Thursday, November 15, 2012

84. "20 C-notes"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo* 

illustrations by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

**Assistant Professor of American Studies, Scrabble Team Coach, Olney Community College; editor of Journey into Angst: Seven Previously Uncollected Novellas of the American Intelligentsia, by Horace P. Sternwall; Olney Community College Press; available exclusively at Thrifty™ drug stores.

click here for previous episode, here to begin at the beginning

click here for synopsis of all chapters so far

The failed hipsters Alice “Sniffy” Smith and Landon “Rooster” Crow sit across from each other at a small corner table in the Automat just across the alley from the revered Hotel St Crispian, each with a cup of coffee and a lit cigarette...

“Okay,” said Rooster, “now let’s see those C-notes, Sniffy. But be discreet.”

“I’ll be discreet,” said Sniffy.

“Take them out under the table.”

“I’m not an idiot, Rooster. You think I’m gonna flash twenty C-notes in this joint?”

Putting her purse on her lap, Sniffy opened it, reached in and pulled out a sheath of hundred-dollar bills.

“How do they look?” said Rooster.

“They look good to me.”

“The ink doesn’t rub off on your fingers?”


“Oh, dear God!” said Rooster. “Pass them to me under the table, I want to see.”

Sniffy, after only a slight hesitation, and not before taking a quick glance around the Automat, went ahead and passed the money to Rooster under the table.

 “Oh, dear God,” said Rooster.

“What?” said Sniffy.

“Dear God in heaven.”

“What? They’re not counterfeit, are they?”

“No,” said Rooster. “That’s just it. They’re really real. Two thousand bucks. That’s more money than I make in a year.”

 “You and me both, pal.”

“Now I can quit that stupid fact-checking job at the stupid New Yorker. You can quit your stupid teaching job at the stupid New School. Just think, we can concentrate on our writing. I’ll write my poems, you’ll write your novel, and no more punching a stupid time-clock. No more Mr. Ross always getting my name wrong. No more —”

 “And what about when the two grand runs out?” said Sniffy.

“Well, Sniffy, by then I’ll probably have completed my proposed epic poem of the rise of the American working class, and I daresay you will have completed at least a first draft of your novel, and, and —”



“Nuts,” said Sniffy. “Now give me back that wad. I don’t trust you not to lose it.”

“Can’t I keep just one C-note?”

“Give. If it wasn’t for me playing hardball with those weirdos back at the St Crispian we wouldn’t even have the two Gs. Now fork it.”

“Oh, all right.”

Rooster put the bills neatly back together, and, after looking nervously around the Automat, he reached under the table and handed the bills back to Sniffy.

“Great,” said Sniffy. She dropped the money into her purse and clicked it shut. “Now here’s the plan. Neither of us is going to quit our jobs.”

 “We’re not?”

“We’re not. Not yet. And here’s the other thing, we’re not gonna burn those two goofballs at the St Crispian.”

“We’re not?”

“We’re not. We’re going to get them the lid we agreed to get them.”

“We are?”

“Yes,” said Sniffy. “And then we’re going to make them another offer.”

“We are?”

“Stop saying that.”

“Sorry, Sniffy.”

“We’re going to carry out our part of the bargain, and then we’re going to make them another offer.”

“We —”

“Don’t say it,” said Sniffy.

“Sorry,” said Rooster.

“You saw that wad of centuries that one guy pulled out of his wallet.”

 “Yeah,” said Rooster. “It was at least five grand.”

“At least,” said Sniffy. “And he didn’t bat an eyelash at laying out two whole grand for an ounce of tea. If these guys are that loaded and that stupid, why should we settle for just making two thousand off them? Why not offer to get them a whole pound? We’ll offer it to them for, say, okay, how many ounces in a pound?”


“Okay. And we’re getting them a lid for two grand. So for a pound we’ll charge them —”

“That’s thirty-two thousand!” said Rooster.

“Look at Mr. Math Whiz here,” said Sniffy. “No, we’ll give them a discount for buying in bulk. Let’s say —”

“Twenty thousand?”

“Make it twenty-five,” said Sniffy.

“Gee,” said Rooster. “Twenty-five grand.”

“Twenty-five big ones,” said Sniffy.

“Freedom,” said Rooster.

“Yeah,” said Sniffy. “Twenty-five grand’s worth of freedom.”

“We could go to Paris.”

 “Why not?"

“Or Rome. Or Greece,” said Rooster. “Or, no, Tangier!”

 “We can go to all those places,” said Sniffy. “But first things first. We’ve got to score those morons their ounce of tea, then we’ll let them get high again and then we’ll make our proposition.”

“What proposition?”

“The pound of tea. For twenty-five grand.”

“Oh, right,” said Rooster. “I’m sorry. I’m still pretty high myself, actually.”

“I know you are,” said Sniffy.

“But where can we score an ounce this late on a Friday night?”

“I know just where,” said Sniffy. “Look over to your right there.”

“Oh,” said Rooster. “Yeah. Bill Leighton. And Bill Gray. It’s funny, you hardly even notice those guys, even when you’re staring right at them.”

“They blend into the background,” said Sniffy.

“Almost like inanimate objects,” said Rooster.

“They almost are inanimate objects,” said Sniffy.

“The two Bills,” said Rooster. “So why did you tell me to look at them?”

“Because,” said Sniffy, “if anybody in this town knows where we can score an ounce of tea past midnight on a Friday, it’s those two walking corpses.”

“Swell! Let’s go talk to them,” said Rooster.

“Sure,” said Sniffy. “But Rooster —”

“Yes, Sniffy?”

“Let me do the talking.”

“Oh, okay.”

Rooster and Sniffy picked up their cups and saucers, got up and headed towards the window table where the two Bills sat over cups of coffee (with careworn but neatly folded handkerchiefs placed under their cups), smoking cigarettes and staring silently out the window into the unquiet nighttime street...

(To be continued.)

85. further adventures of jake

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