'I'm undoubtedly in the red', he casually mentioned as a deluge of vodka streamed over the maw. An olive accompanied this, increasingly slimmer, pool of pleasing liquid bitter. No. That drink belonged to Taylor. His martini was coupled with a stripe of yellow rind.
Now, at this late hour of the evening, was the moment for post-labor libation. A frequent and necessary holiday after aching hours of orderly servitude. However, for Taylor, and he, any (and all) earned currency was destined to be split amongst a division of debts. Or 'red'. Occasionally this repayment was rerouted, profits disappearing to some unknown receiver. Yet most deposits into their account, unfortunately, arrived at the intended destination. This left their poor souls with mere morsels of revenue for pleasure. Rehabilitation from this fiscal reality was found only in potation. A deliberate plan to become loused up and listless.
During these meetings, some uncommon scene was always produced. A different story every week. Unsatisfactory toil tends to result in the unpredictable. Exhausted bodies willing to expunge their concerns, ills and all, through detailed expose. Usually with unknowing consent from the speaker. Or much, if any, pressure from the listener.
Tonight's was unusual, as it peered beyond the horizon.
'If only it were in my account. A queue of zeroes and, at the front, a number no less than nine.' An ivory fault then spread over Taylor's lips. That mythical amount produced a very attractive image in Elliot's mind, too. A mirror grin. 'Then it would be', the speaker continued, 'a melange of foreign capitals. Ankara. Budapest. Moscow. Tehran.'
Elliot, momentarily, forewent agnostic sentiment and aligned his hands in prayer: 'May economic winds lift our sails and divine us away from abject poverty.' His eyes nearly sparkled while peering upward at the celestial kingdom. Even if, as it did, only exist in the moment.
'--I beseech you,' Taylor had, jokingly, joined in devotion. After a near gurgle of drink, followed by a slight cough, the benediction came to a close.
Another round was hastily ordered.
A high mid-morning sun harshly insulated the room and, especially, the body beneath the sheets. A trace of arid August in the middle of September. The anchor from last night's jubilee kept his body trapped to a particular expanse of the mattress. Dehydrating mixtures now swirled like a tempest within. Any movement was a slow, unpleasant rollick. Always, he reminded himself, end the evening with a morsel from an unhealthy platter. A case of pox to cure prospective ills.
A few circles of the clock went round before Elliot could, finally, be stirred out of self-imposed solitude. Even then, movements required meticulous calculation to prevent overexertion. Physical wear from drink is manageable, he thought, as posture and balance were slowly regained from stream after stream of steaming water. The mental drought, however, is the veritable hangman. Executioner under the morning light. Upon waking from such a stupor, proper diction and necessary objectives are hastily foregone. Seeing the late hour on the clock, a heavy sigh further solidified this realization. 'So much for a morning of work.' No reason to have procured another order of coveted poison from last evening's barman. No reason at all. And nothing por gratis, of course.
His objective over the following seven days had been a deliberate withholding of funds from the Service industry. His industry. The one that paid so little. A solid week of less drink and less meals prepared by laboring hands other than his own. Investment would, instead, be allocated for long-lasting material and rations. A promise to begin on a path to betterment.
How quick the forfeiture of that supposed devotion.
A whistle from the now boiled liquid was shrieking from the kitchen. Living space was too small for a sprint to end the deafening wail. There was relief, then, after airy aromatic streams of herb and spice could be gleaned from an impressed half-sphere. Finally, keeping matins ritualistic even after a black-cat evening, headlines inkily gleamed from the national wire services.
With slowly scrolling eyes, Elliot searched for a narrative of interest. A morning as such only allowed for the most personally pertinent to be worth attention. Or available for comprehension. One, there in the more moderate size of bold print, was an article that indeed elicited absorption:
'SENATE MOVES TO VOTE ON TUTION-FREE COLLEGE AND STUDENT LOAN RELIEF BILL.'
Had last evening's prayers received divine blessing? Perhaps an ear had heard the heavily-imbibed grace by Taylor! His eye quickly engulfed the proposed, though vaguely developed, plan that would eradicate the remaining student loan debt of 'suffering' college graduates.' Perhaps if a deity, or some consortium, does rule earthly actions from divinity, their threshold is large enough to encompass even those entreaties made in vain. His lips curled upward at the thought.
Truly a celebratory night! An evening destined for excess. The bill, legislation erasing the red ink caused by secondary education, was on the way to the executive's desk. A signature of imprimatur was certain.
A continuous billow of smoke exhaled from Elliot's lungs. The foreign capitals so immediately coveted would be momentarily paused. Resumed, however, after saving a modest modicum of surplus capital. Whenever, they both laughed, that would happen. Instead, their dreams were exchanged for the instantly available. Adventure they enjoyed at every week's end. Marijuana. Cocaine. Liquid lysgenic Diethylanide. Favored narcotics of the Western world. Soon to be before the eyes and, yes-yes-yes, at their fingertips
'Tis a glorious day when populist sentiment actually receives an ear from lawmakers', Taylor sang while separating loose tobacco and plucked-from-the-stem sticky marijuana. Ah, the glory! The disparate plants were then conjoined into a bandage of loose alabaster paper. 'Overdue for lawmakers to listen to us! We are a voting bloc much larger than the preceeding generation. Time for inauguration of the new electorate.' A pendulum of the rolled paper, now inflamed, was set in motion.
'Hard to believe that with a generation of underemployed youth there are certain people and politicians who believe subsidized education is unwise legislation.' Elliot leaned forward, wrestling away a cannabis-supported stupor, to receive the newly smoking and stenching flame. 'On that note, if taxes pay for the salaries of public servants..', a wandering hand connected with chin to properly ruminate.
A near growl then emitted from the speaker.
'--they must also pay for the educational ambitions of their families!'
This echoing realization nearly embittered the seated philosopher to sedition. An inhale, however, brought about a pacifying euphoria.
Taylor revived the conversation after a personal lapse of concentration.
'What could the argument of the opposition be? Along with being underemployed, most of us are drowning in debt. Something which you and I can certainly attest. How could such people be elected by voters? Especially if there was truth in citizen-supported education for public servants and their progeny. A wincing confusion subdued the speaker, leading to an empty result. 'Whatever their side is, it must not be from a reality of our own.'
'How will it all work out', Elliot deliberated aloud, 'This subsidized and debt-relief initiative?' His thought concluded with an inhale, followed by a cough. Despite reading the article, the phrases 'free education' and 'debt relief' penetrated far past the cortex.
Now any of the minutiae details were too complex, disinteresting, to remember. The legislation existed, at least in their minds, as simply a headline.
An erratic, and surprising to Elliot, guffaw from Taylor then echoed against the walls. 'What is our worry? The bill has passed. Or is about to. Politicians can indeed assist the individual in social ascension! Let's hope a precedent for future populist initiatives has been set. Assisting the unfortunate. Prohibiting further foreign conflict. More of these rational initiatives, si vous plait!'
Soon after, the conversation subsided. No reason to let nuance and pedantry put a plague upon the evening. There must already, they confidently assumed, be a solution to the paradox of how to eliminate debt without further expenditure on their behalf.
Another concentration of cannabis and tobacco was then binded and bequeathed. Time to discuss other subjects. The elected class, they laughed later, already have an adequate plan. They must.
A screeching and soon-to-stop train made waiting passengers plug ears with pointer fingers. The rumbling cacophony of rush hour. Disregard for every visible class, abject to affluent, was not only palatable, but necessary to prevail in the bustling environment of sidewalks and subways. The soles of Taylor's favorite oxfords beat down the stairs with haste. Ideal to make this departure. The train, however, was already pulling away.
Yet, no reason to sigh. The high from the good news still maintained a spring the step. 'Good', actually, was too moderate of a qualifier. 'Unequivocally exuberant' is adequately apropos. His financial woes, finally, were fine. And, as if to aggrandize the good fortune, another train had approached almost-immediately after his arrival on the platform. However, as Elliot neared the floating threshold, he declined to squeeze in with the after-work herd. He was now, after all, off the debtor's clock.
Waiting now, with near-perfect patience, a thumb scrolled over hundred-triplets of dollars that corresponded to European capitols. Even a few in the classe premier, where prices extended into the quadruple, held an undeniable appeal. Dare he? Another train arrived before his thumb could submit the purchase. No connection to credit while underground. Should confirm with Elliot upon arriving home, anyway.
Returning up to the waning sunlight, an appraisal of the neighborhood. A changing demographic -- but fast enough? The commute, a mere half-hour, could be shortened. No, no. Taylor smiled at his self-admonishment. Not the moment to embrace so much zeal. That will come soon enough. Another image of that dreamed bank account was now feasible. In fact, promised.
A sudden scene emerged on the opposite side of the sidewalk. The sodden panhandler, usually content in his quotidian corruption by drink, was accosting a suited passerby. Or was it the other way around? Taylor had not been privy to the origins of the argument. Glass, then, was broken and thrust by the beggar at his perceived enemy.
'Goddamn fuckin' asshole', slurred the street dweller, 'Apologize for what you said. Say you're sorry...with a dollar.'
The suited sir, an office inhabiter and master of the middle class, scoffed at the ensuing situation. How unfortunate to still be forced to reside in such a borough. One so far from work. And how could a bum speak to him in this tone? His tax dollars, siphoned from each bi-weekly paycheck, spread out to this ilk. Now they wish, literally want to slash, the vein that bleeds money for such assistance.
As bystanders started to surround the conflict, the economic reality of each contender was increasingly apparent. The beggar, drenched with his debilitating disease of indulgence, was no match for the still-functioning physique of the middle class man. Bull preemptively sabered before clashing with matador. This pathetic entertainment only seemed to galvanize the growing crowd. No voice could be heard, but it was obvious how appalled onlookers were at the display of lower-class violence. How could this happen in their neighborhood? Many acknowledged the homeless vagrant during their daily route, even tossing a slew of excess change in his plastic cylinder. Why would he, so suddenly and without provocation, go turncoat?
By this time Taylor had, somehow, managed to conceive a fissure amongst the thick crowd with decent visibility of the fight. Yet the scuffle was already over. With broken glass in hand, the Beggar had lunged at his enemy, stumbled, and collapsed after a smirking dodge by the Suit. The fall had possibly, probably, resulted in a landing upon the shard-laden weapon. At least there was no movement arising from the fallen diseased body. Spectators looked eagerly for an encroaching island of blood. Seeing none, mass dispersal with one destination on the mind. Home.
On his personal jaunt, Taylor considered the silent sentiment of the crowd: why are such people not under the protection of the Welfare system? The Department of Welfare that handles every penniless concern: vagrancy, absent-parent childcare, free rations. The helping hand supported by his, Elliot's, and the crowd's tax payments. Perhaps the only place for such souls, then, is an existence behind grated iron. It is not the fault of the middle class, which he would be happily ascending in rank thanks to listening public servants, that lower class and homeless do not seek out state assistance. Perhaps those dollars could be spent in a much more efficient manner.
Note: must speak to Elliot about extending their economic threshold for first-class tickets.
This moment of the day always left little amount of work. The afternoon lull in labor. Worse, a large mid-day meal turned the usually astute and active Elliot into a stupor. There was an immediate need for acute digestion. Coffee.
The street provided, finally, underlying coolness familiar to September air; despite the month now being October. An autumn breeze to truly mark the end of summer. As well as his life of abject poverty. This new care-free attitude during breaks even allowed a little farther walk, an extra fifth of an hour, to his favorite cafe. There would be enough excess income after the debt-relief that, if employment were to be lost, sorrow would not be an immediate sentiment.
An absent chair was filled while waiting for coffee. No -- americano. Ascendency in class must also result in a burnishing of characteristics. Refine even the miniscule. Why not start, christen the moment, with a concentration of legumes converted for the American palette? The thickest copy of national news, for he did possess the time, was then procured (and even paid for!) during the wait.
The largest lines of font loudly clamored for intervention against an increasingly militant Eastern nation. Another tyrant deriving from that vast Brown Bear who, once again, was bent on being a regional hegemon. Elliot sighed. A continuation of the mutually-assured-destruction anxiety endured during the last century? The article then elaborated on the myriad reasons why Western involvement was necessary. Caterwauling claims of RAPE. MURDER. REPRESSION OF THE UNWILLING. These assertions all screamed from the page. Yet no mention where the belligerence of this country was derived.
'The conflict will have to be long and protracted. First with airstrikes, and, possibly later, boots on the ground. There is no way to eliminate this radical dictator through conventional warfare. Conflict must be waged in a covert ways and over an extended period. Make no mistake, though, the world will be safer thanks to our assistance.'
Such initiatives, quoted by an 'advisor general' in the article, did seem rational to Elliot. If the human-rights abusing dictators wield their ideological war with psychological violence, logic would deem that defeat of such 'evildoers' must be achieved in a similar manner. Poison the root.
During adolescence, when intervention in the Middle East (and elsewhere) was a distasteful initiative presented by an unsavory executive, the appropriate response was visible in starch monochrome: involvement was unjust because the aims were insincere. Now, it seems at least, embittered Eastern forces, particularly this country, are insatiable in their aggression against America. Athwart, always, against the freedom promised by the Western world.
Democracy, Elliot supposed with another huff, must be relevant only in his region of the world.
Yet, he wondered while folding over the paper, how is enough money procured to provide democratic support against (or is it 'for'?) these aggressive foreign nations?
A flip of the wrist illuminated the time. Dear. His americano had not even been retrieved from the counter. Nor paid for. Picking up the plastic cup, there had been a hope for moderate warmth. Yet the contents were even below the October cool.
He charged the coffee away on credit. Hopefully, by the time payment was due, grief over spoiled caffeine would be forgotten.
Knocks without cordial rhythm crashed from beyond the threshold. The door then swept open, allowing in a frigid December gust, along with an agape Elliot. A leather messenger, followed by the body bound by its strap, fell upon the floor. Heavy breath was loudly emitting from the lungs. Continuous oscillation of a rising and collapsing chest.
'Such an entrance calls for a gym membership. We're only on the second story'.
With a beaming grin, Taylor waited for an expletive-laced rebuke to greet his salutation. Yet the collapsed body offered no voice. Soon, though, a chair was employed to try and establish some kind of support for standing. Except there was too much faith in leverage. A collision of crafted wood crashed against head. Elliot remained sprawled on the floor.
Taylor rushed over to his collapsed companion and employed a backhand to stimulate consciousness. How dare he. Whatever the narcosis, contents should have been shared. Elliot and he had devised, signed somewhere too, this pact during their not-so-distant salad days. Two fingers then produced a cleavage of the jaw. Wide enough to peer down into the collapsed's insides. An undetectable escape. As Elliot began to stir, his friend disengaged and scoured through kitchen cabinets and drawers.
'Where is my knife? Your veins are going to be gorged to extract whatever that goodness is.'
Taylor returned to his friend with a fillet knife. As he squatted down, beaming moonlight from the windows made the blade appear much larger than standard cutlery.
Elliot managed to bubble up a stomach-pumping cackle and, finally, speak.
'Some things are not to be shared because they are suitable only in the singular.'
A clinched fist from a storming arm was thrust into Elliot's shoulder. The laugh eclipsed into a howl. A scintilla-sized plastic satchel soon emerged from the arrival's pocket and was placed in the palm of his friend.
'See, my still full little cocaine courier makes any draw and quarter unnecessary.'
Ecstasy now ascended Taylor's nostrils and rounded the gums. Ah, return to stimulated balance. Attention then turned to the living room where televised waves were exporting information. A smoking compound with charred American flags was repeatedly seen from various angles. Fonts of, still speculative, blame were reserved for that unwavering aggressive Eastern nation mentioned in the newspaper months ago. The repetitive guilt began to resonate with the viewers. Who else would do it? They could think of no culprit and were offered no alternative.
'All this mess right after the passage of subsidized education and student-debt relief.' Cynical commentators were spouting doomsday for domestic legislation. The curdling proclamations continued: 'The question is how can the Oval Office promise such a debt-relief initiative when there is a war to fight?'
With cognition already in stimulated overdrive, Taylor and Elliot noticed a mutual tapping of pointer fingers. Had they over-speculated in their faith? Did this mean they would stay in--? Fear began to boil at the thought of remaining in that frightful financial color.
Regaining control of his erratically pulsating pointer, Taylor replaced one newscast for another. The executive appeared and, presumably, was prepared to make a statement. The two again embraced that ephemeral faith established while wishing for their debt-free dream.
Middle finger overlapped pointer, eyes peered upward.
'The events in Anwar are nothing less and nothing more than terrorism committed by people wishing to do harm to American life. American liberty. The values cherished most here at home. Now some people are already saying that this will effect our debt-free college initiative and relief plan. I promise that will not happen. That does not mean this radical attack -- perpetuated by we-all-know-who -- will not be countered without a fight. Before this speech, thirty of our finest men and women deployed a series of airstrikes against this aggressor nation. There is also a resolution put forward to reissue the sanctions that previously eradicated this country's economy. Hopefully, our message will be listened to and this is the only act needed to be undertaken. We will not shy away or cower in the face of our challenges. Militarily or economic. That is not what America stands for.'
A series of exhaustive flashes marked the conclusion of the conference. Next to the executive, Elliot noticed, stood the 'military advisor' quoted in that article from a few months prior. The article speaking on an extensive war waged with unusual methods. Or was it unconventional? Either way, such initiatives seemed more than applicable at the moment. Necessary. As long as domestically his life would only change from red to green.
'Where will they, we, find the funds to achieve both objectives?' Taylor blurted out, obviously fearful of the inability. There is no infinite amount of governmental income. He then, simply for speculation, bestowed control of the national coinpurse under his autonomy. Where could the unpossessed be begotten? The thought of that violent panhandler thrusting at the Suit and then crashing upon shiny shards. His presence was no longer seen amongst the stoops of the neighborhood. That fall must have been fatal. Obviously funds, our tax dollars, allocated for this purpose were a poor investment. Perhaps those dollars are what should be diverted to support the conflict. And fund the free education and debt-relief initiatives, of course. Such an exchange should be proposed. As long as relief will still come to those burdened with student debt.
Before explaining this, in his opinion, prudent financial non-risk to Elliot, his friend echoed a similar sentiment:
'In this circumstance', with nose full of that coveted crystalized ashen, 'money can always be relocated.'
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