My response will be a story about a young couple who’ve come to a crisis-point over life’s allusions and illusions.
THE BUDGET WON’T REACH
Rick pulled out his receipts and the notebook in which he was recording their monthly expenses. For several weeks Lexi had been alluding to the lack of money for extras; this morning she’d actually had to leave some things at the checkout because the debit card wouldn’t cover her grocery bill. The cashier had been nice about it, but she was so humiliated.
Her allusions were getting him down. He’d hoped to give her so much more than a tight budget and no money for extras. If possible he would find some way to free up some more funds for groceries. They did need to eat.
He started entering the receipts in his notebook when he came across one from Turner’s Home Trimmings. Lampshade: $42. Lampshade? Guess that explains why there wasn’t enough to cover the groceries, he thought.
Rick was annoyed. Why on earth did she buy a new lampshade when funds are so tight. She seems to have some serious illusions — or delusions? — about the lifestyle we can live on our income. Well, this lavish spending has to stop. Now.
“Lexi,” he called. “Did you just spend $42 on a lampshade?”
She hurried into the room. “Yes, I did,” she answered defensively. “The shade beside the couch was looking so tattered, I was ashamed to have anyone into our living room. I know what Mom would say if she saw it.”
“We could have made do with it for another year. I hate to disillusion you, but we can’t afford all this nice new stuff at this point in time. I’m not earning the kind of money your Dad is, not yet, so you just can’t spend like your mom does.”
“It’s only one thing — the first new thing this year. And there’s always VISA.”
“There is NOT always VISA. Credit does not mean FREE. Credit means deferred payment — preferably only until the end of the month. We have to cut out ALL unnecessary expenses until I’m earning more commission. Then you can buy new lampshades and such.”
“Well, if it makes you happy, I’ve cut out one expense. I’ve stopped buying birth control pills.”
Rick nodded. “Well, if you can do without…” He stopped and looked at her sharply. “And…?”
“And now we’re going to have a baby.” She sounded embarrassed, uncertain.
Rick put his head in his hands, extra expenses scribbling themselves in his brain. “That’s wonderful.” He took a deep breath and looked up at her again. “We’ll manage somehow.”
Lexi had imagined how she’d share the great news and they’d be so thrilled together. Now her illusions had burst like a pricked bubble, turning her stomach over on their way down. She rushed to the bathroom.
I had a fruitful trip to the hearing aid store yesterday; the audiologist upped the volume on my two hearing aids. I can now hear more than I ever wanted to. Shopping in stores was a general roar; our air cleaner sounded like a jet idling beside our window; plastic bag crinkles sounded like icicles crashing onto cement. To save my sanity I soon shut the hearing aids off.
Fortunately I have a little device at home called a Streamer, which I rarely use. It’s the remote volume control for my hearing aids, one that will also turn them to “phone” setting and stream the call into my hearing aids straight from my phone. However, I find it a nuisance for the most part; it’s always bumping against things, which messes up its settings. So the streamer stays in a drawer until urgently needed. We charged it up when we got home yesterday and I turned it on. Oh, joy! I was able to turn the volume in my hearing aids down to a normal level.
My hearing aids are ten years old now, and considered Obsolete — which means not fixable, not replaceable — so I asked the audiologist how much a new set of hearing aids would cost. I told him I need to prepare, decide what to sell so I can afford them. (No one wants your kidney when they find out you’ve had leukemia, so I need to think of other assets.)
He thought a moment, then answered, “Sell the car. A set of hearing aids would cost you about $3400.” He didn’t say “minimum.”
Well, yes, that would be the car. I shook my head. “Maybe I could write a bestseller? I’m a writer…and I understand the Harry Potter books author was broke and made her fortune with that series.”
Then I thought about my own writing. Not enough murder, mayhem, suspense, erotica, etc. “Trouble is, I don’t write bestseller-quality stuff,” I admitted.
“Write a book about Trump,” he said. “That could be a seller. Donald Trump, from a Saskatchewan perspective.”
Mulling the matter over later, I realized I’d easily spend $3400 traveling around the province researching “Donald Trump: A Saskatchewan perspective.” Furthermore, would readers in general, and the folks who make up the Bestseller list, be interested in knowing what we here in Sask think of him?
A Harry Potter-type fantasy, on the other hand, could be dreamed up, researched, and plotted right here at home. Hmm…
Hello dear readers. I’ve recently come across another new word, DEFALCATION, and I’m going to share it with you.
This is what public officials, treasurers, and mutual fund managers sometimes fall into, or are accused of. The primary meaning is to misappropriate or divert funds, especially public money, to embezzle. According to Merriam-Webster, another meaning is to fail to meet a promise or an expectation.
I’ve demonstrated its use in these two senryu:
that trickle to the slush fund
those expense account holes
auditors look through
I was reading an interesting anecdote yesterday which reminded me a lot of a story my mother-in-law would tell. The central character in yesterday’s tale was a Frenchman and tells how he gave up on Communism. When he discovered that, if/when Communism came into effect in France, he was going to lose half the francs he had saved, he dropped out of the Party.
The tale Mom told must have been adapted to the Canadian prairies. Apparently back in the 1920s and 30s, the goals of Communism sounded quite noble and had a fair bit of appeal to some average working people. Mom said it was quite common to hear people going on about how communism could make the world — or at least some people’s lot in life so much better.
As mom told it, two farmers were visiting and the one — I’ll call him Percy — was going on enthusiastically about how things would change for the better once the Communists took over in this country. Which they surely would, he assured his neighbour. I’ll call him Bert.
“There’ll be no more poverty, no more crime,” Percy was saying. “Everyone will work for the good of all. Everything will be shared equally. All those farmers with big herds and lots of land will have to share with the guy who has none.”
“So what you’re saying is that, if you had ten sheep you’d give me five,” Bert asked.
“And if you had four cows, you’d give me two?”
“Sure thing. That’s exactly how Communism will work. Everyone will have the same,” Percy assured him.
“And if you had two pigs, you’d give me one.”
“Yes, of course I… Now hold on here, Bert! You know I have two pigs!”
According to Mom, this was where Communism as a theory ran smack into the reality of human nature. People who have nothing are quite ready to receive, but as soon as they have to give up something themselves — like their second pig — the whole scheme breaks down.
In more recent years I read the account of a girl in the eastern States whose parents, along with many others during the 1930s, were so enthused about this ideology that they sent their children to a summer camp where socialism was taught and practiced as a model for future society. (Or where children would be indoctrinated, if you want to be a skeptic.)
The children at this camp would receive packages from their parents at home, and the rule of the camp was: “Whatever you get, you share with the others in your cabin.” One day she received a package from home and opened it. Her eyes lit up. Among other things her mother had sent along the girl’s favorite candy bar.
She reached for it eagerly, then thought about the sharing rule. She imagined her bar split six ways; it would give each of the cabin mates — herself included — a very small piece. Yes, she was supposed to share. But it was her bar; her mother sent it for her. Furtively she slipped it into her sweater pocket and hurried outside behind the cabin. Renouncing socialism, she ate the whole bar herself — and enjoyed every last bite.
Almost all of us seem to recognize that some government-enforced “public sharing” (like income tax) is necessary to keep things running efficiently. Communes may work for a time because membership is — at least initially — a voluntary thing. But Communism, that great theory of universal brotherhood and sharing, has proven unsuitable to human nature. And human nature has been a fairly constant thing through the years. 🙂