to your words, Mr. Buffett, and it obviously saved both my neck and my finances.
Thank you for your continued financial advice,
Sergio Alejandro Peabody
* Warren Buffett is the financial guru of Omaha, Bill Gate's best friend, and one of the wealthiest men in the United States. He runs a company called Berkshire Hathaway, shares of which run around $10,000 EACH except for the B shares which are considerably less since they recently split.