by Caroline Taylor
I meant to embarrass you, make you squirm a little—although that would mean you actually have a conscience. I didn’t quite achieve the effect I’d intended, however, although the outcome was surprisingly satisfactory. There was even a smattering of applause, and somebody said “brav—” before being shushed.
So I got a bit carried away. Can you blame me? It wouldn’t have happened, except I’d had several drinks. They’d gone straight to my bloodstream and seemed to have short-circuited the calm, rational part of my cerebral cortex. Again, it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t want to be there, and my Significant Other was far across the room, flirting with a slinky hottie. Her thick, glossy mane of coal-black hair had to involve hair extensions—not that Lover Boy would realize it.
Anyway, that’s why I tossed back another martini way too soon after the first. I knew I should eat something from the tempting buffet table, but Ms. Shampoo Commercial was so slender, she made me feel like a beach ball that would only become more inflated if I opened my mouth. I stood there in front of the cash bar, surrounded by thirsty revelers and consumed with jealousy. Or was it envy?
I remember somebody introducing us, saying something about you being an investment banker. I’m no fashionista, but I bet the suit you were wearing cost about the same as my mortgage. I tried to establish whether—notwithstanding the designer clothes and the Audemars Piguet watch—you, too, had suffered in the financial meltdown.
You took my empty glass and said, “vodka on the rocks, is it?” The bartender poured a hefty dollop of Grey Goose over some ice cubes and handed me the glass. Then he poured you a refill of Johnnie Walker Blue. Uh-huh.
Switching from gin to vodka had a somewhat numbing effect on my mental processes, but I was not to be dissuaded—or distracted. So I commented that you didn’t look either unemployed or under indictment.
And you said, “Good heavens, no. Thanks to Uncle Sam, we’re actually doing quite well these days.”
And, okay, when I asked if your job involved buying and selling securities, I couldn’t help it if you might have heard “shelling shecurities.” You knew what I meant.
You beamed at me and said, “You interested in anything in particular?”
How about payback? I figure my share of the initial seven hundred billion dollar government bailout amounts to around twenty-three hundred dollars (assuming everybody actually pays their taxes). But of course, that was before the bailout itself became a bubble and now no one can figure out what we taxpayers are going to owe after rescuing you greedy, heartless, sonsabitches.
Thanks to your profligate gambling, impoverished children are suffering—(people close to you, I hope). Bridges and tunnels are falling apart—(hopefully, while you’re on or in them). Scientific research isn’t happening fast enough (to cure your fatal disease). And people—(it’s only fair that one of them be you)—continue to lose their jobs and their homes.
Of course, I didn’t actually say any of that because my tongue couldn’t keep up with my brain. Anyway, vinegar don’t catch no flies, as my mama used to say. Instead, I gave you one of those “gee, aren’t you the answer to a girl’s dreams” kind of looks. “I jus’ bet you’re one of those brokersh who gets off on things like shelling short,” I purred.
That got a smile. And a wink. I saw it, right before my hand got so furious, it sailed through the air and whap! Right in the kisser.
A hush fell on the crowd, and then a few of the people around me started clapping. Somebody even cheered. You heard them. I know you did.
We’re not stupid, you know. We understand that the damn bailout had to happen, even if it means that people like you—the so-called Masters of the Universe—are going to skate while the rest of us pay the piper.
It will be a long time before I forget the image of you standing there, rubbing your face. You might have been checking for loose teeth, but I thought I’d dislocated my shoulder.
Anyway, Lover Boy finally detached himself from the raven-haired glamour puss and grabbed my elbow. “You’d better hope he doesn’t charge you with assault!” he whispered as he pulled me away.
Like the waters of the Red Sea, the crowd around us parted. Head held high, I smiled like a Hollywood actress, strutting her stuff on the red carpet. I only stumbled a tiny bit before reaching the door, where I swear I heard someone say, “You go, girl.”
My short stories have appeared in Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, The First Line, The Chick Lit Review, Orchard Press Mysteries, The Greensilk Journal, and The Dan River Anthology 2009. Contact Caroline.