Now for something totally different! This short story was originally written way back in 2015, but I’ve recently taken the story and updated it. Adding a few things, deleting others, changing one or two items as well. I wanted to post a short story to the website this time as it almost seems like I’ve published too many essays as of late. The writing of this story was inspired by the protagonist’s attempts to get the financing for a theatre production, but ironically also relates analogously to my own efforts to carry out home improvements to my place at the present moment.
Word Count: 2601
Sometimes you don’t have much of a choice. Let’s say you’re involved in community theatre on the local level, and like most theatre of this sort, you don’t have much money. Basically, the same amount of cash as a homeless musician who sounds like fingernails being dragged across a chalkboard when he or she opens their mouth and starts to sing.
You want to produce this grandiose stage production, but in order to accomplish the task you’re forced to borrow funds from a sworn enemy. Not really an affirmed opponent, but the type of person I despise with a special brand of hatred reserved exclusively for mass murders, childhood bullies, and corporate attorneys.
You know very well whom I’m talking about. The type of guy I walk to the other side of the street whenever I see them sauntering in my direction. If you’re unlucky enough to have to work with the person, you purposely avoid having to actually converse with them whenever the two of you are wasting supposedly valuable work time congregating around the water cooler. Then again, for some totally bizarre reason, the boss likes this ingrate so you’re forced to spend time with them.
Sleeping with the enemy? Actually, more like having to begrudgingly acknowledge their existence. If the two of us happen to be trapped in an airtight hurricane shelter, I despise the fact that they’re breathing the valuable oxygen I’d otherwise be ingesting for myself.
I guess you could say my predicament wasn’t all that unusual. I’ve been a big theatre aficionado since those formative years when my main goals in life were creating modern artwork with my food, and transitioning off diapers. Distinctly remember the day I staged my own version of that Charlie Chaplin movie I’d seen on the boob tube the previous month. Complete with hand-painted backgrounds, my own improvised dialogue, and lots of innovatively homemade props. My Shakespearian attempt wasn’t exactly Tony award quality, but then again, the production was pretty good for an amateur stage play engineered by a seven-year-old, would-be P.T. Barnum.
I probably shouldn’t brag, but why not. At that point in my life you could pretty much say I was well on my way to stardom on Broadway. Complete with the obligatory fame, fortune, and an over-priced Apartment off Central Park. The type of place where I’m paying the guy who walks my dog more money in a day than most waiters make in a month of having to accommodate high maintenance/low tipping customers.
Getting back to reality, or a reasonable facsimile of it, this stage production is turning out to cost more money than my measly budget can afford. Pisses me off that I’ll probably have to take out a loan from the king of arrogance in order to see the production to fruition. Then again, what choice do I have? Basically none.
Sort of like having to make a deal with the devil. Only in this case I have to borrow money from the evil stepfather. I’ll bet Horatio Kingman probably spends the majority of each day counting all the money he’s made since he got his first piggy bank, and wondering why most mortals aren’t on a superior intellectual level like him. Life just isn’t that fair. Him being an accountant and having more money than most President-for-Life Dictators.
Lucky me, the guy is home even as I realize I forgot to bring that flaming bag of dog poop with me to leave on his doorstep. Time to swallow the ‘ole ego and do my best groveling.
Oh boy, a classic look of superiority is painted all over his face even as he opens the door. Definitely makes this tougher to pull off than rowing the Amazonin my Paper Mache canoe.
“Kirby Burwell,” said Horatio. “What brings you here?”
As usual he looks just like Bernie Madoff with that buzz-cut hairdo of his, perfectly manicured appearance, gabardine suit and driving that less than-classic-Studebaker of his. Looks like he just walked out of a time machine (circa 1952).
“Got a few minutes to discuss an important matter with me?”
“I suppose I can take a little bit of time.”
You’d better. No Burwell, quit rising to the guy’s level. Or maybe I’m sinking to the underbelly of a cockroach layer? “I’m not sure how to ask you this,” said Kirby. “So, I’ll just blurt it out; I’m getting together our Companies’ fall musical production, and need your financial assistance to put the play on. Think you can help me?” There, I said it. Guess pulling teeth with a pipe wrench isn’t as bad as I figured it might be.
“Interesting. How much money do you want to borrow? This might be a loan by the way. I don’t think I’m in a financial position to give any money without having to lend the funds to you folks with payback assured. My finances are limited.”
Give me a break Kingman. You’ve probably still got the first dime from your newspaper route. Actually, it’s a good thing I don’t have this nasty habit of thinking out loud. He probably wouldn’t appreciate that last comment. ”Of course, my intent is to pay you back with interest as soon as possible. I appreciate anything you can do for me.” That’s it Burwell, pile the B.S. on nice and thick so he’ll agree to a loan.
“How much money do you want to borrow?”
Since we didn’t get that state arts endowment grant, $50,000.00 would be about right. Probably shouldn’t get too greedy though. “If it’s possible, can you loan us $20,000.00 or $30,000.00? Our production is very intricately staged, so we need the funds in order to do it right.” Do I sound like I’m acting needier than your average Opioid addict looking for their next fix? Am I? Hope not.
“Let me think about this and get back to you. How about if we meet three days from now to discuss your options?”
Unbelievable, let’s face the music Burwell. Getting money out of this guy is harder to pull off than a plus sized model squeezing into a petite-sized dress without ripping it. “Ok if I call you to arrange a meeting?”
Oh boy, now I get to wait while King Louie XVI contemplates whether or not he wants to throw me a bone. I guess I look like the type of guy that can wait till the day after the apocalypse for an answer. Not like I’ll never repay the guy either. Then again, maybe I should’ve told him that? Might’ve helped my cause.
I’m convinced this production will be a huge success. By a complete miracle of nature, we got that off-Broadway actor onboard who’s got more hits on YouTube than all those cat videos. Couple that with the fact that our script is dynamite, set design will totally enhance the production, and the music is extremely catchy. Wish I could’ve told Kingman all these factors working in favor of the play succeeding. Would that matter to him? Probably not, and it’s too late at this point anyway.
So now I should probably start exploring a few other options for getting some Dead Presidentsto finance this play. Accepting money from that local real estate development company doesn’t sound so bad after all. Can’t be any worse than the present situation. Only difference is the fact that Kingman and the owner of that real estate company, what’s-her-face, Helen Klosterman, are different genders. Then again, how do I know Horatio Kingman doesn’t dress-up like J. Edgar Hoover in the privacy of his apartment?
Maybe Klosterman just got back from her organic farm where she grows the main source of income for her real estate empire? Legal in thirteen states by the way.
How the Hell did that lady ever make all the money she’s got in the first place? Apparently, she inherited it. Can’t be her looks, unless most of her “Johns” enjoy spending lots of cash on a dumpier version of their mother. Yeah that’s it.
What about selling some of the theatre assets? How about unloading those knock-off paintings we’ve got that utilize the style of famous Masters? Every single one of them looks like the genuine article. Yeah that’s it, fake people out by telling them the painting is an actual French Impressionist’s earlier work. Lay the B.S. on nice and thick by telling them we’ll sell it at a drastically reduced rate. Only $70,000.00 or $80,000.00, a drop in the proverbial bucket as far as famous artwork goes.
But then what happens if they figure out the painting is a fake? Send in the cops, or maybe even a few FBI stooges to arrest me. Oh boy. That way I get to practice my best Fugitive-on-the-Run routine. Actually, that sounds kind of edgy and exciting. Sort of like owing lots of money to the Mob and playing cat and mouse with cousin Guido. Only drawback, cousin Guido has an awfully big handgun and he isn’t afraid to use it.
Lets face it Burwell, the only viable source of funding for our production is some sort of fundraising banquet. The type of ostentatious affair that’s got lots of invitees with tons of disposable income. They’ll part with their money faster than their last visit to the country club. The one where all those golf balls they keep hitting slice straight into a duck pond. Besides, what else do these Donald Trump-wannabees have to spend their cash on? Kitchen appliances and fancy exercise machines that’ll get used right after they’ve moved to Greenland because its beaches are so uncrowded.
Unfortunately, I can envision all sorts of minor problems cropping up if we go with this Fundraising Banquet scenario. First and foremost, finding a hall where the affair can take place. What about the facilities the Next Generation Oil & GasHotel has right down the block? Yeah, that might work. Maybe I can even convince them to loan the banquet facility out to us at a reduced rate. Better yet, for free.
Then again, I’ve never really liked the color of Next Gen’s banquet hall walls. That faded multi-color pink motif. Sort of looks like the product of a hyperactive chameleon mating with an albino salamander.
Finding a chef who wants to buy the food, prepare it, serve the stuff, then get some of their flunkies to clean-up the mess, all at a discount, won’t be an easy task either. A few of these professional cooks are a problem in and of themselves. They’re more interested in putting a piece of meat on the plate and decorating it with the intent that the food shouldn’t be eaten. Just peered at with a glazed look in the eyes of all the cocaine-sniffing patrons we’re serving. Not to mention you then eat the entrée, but feel hungry a half-hour after the meal.
Something must be wrong. Here it is three days later, and I’m actually looking forward to my luncheon date with Horatio Kingman. Can’t get over feeling like a kid getting ready to go to Disneyland for the first time. You’d think things would be the exact opposite? What gives?
Then again, this must be like the odd feeling a convicted felon gets just before they sit down to their last meal. The food looks good, but get over it buddy. The death chamber waits so why are you feeling so upbeat? Can’t be that T-bone steak you’re about to indulge in, particularly since it looks like it’s been overcooked to a nice blackness, and you like your meat a bit on the raw, blood-pooling-up-on-side-of-the-plate, style.
“I’ve made a decision Kirby.”
Oh boy. Quit delaying the inevitable and put that bottle of strychnine-lased Gatorade in front of me. “What you got for me?”
“First off,” said Horatio. “I’m wondering, why didn’t you consider doing a Kick-Starter Campaign to get the financing for your musical? I’m convinced it would work.”
“Doing it that way hadn’t crossed my mind.” Admit it Burwell, except for all that time you waste watching YouTube videos on the ‘Net, you’re basically computer illiterate. The day you do anything with Social Media is the morning after you’ve won your Tony for Best Actor in a cameo role.
“You should’ve. I’ve looked into your production, asked a few questions to folks in your inner circle, and came to the conclusion that there’s a good chance you could still get the money if you did a Kick-startercampaign.”
Easy for you to say. Interesting how you’re going to use that as a justification not to give us any money. I suppose you can afford to do it that way since you’re basically a kingmaker. Ironic, Kingman-king maker. Did that coincidence ever cross your mind when you started saving pennies all those years ago? Probably not. “Thanks for your time. My schedule is pretty tight, so I need to cut our lunch short and move on to rounding up other funding sources.”
“Hold on Kirby,” said Horatio. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t give you any cash.”
What? All of a sudden, this situation is more incoherent than a rowboat navigating through a fog bank thicker than most extra dense pea soup. “I’m confused.”
“Don’t be. I’ve been hoping you’d come to me asking for some funds. I like you.”
Wait a second. Isn’t Horatio Kingman saying that the same as Genghis Khan commenting that he didn’t really enjoy invading new territory because he was basically a peaceful individual? “Please don’t be offended, but can you explain that last statement to me?”
“You look perplexed. Even though I’m a quiet, fairly guarded person and don’t reveal that much about myself, I’ve taken a great deal of hidden interest in your theatre company. I really want to see you people succeed.”
“Really? I’m shocked to hear that.”
Horatio stared directly at me as he said it. “I’ve got the financial resources to help you people out at this time.”
“Yes, yes you do.” Isn’t that sort of like assuming surfers enjoy spending time at the beach?
“I want to see this play of yours succeed on so many levels, and don’t think money problems should hold you back. How about if I give you people about $120,000.00 to get your production off the ground?”
Wait a sec, is this really happening? I’m fairly sure the affects of those hallucinogenic drugs I took at that party last weekend have already worn off, but then again, maybe not. “That’s incredibly generous of you. I don’t know what else to say. I’m socked.”
“Don’t say anything, nothing would tickle me more than having you accept my gift.”
Don’t blow it Burwell. “Okay.”
“You know Kirby, lots of people carry around this false impression that I’m some sort ogre and hoard all the money I make like King Midas.”
Actually, have you ever done anything to dispel that particular character trait, no? Since I’m not really “Jonesing” to revert back to begging on street corners, I won’t mention that. I don’t really like the assorted trash floating in the gutter when it rains. “Where do people come up with these unjustified accusations? I hate it when those things happen.”
“So do I. Hopefully my doing this will be a good first step towards dispelling those false impressions of me.”
“Oh definitely.” Wow, the guy even has a big smile on his face. Come to think of it, I’ve probably got a similar shit-eating grin on my mug right about now too.