Citizen Whores: An Accurate Depiction of the American Financial System (3,100)
A few ceiling lights towards the front were on. The warehouse was one giant room and beneath the lights sat a group of men around a poker table. Nobody was paying attention and they were dressed in pomp – velvet suits, silk shirts, multi-colored, ridiculously frilly cravats and silk hats with feathers in them. They had bejeweled canes and drank voraciously from bejeweled chalices of gold. Stacks of money were spilled on the green felt of the table. Stacks of money were spilled on the concrete floor next to the table, and in the dark expanses of the warehouse rose endless pallets and piles of stacks of money, like huge green mountains to the top of the cavernous warehouse ceiling.
“I see your seven and I raise you nine,” said the one man.
“That’s it?” said another man. His velvet suit was a bright, lime green, six sizes too big.
“What do you mean ‘that’s it’?”
“Aren’t we playing in hundred thousands?”
“No you dumb shit, we’re playing in millions.”
“Oh come off it, nobody’s paying attention. Nobody here ever knows what’s going on.” He looked over at the three men huddled around a laptop looking at porn.
“All in,” said the one man. His eyes were stuck to the screen and he tossed a few stacks on the table.
“You’re a dumb shit,’ the first man said to the one in lime green. “That’s what I’m calling you now. Dumb Shit.”
A man walked in carrying a large metal drum. He dropped it upright on the table and the stacks of money bounced.
“What is it?”
“No clue. But they said I’d make lots of money so I invested half the warehouse in it.”
“Was that smart?”
“Of course. There’s absolutely no risk and it’s perfectly safe and I know exactly what I’m doing with everybody else’s money.” He popped open the valve at the top of the drum and began pouring its contents on the piles of money. The contents were a bright yellow-green.
“Are you sure? Isn’t that a toxic symbol on the side?” It was.
“Hey guys, look what I’m doing!” The first man had made the man in the lime green suit drop his pants and bend over. He kept inserting a thick roll of money into his –
“Ahh Shh–it!” yelled the man with the barrel.
“What is it?”
The guys at the laptop looked over, “What’s happening? We weren’t paying attention. What’s going on?”
“The money’s melting!”
“I told you it was toxic.”
“That stuff you bought.”
“What do we do?!”
“Call for help!”
“Hey guys, look what I’m doing!”
Red high-heels and business slacks, red lipstick and a soft face framed by tight blonde curls. She was smoothing out her business jacket, adjusting her well-framed breasts with the red tie dangling loose between them. The light was bright like in an office and she stood in front of a doorway. The door was slightly ajar, read Mr. Burns on the nameplate, and inside could just be seen a wide bed with the blankets pushed to the side. The tellers asked Baby-lon if she needed anything else as she walked out. “No, I’ll be fine,” Baby-lon waved unsurely.
Outside in the dreary lit sidewalks the neon sign for Sparky’s flickered on. The pink light was lost in a large afro. Tigris stood there smoking a cigarette in six inch pumps and a dinner jacket. She had long legs and black shorts with a fancy, and revealing, white blouse. Baby-lon and Tigris began walking down the block.
“Thanks for waiting.”
“Not a mention.” Tigris pulled a cigarette case from her bra, flicked it open and offered to Baby-lon. “You should check out my place. Low rates, free checking.”
“I like this place, great rates for APY CD’s and MM deposits. Plus, they help with my 401(k).”
Most of the stores they passed had been boarded up in the past few months. The store fronts displayed signs of ‘Clearance Sale!’ and ‘Liquidation Sale!’, ‘Everything Must Go Sale!’ They were already covered in spray-paint. There was one diner left in town. It was dark and the streets glowed with neon signs, the bars being the only places people were willing to spend money.
“Watch your step Baby-lon.” There was a puddle of yellow-green sludge on the sidewalk. Baby-lon stepped around it. The sludge was trickling from beneath the door of a boarded-up coffee shop.
“You know what’s weird?” said Baby-lon. “You know how before I mentioned I was horny, like a Latina?”
“Well after that small, insignificant deposit it’s all gone.”
“Maybe money just doesn’t get you going.”
“Wish it did. Can barely afford a loaf. I haven’t found a job in months.”
“Yeah, me neither.”
“Say,” started Tigris after a few moments, “You got anything going on tonight?”
“Just said, didn’t I. Not a single new client, nothing to do.”
“Then come to this meeting later on.”
The auditorium was dark, dim lit with incandescent chandeliers. It was small, packed 800 girls in suit jackets and brassieres, business skirts and bow-ties, sultry pumps and fish-net stockings. Where the stage would be was another two rows of seats facing in, vixens and damsels with top-hats and monocles and leather boots. They held clipboards and briefcases and filed their nails. A woman stood at the podium, thick blonde hair pulled back beneath a top-hat, long legs and pumps. She adjusted her monocle, took the cigar out her mouth and pounded the gavel.
“We have called together this meeting to discuss an urgent matter whose solution, so steeped in simplicity, we have compounded in confounding complications and complexities. Namely, a poor economy.” She spoke with authoritarian austerity, blatant pomposity mistaken for righteousness. “Nobody has been hiring in recent months, nothing like a few years past. Banks aren’t investing, stores aren’t opening, and we are finding ourselves increasingly strained for cash, time and jobs. The reason for this, we have learned, is due to the policies and practices of a small group of individuals, those few businessmen we call our ‘top clients’.”
A girl in the crowd stood up, cherry blonde curls and a tie between her breasts, “They’ve been screwing with us for too long!”
“They control too much!” shouted another.
“Enough!” sounded the gavel. “We, the people you have elected to make all major decisions concerning your lives, have heard and pretend to acknowledge of all your complaints, worries, ideas, theories and solutions. With that in mind we have arrived at the only solution. Our top clients have the largest networks, the most capabilities and investment power. They will get us out of this mess. But first we must help our top clients so that they may help us. I hereby dictate that this union will provide a timeshare to our top clients of no less than 700,000 hours, atop of all regularly scheduled hours.”
“This is an outrage!” yelled the crowd. “We hardly have any time as it is! You owe more time than you can possibly ever create! They have all the time! Time is money, you idiots!”
“Girls. Girls! Let’s be rational and reasonable and proceed with restraint. Our top clients are close to the edge here. They’re stressed. They’re in serious trouble. If we give them a hand and make sure they don’t feel stressed anymore, they have capabilities, lots of capital. They can invest. They can put us back to work. Our top clients can provide us much needed jobs and clients. But first we must help them. We must take the stress off our big clients. This is how we put this blessed union back to work, how we help ourselves. We cannot allow these clients to fail! They will help us if we help them. This is how we fix this, our blessed economy!”
“You’ve never worked a day in your life!” went the crowd. “You don’t know what it’s like getting screwed over for so long!”
“I’ve worked plenty.” She adjusted her monocle.
“I heard your dates end after they buy you dessert!”
“That’s not true.”
Melting butter and Baby-lon was pouring syrup on her pancakes. The diner was empty. Baby-lon put down the syrup, grabbed a fork and knife in each fist and looked up at Tigris. “$75,000 Tigris. At least. That’s what this timeshare is going to cost each of us.”
“What, like you think there’s a better way? Let them fail? We wouldn’t have a single client then.”
“They wouldn’t fail. And there is a better way. I mean, what would you do with $75,000? If each of us had that kind of money I bet all those stores would still be open. We’d still be spending. The banks would stay open.”
“Yeah but they know how to spend the money better than we do. They’re smarter. I mean, look at us, what are we? Who are we to decide how to spend money?”
Baby-lon looked over at the clock. “Shit. I gotta jip on you Tigris.”
“Where you going?”
“To do my duty to this beloved city.”
Snarls, grunts and squeals. He was thrusting from behind while she sang ‘Oh daddy! Yes daddy!’ – it was his idea, she was just along for the ride. Bent over clutching motel pillows. He smacked her ass. Thrusting from behind.
She brushed the sweaty blonde curls out of her face. ‘OH, Daddy! Yes! Oh!’ Her head was hitting the headboard. He was thrusting, thrusting. Snarls and grunts and greasy eyes. He smacked her ass. He was done.
He stood in front of the mirror fixing his sweaty comb-over. Cheshire smile, greasy eyes. She was lying in bed pulling black lace panties up under her bottom. He was buttoning a silk shirt.
“You still owe me,” said Baby-lon.
He was tying his cravat. The frills kept hitting him in the face. “I don’t owe you shit.”
“I saw you three times last week. Twice so far this morning.”
“Get dressed and scram. I got a meeting to go to. Something about market stability and basic human morality. I never understood –”
“You’re not listening to me. You owe us still.” She was standing in front of him, gold curls dangling at her shoulders. He smacked her open-palmed. She fell back on the bed, sat up holding her cheek. Tears felt cool as they slid down it.
He got in her face. “Get it straight sugar-tits, I don’t owe you shit, ever. I fuck you whenever I feel like it and there’s nothing, not-a-thing you can do about it. That little pussy you’re wearing is mine and you better fall in line start acting appropriate,” he jabbed a finger in her forehead, “because your whoooole sorry way of life depends on me,” he jabbed his chest. He buttoned his velvet suit jacket and adjusted the flag pin on his lapel.
Baby-lon got dressed and left. The tellers asked if she needed anything else on her way out.
Tigris was waiting outside. They stepped around a yellow-green puddle. The hardware store was boarded up.
“I thought that had been the deal,” said Baby-lon. “I thought that was why we were helping them.”
“It is. And it was. Look, things are a lot better right now than if we hadn’t.”
“It’s been three years and we’re still not finding clients. We gave those assholes all of this time and what did we get as a result? We owe more hours than physically exist to some foreign city. We helped them, didn’t we? Where’s the return?”
“Things are looking up, Baby-lon. Don’t be so down. Things are a lot better than you realize.”
“You know what they’re doing with all that time? They’re lending it back to the city and collecting interest. They’re lending us our own time and making us pay for it.” They stepped around a puddle. “And you know what else? There’s a provision in the timeshare deal that lets them deposit time back into the city clock. In three years they’ve literally racked up trillions in interest. Now we owe them, somehow.”
“Hey, you got anything going on tonight?”
“You should come to this meeting.”
The girls had packed into the auditorium more than could fit. Girls in dinner jackets stood in the aisles. Girls in tuxedos stood by the doors. Girls with red lipstick, brassieres and wide lapels stood on the seats shouting, pumping their fists forward in the air, ‘Where’s my help! Where’s my timeshare!’ they shouted. ‘I gamble too! Abate the Ate! Burn the Plutocracy!’
Overhead lights clacked on and the woman with her blonde hair bunched beneath her top-hat stood at the podium. Her face was pursed and she adjusted her monocle. The two rows of seats behind her were encased in shadows. Only shiny shoes and a few inches of colored velvet could be seen. The gavel pounded.
“This city is a great city, a hard working city full of hard working people, who we are putting back to work! This city was and still is the most free and prosperous city in world history, thanks to the actions taken by us, your democratically selected masters.”
“Bullshit!” yelled the crowd. “Plutocracy!” they cried.
The woman continued. “The timeshares have worked. The banks are investing, people are working, and across this wonderful city new businesses are opening up! But the timeshares haven’t gone far enough. There are still factories threatened by bankruptcy, families threatened with foreclosure. We will save everybody because we are the greatest leaders in city history and you are blessed to have us. We will do more than we have to, more than we should to save every last person, because this is a free city!”
“Trickle down failed for a reason! Weren’t work programs useful once!”
“Enough! You arrogant little proles! Do you know what we do for you? We enable your very existence! We’ve absorbed entire companies on your behalf! Liquidated and made worthless centuries’ worth of hours! We stabilized this economy by crushing it and re-inflating it with artificial minute-rates! We have planned everything for you! You should be grateful!” shouted the woman. The girls in the audience rose from their seats like a swell of water before a breaking wave; began making their way down the aisles, towards the podium, silent, their faces severe. “Who do you think you are!” bellowed the woman, veins at her neck. “You wouldn’t exist without us! You are worthless! You need us! YOU DEPEND ON US!” Someone flipped off her top-hat. She looked startled and there was a greasy comb-over beneath her hat, and close-up in the light, her jaw-line looked so square, stubble seemed to appear on her cheeks. She backed up nervously into the shadows. Chains and metal clanking, gears turning and a partition lowered from the ceiling. It continued till it slammed into the floor and it completely separated the shadows from the auditorium. The wall turned on. It was a television screen. A large gray face with a black moustache began speaking, “Our city is back to work. Your leaders have fixed the economy. They ended the debt like they said they would. War is no more. Wealth is widespread among the masses. Freedom across the city has actually increased….” The girls began throwing chairs, bottles, shoes, everything they had to stop the talking face. They hated it. They didn’t believe a word it said. The face would not stop talking.
“Attention. Hello! Please, everyone, listen to what I must say.” Baby-lon had taken the microphone, stood atop the podium. “For too long we have been run by these fools. For too long we have allowed them to dictate policies, control our economy and run our lives. They cheat us when we’re down and entire centuries pass secretly between closed fists. And they ask for help? In the name of economic recovery they’ve centralized their power. Our Council is nothing but their velvet glove and they’ve clenched their fists! We’ve seen where their ideas and leadership bring us. We know what lies behind those greasy eyes, at the end of those greedy stares. Desire and filth prompt the Cheshire grin and the fattest hands will always fill the velvet glove. But we have a way out! We still have choice! We can fix our own problems, we do not need them. Only we can prevent the very corruption that singes our freedoms. With our money they bought their power, with our money they filled their greedy hands, but no more! It is we who gave them power and it is we who shall take it back! We shall take back our power and give it to the rats no more! No longer must we allow for the concentration of our wealth, we see what it brings! We must dissipate power, spread it as thin as possible and end the corruption, cronyism and plutocracy! It’s time we took back what is ours!”
The auditorium went wild cheering. Girls sat atop one another’s shoulders, shouting slogans, cheering and clapping and the entire auditorium was a roiling mass. Baby-lon hopped down from the podium and a path was cleared for her as she led them into the streets. They carried banners and torches, shouting ‘Take back what’s ours! Burn the Establishment!’ Baby-lon marched down the street and stopped at the ATM. She looked around and the cheering had stopped, the other girls looked blankly at her. ‘Well, go!” she said. Baby-lon withdrew what little money she had and walked into a little store with a chime on the door. The walls were bare bricks, and one little man in a Good Will suit sat behind a desk. Above him read a sign, ‘East Side Building & Loan’. A small safe was in the wall behind him.
“I would like to open an account and make a deposit,” said Baby-lon.
“Thank you! Thank you for banking with us,” he said. He politely kissed her hand. “Now we can help Mr. Houghton finance his new café on 3rd Street, by the old hardware store.”
Baby-lon looked over at Tigris. “The interest rates aren’t nearly as high here. I’m okay with that though. I think it’s better this way.”
In a small shed on the outskirts of town sat a man on a pail. His frown drooped like a miserly clown and his cravat was all undone and messy. “Pull your pants up, Dumb Shit,” he said, flicking through a thin fold of dollars. “I don’t have enough anymore.”