As the tide rose and fell from the shore, off the beach, the road was empty. The rainy season always brought the public farther. The small Parthenon of a bus stop stood above the background in a small but shimmering light. Lightning always made it look scary to the children who would wait there just to get home. The small light that made it visible to the bus drivers always flickered, casting disturbing shadows against the vulgar images that lined the plastic advertisement walls that never lit up. The seats were made of cold metal, the dotted kind, and were almost icy in the late September rain. There was a storm looming off the coast, the local newspaper read, as it lay on the moist seat, absorbing the liquid. Across the street, small buildings lined the blocks, revealing endless shadows of people across the distance. Further back were the city’s larger buildings, a district of vice, a system of lights, and a cement land that stretched far across the eye, yet made a simple dot upon the map. New York at it’s finest.
Picking up the pace, a mother and son walked towards the stop. She was holding up an umbrella, trying in vain to secure her unruly son. The boy was nearing his teen’s and yet, he acted as if he were a little child, pulling away at times, dodging raindrops to the tune of his heart’s desire. Taking time off to rest, the mother sat her son down on the bench, handing him an iPad to play with. This was her usual ritual, ever since her husband had left her for another woman. Work, pick up the boy, and commute home. The mess of life was what it was then and now she was determined to find courage and push through it.
A man stood across from her, as she closed the umbrella, shaking it to lessen the amount of water that had accumulated on the nylon surface. He smiled at her as he lit his pipe. It was strange for her to see such a well dressed man at this hour, checking her wristwatch to be sure it was 9pm. He was wearing a hat, to match his black coat that was moist from the rain. His black and white leather shoes were covered with mud or sand from the nearby beach-like area, and it seemed as if he had just taken a walk. He doffed his hat and spoke,
“How sad, the children of today, lost in a world of screens and sharp tunes. Always on the phone, they will never know the joy of a simple walk in the park.”
She hesitated, wondering if he had simply spoken to himself. He turned to face her son, and watched with a smile and a light chuckle at the boy’s distracted state. She steadied herself, ready to fend off the man with her umbrella should he try to take the iPad. She had saved up a whole 3 months worth of salary for it and she wasn’t about to lose it. He glared at her sweetly with his green eyes, his face partly covered in stubble. He smiled. For a man who seemed to be in his late thirties, he was quite handsome.
“Don’t worry, I won’t take it. I have no use for such an uninteresting device.”
Summing up some courage to speak, although she knew she was at least ten years younger than he was. Aggravated by the man’s judgement of her use of 3 month’s work-pay, she opened her lips,
“What do you mean uninteresting? I’d bet that device is capable of doing much more than you, sir.”
“Still, a human mind is more capable of coming up with more suitable ideologies for this world.”
“What do you mean?”
“What do I mean?”
“Yes. What do you mean?”
“I mean, that, with such a seemingly smart boy, there, he would be more capable of at least entertaining himself without the use of the device.”
“Well, he isn’t. Can’t you see, he has a problem with his mind?! You don’t have to judge him!” She raised her voice, gesturing towards the boy who was still undisturbed by the awkward conversation.
“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to offend.” The man said, taking a puff from his pipe. The small flames drew the sides of the pipe clearer, right before fading away again into the black pit.
“Alright, but don’t you go judging people just cause.”
“Indeed, I am not one to judge. I merely implied that such a device would be a waste for a blossoming child’s brain. However, in any case, I had caused you offense, I sincerely apologize.”
“Hey, you’re the one in the corporate world here. We’re all working stiffs, trying to pay bills and living off our mundane jobs. Judging by that suit, you look like you’ve worked in a bank or in some law office somewhere. I’m a single mom, and this boy here’s all I’ve got, now you just shut up about him!”
“He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good. Confucius. You, my dear, had just judged me after you claimed it wasn’t proper to judge.”
“When anger rises, think of the consequences. Again, Confucius.”
“Alright. I’m sorry.”
“Forgiven. However, would you indulge me, please, in some light conversation?”
“Well… Alright, but as soon as the bus gets here, we’re out, okay?”
“Good. Now, what do you wanna talk about, anyway?”
“Well, you’ve opened up the world of business in our conversation, let’s start there.” He said with a sweet smile. The pipe was still smoking as he opened again.
“All things truly wicked start from innocence. Hemingway.”
“Yeah, and so?” She replied, with a slight pout as she lined her umbrella to her legs.
“What about it?”
“That quote summed the entirety of business up.” He looked at the sky.
“What do you mean?” She followed his gaze for a while, then returned her eyes to study his demeanor.
“Well, think about it, it started out as trade, for the benefit of both parties. Dating back thousands of years. It was quite innocent, but nevertheless it has grown into a corrupt monstrosity, ravaging everyone’s daily lives. You see, we are driven by our need to survive, and trade, as it has, simply paved its way across the quarry that is human life.” He said, leaning on the plastic advertisement wall, raising his right knee up to balance.
“Let’s see if this will help you understand. Our world is built on finance and business. Without it, we are destined to fall short of any of our expectations and die. Right?”
“Good. Now think about this, what is the innate goal of a business.”
“Yes, partially. That was what it was before. Now it is simply outwitting the person who trusts you to give something equally important in return, yes?” He looked at her, his eyes intent on driving his point.
“I guess.” She said, taking a quick glance at the boy who was twisting the iPad around in his hands.
“Advertisements. They promise, and yet, they never fail to fall short on their bargain.” He puffed from the pipe.
“That’s why we have money. It was created to lessen the outwitting, but it, in time, has also failed to do it’s job and has also fallen into the hands of corruption.” He returned his gaze to the starless sky.
“Uh huh.” She nodded, slowly, attempting to understand the discourse.
“What is money worth?” He asked, pointing the tube of his pipe at her.
“Uh… Everything?” She said, raising her shoulders.
“Not necessarily. Ponder on it, and you will see, that money is simply a number, placed on a piece of highly overrated paper. It’s worth is built on the foundation that is gold.”
“You mean, the Federal Reserve Bank?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Yes. The Bank. All our money’s worth is in gold, in that bank. Now, take it back to the old days of trade. What is the sole purpose of gold?”
“Jewelry, duh. Unless you use it’s conducting power.” She said, with a knowledgeable smirk.
“Yes, but it is merely a rare substance. As we can plainly see, copper is the most common of the best conductors of electricity.” He gestured with his pipe towards the wires that loomed above them.
“Vanity. Our entire empire of a world is built on the sole thing, that is vanity.”
“So, what are you saying; that money is worthless? That everything that we work for is merely a fool’s quest for greed or power?”
“In a way, but who are the fools?”
“Us, right?” She giggled.
“Indeed.” He said, puffing some more smoke, losing the smile. She was irritated, knowing that he thought that everything she had just worked for was worthless, that all she did, that all everyone did was not worth a single thing on this green earth. She soon realized that this man was merely as dark as the weather and that he would not ever last long before falling into poverty and despair. So much for the man’s educated ideas.
“So we are all basically worthless, right? You have the courage to tell people, that everything they’re doing is worthless, juts because you’re rich.” She started laughing, covering up her hurt, to which the boy followed, and as soon as she slowed down the laughter, when the silence returned, the man opened his mouth and said,
“I wouldn’t saythat.” He returned his smile.
“So what are you saying?” She questioned in frustration, her hands in the air.
“All of it is true, yes. But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated. You tell me who said that.” He said with a smile, noticing the bus pull up against the curb.
“So, wait. What is it all worth?” She looked at him, eyes bewildered, her face formed in questioning manner.
“Look at the child, and then find the courage to tell me what it is all worth.” He said. She nevertheless pulled the boy up and along, and he struggled before following and taking a seat in the bus. Taking in his statement, she took the words into thought and sat next to the boy. The boy began shaking, and he mumbled almost unintelligibly,
“Mommy, I’m cold.”
“Oh, I’m sorry honey, I forgot your jacket.” She said with a saddened tone. She cursed herself under her breath for forgetting the boy’s jacket. It was a long trip home, and she would have to stop by the pharmacy for either vitamins or medicine, should the boy have gotten a cold. To her surprise the man now loomed over her in the still bus, with a smile, his pipe gone. The bus driver waited, holding a 5 dollar bill that the man had presumably given him, to stop the bus this long.
“Courage, is grace under pressure.” He said, handing her his coat. He smiled that friendly smile once more and doffed his hat as well.
“Hey, Mack, your five minutes is up man! Next stop folks, stop number 48, Oak street.” The bus driver said with his slang tone.
He stepped out of the bus and re-lit his pipe. Standing there in the bus stop he waved a gloved hand at them, and stepped into a car that was parked nearby. She felt the pockets of the coat as she wrapped it around the boy. A solid feeling came up, and as she pulled it out, she realized that it was a money clip. It had the name Hemingway on it. She turned back to see if he was still there but he had already disappeared into the night. She counted the money. It was worth her 3 months salary. She tucked it in her pocket with a swift and giddy motion.
“What is it all worth?” She mumbled, as she rested her head with a smile, the boy still playing on the iPad. She embraced the child, and joined him in the game, smiling.
(c) Anachronic Works 2012