To All Books by Charles Martin Simon

The MONEY

Another great novel from
Charles Martin Simon


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5 ½ X 8 in. - 218 pgs.

ISBN 1-892489-06-6

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Sample - from Chapter 1

Conversation with a Friend 

When the phone rang, I was writing, as usual -- not this, something else. It was Frank, my attorney buddy. I hadn't seen him for a while. 

Did I want to go out for dinner? Sure. It's good to eat. The writer has to do two things in this life besides write: buy food and pay rent. Well, he has to pay rent anyway, because he can't write on the street. He can always find something to eat out there, but not always a pen and paper, almost never a typewriter, and never a computer. 

The rent and the electric bill. Everything else is optional. You don't need a phone.

Every starving writer should have a rich friend to take him or her out for a real meal once in a while. Every writer with a broken heart should have a friend like that. Every writer should be so lucky.

We met up at his favorite Chinese place. 

"What's a matta?" he asked, swabbing a potsticker in the hot sauce and flicking it into his mouth. "Mmmm-mmmm!" 

"Nothing," I said, doing the same. 

"The Peking duck is excellent here," he said after swallowing. I already knew that; he told me the exact same thing the last time. "Succulent. I don't know why you don't get that. Something is wrong. What is it?" 

"Nothing." 

"No. Not nothing. It's something. I can tell." 

"Come on, man!" 

"Come on man yourself, man." He poured the tea. "I know you -- how long? -- twenty-five years now. I think I know when somethin's wrong.... Out with it." 

"I said it's nothing." 

"You in trouble? Need a lawyer? Ha. Ha. Ha." 

"Done any more work on your novel?" I asked, to change the subject.

All lawyers are writing novels, don't you know, ever since Crotchman dosed the market with his poorly-written, mawkishly clever blockbusters. There ought to be a law against lawyers writing novels. None of them are any good. 

But they do have the squirt to get it in the hole. But they will roast on the pseudo-writers' spit in hell. Maybe Frank will be the exception, especially if he lets me help him, which he won't, so he won't, so it's hopeless. But I hope for him anyway.

It's going to be, or it would be if he actually did it, another hyper-crime, ultra-chase, soulful-but-white, attorney/sleuth/hero brought into the case backwards, fighting it all the way, against his better judgement, wishes, and all he stands for, against-all-odds, bad-guys-lose, good-guys-win type of thing. In other words a total bore with an almost infinitely convoluted plot with a few unique twists and a plethora of implied sex. 

There was this hollow in my stomach. It was empty and cold. I didn't think I was going to be able to eat. I had thought I was hungry, but I guess that was because I had forgotten for a little while. The idea of being taken out to dinner had overridden the other thing, momentarily. 

"No time," he said. 

"Well, make time." 

"Easy for you to say. You can write whenever you want. All day and all night if you feel like it. Any time the muse slips a hot inspiration up your anus.... I got a practice, yuh know. I got responsibilities. Clients. Employees I gotta worry about. I got a office t' run. And then I got a wife. You got...what? You got a computer. It's easy for you." 

"No it ain't," I said. "Don't matter who you are, yu gotta steal it."

"Yeah, sure, right, whatever. Gimme a break! You want the last poststicker?" 

"You take it." 

I know what it takes. I know what you have to pay. Sacrifice is really an understatement. Nobody wants to admit it, but that's what it is. It's not the civilized, peaceful, quiet, genteel art everybody wants to see it as. It's a vicious, life-and-death struggle in the jungle. To tear something out of nothing is not easy, definitely not easy. Oh but it flows sometimes, especially for me; but that's not what I'm talking about. That's not the hard part, that's the easy part, the seduction. That's why you have to do it -- at all costs. Because once you've tasted it, you have got to have more. And it does cost all. 

"Steal what?"

"Time, man. Time. What we're talking about. They don't just give it to you, you know. " 

"Easy for you to say. You stole it all up front." 

"Yeah. I did. And I'm paying for it with my life. I got a life sentence. Hard labor with no possibility of parole." 

"Yer the lucky one. You got security. You know what you're doing, and you're doing what you wanna do. I gotta do whatever everybody else wants, needs, or thinks they need. I gotta jump through all the hoops all the time. And dress sharp all the time. Gotta wear a tie all the livelong day.... Got any idea how much I hate it...." 

"You love it." 

"Yeah I do.... So what is it, man?...." 

"What is what?" 

"What's reamin' yuh out?.... A chick?" 

"Gimme a break, Frank. Okay? Lemme enjoy my dinner." 

"It's a chick.... Yeah, that's what it is. Why 'n't yuh tell me about it? Is it that one I met over your place that day? The Filipina gal? What's 'er name?" He poured himself another cup of tea, went to pour for me too, only I hadn't touched mine yet. 

"Drink yer tea," he said. So I did, put the cup back down, and he filled it. 

"Love this tea," he said. "Love it. What's her name?" 

"Ethera." 

He shoved the last potsticker into his mouth, bit down, and a stream of fluid jetted out onto the table, splattering his tie along the way. He laughed, expelling another spray.

As a lawyer, he loves being disgusting, and corrupt. He gets off on the juxtaposition. He's literary in that way. He'd make a good character in a novel, as long as he didn't write it himself. No, I don't mean that. I love the guy. I'm just in so much pain. Actually pain is not the right word. It's worse than pain. Pain has limits. Enough of it and you'll pass out automatically. This is without limit. From this there is no relief. From this, pain would be a step in the right direction. Denigration is a form of self-medication. 

"You ain't havin' a good time?" he said. "I think you oughtta talk to me about this thing." 

I shuddered and said nothing. 

"Seen 'er much lately?" 

"No." 

"Not much, or not at all?" 

"Not at all." 

"So what's the problem?" 

"Did I say there was a problem? I distinctly remember not saying there was a problem." 

"Yeah so what's the problem?" 

"There is no stinkin' problem!

"So why don't you get another one? Why you hung up on that one?" 

"Because I love her...and she loves me." 

"What makes you think she loves you?" 

"She told me." 

"Right. That's why you never see her. So why don't you? I mean if you love each other so much. By the way, where she live? And what makes you think you love her?" 

"Fremont." 

"That's not far at all. So what is it?" 

"She doesn't have time for me right now." 

"She doesn't have time for you!?" 

"She's very busy right now." 

"How busy can she be? She's not as busy as me, and I have time for you. And did I ever tell you I love you?" 

"I know where you're going with this. So don't go there, okay? You're way off base and out of line." 

"No, my friend, I have this gut feeling I'm right on the money.... What's the nookie profile?" 

"Huh?" 

"The sex, how is it? Better be pretty exceptional to keep you hangin' out on the line dryin' in the wind. Pass the soy sauce. I mean you been around the block a couple a times, bro. It ain't like you got your nose wet for the first time. When's the last time she give you any?"

He picked up the tea pot, gave it a shake.

"Need more tea," he said. 

"We never had sex." 

"Aha! The plot thickens. When's the last time you had sex?" 

"About three years." 

"You gonna die, boy. Y'know that? Yer gonna shrivel up and disappear. Yer gonna blow away." 

"C'mon, man. Lots a people don't have sex. There such a thing as sexless marriages, yuh know. Nuns and priests don't have sex." 

"Yeah but you ain't a nun or a priest. Crank the old hedgehog?" 

"Of course." 

"Well, at least you're not totally boinkered." 

The waitress came by to see if we needed anything. He pointed to the teapot. "More tea, darlin'."

He's Puerto Rican, and she's Chinese, so he maximized the Elvis, getting a whole lot of it into those three little words, "More tea, darlin'." A Puerto Rican talking Elvis to a Chinese; he liked it. He was wearing six-hundred-dollar, lizard-skin cowboy boots. 

"Time to trade that one in on a new model, son." 

"I don't think so," I said. 

"One that gives you gravy with the mashed potatoes." 

"Leave it alone, Frank. Will yuh, man?" 

"Jist advising you, babe, as yer attorney. As yer friend, I gotta tell yuh t' do whatever dumb thing you wanna. But as yer attorney, I am bound professionally to advise you in your own best interests. Save you from an expensive divorce a couple a years up the line." 

"I love her, and she loves me, and I'm going to wait for her." 

"And I'm gonna vomit. How's the sweet and sour shrimp?" 

"Fine." 

"How's the book coming?" 

"Fine."

"Right. So you love her, and she loves you. You say you're gonna marry her? I mean I get the distinct impression you're plannin' the swan dive into Big Mistake Lake." 

"I didn't say. But, yes, it has been discussed." 

"What's that supposed to mean? Did you propose to her? Did she propose to you?" 

"Neither. One day she said she had been thinking that after this was all over she might ask Charles to marry her." 

"Might ask Charles? Is that what she said? She didn't say 'you'. She said 'Charles'?" 

"Yeah." 

"Maybe she didn't mean you. Maybe she got a boyfriend named Charles that's not you, somebody who's gettin' the pussy. Ever think a that?" 

"No, I never thought a that. That's how she talks. She meant me. " 

"Suppose she did, now that's what I call a heavy commitment.... That's worth putting your dick on hold for.... That's worth gettin' all depressed about." 

"I'm not depressed." 

"Yeah you are. You're walking around like a...dunno what. But I think you think it's worth it.... So what's this 'this' that's going to be all over?" 

"Didn't I tell you? She's an inventor." 

"An inventor?.... I'm impressed." 

"Yeah. She has an invention in the electronics field. She got a patent and a contract with TOSHIKAWA." 

"She tell yuh that?" 

"No. I seen it on the six o'clock news." 

"Have you seen any documentation?" 

"No I haven't seen any documentation. What do you expect me to do? The woman I love tells me something, you expect me to ask to see documentation?" 

"Exactly." 

"Well, I can't do that. I trust her." 

"Trust? Trust? Trust...a woman? What's trust got to do with it? Where does trust come into the picture?" 

"You mean to tell me if your wife told you something, you'd ask to see documentation?" 

"Sure. Of course. If it was business or something legal and official and important, like a contract for an invention with a major company all of a sudden for example. Damn right I'd ask to see documentation." 

"Don't you trust her?" 

"It don't have a thing t' do wit' trust. I might see something she missed for example. I might be a help to her. But anyways, as a matter of fact, no, I don't trust her." 

"I feel sorry for you." 

"I'm a lawyer, amigo, I don't trust nobody. But enough about me, let's talk about you...and this woman a yer dreams. Because that's what she is, man. A dream. You're livin' in a dream, pal. You don't have a real relationship with a real person. The real person is some sleazy con you don't see, and she's got you by the sack, twisting yer peanuts off." 

"I don't think you're in a position to make that judgement." 

"Of course I am. I can see where you're coming from and where you're goin' to, and exactly what she's doin'. She takes your money, that's not so bad, you can always get more. It's the emotional thing that worries me. You can't replace what you lose emotionally. If it's not reciprocated, it's a bad scene, man. I'm a divorce lawyer, boy, I oughta know. I seen emotional devastation like you would not believe." 

"But it is reciprocal." 

"Oh really? Where is she then? What're you doing here with me? Why ain't you out with her somewhere? Or why ain't she here with us?" 

"What about your wife? Why isn't she here? Why aren't you with her?" 

"That's different. We been married twenty years. Besides, she's at a class tonight. That's why I even get to go out anyway. But we're not talking about me." 

"She misses me too. She just doesn't have time for me right now. Her invention has a bug, and it's got her hysterical. If she doesn't get it worked out, she's gonna lose the whole deal. And she's got too much into it. And besides, she just got divorced, and she has to heal from that too. Her ex owns half the patent, and he wants his money, and he's driving her crazy. She's under a lot a pressure. She sold her house to pay for the patent." 

"Yeah yeah. Sure sure. How come I smell rodent?" 

"I don't know, man, how come?.... Gee, I'm really having a good time. We gotta do this more often." 

"Okay, let's change the subject.... Only just one little thing more first. I'm curious about the sex thing, the lack thereof. I mean you say you love her, and you say she loves you." 

"She does love me. It's just that she has this problem. She says it would kill her. She's not ready yet. I'm not going to push her into anything before she's ready. She's got to go to the doctor. Her ex gave her herpes or something. Anyway, sex is not that important." 

"Wait! What did I hear? Say that again." 

"Come on, man." 

"I don't think so, man. Sex is that important. It's the most important thing there is. You're hung up on this fluff, and she's doing you. That's the problem. She's not getting you off, and she's not letting you get off on something else. You're being abused, son. Science has proven the worst form of abuse is neglect. That'll kill yuh faster 'n anything else. An' that's exactly what you're gettin', like Zimmerman said, too much of nothing. You're a walking example of the syndrome." 

"It's a mutual-consent type a thing, between two adults." 

"You should be gettin' it a couple times a day. At least three, four times a week.... I'm worried about you." 

"I thought we were going to change the subject." 

"That's a lawyer thing. When you wanna find out something somebody ain't talking about, you talk about something else. By saying we we're gonna change the subject, I took yer mind off a little, made yuh loosen up a little." 

"Very funny." 

"No, very serious. The bim don't love you, man. face it, and move on with your life." 

"You know that, huh?" 

"I know that." 

"One of your lawyer things?" 

"Yeah. My job isto know precisely and specifically that: that particular particular: When somebody who claims to love somebody don't. My job is to get to the truth of these situations. And I'm good at it. I'm the best. I know what it is before anybody else even knows what we're talking about. And I know she don't love you." 

"So how come I don't know it? You'd think I'd be the first to know." 

"You don' know 'cause you don' wanna know." He released a long burp, then lifted the bottom of his tie and peered at the stains.

"The little woman bought me this. Can you imagine a thing like this costin' I mean like 70 - 80 bucks? She is gonna be pissed. Ha. Ha. It's gonna hafta go the dry cleaners.... The broad, what's 'er name?" 

"Ethera." 

"Right. She might not know herself she don' love you. It's entirely possible she thinks she does. But if she did, she'd want to give you some. She'd want to get you off. That's the way it works. That's human nature." 

"She does, man. I know she does. She just can't. I already told you." 

"What you told me is her major appliance might be on the blink. But she got secondary appliances. If she loved you she'd do something. People, man, if they can't do it one way, they do it another. That's if they want to. You know what they say, where there's a will.... I been in this business long enough t' know." 

"What business is that, brother? You a sex therapist now?" 

"By the way, did you know my hobby is patent law? But we'll get back to that later, in re this lady's thing. But yeah -- law is about sex. Sex and money. The money is necessary to get the sex. Business, family, estate, probate, divorce, all secondary spinoffs of the real main deal." 

"That's how you see it?" 

"That's how it is, braugh. I had this guy come to me, oh, five years back. His wife had him bent over and was reaming him out with this instrument that only she would have been capable of devising, a black guy, a real good man. Only he was broke. It was all tied up in the house, the car, her jewelry. She had her own job too, which by the way paid more than his. He was a grade school teacher, and she was going for all of it. She was also porkin' her attorney. That's a big thing in divorce law, one a the traditional perks." 

"You ever do it?" 

"Nope. Never did. The little woman takes real good care a me in that department. There ain't nothin' left over for nobody else. She makes sure a that. But don't think I don't get lots a offers. They're all over you. They're so broke up over their marriage an' shit.... Anyway this guy comes carryin' himself into my office in pieces in a bucket. He ain't got a dime to pay me. So I take him on anyway and save his butt. And he sends me a check for a hunnerd bucks every month like clockwork. He's dependable as the sun." 

"So what's your point?" 

"That. That's my point. What I was tellin' yuh -- law's about sex. So that's my business. Sex. To answer your question. Sex is my business. So I want to know why this woman ain't takin' care a yuh. I wanna know why she's not motivated in that direction.... Well, come on, what 've yuh got to say?" 

I didn't say anything. So he said, "Come on, son. Why you suppose it hasn't occurred to her? I mean seein' as how she loves you and all. According to my calculations, she could be arranging to get with you at least a couple times a week, I mean if she loves you and all that good stuff, like you say she does. According to my calculations, she could shoot to your house almost every day for a nooner, I mean if she was hot for you." 

"She's got problems. She's obsessed with her invention." 

"My advice to you, as your lawyer as well as your friend: dump her and get you another one." 

"I can't do that." 

"Why not?" 

"I can't abandon her because she has problems. She needs me to be there for her. Nobody's ever been there for her before. I mean since her parents. And they're dead." 

"But she's not there for you." 

"She wants to be. She will be. It takes time. She wants me to wait for her." 

"I don't think so. You're messed-up, man. You can't keep a thing going for somebody who's not comming across for you." 

"It takes time." 

"How much time does it take? Two minutes? Five? Ten minutes, tops. And how much work is it? Any woman supposed to love you who wouldn't do somethin' for you ain't worth waiting five minutes for. Get on with your life, babe." 

"She's not like that." 

"What's that supposed to mean? Everybody's like that." 

"She's Catholic, man." 

"So?" 

"I'm not like that." 

"Sure you are. You just don't wanna admit it. You're dying right in front a my eyes. And it's because she ain't giving you none. Hey, if something's wrong with the plumbing, I can sympathize, but she got plenty more she could be doing for you. She got a mouth. She got two hands. She got an anus." 

"That's not it at all." 

"Sure it is. That's it exactly." 

"No." 

"Yes." 

"No." 

"Yes. That's it and all it is. All there is. Life is simple. Sex and money. Money for sex. And sex for money. Everything else is an elaboration, a spinoff. You gotta eat so you can make money so you can get laid. And speaking of money -- how much she take?" 

"What!?" 

"Money. How much she take?" 

"That's not the point." 

"Sure it is." 

"No, it isn't" 

"I think it is. And if I think it is, then that's what it is. And anyway, let's say I'm wrong, not likely, but let's just say, if it's not the point, then you shouldn't have any trouble answering the question. How much?" 

"She's going to pay it back." 

"How much?.... Five hundred?.... A thousand?" 

I didn't answer. "How much?.... Five thousand?.... Ten thousand?.... How much?" 

"It doesn't matter. It's not the point." 

"If it's not the point, and it doesn't matter, then just tell me. Twenty grand?.... Twenty-five?" 

"All of it." 

"What!?" 

"All of it." 

"All of it!?" 

"Yeah.... But she's gonna pay it back." 

"You mean to tell me you're broke?" 

"Yeah." 

"You mean to tell me you're sittin' there across this table from me...broke?" 

"Yeah. And in debt. She ran my credit card up to twelve thousand." 

"I guess that means I'm payin' for dinner." 

"You were paying anyway." 

"She got all of it?" 

"Yeah." 

"How much?" 

"Around ninety K, after the twelve on the credit card." 

© Charles Martin Simon