Tag Archives: money

The Cricket Indoors

After much investigation
Of the window screen ajar
With a leap he is soon inside

His heartbeat
Racing, counting
The sound of wings

Like a concerto
Every verse, chorus
Bridge about a woman

And the heat of the night
The sheets where he reads
With antennae cricket music

Atop foreign land
So new his song pauses
He pounces! Glides!

The cricket indoors

Afoot rich textures
Turn calligraphy
For the mind

Carpet a kingmaker
His tales absorb
Back outside

“Scotchguarding,”
He says,
“Freshly vacuumed.”

“I am the forest,”
He declares,
“Connoisseur,

Henceforth
And forever
More.”

Joe

Joe walked the streets downtown with nothing but a mop and a bucket. He’d find you at a stop light, or right before you pulled out of a parking spot, and ask to clean your windows. He was always up front about it — just looking for a little cash, in exchange for the services rendered. The first time I met him, he must have caught me in a good mood, because I handed a dollar bill.

He pushed my hand away and turned the money down.

“How ’bout I wash your car, then you pay me for doin’ that?”

I explained to him that I had somewhere to be, that I really couldn’t sit there and wait for him to wash the car. Also, washing cars? That’s just weird. The truth of it was, he was a sketchy homeless dude with a mop and a bucket. The less time spent, the better. I offered the dollar once again, just so that he’d leave me alone. But once again, he refused.

“I don’t take handouts,” he told me. “I ain’t beggin’. Not doin’ that. All’s I want’s to do a simple service in exchange for a few bucks, like a normal person. I do somethin’ for you, you give somethin’ to me. That’s how it works, right? I’m just lookin’ to be treated like a person. Like, we havin’ a conversation right now. Like real people, you know?”

I ended up talking with Joe for a while. We sat on a bench on the New Haven Green, along with another friend of mine, and we listened to his story. He told us all about the women that he’d raped in alleyways, the houses that he burned with children still inside, just to get some extra cash for drugs. “There’s a whole lotta blood on these hands,” he told us, shrinking in his shame. “More than any man ought to see. But I done it.”

Joe was thrown from the roof of the New Haven Coliseum in a gang war. I remember hearing about it on the news when I was younger; I just assumed the man died. Apparently he was taken to the hospital and underwent extensive surgery in an attempt to save his life. Most of the joints in his skeleton from replaced by replaced by steel and plastic, or at least that’s what he told us.

Joe didn’t know who paid for the hospital bills, but he knew he should’ve died that night. He knew that he deserved to die, for all the terrible things he did. The reason he was still alive, he said, was because he wasn’t done suffering yet. “I ain’t takin’ handouts, and I ain’t beg you for cash, ’cause I don’t deserve that. I don’t deserve none of that. I’m just trying to be a person again.” And he meant it.

Joe thanked us for the conversation. He said it’d been a while since he felt like a human being, and that meant more to him than any loose change from a pocket.

Before we parted ways, Joe asked if we would let him wash our car, and of course we did. When he was done, he wouldn’t take our money. “I owed you one,” he said. “Just promise me, next time you come around, you find ol’ Joe and have him wash your car. I ain’t gonna forget.”

You can bet I get the windows cleaned every time I’m back there.

Automatic Teller

The entranceway was a net, designed to capture the sunlight before it contaminated the pub inside. Kevin had forgotten that it was still daytime. He stutter-stepped as he pushed past the door and a wave of light crashed over him, splashing across the walls and floor and burning his heavily dilated eyes.

He waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the sun, then scanned the small foyer, past the dilapidated racks of free periodicals, until he found the ATM sitting in the corner to the left of the door through which he had just exited the bar. It looked like a tired old man, leaning up against the wall with its knees up against its chest. There was ribbed plastic tubing resembling arms on either side, bent up into L-shapes at what appeared to be the elbow, and its body was more of a boxy metal trash can with worn, rounded edges that were clearly intended to make it look sleek. It had a pixelated monitor in place of a swinging lid, with a numeric keypad goatee and two scars across its chin — one for consuming the cards, the other for dispensing cash. Presently, the monitor displayed a digitized face with a sardonic, bitmapped smile.

Kevin inserted his card into the appropriate slot/scar and punched in his secret code. A voice spoke: “Ten twen-ty.three. Let.me.guess — hYour birth-Day? Ha. Ha. Ver-ee oar-idgenal,” it said, with a mechanical inflection. Kevin took a step back, being careful to keep one foot by the machine in case someone tried to rob him. He looked around the room frantically, but couldn’t see anyone. “Wuh-who said that? H-how did you know?” he said.

“Ha. Of.course. Fuh-king tip.ee.cull. Seer-heously, did.you.hwant.some-one.to.steal-hyour.i-den-ti-ty Be-cuz hyou are just.ask-ing? for.it mis-ter,” the voice responded. Kevin looked down at the ATM display in bewilderment and noticed that it was rolling its pixel-cluster eyes at him. Its bitmapped mouth was dropped open in disgust. Once it noticed him staring, it returned to its default expression of indifference. “Sorry,” it said. “hWould you like.to.make. A-deposit, or-A. hwith-drawal.”

“Uhh…withdrawl, please?” Kevin responded nervously.

“Let me-guess,” responded the machine. “hYou did-not re-uh-lies that.it-was.a cash. only-bar. Good-fuh.king-job.dumb-ass. En-ee way.how-much-would. hYou. like?”

“I’ll take eighty, please.”

“Ay-tee. Doll-ers? Gee-zus. Christ.man. How much.did-hyou drink?”

“I haven’t had anything yet. Just give me the cash!” At this point, Kevin was frustrated. Why couldn’t he just got his cash and be gone? He had always hated artificial intelligent, ever since the soda machine at work had started giving him Diet Coke “for his own good.”

The machine let out an exasperated digital sigh. “All. rite-man. Calm. down. Don’t have-a. cow. I’m-just. Try-ing.to.help. hOne-moment.please.” Kevin listened to the harddrive whirring inside and felt a sudden urge to rip it out and smash it on the street.

After about a minute, he heard gears begin to grind, and a taped-together five-dollar bill came out of the slot. Kevin waited for a few more seconds, but nothing followed, and soon the digitized emoticon face had disappeared. He smacked the machine on the side of its boxy head and yelled, “Hey! Where’s the rest of my money?”

The digital face returned with a blip wearing a straight expression. “Sar-ee, bud.ee. I’ve seen-hyour. Cred.it.Card-bill this month. I’m-just. Try.ing.to-help.Good!bye.”

Kevin stormed back into the bar, ordered a shot of whiskey, and left without giving the bartender a tip.

The Winning Ticket

Sharon kept her sunglasses on and paused to straighten out her dress, a white knee-high covered in blue and yellow flowers that she had originally bought to wear to church one Easter Sunday. Walter, her husband, told her it was too short. When she protested that it fell below the knees, he told her again, and made her buy a brand new dress that better matched the swollen bruise on her upper left cheek. Shaking the memory from her body, she clutched her purse tightly to her chest and walked through the metal detector. “Follow me,” a guard said, and she did, walking as slowly as possible with her shoulders straight and her stiletto shoes stepping one foot in front of the other, trying hard to maintain the appearance of confidence and delay her destination for as long as possible.

As they entered the Visitor’s Center, Sharon turned her nose up towards the ceiling and pretended not to notice the man on the other side of the glass holding the receiver up to his ear and forcing a smile through his crooked, toothy snarl. The skin on his face looked more worn and leathery than usual, the pockets in his flesh accentuated by the accumulated prison grime.

Sharon thanked her escort as she took a seat across the man. The prison guard stepped back, but remained in the room, hovering nearby. The man across from her began screaming into his end of the receiver before she even had a chance to pick hers up. She waited until he was finished, and then picked up her own receiver with clammy, sweaty hands, and slowly pressed it to the side of her face.

“Good afternoon, Walter,” she said. Her face read no emotion.

“Fuck you, you fucking whore. I saw the fucking news. Where’s my god damn money?”

Sharon took a deep breathe and tried to steady the shaking hand that held the phone receiver. She spoke after a pause: “I just came by — I thought I should tell you in person, that I’m not giving you anything. I’m not splitting the money.”

“Wrong again, ya stupid bitch,” he growled, leaning into the glass that divided them. “You think I don’t got time to read in here? I’m still your husband, means I’m still entitled to half. Besides — it was my numbers that won. You still play ’em, and it’s my fuckin’ numbers that hit.”

Pause. He waited for Sharon to respond, but she said nothing.

“Maybe if ya hadn’t been in such a rush to throw yer man in jail, you woulda thought’a that first. Even if we got a divorce now — and baby, I’m okay with that, just so you know — I’d still get half a’what you got. And what’s half of, uh…”

“Forty-five million.” Sharon swallowed hard and placed her free hand in her lap so that he couldn’t see it shaking. “Forty-five million dollars.”

Sharon took another breathe, dropped the telephone receiver, and for the first time in her life, she stood up and walked away. She was certain that Walter was screaming at her through the phone, telling her what a useless whore she was, and detailing all of the terrible things he was going to and all the drugs he would buy with her money.

But this time, she didn’t have to hear him.