Talk Money To Me

"Make yourself comfortable," I said.

I could tell it was his first time. So jittery. He was dressed in an expensive suit, spiky gray hair and bright red tortoise shell glasses. He poured himself a Dewar's, straight, then loosened his tie. "I'm Tony Bewick-Smith." He gulped. "I'm a partner and creative director for a major record label, a father of three, nobody could ever imagine I'm doing this. I've got an image to protect here." He had a pronounced British accent, sort of Dick Van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins' meets Dudley Moore in 'Arthur.'

"Don't worry," I cooed, "just relax and let it all come out, it'll feel good, it's perfectly OK."

He was my first trick of the day, a new mark. I'd just finished my Zabar's Dark Roast -- with soy milk -- and the fog of the night before was finally lifting. He was referred by another client, a P.S. 9 mom, a Senior V.P. at Chase, a woman who really appreciated getting down and dirty with me about her financial masquerades. After all, I was the "Fiscal Whore of West End Avenue."

I came up with the idea at the school spring auction, over ceviche and caviar canap├ęs. We'd just maxxed out our fourth and final Visa card, and I put two and two together and figured that if we were so up to our asses in debt we squeaked, so were all our neighbors. That despite all our new Volvo SUVs, flat screen plasma televisions and US Open box seats, all us upscale Manhattan parents were as destitute as a Calcutta toilet cleaner and his family, maybe more. And looking around, I could see that we all thought we were fooling each other into thinking we actually had money.

What about sex? Forget sex, nobody had time for sex anymore, even Newsweek knew that. Financial Truth, that was real love that dare not mention its name. More than screwing me, (and with my personal trainer, Botox and augmentation, my figure is anything but demure), I had a strong hunch the good people of the Upper West Side would pay big for the treat of unpeeling the nasty truths about their debts and indemnities to me. And was I ever right!

I started small, my husband Randy pimping for me at the Yale Club. My first tricks would involve just a peak at a delinquent credit card statement, maybe a collection notice. But before I knew it, my 'marks' were stacked up three deep, waiting for a "tumble" with me. No touching. No rubbing. Strictly laying financial lies bare -- and they couldn't wait to do it and do it again.

Bewick-Smith tugged on one of his onyx cufflinks, deep in thought, and then burst forth, "Let me start with the suit, Prada, it cost nearly four thousand dollars, 3867 to be exact. And if at this moment the people from Prada or Chase Bank or Barclaycard as much as see the reflection of me in it, they are fully within their legal rights to rip the damn thing right off my back and have me parade up and down Madison Avenue buck naked. Last night, I open the mail and saw I was declined for the fifth credit card of the month, I'd maxxed out the last credit card that still works, Bank of New York declined me, Amex Blue, rejected, Capital One, nope, MBNA, three nada's, even Diner's Club, who I didn't even realize was still in business for Christ sakes, even they told me take a hike. I'm wanted by four different courts on three continents and very lowest rate I can get on a personal line of credit, even from an Indian bank buried deep in the rumbling bowels of Astoria, Queens, is 28.99 percent."

He closed his eyes and had what appeared to be a painful spasm. Then, a smile washed over his flushed face. He sneezed into an expensive Hermes silk hankerchief and lit up a cigarette, Dunhill.

"Was it good for you?" I said.

"That was amazing, you're a very naughty girl."

He insisted I walk with him over the ATM machine and watch as he dipped into his overdraft credit line and pull out his last $300 for me, $100 more than my usual fee for a first trick.

I stuffed the crisp bills in my Dooney & Bourke tote and smiled a pert farewell. He'd be back. But I had to hurry, my next appointment, a Buddhist monk with a lien on his vintage BMW and three heavies from the Matsui Bank trying to repossess his 14th Century gong, was scheduled to arrive just after his morning meditations finished, and the holy man was a nut for punctuality.

That day, I pocketed almost a thousand dollars, cash. By the time Randy came home from work I was thirsty and I'd worked up an appetite. I suggested we blow the whole wad at Nobu, and he agreed.

If you want to know the truth, I thought a little fiduciary irresponsibility would ignite our sexual passions again. Since the money started coming in, we just weren't connecting anymore. At least running from creditors kept me and Randy partners in crime. And sex.

At the restaurant, we ordered a 1982 Latour, watched rapt as Drew Nierport himself decanted it for us, guzzled it, and polished off another. When we got home we tipped the sitter fifty dollars.

We slithered into bed and I snuggled up to Randy. But he was distracted.

"Are you sure we're all paid up, current on every last bill and debt we owe?"

"You can't say enough about cash flow," I said and nuzzled up next to him.

He turned on his shoulder and asked, "you sure there's nothing, no back taxes, no social security, no capital gains taxes, no liens, no nothing?"

I ran the figures over in my mind. "No, we're clean, business has been great, we're completely up-to-date."

"Oh," he said, and then he flipped off the light, turned over, faced the wall, and was snoring like a lawn mower in about 20 seconds.

In my dream, the Buddhist monk walks in and I give him Bewick-Smith's money. "Here," I say, "today, today I pay you." I take the crumpled hundreds out of my pocket and smooth them out for him one at a time. "Go to Atlantic City, put it all on Red."

And with each bill I give him, I am feeling better. I seem to be stroking my financial "g" spot with a feather. The little gnome looks at the bills and then, he rips them into small pieces, lets them fly like confetti around the room.

The green flakes swirl around my mouth, over my shoulders, down the front of my naked body. He takes three hundred more out of a hidden pocket on the inside of his crimson robe, crisp ones, fresh from the ATM, and these too he shreds into long, linguini-style strips. I flush. Finally I am experiencing my own 'petit mort.' The walls open up, a painfully blue Hudson River sparkles in the golden light. My master keeps pulling hundreds out of sleeves, pockets, and as soon as he pulls them out, they turn to green dust, and I inhale the dust. I chew on its grit. I rub it with my finger on the cold inside of my gums. I mixed it in with my Frosted Flakes, I swill it in my Wild Turkey. And the green powder keeps flowing. Now, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey lays far below us, a dot on the map.

Finally, I am free, free from Randy and from Bewick-Smith and from banks and wires. I am free from sex, and from time, from guilt and from pain. I float on a cloud of anti-boredom. The green powder turns into green water. I bathe in it, swim in it, the master and I do Esther Williams water ballet under it. Money and guilt and deceit and pleasure have finally given way to graceful, floating pirouettes and the judge, who is me, holds up a card, a card that says "10" and they try to give me a gold medal but I won't get out of the pool of liquid cash, because I am breathing in and out of my gills, my blood red gills, and I know my life depends on it.

About the author:

Ken Krimstein was born on a dark and stormy night. He has published cartoons in "The New Yorker," "Punch," "The National Lampoon," and "The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists." His writing has also appeared on and in the pages of the Grinnell College "Scarlet & Black." He has read as part of "Trumpet Fiction" at KGB bar in New York City.