Episode the Eleventh: Little Dot Starts a Business

By: Mr. E. S. Stranger

Little Dot loved her new house. She made trips back and forth between her old house and her new house several times a day. She worked tirelessly at planning where stuff would go when she finally had some. She wanted hobbies, she had decided, lots of hobbies. She had every intention of taking up gardening, scrapbooking, porcelain doll collecting, crocheting, cooking, parasailing, kayaking, scuba diving, boating, karate, bounty hunting, bear wrestling, and several other activities. All the planning made her tired and hungry, and a few times a day she would return to her mother's kitchen to refuel. At the end of the day, she threw herself into her bed and slept soundly.

One morning, she awoke, refreshed, to the sound of her frog humming some pleasant music. Calmly she went to the shower, where she and her frog sang oldies together, the frog in one key and Dot covering the others. Her brother retreated to the other side of the house, as far away from the sound as he could go. He decided to get the mail. As he brought it in, he saw that one envelope was addressed to Dot.

"Little Dot," read the front. There was no address beyond that. The corner read simply, "The Guverment." Dot's brother sighed and took the mail in.

When Dot walked out into the living room, washed and dressed, the envelope was waiting for her on the table.

"What's that?" she asked.

Her brother shrugged without looking at her. "Open it if you want to know."

She opened the envelope and found a letter written in pen on a piece of cheap lined paper. Dot read it and went to her mother.

"What's property tax?" she asked.

"That's money you pay the government every year when you own a house."

"Oh," Dot said. Then she asked, "What does 'delinquent' mean?"

"If taxes are delinquent, that means they weren't paid when they were supposed to be."


"Why? Where did you see those words?"

"I was just curious," Dot said, taking the paper to her room and thinking.

Zoyla was sitting on the floor, coloring, when Dot came in.

"Zoyla!" Dot exclaimed.

"Hey, Little Dot," Zoyla said, not looking up from her coloring.

"How did you get in here?"

"I've been here all day."

"No, you weren't! I just came out of here, and you weren't here."

"Did I come in through the front door?" Zoyla asked.

"No," Dot replied. "I'm sure I would have seen you."

"Did I come in through a window?"

"No...you couldn't have. The windows are closed and locked."

Zoyla looked around. "I don't see any other way to get in."

"Well, that's because...there isn't one..."

"I must have been here, then," Zoyla replied. "Could you hand me the Appalachian Twilight?"

Dot looked uncertainly at the crayons. Zoyla gestured at a section of floor.

"It's the bluish-purplish one over there."

Dot stared at the crayons there, many of which were bluish purple. Zoyla made an impatient noise and grabbed one of them herself.

"Gee, Little Dot, you really need to learn your colors."


Dot went to the bed and sat down, looking glum. Zoyla kept coloring. Dot sighed. Zoyla contemplated her picture and then chose Aged Egyptian Camel Fur as her next color. Dot lay down on the bed and let out a louder sigh. Satisfied with the lighting of her picture, Zoyla looked up with a grin.

"So, how are things?"

Dot held up the letter from The Government. "I'm losing my house," she said.

Zoyla went to her, took the note, and read it. "No, you're not," she said. "You just have to pay them what you owe."

"But I don't have that much money!"

"Not a problem," Zoyla said. "Just follow me. We'll start a business."

"Really?!" said Little Dot.

"Oh, sure! It's easy! The only hard part is picking a cool name."

"Shouldn't we figure out what our business is about first?"

Zoyla thought about that one. "Hmm...it's radical, but we can try it. So...what should we do?"

"Well...we could let people pay for rides on my horsedog."

"Okay! Where is he?"

They searched the house for Jimi but couldn't find him. Jimi, with his sharp ears, had heard the discussion and chose to hide underneath Dot's mom's bed until the idea blew over. Dot and Zoyla gave up quickly and sat down again.

"Hmm..." Zoyla said. "Maybe we can sell something."

Dot thought about all the things she had-her bed, her clothes, her toys-and nothing seemed right. "Mom?" she said to her mother, who was walking by.

"What is it, Dot?"

"Do we have anything to sell?"

"Why?" her mom asked.

"I really need money."

"You've got everything you need here," her mom replied. "You don't need to sell our stuff."

"Oh," Dot said. She and Zoyla sat together. They tapped their fingers on the table together until Dot's brother bared his teeth and growled at them. Dot's face lit up.

"My frog!" she said.

"Where is he?" Zoyla asked, understanding immediately.

"He's in my shower curtain."

"Let's get him!"

They had the shower curtain half off of the shower when Dot's mom saw them and had Dot put it back up. Dot had to clean the sink and shower as her punishment. The day was growing late, and Dot was losing hope, when Zoyla smiled.

"I know," she said.

"What?" asked Dot.

"Come on."

Zoyla led Dot outside. Once there, she pulled a table, chairs, and a sign out of her bag. She hung the sign on the table facing the street. It read, "D&Z Brokerage and Realty Co." Dot was impressed.

"Does 'D and Z' mean 'Dot and Zoyla'?"

Zoyla nodded, grinning with her buck teeth.

"So..." Dot continued, "you already had the sign in there?"

"You never know when you'll need your own brokerage and realty company," Zoyla asserted.

"That's true," Dot said. "So then, what do we do?"

"We wait for clients."

"Then what?"

"You'll see."

They sat and waited. The neighborhood was quiet at first, but it wasn't long before a few rich businesspeople began wandering the sidewalk. One stopped at their booth and gazed thoughtfully at the sign.

"I think I could go for some financial products right about now," he said. "What are you offering?"

"Oh, you're just in time," Zoyla said. She pulled a piece of paper out of her bag and handed it to the man. "This here is our latest financial growth tool. I call it the Premium Quasi-Logical Existential Super Future."

The businessman's mouth watered a little. "That sounds new."

"It's very new."

"What's it worth right now?"

"Nothing, but I expect that value to rise exponentially."

The man stared at the paper in awe. "Wow. So, how does it work?"

"Well," Zoyla began, "first you buy it here. You pay the full value of the asset, which is nothing, plus any transaction fees."

"What are the fees?"

"Five dollars."

"That's cheap."

"I know!" Zoyla replied, her eyes glistening. "And the asset will never decrease in value! That certificate entitles you to a portion of the net revenue of our brokerage operations. As brokers, we earn twenty percent of all gross revenue together. The rest is divided among the certificate holders according to how many certificates each holds. This is a future, so you can cash it in at any time."

"What share do I have?" the man asked.

"None. You haven't bought anything."

"Oh. What share will I have if I buy this future?"

"You'll be the only certificate holder, so you'll own one hundred percent."

"Have you made any money yet?"

"We're about to make five dollars."

"And I own all of that?"

"Not until you purchase a certificate."

"Oh, right." He pulled out his wallet. "How much does the certificate cost?"


"No kidding. Now that's a steal. And the fee is what?"

"Five dollars standard per transaction."

"Well, I'm sold."

He handed over five dollars. Zoyla pulled a laptop computer out of her bag, opened it up, and typed some things. She handed a form to him, which he filled out and handed back, and she typed some more.

"Congratulations," she said. "You now own the certificate."

"So I can get my five dollars?"

"It's four. Remember, we take twenty percent as our fee."

"Oh. Is it transferable?"

"You can sell it at any time," she replied. "We'll record the sale here. The certificate is currently worth four dollars, but I'll buy it from you for five dollars."

He was stunned. "Gee...ok. Here."

He handed over the certificate. Zoyla handed him his five dollars. She recorded the transfer.

"There you are, Sir. Would you care to purchase more futures? The value just rose to five dollars apiece."

He did some calculations. "So...I pay ten dollars including the transaction fee?"

"No, that's the best part! As a prior customer, you pay the lower of the current value or the value of your first certificate. You'll always get the best deal!"

"Wow! A five-dollar certificate for free! I'll take ten!"

She accepted his five dollars. He took his certificates and left. Before long, he had brought a friend to the booth. The friend purchased ten certificates at the five-dollar rate. Some more businesspeople joined them, and before long there was a small bidding war on the sidewalk as the men and women, foaming at the mouth, bought certificates and sold them to each other at higher and higher rates. The value of the Super Future rose steadily throughout the day, and both Zoyla and Dot worked hard to keep up. In the late afternoon, Zoyla pulled a buzzer out of her bag and made it go off. The businesspeople voiced their disappointment but wandered away. Dot and Zoyla worked to put the outdoor office and their earnings, which they had locked in a safe, into Zoyla's bag. They were exhausted but excited about all the money they had made.

The next day, they started early. A group of businesspeople were gathered on the sidewalk already, and trading started earnestly as soon as Zoyla rang the buzzer. They had to stop a few times for breaks, including once for lunch. On their lunch break, a man in a suit showed up. He looked suspiciously at their setup.

"Where can I find Little Dot and Zoyla?"

"That would be us," Dot said. "Who are you?"

"I'm Agent Jones. I represent the government."

"Oh. What can we do for you?"

"Are you properly licensed?"

Zoyla pulled a set of licenses out of her bag. "Here you go."

The man examined them. "These were issued by the state of Missouri."

"No problem," Zoyla replied. She pulled the state of Missouri out of her bag and set it down around them. "I knew this would come in handy someday."

The man was clearly not pleased. "I've had reports of unusual financial products being sold on this block. If you two are into anything dishonest, I will shut you down."

"Well, it's all there in the papers. If you need anything else, you can speak to my lawyer."

Zoyla pulled Funny Bunny out of her bag. He was dressed in a suit.

"Are you harassing my client?" Funny Bunny demanded.

The agent glared at them. "You have a nice day." He walked off.

Their business increased so much that day that they brought in Toona to help with filing and other office tasks. By the end of the day, they had a file cabinet, a printer/copier, and a Toona-sized cubicle out in addition to their other equipment.

"Tomorrow," said Zoyla as they put everything away, "we begin our realty operations."

Dot looked forward to it all night. She woke up as soon as the frog started singing, and right after breakfast, she and Zoyla were out at their brokerage table.

"So," said Dot, "what are our realty operations?"

"First," said Zoyla, "sell me your house."

"What? No!" exclaimed Dot.

"Trust me. Sell it to me for two hundred thousand dollars. I have all the paperwork."

She pulled it out and showed it to Dot. Dot didn't want to sell the house Zoyla had given her, but she trusted Zoyla and signed all of the papers.

"Done, then," said Zoyla. "I don't need an extra house, though. I'll sell it back for one hundred eighty thousand."

"Ok," Dot said, and she signed all of the next papers, too.

Zoyla then bought it back again for one hundred sixty thousand dollars, after which Dot bought it back for one hundred forty thousand, and back and forth they went until the house was only worth twenty thousand dollars. They waited. Zoyla had converted their brokerage operations to an e-trade service to keep from being overwhelmed by businesspeople, so they were free all day.

It wasn't long before the other people who lived on Dot's street found out about the falling property values in their neighborhood and started looking for a real estate company. Dot and Zoyla were right there when the first person walked up.

"I just saw that property values have plummeted here," she said. "Would it be best just to walk away while I still can?"

Zoyla winked at Dot, who knew just what to do. "This neighborhood really is going downhill," Dot said. "Prices are near zero right now. Pretty soon, you'll have to pay us to take your home."

"Oh, my," the homeowner said. "How much will you give me for my home?"

"I'll check," Dot replied. "Toona, what's the current appraisal of her property?"

"Let me see," Toona said, consulting his tiny computer. "Based on its attributes, its current condition, and recent sales...I'd say about thirty thousand dollars."

"I'll offer it to you for forty thousand," the homeowner said.

"Done," said Dot. Zoyla prepared all of the paperwork, and before long they owned another house. More and more homeowners followed. Soon they owned half the neighborhood.

In the early afternoon, there was a lull in business traffic. Dot and Zoyla soon discovered that a boy had set up a lemonade stand down the street and was distracting customers. Together, Dot and Zoyla marched over to him and made him an offer. For twenty dollars he agreed to indefinitely suspend all beverage-selling operations within a two-mile radius of D&Z Brokerage and Realty Co. They returned to their own sidewalk office, and business resumed.

Once they owned most of the homes in the neighborhood, they began trading Dot's house back and forth until it was back up to two hundred thousand dollars. People started to come again, excited that property values had begun to rise. They bought each other's homes for more than they had accepted for their own. By the end of the day, Dot and Zoyla's account was overflowing with funds.

"Wow," Dot said, looking at how much they had made. "What now?"

"We're almost done," Zoyla said. "Tomorrow, we start selling stock."

"Ok," Dot said. They packed up, and she went home.

When she met Zoyla the next day, Zoyla showed her a message she had sent to all the people on their contact list. It advised them to ask about a 'new opportunity.'

"I gave them no other information, so they should be willing to spend some time talking about it," she said.

"But what is the opportunity?" Dot asked.

"We're selling stock."

"What is stock?"

"We're selling pieces of the company."

"But...why?" Dot asked. "Won't other people own our business, then?"

"Don't worry about it," Zoyla assured her. "Let's just be sure to sell our stock quickly."

They waited. Sure enough, a young businesswoman came by, wondering what the opportunity was. Zoyla asked her what she did.

"I work for a company that makes anvils," she replied.

"Really?" answered Zoyla, excited. "I drop anvils! What a small world!"

She and the woman chatted for a while. She made her way eventually to the stock presentation. Zoyla referred to a chart showing the company's revenue increases over the past few days. Toona and Funny Bunny helped by pointing to parts of the chart and handing the woman leaflets as needed. The woman was impressed.

"I'll buy one thousand dollars worth of shares," she said. She gave them a cheque, and Zoyla processed the transfer of shares.

"Is that all?" Dot asked.

"Yes, that's all. Do you think you can take the next one?"


All that day, they sold stock. By the end of the day, they owned only a small piece of their own company.

The next day, Zoyla called a stockholder meeting. Most of the new shareholders showed up. They elected a board from among themselves, and the board made Zoyla and Dot Chief Executive Officer and President, respectively. Zoyla took care in negotiating their contracts with the aid of Funny Bunny, her legal adviser. When it was over, they packed up and went home.

"What now?" Dot asked. "What do we do?"

"Things will take care of themselves," Zoyla said. "We're done here for now."

Dot went home. The next day, there was a letter in the mail from Agent Jones instructing them to cease all brokerage operations or face charges. Zoyla paid all certificate holders their dues. When the Board of Directors found out that the company's main source of money was gone, they naturally fired Dot and Zoyla, but per their contracts, Dot and Zoyla got to take a large portion of the company's profit, and the company was obliged never to ask for any of the money back. The company was dissolved soon thereafter, and Dot and Zoyla rested with their earnings.

After they calculated their earnings, they discovered Dot had enough to pay the property tax on her house for years to come.

"What will you do with your money?" she asked Zoyla.

Zoyla shrugged. "I don't know. I can always find something to buy with it."

Dot nodded. She understood.