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Sack o’ Words


“Seventy five cents? Last week you paid a dollar a pound”, Nate said to the grease-ball at the gun metal desk whose chair squeaked as he rolled forward, closer to the desk to look at the compu-tablet. Nate was talking to greasy Carl but staring at the machine to the side with flickering lights and display screen on top.

“Seventy five cents for a pound of words now. Supply and demand. Too much supply. Not enough demand”, Carl said.

“But these are good words. These are hand picked words.”

“A word is a word. It’s a commodity.”

“Excuse me”, said a man nudging Nate aside and heading for the machine. “Hello, Carl”, he said as he dumped words into the word-hopper.

“Hello, Ben”, Carl said as the display screen noted the weight and payout. Carl handed Ben the cash.

After Ben left, Nate said, “Hey! That was a lot more than seventy five cents a pound.”

“Lies. Ben sells lies. They’re worth a lot more. Americans can’t get enough lies.”

“Then my words are lies”, Nate responded.

“Put them in the machine. The machine will know. I think you’re lying. Hey! You’re catching on.”

“Excuse me.” A young woman squeezed by Nate and headed to the machine. Her perfect skin glistened with sweat. Her cotton sundress gathered at her ass. Her crack sucked at the fabric. There was a dark patch of damp material at her lower back.

Nate and Greasy Carl watched her sublime, moist back undulate, sway and bob through the room, throttling back for effect knowing she was being watched, and out the door. Then they surfaced, knowing they had drifted too far from shore.

“Carl, that was a lot more than seventy five cents a pound too”, Nate said.

“But did you see those words?”

“Were those lies too?”

“No but did you see the presentation? How they were packaged? They were even scented. Yours are in a burlap sack.”

“I thought all words were commodities, that words were words.”

“I lied.”

Nate sighed. Carl’s chair squeaked.

“You could sell them overseas. Words are worth a lot more in Europe and Asia, for example”, Carl said with a hint of compassion.

“They’d be spoiled by the time they got there even if I could afford to ship them in the first place. Besides, they’re the wrong flavor.”

“Have it your way. Sell or don’t sell. We’re just wasting words. Words are cheap but they’re not free. I’ve got work to do.”

Nate dumped the burlap sack into the word-hopper. He said at the display screen in a defeated voice, “That’s not seventy five cents a pound.”

“Sixty five cents. Price just fell.” Carl turned the compu-tablet so Nate could read the charts and graphs tracking the word exchange.

Nate took his money and walked out into the glaring light. Searing heat. Everything – buildings, people – looked bleached. He felt the hot pavement through the thin soles of his shoes. Saw cardboard in a trash can. Tore off a piece approximately the size of the inside of his loafer to patch the hole in his sole.

“That’s my cardboard!” yelled an approaching man dressed in rags.

“Well. It’s my cardboard now motherfucker”, said Nate having taken all he could take.

“Chill dude. We’ll share.”

Nate threw the rest of the cardboard into the trash along with the empty burlap sack and walked away. After a few steps he thought twice about the burlap but saw, upon turning, that the bum had already taken the burlap and the cardboard.

A little farther was a hot dog vendor. A shiny metal cart with a blue umbrella. Nate bought a hot dog and a Coca Cola. The hot dog smelled like death. The Coke tasted like lies.

Around the corner, in shade cast by a building, sat a blind man. Back against the wall. His cane had been stolen. Coins in a cup grasped securely. He dared not let the cup loose. Anything out of sight was lost. From his perspective, everything was out of sight.

Nate dropped the rest of his money, seventy five cents, into the cup. Blind man shook the cup. A toothless smile.

Nate had a thought. He was going to the bridge. The Bridge of Sighs. A guy wrote a song about it once. Hopefully, he got paid.

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