Monday, November 26, 2007

border war

"This will be the only present that you get."

"You know I don't care about stuff. I-pod, cashmere sweater, a new metal driver. None of that shit. This game, matters."

"No, it doesn't. It's a game played by boys - for boys."

"You're wrong. I can see it mattering years from now. Life's struggle against it's own experience."

"That's crap. It's a football game. I don't care about the money, it's not the money. But that is a lot of money. We could fly to New York for that amount."

"We've been to New York. Plenty of times. New York will wait for us."

"New York doesn't give a shit about us."

"Besides the stagehands are on strike. The only shows you can see are The Grinch and The Rockettes Do David Letterman but Letterman is being played by a stand-in because he's also on strike so that leaves a musical about a children's book starring a man in a green costume. Wasn't that Cats? What's next? A musical based on a play based on a movie?"

"That was a book of poems. And it's movie, play, then musical. Or is it play, movie, play again? I can't remember, but you loved them all."

He could sense she was tiring. "Life is about the experiences embedded in it, and what we take from them. Isn't that what you always say."

She thought back to last year when she had drained most of her checking account to buy the Tiger Woods Grand Slam Metal Driver that he had so dearly wanted. "Wait. I thought you loved the driver?"

"I do. It was great. It is great. You know that. But more than the thing, it was the experiences it generated." He was moving to close the deal. "Remember last summer when I told you that Robb had been beating my ass every weekend on the golf course and once I got that driver and got my slice corrected, how the tables had turned? You should have seen the look on that fat-fucks face when I finally crushed him. He was up fifty and wanted to press, so I said ok, back-to-you buddy, just like that, no emotion, "back to you buddy". You know Robb, once challenged, he feels threatened and when he feels threatened he makes bad decisions. "Press again, and call." That's when I pulled the Grand Slam from the bag, he hadn't seen me use it yet, and when I buried that drive on the front edge of 17 you should have seen his face. "Holy shit man, what was that?" he'd yelled. But once he realized that $200 is a lot to lose on one hole of golf, he shanked his approach shot. He had to borrow gas money from me just to get home."

"Robb has never forgiven you."

"Fuck him. He's taken that much and more from me over the years. He deserved it. Plus, this is my way to make it up to him."

"You must have a lot of guilt. Five hundred dollars? For two tickets to a football game."

She drove to the ATM. It was Black Friday, that's what everyone called it but, Chuck called it Black and Gold Friday after his team's colors. She pulled off the traffic way, made the circle in the lot, and queued up behind a Silver Volvo SUV. It had a flag flying from the window, the university colors of the opposing team. "That makes no sense" she thought. She tried to relax. Holidays were stressful enough. Before long, a hand extended from the driver's window holding what appeared to be a can of beer. The driver dumped the contents of the beer can on the ATM, then forcibly crushed it against the machine, flipped off the hidden camera and spun off. "Morons," she yelled out the window.

She drove forward. She loved this part. After she inserted her card a voice with a slight English accent spoke to her. "Welcome. Please enter you pin number number." She punched in the number and then said to the woman, to the camera, to no one, "That's the reason not to let your children borrow your car."

Bad at math, her checkbook was seldomed balanced correctly, so first she did a balance inquiry to make sure that there was enough money in her account for this debacle. $1374.62. Whew. Good. She was always afraid that she had made a double payment. Or put the wrong check in the wrong envelope. Once she put the mortgage check in the credit card statement and those assholes had cashed it. Just like that. It took her account months to recover. She went through the routine again, then hesitated at the amount. OK, how much? The ticket broker wanted 500 dollars for 2 club level seats in the end zone. She decided on six hundred. That would give her pocket money for most of the week. At the end of the transaction, the voice came on and said, "We're sorry, we cannot process you request at this time." What? She ran through it again. This time for $500. Again the same voice. Fuck. That's why those assholes were going crazy. It's out of money. The day after Thanksgiving and all the out-of-towners and holiday shoppers had bled it dry. Fuck. FUCK. FUCKKK! She screamed. Then apologized to the machine. "Sorry."

Now she would need to go to the other ATM, the one in the shopping district. She knew traffic would be a terrible down there. And parking. Non-existence. This was turning into a nightmare. Afterwards she still had to drive to the ticket broker. This is going to shoot my whole day she thought. Maybe she should just bag it, make up some story. She got to the broker and the tickets had been sold. Chuck would never know. He would complain bitterly, but he would never know.

She drove toward the shopping district. As she approached the area she could she that cars were backed up through 2 lights. Oh jeez. She looked over and saw a place on the street, then quickly pulled over and parked. She'd have to walk, but it wasn't far, only 5 or 6 blocks. She could use the walk-up at her bank and not have to go inside. It would do her good. Maybe the walk would her calm down.

The shopping district was teeming with happy-go-lucky types, all ready to drop some money on Christmas presents. Earlier NPR had been doing a story on how important this day was to the economy. "Well, this should make Bush happy" she said to herself.

She didn't come down here enough. It was always changing. Her favorite store, a toy store, had been replaced by an I-Store. Next to it was a Lucky Jeans store. You could put your five-hundred-dollar phone in your hundred-dollar jeans pocket. The sidewalk in front of Sharper Image was crowded with hordes of young people dressed in blue. God. Who are these people? Who shops here? And what do they do for a living? It took her a minute to realize this was the opposing team cheerleader squad. That makes sense, she thought, prepare for the big game by shopping.

She walked past the Starbucks, past the Barnes and Noble. There was a Salvation Army bell ringer near the entrance. As she waited for the light to change she watched him. People came and went through the entrance, but no one stopped and put money in the pot. How does he do it? Stand the noise of that bell all day. For what? A few dollars for the needy. He looked calm though. Oblivious to all the rat race. Then she noticed the headphones. He's listening to music. On an i-pod! No wonder the bell doesn't drive him crazy, he can't hear it. He looked up, saw her watching him, and nodded to her. She looked away and crossed the street.

She glanced over her shoulder as she approached the ATM. The were so many people on the sidewalks she didn't feel threatened, but the last time she'd been here, after she taken out her cash, a panhandler had asked for money and then loudly cursed her when she claimed not to have any. It had creeped her out and made her feel guilty at the same time for not helping. She realized that she didn't like not being able to ignore the poor. It was so much easier that way.

She punched in the numbers. Out came $600 dollars. "Nothing like the magic money machine, you push the buttons, out comes the money" she said out loud and spun on her heels. The was a man right behind her wearing a Packers letter jacket, one of those gaudy things with all the patches. Super Bowl XXXI. Super Bowl I&II on the sleeves. MVP. Hideous. Must have cost a fortune.

"Can you help me?"

"What?" she didn't understand.


"No. No. NO!" She shouted at him. Several passersby stopped and stared, unsure of the exchange. She settled down. "I wish I could. I really do, but not today."

"Tickets. You want tickets."

"What? NO. I have to go. Please." She tried to push past him.

He held out his arm blocking her path. "Tickets. I have tickets." He pulled 2 tickets from his pocket and held them to her face. "I'm selling tickets. To the game." Then she saw that the elbows of the jackets were grimy and she recognized the man. Kansas City's resident homeless asshole.

"No way. You're kidding me. Are they real? They don't look real." They were too big, too colorful.

"Yeah. Real. They're real. My daugther gave them to me. For Christmas. She goes to the university. Said, go make some money. Get yourself off the street for a while."

"Your daughter. Yeah. Right. You stole them didn't you."

"No, it's true. Look at em. They're real." He shoved them at her. "These are great tickets. Thirty-five yard line."

Reluctantly she looked at them. Field Box. Section 130, row 4. Maybe they were real.

"You didn't steal these did you? If I buy these, I get burned won't I, I'll show up at the gate and they'll arrest me for stealing and I'll be out a bunch of money and not tickets."

"I'm not a thief. I'm fucked up, yes, but I'm not a thief."

"How much?"


"A thousand dollars! You're out of your mind."

"Maybe. But I'll get that before the days out. Look," he waved his hand at all the shoppers, "all these people, money to burn."

"Five hundred. I'll give you $500. That's all I have." She pulled the money from her purse and counted out 5 bills. When she came to the sixth, she crumpled it up and put it in her pocket. "I need that for food. Five hundred. Here. Take it."

"No. A thousand."

"Can't do it. That's too much."

"Got to have a thousand."

"Can't to do it."

"Take it or leave it." He turned away.

"Asshole" she muttered under her breath. He heard her and turned around. "Fucking asshole!" she said it directly to his face.

He ignored her. She watched him walk away with the tickets held over his head. He didn't go half a block before someone stopped him. They chatted for a few seconds and then he moved on.

By the time she found him again he was in front of the McDonald's several blocks away. He was speaking to the legless man on a crutch who had claimed this spot as his own. The were both eating a burger and fries. He looked up when he saw her, but he didn't say anything. She pulled the envelope from her purse and held it up. He pulled the tickets from his jacket. For a few seconds they just stared at each other, unsure of the next step. She motioned him toward the alcove. The whole thing felt seamy, like a drug deal, if this is what they felt like. She was nervous. The smell of pickles, onions, and fryer grease made her stomach churn.

"You ready to do this?" he asked.

"Yes. It's all there." She put the envelope in his hand. He held the tickets out to her. She grabbed them, quickly put them in her purse, backed away, then headed off toward her car.

"Bitch! Fuckin' uptight white bitch" he called after her and she could hear them both laughing.

She stopped. She wanted to return and demand her money back but she knew it was too late. He'd never do it and it'd be a fiasco. Worst than this one. No. She should cut the loses now. She didn't know what he'd do with the money and she didn't care. Chuck would be estastic with these tickets. They were much better than the ones he found online and now she had the better part of the day ahead of her. Maybe she'd catch a movie. Chuck didn't expect her home before three so a matinee was a definite possibility. That Dylan movie was playing at the Tivoli. Maybe she'd just head over there and see what transpired.

No comments: