When Paul arrived at the
“Baby, this guy is trying to rip me off. All I wanted was to lease a Camry and-”
“And I gave your friend here the lease terms.”
“And what are the lease terms?” Paul asked.
“Well, if she just wants a basic lease, it’s going to be a four year-“
“Four? Four years?”
“And six hundred a month.”
Paul put his head in his hands to keep from punching the salesman. He regained his composure and tried to reason with the salesman.
“Look, isn’t a normal lease only for a year of two?”
“Not anymore. The market’s changed. People have money and we want a piece, and we also want to know our cars are going to have a safe home for a few years.”
“But it’s a lease, we don’t want it for very long.”
Ilana piped in. “Yeah you greasy-”
“Just hold on Ilana. Look, what’s this market everyone is talking about? I couldn’t get a bagel for under three dollars today and now I can’t lease a car for under four years?”
“Sorry pal, but you must have been under a rock. People are throwing their money around like it’s air or something. So we adjusted.” The phone at the salesman’s desk rang. “One second.” He picked up the phone and scrawled some figures on a piece of paper while making some small talk.
Paul looked over at Ilana and saw her scrunching her face up. People who didn’t know Ilana thought this was her being cute, because in fact, when she scrunched up her face she did look cute. But to anyone who knew her well, Ilana scrunching up her face meant she was thinking of the meanest possible exit for a conversation that she could think of. Paul was hoping he could talk some sense into the salesman before Ilana unleashed her wrath, but that hope vanished when the salesman put the phone down.
“OK, so we’re changing the terms of the deal.”
“I just had someone on the phone who said they were willing to lease the car for seven years and eight hundred dollars a month. So unless you want to match that or go higher, I can’t give you the car.”
Paul didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but Ilana knew exactly what to do.
“You cunt faggot bile spewing santorum swallowing serpent!”
Ilana had a thing for alliteration, a thing that judging by the stunned reaction of the salesman was not appreciated by him. Paul and Ilana left the dealership in a hurry, not wanting to cause more of a scene than they already had.
“I need a drink”, Ilana muttered.
When they stepped into the bar, Paul liked what he saw. Completely empty save for the bartender, dusty countertops and poor lighting. Your favorite dive bar’s dive bar. Paul thought that if anyplace was immune from the world’s recent craziness, it would be here.
“What’ll it be?”
“Pabst.” Paul figured he’d stay on the cheap side
“Jamison’s, two shots.” Ilana was still agitated from the episode at the dealership.
The bartender brought them their drinks. “Let’s see, ten bucks for your beer, thirty for your shots.”
Paul steadied Ilana’s hand under the bar, motioning to her shots with the other. He let go when she calmed down and inhaled his beer. He looked the bartender over sympathetically. It wasn’t his fault the drinks were so much. There were bottlers and distributors and shareholders and CEOs setting prices and trying to get their piece. But on the other hand, Paul had no more patience for it.
“Sorry,” Paul muttered to the bartender.
The bartender looked up just as Paul took his glass, threw it against the wall and calmly walked out of the bar.
For the next few days, Paul and Ilana didn’t leave Paul’s apartment. The outside world was just too much at the moment, and they thought that maybe they could wait it out in the apartment. Lewis called on a Tuesday with some discouraging news.
“Lewis, how’s it going?”
“GIL MECHE! GIL MECHE! WHY?”
Paul knew what Lewis was talking about, he just had no answers.
“I know Lewis, I know. But I’m more worried about the fact that a beer costs ten dollars all of a sudden.”
“Oh, have you noticed that too? What’s the deal with that?”
“Well, people say there’s all this money flying around now and they want their piece. Though I don’t know who has all this money.”
“Yeah, well it’s probably gonna get worse now that Gil fucking Meche is getting eleven million bucks a year.”
“Normally Lewis, I’d tell you that you were crazy. But I think you’re absolutely right.”
Paul’s buzzer rang. “Look, that’s Stan, I gotta go.”
Lewis was seemingly in another world. “Gil Meche,” he muttered as Paul hung up the phone.
Ilana got the door and Stan walked in and sat down on the couch. He almost finished the bottle of scotch her and Paul had been drinking.
“Hey,” Paul yelled playfully, “get your filthy lips off of that bottle. We don’t know where they’ve been.”
“They haven’t been anywhere.” Stan put the bottle down and slouched on the couch.
“Excuse me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it Hooker Tuesday?”
What Paul loved about Stan was that he unapologetically picked up whores every week. Tuesday to be specific. And every day when he was through, he would regale Paul and Ilana with the details of the horrendous things he had done to his special girl. No one could remember how or why the tradition had started, but Paul and Ilana looked forward to it every week.
“Yeah, come on”, Ilana perked up; “we want a story.”
“Fine, fine. I’ll tell you what happened. So I went down
“One?” Ilana sounded like she had been told there was no Easter Bunny.
“Yeah, and not only that, she wouldn’t even talk with me. When I got out of the car and walked to her, she ran behind her pimp. Pimp starts screaming at me about how much I would give him to negotiate with her. I could barely understand the guy, so it took like, five minutes to slow him down and realize he wanted money for himself and the girl. But I relented, cause she was the only one left, and she was a tight little Asian broad.”
Paul stifled a laugh. As much as he felt bad for Stan, he found the image of leather jacket clad Stan arguing with a fast talking hustler who no doubt had a ring on each finger and a neon fur coat exceptionally funny.
“So then, how much did he want to talk to her?” Paul asked.
“Well that’s where it got crazy. First he said fifty bucks, and I figured that was alright, I still might have enough to giver the girl a Joe Theisman, but when I was fine with paying fifty, the pimp changed his mind, said he wanted one hundred fifty.”
“Yeah, started saying how if I didn’t want to pay that he’d take his Asian superstar to some other street corner and not let me in on the negotiations. That there were a hundred guys who would pay him pay two hundred dollars to just to talk to her. And then he thought for a second and decided that it would cost me two fifty to talk to her because I was being insolent.”
“Tell me you didn’t pay him.”
“Of course I didn’t pay him; I don’t have that kind of money. So I just walked back to the car and came here.”
“Jesus,” Paul muttered, “this new economy bullshit is even ruining Hooker Tuesday. What a sad turn of events.”
When Paul woke up on Thursday, he didn’t realize that it was the day he was going to die. He got out of bed, looked out the window and realized that it was snowing. Paul always loved the snow, so he decided to go out and buy a six pack. He checked his wallet and counted seventy dollars. He laughed grimly. It would probably be just enough for some Natural Ice.
Paul hadn’t thought about the way the “new economy” had affected anyone outside of the people he knew. So as he was walking down the street, he was surprised at first when a man in a ski mask jumped out in front of him with a large knife.
“Get in the alley!” The man demanded.
Paul did as the man said. He knew that he was about to lose his seventy dollars, but at this point, that kind of money was so worthless that he wasn’t so upset to be losing it.
“The wallet! Let’s go!”
Paul took out his wallet and gave it up. The masked man looked through it and then looked up at Paul.
“Where’s the rest?”
“That’s all I have in my wallet.”
“Bullshit! This is pocket change! I know you got more on you. Now give it up!” The man brandished the knife in a more threatening manner.
“Look, that’s all I have.”
Only when the knife slid in between his ribs did Paul regret going out that snowy morning. As he slid down in to the snow, parts of it turning red from his dripping blood, Paul could only think of one thing to say with his dying breath.