I encountered a friend during my walk yesterday after I finished writing. We met at an intersection as I came up a hill. We were going the same way after that, so we walked together and talked.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Decomposing. Just finished my writing. I like to walk for thirty minutes after writing to think about what I wrote and what I’m going to write next, and get some exercise after sitting for so long. You? Where are you heading?”
“I’m going to the store to buy a lottery ticket.”
That surprised me, and I said so. I didn’t think he was the lottery ticket-buying kind, if you understand. He laughed and agreed, telling me that he wasn’t, but an aunt had called and told him that she’d dreamed he’d win some money in the lottery, so he was doing as she bid because he told her that he would. He didn’t believe that he’d win, but he’d made a promise. He’s seventy and ended up telling me that his aunt is twelve years younger than him.
“Tell me,” he said. “If you don’t mind. You write every day, right? If you won the lottery, would you quit writing? I assume some pursuit of money or income is involved in your quest, but it seems like you write for something else, from all of our conversations.”
No, I wouldn’t quit writing. I write for me and my entertainment. Yes, I want others to read and enjoy what I write — I don’t want to keep this a private party. But writing, imagining situations, experiencing characters, finding the words, etc., is a pursuit that provides tangible satisfaction with the joy of discovering the story, exploring it, and putting it on some medium where others can enjoy it.
That’s what I told him, but in less words. The short answer is, it’s not about money.
It’s about writing.
I dreamed that I was hired for a new job. My wife had a new job, too. Although they were in the same general business park, we decided to drive separately.
I arrived on time in a suit with tie, and found my new business location. True Focus had hired me, sight unseen, without even interviews. I’d submitted my resume on a whim, so I was surprised.
But I’d take it and do what I could with it. I found an HR person who directed me to a work area, a half-wall cubicle in a huge room full of like cubicles. Lots of friendly people were about. As introductions progressed, I discovered that I was the only one working for True Focus. Most worked for another large corporation, the name either not given, or forgotten.
Feeling good about being there, I was settling into my space when a man came by and dropped off several folders and envelopes for me. One had a note from my boss, Trish, to come and see them when I had the chance. Meanwhile, here was some information to study.
I was excited. I opened one of the manila packets and discovered it full of packets of new American paper money with a note, “For your work.” As other workers ogled the money and made comments, I stuffed it in my pocket with the money I already had in my pockets.
Then I opened another packet, and found more money. I shoved it in my pocket. It barely fit.
I then took off my coat and sat down to go through the materials and read. I came across the note from Trish again. They were in office number forty-six. I went looking for Trish and discovered the offices were along the outside walls. Summing up the direction, I walked along, heading for forty-six, but realized that a platoon of people were in my way. I sussed that they were senior executives, and they were holding a wedding. Not wanting to interrupt, I decided I’d try again later.
Crossing back to my cubicle, I realized that I’d removed my shoes and trousers. I knew where I’d put them, but when I got there, I discovered someone else’s pants and shoes were there. They looked similar in color and style to mine, so I tried putting them on, but they were too big for me. I figured I was the butt of a joke, but I needed my pants and shoes, thanks.
People noticed the missing attire. I waved them off with a laugh and explained, “I’ve been retired. I’m not used to working clothes like this.”
My cubicle had been moved. It was full of people there for training. That miffed me. They apologized, but they were doing as they were told. I shrugged it off, deciding that I’d work around it for now and sort it later. Someone brought me my pants and shoes. At that point, I noticed that my fingernails were painted dark gray. I laughed about that, remembering that I’d been fooling around and painted them, and then had forgotten about it.
The money felt wadded in my pocket, so I took it out to organize it. I keep pulling money out of my pocket. People passing noticed it, and made jokes. I finally got all the money out, smoothed it, put it all together in fat bundles, and put them back into my pockets.
I went to find Trish in forty-six again, but remembered that I didn’t have my pants on. Returning, I put them on, and set out again. I reached forty-six. It was a small office with a woman and two men in it set across a table from one another. They were about to close the door to start a meeting. The woman said something about who I was, that she didn’t even know me. I gave her an arch reply along the lines of my name and the fact that I was her new hire. One man, who looked like an older version of Ron Weasley from the early Harry Potter movies, said, “Oh, you’re my new hire. I’m Trish.”
He asked me if I had the True Focus mission statement. I said, “No, I didn’t know that I was supposed to bring it.”
He said, “The mission statement is what it’s all about.”
I said, “I’ll go back and get it,” and walked away.
Digging into his pocket, Chasm pulled everything out, dropped it on the counter, and took in the lifetender. Her neck and arms were lean and bare. Alabaster skin and sculpted coal black hair accented her blue eyebrows, green eyes, red pearl earrings, and brown lips.
Leaning forward, the lifetender watched Chasm’s discs take on green, gold, and silver. Her name holo said she was Kymeri and she was not available.
“You got something,” Kymeri said. Her long, flashing red fingernails raked the discs into order as their denominations came up. “Thousand dollar goldisc, a D, silver century, a wide array of greendiscs.” Her fingernails flashing gold, she tapped the individual discs. Each spoke its value. When she’d tapped the last greendisc, she clicked her fingernails together. Changing to green, her nail said, “Seventeen hundred sixty-seven dollars.”
Just short of a day’s pay, a reflection of the six hours Chasm had worked. “What can I get for that?”
“Night room, joy doll, two squares, dozen drinks, new clothes.”
“What would that leave me?”
“Depends on particulars.”
“Of course. There a budget package?”
Shaking her head, Kymeri said in a low voice, “You don’t want a budget. Get a deluxe, at least. You can afford it. Budget drinks are well liquor or piss beer with compiled food, and the clothes are plastic.”
“Can I budget and then upgrade the drinks to IPA? I don’t need many, maybe three bigs.”
Her fingernails flashing green, the lifetender said, “Okay, a budget room is a bed with a pop out commode, access to the ionizer, private sink, standing space and one chair.”
“Included. Joy doll?”
“No. Trade in for the clothes?”
The lifetender shrugged with a dispassionate scan over his black plastic-encased torso. “Your stuff isn’t much. Probably a ten.”
The negotiations were continued. When it was done, Chasm had spent eleven hundred. It scared him to spend so much.
He was ported into his pod. Soft white lights came on. No windows, one large monitor, doublewide bed, chair, sink, port token switch for the ionizer, and popout commode, as promised.
Squirming into the chair, Chasm guzzled his first IPA. Decent stuff, but most importantly, cold. Tension sloughed out of his shoulders. It’d been a good day. He’d found work and was promised more. He was off the street, had a clothing credit, two meals paid for, along with the IPA and water, and still had almost five hundred in discs.
Life was good. Kicking off his shoes, Chasm unfolded his laptop from his hip pocket and plugged it in to play some games.
For the first time in at least a year, he was looking forward to tomorrow.
He’d been in darkness for so long, he’d last track of who he was. Questions plagued him about the value he put on himself, his purpose and goals, maddening lack of motivation, and most of all, who he was . He was so lonely, never seeing others. Sometimes he heard them and yearned to be part of the conversations and celebrations, but he never seemed to have the courage or strength needed to make that change.
Then, one day, the Earth moved in a starling way. He felt a hand on him. It drew him into a light.
“What’s that?” someone said as he blinked against the unaccustomed brightness.
“A wrinkled old ten dollar bill,” someone else said. “Woo hoo, I’m rich. Beer’s on me.”
I know money can’t buy happiness, but sometimes it buys a pretty satisfying meal – like pizza and beer.
So much is written about money, right? About needing it, hating it, not having it, and wanting it. It’s the root of all evil, yet churches are on net, television, and radio, begging for it. It’s not the money, though, right? As Marie (Bernadette Peters) said in The Jerk, “I don’t care about losing the money. It’s losing all the stuff.”
Today’s song is one of my all-time favorites. Why? I like the clashing drums, screaming guitars, and scathing lyrics. “Money. Get back. Keep your hands off my stack.”
Here’s Pink Floyd with “Money” from waaayyy back when I was young.