the best of 52|250's fourth quarter

Week #40 – The money’s all gone

Week #40 – The money’s all gone

Houston Street 6 PM by Catherine Davis
Stone story by Stella Pierides 
Although Kareem is eight, he looks more like twelve. This is neither due to his hairstyle, nor to the long trousers and T-shirt he is wearing; rather the serious expression on his face, and the way he looks at you, straight in the eye. He sells stones.He picked them himself carefully: not too big, for they will not travel far; not too small, for they will impress no one. He arranged them on his wooden tray and priced them accordingly: regular, one piastra; medium, two.

By the time the protesters wake up, he is standing in the furthest corner of the square, holding his tray for them to buy his stones. He pockets the notes and coins, and by the end of the first day of business he has enough money to buy his mother flatbread and tahina; and to pay off the loan to Aziz for the trip on the felucca he didn’t want his mother to know about.

On the second day though, the protest turns violent and few buy his stones; many grab them and run. Kareem ties his money in his handkerchief, puts it in his trouser pocket and starts for home.

Hours later, when he comes to, long after the van that knocked him unconscious sped away, he feels for his bundle. It is no longer there. His strength gone, he falls back to the ground and closes his eyes. He now looks the boy of eight he is.

Paralysis by Nicolette Wong 
They say she is the wild card but the playground is empty. In the starlight I cannot see, cannot hear the voices coming from the sanctuary, a riot searing the night’s veil, ashes falling into her veins where she is turning into a statue, all grey and stone.Her grief is green and mine is blue.The playground stays empty every night.

Since she went missing I have burnt my world down: clothes, records, books and all documentary proof to my existence. Today I peel bank notes off my wallet and leave them all over the streets. If her flesh is gone, what else do I have to hold onto?

She is a young thing. So am I. Only I lost my soul early and saw it in time.

Everywhere, but forgotten by Randal Houle 
The money’s gone. She left in 1971 at the stroke of a pen and then tattooed on specially designed paper.They spent it, lent it, stacked it, and taxed it.

Until it was gone.

Then they altered, bartered, and simply made more, lots more. With the stroke of a pen they printed billions, hundreds of billions, and then we all learned a new word: a trillion.

One thousand billion, that’s what that is.

They gave it away, threw it around, and told everyone to do the same. And the money rained, because money reigns.

Until it’s gone and someone says, what about gold? With the stroke of a pen they write articles, advertisements, and essays on the subject.

They mail it in, melt it down, stamp it into ingots. It’s a sad joke like a school house bully taking a kid’s lunch and leaving a scrap of paper worth less than the ink that prints it.

And now, I must end this little tirade, for the money’s gone. Like the stroke of a pen with a dry inkwell, a figment. Maybe it never really existed at all.

A Grand New Day by Doug Bond 
Earlier that night, hungry and tired, the man split his last $50 between a bucket of chicken and the copay for a new mega-tranquilizer. Lying awake, burping, and more anxious than ever, he begins to think he’s been had. When sleep finally comes it is a compromised somnolence marked by bad dreams, swallowing seas and great cracks in the earth opening under his feet.At first light he feels it immediately, a change in the air, the lifting of a great many pounds. He hurries out the front door. A bustle and buzz attends everything he sees. Stepping up to the landing, a golden haired youth hands him a paper.“But I don’t subscribe to this paper.”

“Don’t worry, no one does anymore. Not that way. Not the old way.”

The man’s never seen this many people in his neighborhood, all of them, frankly, as jaunty and free floating as quicksilver.

A choir of street barkers and pin-striped bondsmen stroll arm-in-arm down the cobbles singing:

We let go at the very first hint,
Broke the bank and the dusty old Mint.
No quid pro quo for your nickel and dime,
For now we know we’ve got plenty of time.

Foresake the Dow!
Stop your shilling!
Trust not in Trust!
We know you’re willing!

The man calls out to the paper bearer who has yet to turn back into the fray. “What’s happened?”

“The money’s gone, that’s what. We’re free. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The Way the Wind Slices by Catherine Davis 
Beneath your frozen boots a butt in every seam of the sidewalk, so quit counting. Quit veering towards the curb where cab after cab sprays the pooling slush, while honking at god knows what. Think back to the warehouse, those thousand pounds of womanflesh glaring at you one more time-card long. Shit, so it’s uncool to notice the spare tires on those five, six bitches, how they waddle –they are going to keep at it forever ‘cause you eat French fries at lunch. Right on past tomorrow’s snow day without pay, and how the fuck can below-freezing still be wet? Across the street, a homeless guy goes down on the black ice. Sure you’d like to help, or to think that you’d like, but it’s bitter and your fingers are freezing too. Yank the hat against the bite, hunker faster and tighter.

Still, the way the wind slices, you gotta admire. Wind knows its business.

At last inside with your frostbroken feet, it’s colder than it oughta be. Only when the light switch mocks you in the indifferent dark, do you snap to the disconnect notice fallen on the threshold. Today the power company came calling. How you’re supposed to pay, it’s no use to ask. Shut the door, dump your shit, light a joint. Gather the blankets and coats in the whole place on top of you. Reckon whether your feet will be colder with the soggy boots on or off. Contemplate your breath, fogging in the gloom.

Forward to Wk #41 – Coincidence