Belly Up

And it had all been going along so beautifully. Now, if you were to listen to Mink, you wouldn’t think so, but what does she know anyway? She’s home with the kids all day. Mink’s trouble is she had it good and didn’t know it. Looking back, I guess I didn’t either. Maybe because I was out there every day, first thing in the morning and all day long, slaving away to keep a roof over their heads and decent food on the table. Hell, sometimes it was dark when I’d go to work and dark when I came home. I wish I had it as good as Mink does; even now she’s in great shape without a worry in the world.

But, typical of a woman (in my experience), now she wants to know what I’m going to do about this. As if she couldn’t simply make a quick call to Daddy for a little help. I can’t ask. She knows that, but she can and won’t. Can you believe I used to think her pride was endearing? But she’s right about me having to figure something out. She is not getting a job outside of this house. My kids are going to have what I didn’t: a full-service mother.

Here’s the thing. Once Dodd Savings & Loan went belly up, it wasn’t as if there were six other savings & loans up and down Carter Hill, each ready and waiting for an experienced professional such as myself to waltz in and set up shop. Basically, the industry is dead. No one wants a middle aged man who does ratios and amortizations and securitizations and expects a decent salary and benefits when there are underwriting departments at the big banks, spitting out that information like vending machines.

So now I’m signed up for one of those re-training program things out at the high school. The unemployment checks just barely cover our monthly nut and if gas wasn’t still so cheap, I’d be walking out to the program.

The instructor, he’s like, I don’t know, Indian or Pakistani or something. He’s probably around my age, graying hair and glasses, real quiet guy like those people usually are. We’re learning how to work in a call center, so I guess that’s why they hired this guy. Some lucky fuck someday is going to call customer service and maybe get someone like me, speaking nice clear English. Although, I have to admit, Mr. Patel’s English is probably better than mine. The guy has the patience of a saint which is good, because I’m not getting the hang of this work at all.

One day after I’ve screwed up again, he asks me to stay after the class. I’m composing my brilliant set of excuses as he cleans his glasses, his back to me, the room reflected in the plate glass window with all that winter dark spread out across the subdivisions and strip malls.

And, standing there with his back to me, this Mr. Patel who came to the US eight years ago, this quiet, patient man with sad eyes and a slightly stooped back, with no warning and no emotion, tips the room upside down and drops the floor on my head.

I sit there, dumb and paralyzed. Is he yanking me around? I tell him to turn around so I can see his face. Does he look different now that I know who he is? Yes. No. He’s waiting for my answer. The former CEO of the third largest hedge fund formerly operating out of India is patiently waiting for an unemployed former savings & loan officer to say, yes, yes I will help you. I want to, if for no other reason than the money. I can’t tell Mink. Ever. I’ll have to think something up.

So, you, you sitting on an extra ten to twenty grand that you need to invest quietly — (nothing bigger right now; my partner and I prefer not to attract regulatory attention as you can imagine) — I can assure you that this is a solid opportunity, one you’re not going to want to pass up. Tell your friends.



Published February 2017 as part of the “Two Stories Up!” Series (2016–2017). 
Two Stories Up! was an ongoing project that had Tammy Remington and AleXander Hirka (The Anomalous Duo) each composing a new (extremely short) short story every two months which was then sent via postal mail to interested readers.