SHORT STORY: Dead Money
Luck's a funny thing. Like a punch to the face. Jarring, disorienting. You "have a bit of luck" and in the moment, the world's askew. Perspectives are oblique, time and reality are a little warped. Heart palpitations. Yeah, cocaine-like thumps of a pinballish-heart in a hollow chest.
So it was, my partner and I were lucky enough to come into some money. Actually, a fair bit of money. Uhh, it was a fucking lot of money, for us. There is no reason to assume that the man was dead. The facts are simple and should be stated simply. The man was lying face down in the woods about 10 meters off the hiking trail. His wallet was so overstuffed with $100 bills that from 10 meters it appeared a secondary ass was growing from his primary. Also, he had a secondary calf growing from his primary inside his left pant leg. This was our lucky day.
Giggling madly beneath the dilapidated kitchen table, we protected our little stack of bills from the leaking ceiling. The oversized oilcloth draped on two sides, protected us from marauding eyes and curious drones that might snoop through the kitchen window. We laughed. We chest-bumped. We made sloppy love atop a bed of crisp bills in our skewed reality as the rain poured down in sheets upon the city.
In a matter of 24 hours, our fingers and brains were utterly exhausted, numb even. Compressing a 4 year finance degree into a day was a challenge but the Internet is an amazing place. I harbored value-investing ideals, long holding periods. My partner was hedge-fundy, more risk tolerant and aggressive. We fancied ourselves nouveaux accountants, financial advisors, analyst types. With great money came great financial responsibility. Peter Parker's lessons had not fallen on deaf ears. This aspect of our reality required us to quickly resign from our jobs serving burritos at Mexi-Joes, transitioning abruptly into the esoteric world of CDOs, amortization schedules and weighted average cost of capital (WACC). The acronyms were abundant. The algebra sucked. Our high school education had not prepared us for statistics.
A few rainy days and a few bottles of Jack Daniels went by. Statistics somehow became entangled with philosophy and we kept landing on Kant at the bottom of the Google-hole. We never even figured out how our inebriated minds led to Kant in the first place. Regardless, a certain weight was bearing down, reality was shifting a little as luck's euphoria dissolved.
My partner laid on the threadbare living room carpet, face down. I recreated a secondary ass atop his primary, then proceeded to recreate a secondary calf for him as well. We went through a series of experiments. He breathed for a couple of minutes while I measured the clearly visible rise and fall of his back. With stealth hands, I surreptitiously shimmied his secondary calf from beneath his pant leg, diligently recording the sensations he voiced. I sat, straddled atop his back, helicoptering my hat above my head in rodeo celebration. Again, he provided ample sensory feedback.
With our newfound statistical skills, we calculated a probability greater than 51% that the two-assed man with two calves had probably kissed heaven before our arrival. Reality un-skewed itself. Morality became the world's most insidious hangnail. Benjamin Franklin's face was quickly correlated to nausea. We decided to switch careers again, leaving the financial sector in our past.
About a week after our lucky day, we officially started into our next career. For his part, my partner spent inordinate amounts of time on the IRS website researching the organization structure of 501(c)(3). I puzzled through a series of logical questions arriving at what we both believed was a rational decision. Distributing pristine $100 bills to poor folk out in the open in a big city was inherently risky. My recent actuarial escapades had me obsessed with calculating risk and we took the decision to be ultra-secretive as we launched our charitable endeavors.
With trench coats and wide-brimmed hats, we braved the wet summer heat, dipped below the streets into the sultry subway. Incognito, we sidled up to pan-handlers, mariachi bands, frumpled Nebraskans strumming ancient 5-strings and roly-poly Guatemalan mamacitas peddling churros 3-for-a-buck. Into their pockets we attempted to reverse-pickpocket crisp $100 banknotes. But, in New York City, people don't take kindly to your routing in their pockets even with charitable intent. We were yelled at, accosted. In the last car on the F, my spouse received a shiner when attempting to slip a folded Benjamin into the breast pocket of drunkard who had recently soiled himself.
We switched tactics.
Under the cover of night, we shed our trench coats, lurked in the shadows. Hot air vents on sidewalks during cool nights. Concealed service entrances. Beneath bridges. The much stereotyped park bench. Rough sleepers, we hit them all. The sleeping homeless were visited by the $100-bill-dispensing-fairies. They were to wake up the following morning to a new financial reality. Lives would get sorted out. Shitloads of cute babies would be born, successful careers started and new cars purchased after heated rounds of negotiation. A new world for the down and out - evenings spent over-watching reality TV, funny, idiosyncratic moments from the day shared with a loving spouse. Charity makeover compliments of the man with two asses and administered by the most effective 501(c)(3) in the five boroughs.
The news was swift. Apparently dead homeless people were popping up all over the city. Autopsies were underway, but a theory of mass poisoning was floating about in the least reputable rags. Of course the most peculiar link among the dead was the fact that each had a crisp $100 somewhere on their person. Foul play was suspected by the police given the strange correlations, however they were tight-lipped and provided no clues about the leads they were chasing.
And now we find ourselves sitting beneath the kitchen table once again, the oilcloth our waterproof mat on which to sit. The rain continues. The ceiling bulges now with invading rainwater. Latex hematomas. Liquidy zits pissing down on us. We might very well float away on our little oilcloth. Perhaps we are meant to be sailors? Sadly, there seems to be no desire to make sloppy love. In fact, we've been avoiding eye contact for several hours. My partner seems to not want to talk. Sirens make us jump. Mexi-Joes, won't return our calls. Money's getting tight and the rent on our leaky apartment is due. Hiding from God-knows-what in our apartment isn't the answer. Perhaps we should escape to the woods, go for a hike.
- images are taken from either pixabay or Google images (labeled for reuse) and are free to use under creative commons.
- original story - content belongs to Daniel Shortell