Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Sixty-four : The love of money


Friday morning — 9:51 a.m.

“So he says …” Jeraine said. He dropped the bag full of dirty laundry on the floor of the laundry room.

“Yeah?” Heather asked as she came in behind him.

She set down their laundry bag. They turned and walked down the hallway to get the rest of their laundry. Friday morning was designated Heather, Blane, Jeraine, and Tanesha’s laundry time. For the last month or so, Jeraine and Heather had spent this unusual, yet oddly enjoyable, laundry time together.

“He says, ‘That’s the point,’” Jeraine said.

“What’s the point?” Heather asked.

“The point was to sign me to a contract and then not give me a show,” Jeraine said.

And make sure you don’t get a show anywhere else?” Heather gasped.

Heather stopped walking and turned to him. He stopped at her side. He nodded and they continued walking along.

“Philarguria,” Heather said.

“What?” Jeraine asked.

Heather ducked into her apartment to get the other bag of dirty clothing and a bag of sheets from Blane’s acupuncture practice. When she returned to the hallway, she waited a minute for Jeraine to appear from his apartment. They walked toward the laundry room.

“What’s that word you used?” Jeraine asked.

“Philarguria?” Heather asked. Jeraine nodded. “It means the love of money, you know, avarice. I did that talk to the older kids at the Marlowe School about the Greek words for love.”

“I bet you left that one out,” Jeraine said.

“I did,” Heather said. “My grandmother thought we should talk about it because the love of money is so common now, but I said that we should talk about the forms of love that aren’t such a focus now.”

“And she actually agreed to do what you said?” Jeraine asked.

“I know. Weird, right?” Heather asked with a snort.

Jeraine grinned. They walked the rest of the way to the laundry room. For the next few minutes, they dumped out their laundry bags and sorted them into colors. The laundry room had two huge industrial laundry machines and big dryers. So it made sense for them to combine their clothing to fill the laundry. Heather poured in the laundry detergent and Jeraine set the settings. When the two machines were chugging along, they left the laundry room.

“You want to come to mine?” Jeraine asked.

“Sure,” Heather said.

“I made some bread this morning,” Jeraine said.

“Ginger?” Heather asked.

“With the crystalized ginger,” Jeraine said.

“Sold,” Heather said with a grin.

They went to the apartment where Jeraine, Tanesha, and Jabari were living. The housekeeping crew run by Rosa, and paid by everyone who lived in the Castle, had been through the apartment. It was tidy, clean, and smelled lovely. This apartment’s kitchen was just a stove, sink, and a refrigerator.

Jeraine put the kettle on the stove. Heather sat down at the bar.

“Why did you say that about avarice and that Greek word?” Jeraine asked.

“Philarguria?” Heather asked.

“What did you mean?” Jeraine asked. “I mean, it makes sense. That guy has loads of money and a bunch of ex-wives and angry kids. I’d believe that he loves only money but …”

He took a bread pan off the cooling rack and turned the pan over so that the bread fell onto a plate. He set on the bar and went to get the butter.

“I just don’t see how it relates to what I was saying,” Jeraine said.

Heather nodded when he turned around. He set the butter, a knife, and a couple of plates on the counter.

“We only have a certain capacity to love,” Heather said. “All of us — fairies, Olympians, even Titans — we can only channel our love in a few ways. You should have seen Perses, who loves killing, struggle when he suddenly, for the first time in his entire life, had Eros, Philia, and Ludus.”

“What?” Jeraine asked.

“If you focus all of your energy in Philarguria …” Heather said, slowly.

“Avarice,” Jeraine said.

Heather nodded and continued, “you don’t have the energy for some of the more fulfilling loves like Pragma, long standing — love like your parents or Tanesha’s — or even Philia, which is deep friendships. The love of money clogs up everything else until it’s all you have.”

“Why is that?” Jeraine asked.

“Some of it is time,” Heather said. “If you’re the God of Destructution…”

“You spend your life destroying things,” Jeraine said with a nod.

He cut pieces of the ginger bread and Heather grabbed a slice.

“What better way to cause destruction than killing?” Heather said.

His mouth full, Jeraine grunted.

“We won’t go into people who are addicted to drugs and sex,” Heather said.

She raised his eyebrows, and he gave her an acquiescing nod.

“We only have so much time in a day,” Heather said. “If we spend all of our waking hours thinking about obtaining money, we don’t have time to cultivate these other kinds of love, even inside ourselves.”

“I know a bunch of dudes who have a lot of money and a lot of … uh … sex,” Jeraine said, picking his words.

“Sure,” Heather said. “But it’s not really love or even Eros. You know that better than most people. It’s not very fulfilling.”

Jeraine shook his head.

“So how does that relate to my situation in Vegas,” Jeraine said. “I can’t work at the dude’s casino and I can’t work at Jammy’s friend’s place. He lit-er-ally signed me to force me to not work in Vegas or really anywhere.”

“Keep the African-American blockade going,” Heather said.

“Prejudiced prick,” Jeraine said.

“But he is rich,” Heather said.

Jeraine scowled at Heather. She gave him a shrug.

“It’s not fair,” Jeraine said.

“But it does make money,” Heather said.

“You’re starting to annoy the f … out of me,” Jeraine said.

The kettle blared. He turned to make their tea and Heather grinned at his back. He was attempting to stop swearing so that Jabari didn’t pick it up. Of course, Jabari swore like a sailor. Jeraine set a mug of tea in front of her.

“Okay for those at the back of the class …” Heather said.

“That’s clearly me,” Jeraine said into his tea.

Heather grinned.

“This man loves money,” Heather said slowly. Speeding up, she continued, “From what you say, he loves money more than wives and children.”

Jeraine nodded.

“He likely has friends but a love of money fills up those gaps too,” Heather said.

“So he doesn’t really have friends?” Jeraine asked.

“He has people who make him money,” Heather said. “Associates. People who work for him.”

“People he owns,” Jeraine said with a snort.

“Exactly,” Heather said.

“So?” Jeraine asked.

“What do you want?” Heather asked.

“I want … You mean like everything?” Jeraine asked. “Like my Miss T and Jabari and …”

“In this situation,” Heather said.

“Oh.” Jeraine thought for a moment before he shook his head. “Doesn’t matter what I want. He holds all the cards.”

“Chicken,” Heather said.

“What are you talking about?” Jeraine asked, his voice rising with irritation. “I am no chicken.”

“Then why not tell me what you want,” Heather said.

Jeraine gave her a dark scowl.

“Before you tell me that I could not understand your plight as a young African-American man in America, I remind you that I am a half-breed Olympian born out of wedlock raised in Olympia because my grandmother tormented my mother all over the world.”

“I knew there was a reason I liked you,” Jeraine said with a laugh.

“And I’m not saying that this situation isn’t infuriating,” Heather said. “It’s racism — plain and simple.”

“He tricked me!” Jeraine said.

“True,” Heather said. “And it is hard to be an African-American man right now.”

Jeraine gave her a sideways look, and she nodded.

“It is hard,” Heather said. “That doesn’t change the fact that you want something — whatever it is. This desire is a wind that you can set your sail upon.”

He took a long drink of his tea to avoid looking at her.

“You want lots of money?” Heather asked.

“I thought it would …” Jeraine said. “Before you said it, that guy would never get ripped off because his attention is always on his money. I wanted money because I thought it would get me something I wanted, but I didn’t pay any attention to it.”

“So someone stole your money and you didn’t get what you actually wanted,” Heather said.

Jeraine scowled.

“Sucks,” Heather said. “So maybe you should just be honest about what you want.”

“I am honest,” Jeraine said.

“Then tell me what you want,” Heather said. “Lay it out for me.”

“What’s that going to do?” Jeraine asked. “You’re going to magic it all away?”

“I won’t magic it away,” Heather said.

“Agreement with Tanesha,” Jeraine and Heather said in near unison.

“Fine,” Jeraine said.

“But I might be able to see what you have that he does not,” Heather said.

“What doesn’t he have?” Jeraine asked. “He has piles of cash. He has everything.”

Heather shook her head. Jeraine just looked at her for a long time.

“Shit,” Jeraine said. “You’re saying that because of his … that Greek word.”

“Philarguria,” Heather said with a nod.

“He basically only has money,” Jeraine said. “I don’t have money …”

Heather opened her mouth to speak, but Jeraine held up a finger.

“I don’t have a lot of money,” he repeated, “but I friends, good friends. I have Tanesha. And my parents are even proud of me now. I have … I don’t know the others, but I have Jammy and I have …”

He fell silent.

“That lady who invited you on her tour last year?” Heather asked. Jeraine nodded. “What is it that she said? Something like, ‘If you ever need anything…’?”

“Shit,” Jeraine said.

“What?” Heather asked.

“I know a lot of artists,” Jeraine said. “I could put the word out on this situation and get people to boycott his casino. Hell, stop going to Vegas at all. Boycott the place because it’s racists to African-Americans.”

“It won’t be everyone,” Heather said.

“Yeah, but I know O’Malley,” Jeraine said. “Or my Dad does.”

“It’s the kind of thing O’Malley would hate,” Heather said. “He hates unfairness of any kind.”

“True,” Jeraine nodded. “And he knows everyone. And I know …”

“You should check with Jammy,” Heather said.

“Good thinking,” Jeraine said. “In case I get in trouble for talking about it.”

Jeraine nodded and fell silent thinking.

“You think that will happen,” Jeraine said.

“I think the man who has only eyes for money is easily blindsided by people who love well and completely in all areas,” Heather said.

“Agape,” Jeraine said.

“Hey! How did you …?” Heather asked.

“Mike,” Jeraine said with a grin. “He was a little freaked that Noelle thought he showed Agape. You know, it breaks up his bad ass image.”

They fell silent for a moment.

“You have to be a badass to truly love everyone,” Heather said.

Jeraine nodded. They fell silent for a while.

“You mind if I call Jammy,” Jeraine said.

“Go ahead,” Heather said. She looked at her watch. “We have ten minutes more minutes before we dry. If you’re still talking, I’ll start the next loads and the dryer.”

“You don’t mind?” Jeraine asked.

“Ever try to clean a garment with a rock and a stream?” Heather asked.

Grinning, Jeraine shook his head and went to get his cell phone.


Friday morning — 10:51 a.m.

In the alley behind the Castle, Jacob leaned over and opened the passenger door. Valerie stepped up into his truck. They drove toward the end of the alley and then stopped.

“Where to?” Jacob asked.

“Oh,” Valerie sighed. “I mostly just wanted to talk to you.”

“Where’s a good place to do that?” Jacob asked.

“Well …” Valerie said.

“Have you had breakfast?” Jacob asked. “Want to get a coffee?”

“Do you think Dad’s done?” Valerie asked.

She turned to look at him.

“With what?” Jacob asked.

Valerie shook her head.

“You’re not listening to me,” Valerie said.

“You’re not saying anything,” he said.

He glanced over to catch her mouthing his words. He grinned.

“Let’s see …” Jacob said. “It’s almost eleven. So yes, I think Dad’s done reading the funnies our mom. He’s likely on his way to Lipson. Do you want to see him?”

Valerie gave a slight shake of her head. He turned right and they went up Sixteenth Avenue. He turned on York Street and made his way to Colfax Boulevard. He pulled through the chain coffee shop drive-thru. After getting coffee for himself and tea for her, he started toward where he thought she wanted to go.

They drove in silence for a while. When he pulled up, Valerie gave a soft exclamation.

“Good job, Jake,” Valerie said in a soft voice.

Grinning, he pulled into the cemetery and drove to where their mother was buried. She slid out of the passenger side of the truck. He reached into the cab for a bundle of flowers. Valerie was kneeling over their mother’s grave when he got there.

“Here,” he said.

She turned slightly. Seeing the bouquet, she smiled and took the flowers from him. He went to sit on the bench near her grave to wait for his sister. A few minutes later, Valerie came to sit next to him. The sky was blue. The sun was out. They were dressed warmly, and the day was not too cold.

“How did you know?” Valerie asked after a moment.

She put her arms around her to pull in her quilted jacket.

“I bought those for you,” Jacob said.

“Well, you’d better get some more, buddy,” Valerie said with a laugh.

Jacob grinned. Whether due to the cold or just the cold reality of sitting at their mother’s grave, they shifted closer to each other.

“What’s going on?” Jacob asked.

“I …” Valerie sighed. “God, it’s great to be home.”

Jacob knew better than to rein her in. He simply nodded so that she knew that he was listening.

“I …” Valerie sighed. “It’s just that …”

Jacob held out his hand. She grabbed onto him like a lifeline. After a few moments, in the still quiet in front of their mother’s grave, she sighed again.

“I guess I’m not making any sense,” Valerie said.

“What else is new?” Jacob asked.

She punched him with the back of her hand. They laughed.

“Just lay it out for me,” Jacob said what their mother used to say when either of them needed to talk. “Take your time. Tell me everything. Don’t leave anything out.”

“Yes, Mom,” Valerie said softly and then stopped talking.

After a moment, she took a breath and began to speak from the depths of her.

“I honestly don’t think that you remember what it was like to be poor,” Valerie said.

Not speaking, Jacob raised his eyebrows.

“Okay, that’s unfair,” Valerie said. “I just hated it. I really hated not being able to have the simple things that my friends had — clothing, shoes … lunch money, a red scooter.”

Jacob grinned at the reference to his childhood dream of having a red scooter.

“I just hated it,” Valerie said. “Mom and Dad worked all the time. If they weren’t working, they were talking about work, scheming how to get more work, or taking us to some God-forsaken job site so that they could work. I wanted a babysitter not a backhoe.”

Valerie nodded.

“I swore that I’d never be poor,” Valerie said. “I swore that my children would have every little thing they wanted — trips to the beach or Milan or … Of course, my children just want to be at home, which is the Castle, so that they can hang out with their cousins. My gorgeous daughter rarely even brushes her hair, let alone worries about her shoes.”

“She’s kind of young for shoe worry,” Jacob said.

“I was her age when I was furious that Becky Juslip had these lace Mary Janes,” Valerie said. “Pink. I pestered Mom ruthlessly for those stupid shoes. When I finally owned a pair — my big present for Christmas — Penny had already moved on to a shoe with a heel. Of course. And I was still the lame one.”

“I wonder what happened to Ms. Juslip,” Jacob said, mildly.

“Fine, you’re right,” Valerie said. “I have my revenge against Becky and all of the Becky’s of the world! I know that.”

Jacob bit back a reply. He waited for her to continue. She took so long that he wondered if the moment had passed.

“That’s just it,” Valerie said. “I wanted money so much that …”

She sighed.

“I made a mess out of everything,” Valerie said. “Then Mike and I were back together and we had Jackie and …”

“You never gave up your love of money,” Jacob said.

Grunting, Valerie nodded.

“Don’t tell Mike that I told you, but I was furious at him for giving so many of his best paintings to the Denver Art Museum,” Valerie said. “We could have sold them and made a lot of money.”

Jacob didn’t say anything.

“I was in the basement yesterday,” Valerie said. “The kids were playing in that great room you made for them. ‘The Wild Bunch.’ Such a great name for them. I found Jackie’s perfect pink lace Mary Jane’s in a pile with Mack’s filthy soccer shoes. I couldn’t believe it! The perfect shoes and she …”

Valerie looked at Jacob.

“I asked her why she’d just thrown her shoes there,” Valerie said. “She said that they weren’t very comfortable.”

Valerie shook her head.

“Very comfortable,” Valerie said.

“And?” Jacob asked.

“They are very comfortable,” Valerie said with a snort of a laugh. “I was about to lecture her that women of class wear uncomfortable shoes when I just felt stupid. Why would I want my daughter to wear uncomfortable shoes?”

Valerie lifted her hands and flopped them back on her lap.

“I’ve wasted my life on Philarguria,” Valerie said.

“The love of money,” Jacob said. “Yes. I’ve heard all about the words for love in Greek as well.”

Valerie smiled. What few teenagers that weren’t sequestered at O’Malley’s house had been talking non-stop about love and the definitions of love. When Valerie didn’t respond, Jacob thought it might help if he said something.

“If I may …” Jacob said.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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