Farewell, Our Wherewithal

After shrinking the government “to the size of a chipmunk and garrotting it in a birdbath,” as an experimental reactionary economist once famously put it, the next challenge for my country’s wealthy was how to destroy money itself. They owned all of it; they’d worked hard to hoard it, like toy houses in a children’s real-estate game; wasn’t it theirs to destroy, if they so chose?

The favorite pastime for the richest rich became a showy and audacious fiscal suicide. A grand, public shooting of oneself in one’s diamond-clad foot; in a word, autodissolution. They’d convert their wealth to cash, pile it in the public square, and torch it. Turn it to gold, take it to sea, dump it. Creativity scored points among their class: sell all property, holdings, assets, cars; buy out the entire printed currency of a small, obscure nation; fly all those bills out over the ocean in their one last private jet; blow up the jet; film the explosion from their one last yacht; torch the yacht; escape in a cheap dinghy with the film canister.

It was all over so quickly! Which, I suppose, is easy when one percent of the people own ninety-nine percent of the money. Or whatever it was. The cliquishness of the no-longer-rich continued after their self-destruction; their avant-garde got new digs in elite shantytowns, in the ruins of public parks, under bridges.

As a cleaner of the undersides of bridges, I know this last group well. My work was once my job, but now it is my hobby, something I still consider to be my civic duty, even though there’s no longer any civitas to speak of, not as we once knew it. The under-bridge rich love me, but treat me like the hired help, or like they remember treating hired help. “You missed a spot,” they say. “You incompetent wretch!” “I don’t report to you,” I reply. “Don’t forget I chose this,” they say. “Chose it!” They cross their arms in a huff, scratch their new boils. “I didn’t,” I say.

Hemingway’s “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn”: The Early Drafts

I sold shoes. It was good.

Writing, like shoe selling, is hard.

Hola, compadre. War’s tough. Need shoes?

Bullfighters. Booze. Lions. Fishing. Paris. Babies?

Shoes, she loved. Me, she left.

American seeks paper, pencil, bambino (shod).

Sale: baby. Barefooted. Ten clams, o.b.o.

Baby shoes on offer, slightly blood-soaked.

For sale: diapers, never pooped in.

Crazy baby-shoe sale: everything must go!!!