A spot of homework no one heard
A Dollars Worth
The jangle of the Super’s keys filled the concrete and tile hall, “This rooms been empty almost six months now, people round here are willing ta pay a bit more for silence.”
“I’ll take what I can get,” the man replied.
It took the Super several times to get the door open, “you gotta jiggle the handle just right,” he smiled as he spoke, “think of it as a second lock, no extra charge. The renovations crew is next store between eight and four, the lease is only six months, this’ll be a maintenance room when they’re done.”
The door swung open and he saw the brick wall of an adjacent building framed by a bare twelve by twelve room of stucco walls and faux wood floor tiling. The Super spoke but the man could not hear him, he just stared on toward the apartment’s red brick view, his one dimensional vantage of the outside world, and he pondered how he had arrived here.
He had seen the horizon hang over his skyline view of the city, all the champagne and cashmere… the cashmere, he had given so much of it away over the years, Salvation Army, Veterans of Foreigner Wars, tax write offs – what he’d do for that luxury against his skin again. Standing in his wife’s walk in closet, while taking stock of what his wealth had afforded him and his ungrateful shiksa, his cell phone rang, “The fund is belly up! Where are you?”
He said he’d be in soon, but his face told a different story, a tortured and scared story of regret and self-pity. A story he omitted, hidden behind that fabrication, “I’ll be in soon.”
“All these stupid trinkets own you, you think you own them, you think you own me, but neither, you have neither, you lying bastard. My mother told me not to marry you, but did I listen? No, I was being lavished: I was in love,” His wife Mary snarled cynically, “just a stupid child!”
He stood in the closet, silent to her assaults, feigning stoicism.
He lingered in the dust and chinchilla furs, wondering how long he had left before his finances collapsed. He spent the better half of his youth accumulating his wealth and influence, in a self-imposed ignorance of the fickle markets and minds of men. He had clung miserly to his properties, many he’d never step foot on, and to assets he’d never considered the content of.
An existence paved by privilege and good genes, never had he worked for wealth or affection, though nothing less than a gun would give him peace now. Unsure whether he was suicidal or homicidal, the thought passed through him as his wife’s wrath once again filled the already crammed closet.
Extending his ankles, with burning in the ligaments of his back calves, he grasped at the top shelf of his wife’s walk-in, where there was a box. He almost fell backward from the force he used pulling, gripping with his fingers’ tips.
“Not much to look at,” interjected the Super, flipping the light switch.
And there wasn’t, “Where’s the bathroom?” he asked earnestly.
“Only door in the place.”
He disappeared into the bathroom, leaving the Super and his fretful jangle of keys loitering impatiently in the studio. Hesitating, he stood for a moment in the unlit, windowless bathroom before flipping the single switch to the hums of the florescent light and ventilation fan. His reflection glared back at him, he searched his dark eyes before fidgeting with his fly. Urinating he thought back to his penthouse with pangs of bittersweet release.
He brought the unassuming box down from the shelf as his wife ripped open the closet door, “What in Jehovah’s name are you doing in there?”
Skirting past her, box in hand, he headed straight for their bathroom door, locking it behind him. “I am packing to go to my mother’s, I am taking Bryan with me, you selfish sonofabitch!” She banged repeatedly on the door.
His stream stopped as he heard a knocking.
“Are ya taken it? Gotta load of piping to work on… Jesus’son don’t flush, oh and you’re gonna have to wait till noon ta’marrow ta wash your hands!” He wanted him to go away, but committing to a lease behind a locked door didn’t seem kosher.
“I’ll be out momentarily sir”
A shiver went up his spine staring down into the yellow plaque of waste lingering on the edges of the toilet bowl. Placing his left hand against the wall, shifting his body weight on to his shoulder, instantly the stream began again.
The box is where he had kept his close money, and as he opened it he realized his wife had been snooping about while he was out fiddling with willing younger men and women. Little was left but a few first edition books, and at the bottom, affixed in its glass case was his grandfather’s 1880 Carson City silver dollar, the start of two and a half generations of affluence. Estimating the weight of the vintage coins wealth set him on edge, what’s a dollar worth?
He sighed and stepped out of the bathroom, “I’ll take it.”
“Good, names Felix, I’ll be around to pick-up security ta’marrow.”