Screw Gun

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Strings

of red-orange light glowed over the city and bay.  That’s when he says “People are different,”  I look at him.  Behind and above loom the large screens.  The PBR bull riding series flash the room corner to corner, to the sound of clacking pool balls.  I look over drawn by the hard clack of the steel chute opening to release the next bull rider.  “Next up riding Toe Smash–.”

“Yeah, people are different,” I think, staring at his hands.

“I didn’t even do anything,” he lifts a laptop-wide palm skyward.

“Well you don’t have to do anything anymore.  You simply have to look suspicious,” I say.  “In an office park, with a backpack is good enough.”

He looks over pondering, or maybe waiting for more.

“A heavy looking backpack is worse,” I add shaking my head.  “People are nervous now–particularly people in offices with high fees.  Maybe they sense their gig is about up.  Were there any secretaries?”

“The place was full–who knew people had that much money?” he jolts.

“They did–some people work on that type of thing,” I say, easing the lid of my laptop currently displaying the current chart for AMZN.  “It’s a sort of business–not for us.  More like for the greedy creep you had the appointment to see.”

The 20 oz. Pepsi wrapped in his left hand looks the size of a Tabasco bottle.  He notices me looking.

“This is all I’m allowed to drink now, after my last visit with that financial advisor.  It’s a legal thing.  But that’ll end in 2021, if I make it–and stick  to the ridiculous court program.”

Over all the screens the chute pops open again and the rider hangs, right hand high, 1 2 3, before executing a perfect right-side summer-salt.  Three seconds.

“She set the appointment,” Dan swallows glancing over.  “I didn’t know this guy from Adam–still don’t, never will.  And the backpack was from work.  I only remembered the screw gun was in there after he told me how much I owed, immediately.  Jesus Christ.”

“Life’s funny that way” I say.  “You never know when you’re gonna get screwed.”

“Shit.”

“Nice to know those fees going in is what I meant.”

“have you ever been to court?”  He hist me with a fixed stare.  I shift involuntarily.

“I was supposed to, once.  But they came over to my house instead.”

“I’ve put three or four of those office chairs together before.  It takes about ten minutes from box to finish.  It takes more time to clean up.”

“And even less to take apart,” I nod with a sip, in what I thought to be support.  After he calms back down, we both look at the next rider cinching in for take off.

“I don’t even have to raise my voice in an office and they’re on the phone to security,” he spits.  “Fuck, they watch me like a hawk.  If my faces goes red, they’re on the phone talking into their hand.”

“Of course.  You rarely have to do anything and you’re viewed as a monster.  If you’re not thrilled and tittering like a teenage girl while paying you bill you’re automatically suspect–that’s how it works now.  Besides, nobody actually thinks anymore anyway.  They have artificial intelligence.”  

“Financial advice,” he spits, still shaking his head while peering at size 16 boots.

“You didn’t actually pay for any of that did you?”  Silence.  I look over one shoulder nervously.

“Of course I paid–I thought it might be helpful, at first,” the irritation yet fresh in his mouth.  “Who really thinks like that?”

“Right” I nod.  “You never pay for that stuff–unless you have to wade through some big estate going through probate.”

He looks fixedly over like I’m insane.

“All he did was ask a few questions and poke at the computer.  Then I suddenly owe him $198.00 bucks.  That was just for that first day.  Then he expected me to write a check straight to them for the investments.  The place didn’t even have any walls for Christ’s sake.  What kind of office is that?”

“A loud one, with zero privacy” I say staring at the span of busy screens.  “Why do you think everyone’s so jumpy?  It’s like county lockup.”  Oops.  But somehow he ignores this.

“If she wants that kind of advice she can go.”

“Right, that’s what I meant.  Long as you still have a dollar, who needs more talk?”

“Defensive end at Nebraska did you say?”

“Yeah, untilmet Daina and it was sweet until the baby thing.  What was once simple got messy.

“What the hell–before I knew it we were looking at delivery charges, her mother was on the phone constantly, talking all the time–houses, better jobs with room to grow, baby seats, and a better car.”

“Of course her mother was talking,” I think with bile rising into the back of my throat.  And no doubt about it.  “That’s what mothers do.”

“When I suggested we could just move,” he looks up, “she looked at me in a way I’d never seen.”

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“Like you’d lost your mind,” I guess.  He waves the hand of a D end.

“Exactly–.”  He shakes his head.  “But my parents live here, she says.  And suddenly I’m going to some guy to tell me how to deal with my money.  You put your money in your pocket and she take it our.”  He strides over and drops the balls on the pool table.  “Then they put me on some program,” he says.  His face crimps with an edgy ire.

Finally I can’t help myself any longer.  “How far’d you get with the chair,” I ask.  But he simply leans over for a shot.

“When I walked in with that backpack he just stared.  Everything just went forward.  Then he kind of laughed about my balance.”

“Normalcy comforts people” I add.  “Keeping things calm pays, when you’re the one charging eyeball bleeding fees.”  

” You have to ask for a key to use the bathroom.  That sucks too.  This was later–after the market took a nose-dive last October.  I’d seen that security guard twice.  I didn’t even touch him.  I jerked the drill out and already had the back off the seat before he called security.  The guard just came at me when I gave him the basic swim move they teach every defensive lineman.  I  might have shoved him a little while moving past.  It was just a reflex I learned at training camp.  He fell down all on his own.  And that was the entire so-called assault charge.”

“Think twice before returning to anyone selling financial products,” I say handing him a STOCKjAW.COM card.  “We’ve been there.  We’ll help for nothing.  That’s what we do.”

I walk around to shake his hand.  “Neither smart money or good investing have to be rocket science.  Usually, simpler works best.”

I write down “S&P 500, index fund, total expense ratio below 0.2%.”

“Find a broker like Schwab that charges zero fees for buying or selling that kind of fund.  Open an IRA account to hold it.”  I clasp him on the shoulder and hit the door as the rodeo winds down.

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