This is the cash flow game.
I found it one for a dollar at the thrift store a couple years ago. And let me tell you, its kinda cool. The object of the game is to get out of the rat race. The rat race is basically your job. Its working all day just to buy stuff that will break and have to be replaced, so you go to work and buy all that stuff all over again and throw it away and buy some more. If you love work and buying stuff, then great. But if you don’t, there’s a way out.
In order to get out of the rat race, you have to make enough passive income to cover your expenses. After you get out of the rat race, you have to buy your dream.
Anyway, I like games because I like to have fun. So, I made up my own real life version of the game. Well, my husband made the rules and goals, I’m the one who made a game out of it.
Of course, he told me to do this on some stupid computer program, but I’d rather do it the old fashioned way on a piece of paper.
I wrote down all of our expenses and gathered them together in sections of five hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars is precisely how much profit we get from each of our rental properties. We don’t have a mortgage on our properties, we pay cash. The houses colored in red are the rental houses that we own.
With three rental properties, we now have an instant raise. We get an extra $1,500 per month after taxes and expenses. That’s about 18,000 per year. This is money that we don’t have to work for. If my husband gets fired tomorrow, we have enough money to pay bills and buy groceries. We could get rid of the cars and bum a ride to the grocery store if we absolutely had to. But, I doubt that will happen. According to my calculations, we should be able to buy a house every summer for the next five years. That’s only if we’re frugal. If we hop off the wagon and spend money right and left, well, my husband will be stuck in the office chair upstairs for all eternity. (To be honest, I wish he loved work and bought me that cottage in the French Countryside. But hey, I can close my eyes and pretend I have it, right?)
This money gives us peace of mind. We wouldn’t have had it if we chose to get a mortgage on a bigger and more expensive house. We only managed to save this money because we chose to live sensibly.
(Also notice in my budget that I didn’t make an itemized list for clothes, furniture, home décor, charity, etc. Clyde and I each get our own cash that we can spend on what we choose. I’m not budgeting $100 per month for furniture and clothing when I can find a great deal of luxurious items at garage sales.)
Lewis Harvey and The Book of Snatcher, Chapter 3
While the conductor was waiting for the clock to strike seven fifteen, the three Zhons sat themselves down in car number five and waited for Lewis, who was supposed to be purchasing the necessary supplies for their night of fun and finance. Zhon-Claude stuck his head out of the intricately carved wooden window and shouted out in his thick French Accent. “Get a move on, bucko! The train will depart very soon!”
Lewis nodded submissively and walked over to a long row of vending machines. He stood in front of a bright one that was painted black with silvery purple swirls decorating the sides. He stuck a few quarters in, and cranked the handle on the machine a few times. The coil spun around and down plopped a decorative bottle of plum colored liquid.
Lewis grabbed a paper bag from the side the machine and plopped the bottle into it. Lewis was told to buy ten bottle of fizzy lifting drinks, but he only bought 7. Zhon-Claude owed him loads of money and never paid him anything. So Lewis decided that it wasn’t really stealing to pocket the extra change.
Just as Lewis was about to put another franc into the machine to buy another drink, Violet walked up from behind him and startled him. “You gonna git a Ding Dong with that?” She said, looking him over. His hair was slicked back with musky scented pomade. He was dressed in a black button up shirt that was covered with a black V-neck cashmere sweater. He was also wearing tailored black pants, and brand new black pants. The fabrics were very expensive.
Zhon-Claude told Lewis that if he wanted to fit in with high society, he needed to look like he belonged. Although Lewis explained this concept to his mother, and informed her that Zhon-Claude had bought it for him, she believed that wearing black meant that he worshipped Snatcher. In her opinion, no good would come from wearing black. Especially at night when the lurches were out.
Violet was wearing a long purple dress made from crushed velvet. It was handmade, and hand embroidered with little white and silver violets and swirls. It looked very much like the vending machine that Lewis had bought the fizzy lifting drinks from. There was a very good reason for this. Violet’s mother had seen the machine one day and liked it so much, that she decided to make matching dresses for she and her daughter using the same design and color scheme.
Had he not seen the vending machine first, Lewis might have been completely mesmerized by Violet’s divine beauty. But now that he’d seen it, well, it was just something else to add to her mondo-bizzarro weirdness. Her very presence there made him feel completely insane. Was she really a ghost? Definitely not. That was ridiculous. She was obviously alive and well, sort of.
All the same, Lewis did think that Violet was pretty, and was so glad that she was wearing an eye patch and had her hair covering up that side of her face so he didn’t have to think about severed optical ligaments.
“No. These aren’t for me. I’m actually on my way to a party with the Zhons. ” Said Lewis as he put his money into the machine and wound the crank that protruded from the side. A thick glass bottle fell down to the bottom of the machine. Lewis lifted the flap, and pulled it out.
“I prefer my solitude. It keeps me sane.” Said Violet, in a sweetly seductive voice. She was standing a little too close for Lewis’ comfort. He was starting to get nervous and gulped. Nervously he put another brass coin into the machine and turned the crank. Violet followed close behind. “Sane? Really?” said Lewis as he took the bottle from the machine, with nervous shaking hands and put it into his brown paper sack. “That thing you did in the café today was pretty insane.” He said, picking up his bag of drinks.
“The extreme always makes an impression.” Said Violet as she stroked Lewis’ arm upwards with a long purple fingernail.” Lewis smiled nervously and took a step backwards. He couldn’t stop thinking of that horrible missing eye of hers. Images of it flashed through his mind. He was hoping to the great God in heaven above that she would not give him a demonstration of what she could to with her empty eye socket.
“I’ve learned a lot of ways to freak people out with all the places I’ve been, Rome, London, Paris, Madrid…” Said Violet, edging closer to Lewis. She was really creeping him out, so he took another step backwards.
Zhon-Claude banged his fist against the glass window of the train. Lewis could hear his muffled voice beckoning him to hurry. “Come on Lewis, get a move on.” Lewis rolled his eyes, and then looked over at Violet. She folded her arms and shrugged her shoulders. “That’s the way it goes when you’re a traveling gypsy.”
Lewis’ mouth dropped open and he cocked his head. ”Whoa! You’re a traveling gypsy. I didn’t think gypsies existed anymore.” He said, nervously organizing the glass bottles in the paper sack. Violet gave a deep sigh and said dreamily with her head resting on the machine, pointed towards Lewis. “Nobody believes anything until they see it for themselves with their own eyes, and even then, they have trouble believing.” She said as she stared Lewis down from head toe in a way that made Lewis extremely nervous.
Lewis backed away from the machine, nearly bumping in to a row of crankers pedaling away on the stationary bicycles that powered the train. He looked over at the clock on the wall to see how much time he had left, and then he looked back. There was a huge yellow slug crawling across the face of it. He looked back over at Violet. “What do you mean?” He asked as he folded the top of the paper sack, and started walking slowly towards the door to the train.
Violet had a mischievous look on her face. “Let’s just say that gypsies can change your life.” She tucked her black hair behind her ear revealing her lovely sequined eye patch. Lewis could see the sparkly black beads on the strap that tied it around her head. “What makes you think my life needs changing?” He said, adjusting the bottles in his bag to keep them from falling out..
“What makes you think it doesn’t.” Said Violet, as she clasped the glass bottle that was dangling from her necklace. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Said Lewis, not sure where she was going with all of this.
“And if it is, broken, Lewis? Then what? Sit around and complain all day that life’s not fair. Sit back and watch the world run all over you from now until eternity. Or would you rather reach out and take what’s yours? How would you like to manifest your destiny, Lewis? Isn’t it time that the world revolved around you for a change?”
“Revolved?” said Lewis. He could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. A flash of lightning lit up the dark storm clouds around the train station. The lights above in the gas station flickered in an eerie spooky sort of way. Lewis noticed the same sort of flicker arising in the eye of Violet and he noticed that her eye, like her name, was a shade of blue so deep that it could be classified as purple. It was a crying shame that she no longer had a matching set. He realized that this was not a normal situation. He also wondered if Violet might actually be from some sort of alternate dimension. Why not? She was certainly weird enough.
Not sure what to think of this wild and wacky conversation with the girl who must not be spoken to, he backed away quickly and rushed into the train. Seconds later, the whistle blew and smoke rose from a tall copper pipe on the front of the black and brass engine of the dazzling locomotive. The crankers on the stationary bicycles pedaled away faster than ever.
When Lewis made it to his seat, he looked out of the window and saw that Violet had not moved from where she had been standing. She just stood there, motionless, staring right back at him as if she were some sort of deranged lunatic. Her eye glared at him in an intense and seriously deliberate way.
It was a two and a half hour journey to the north side of the island. It might have been a lot quicker if they didn’t have to stop and pick up people at train stations every twenty minutes. Zhon-Luke complained endlessly and complained that he might have been able to arrive sooner had he hitched a ride on a Mongolian tortoise.
Lewis knew they were close, when the rows of terraced housing disappeared and the only scenery to be seen were long rolling hills filled with forests of barren trees, and large amounts of dripping wet pouring rain. The rain had stopped by the time they arrived on the other side of the island, but the sky still loomed with dark thick storm clouds filled with bolts of lightning that flashed every which way across the sky, and occasionally on long metal poles that were strategically placed to capture lightning bolts.
Lewis and the Zhons exited their car, and entered a pristinely decorated train station, which was kept immaculately clean. There were several women dressed in French maid costumes polishing the floor with a type of wax that made the whole train station smell like a Carolina pine forest.
The rest of the journey had to be done on foot, as there were no cars to drive them around and hover boards had not yet been invented. Zhon-Claude pulled a map out of his pocket, along with a shiny brass compass and led them all down a foggy path that ran through a small patch of trees, until at last they reached a huge stone house in the center of a vineyard that was so old that the grape vines looked like trees and they no longer had trellis’ to hold them up. It was almost winter and the vines were empty. The warm foggy ground was thickly covered with damp leaves that fell from the nearby orchard.
This particular frat house, was not the house which is run by the fraternity of a university, it was just some old house that the elite crowd from the north side of Chesky Island liked to have parties in. The word “frat” on Chesky Island comes from the word fraternize. Furthermore, it was in this old stone house, that the wealthy people of the island all came together every month, to fraternize and scheme together, and create new and innovative ways to take people’s money away from them.
The parties were an invitation only event. Zhon-Claude had been trying for years to get into one of them. His papa’ had been to the frat house when he was a teenager and had a very bad experience. He ate his escargot with a salad fork and fingers instead of the proper two-pronged cocktail fork and escargot tongs. The host of the dinner party was so outraged, that Monsieur Baguette was literally thrown out on his face and banned from attending a party there ever again.
In fact, Monsieur Baguette was so utterly devastated by the whole ordeal that he just decided that they were a bunch of scumbags and he didn’t need them anyway. He never told his son this story. He merely forbade him from going there because the train ride over was extremely dangerous. “If the train doesn’t crash,” Monsieur Baguette had warned his son, you might get lurched in the lavatory.”
Zhon-Claude didn’t believe his father’s stories. He desperately wanted to attend a frat party because he thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to get a whole crew of salesmen who would work day and night to put francs into his pocket. In addition to this, he knew that if he played his cards right, he could even make enough money to build his own frat house on the south side of the island.
Zhon-Claude had dreamed of going to the frat house ever since he was a little boy and he overheard someone talking about it on a train ride to visit his grandmother. He had heard that the frat house was the place that the elite people of the island went to get prestige and social status. He had always dreamed of being invited to the frat house, and finally his day had come.
He was so fortunate and grateful to have been invited by Freya Haggis, a girl whom he had met at a dinner party the previous year. She was a voluptuous girl from Scotland with long red hair. She wore a lot of pink and always clung tightly to Zhon-Claude whenever she saw him, as if he were a nice accessory like a sequined hand bag.
Zhon-Claude liked her very much. They wrote letters all the time, and had seen each other on several occasions. But tonight was different. Or, at least, he hoped it would be different. He hoped that this would be the night that she would let him kiss her. Maybe she would let him if she knew how rich he would be very soon with his vitamin business.
The front door to the stone frat house had the rounded top that you see on the old English cottages of Yorkshire. It was made from solid oak and had been stained and treated so many times over the past five hundred years that it was smooth and very dark brown. “This, my friend Lewis, is a prime example of fine craftsmanship.” Said Zhon-Claude as he stroked his hands over the wood grains of the door. He stroked the black hinges as if they were fluffy white cashmere kittens. “These hinges were made from wrought iron over five hundred years ago.”
Zhon had been told about this house, and he decided to show off his knowledge and give a brief detailed historical description. ”Yes indeed, these hinges have endured the harsh elements of wind, rain, and hot squeltering sunshine for centuries, but they don’t show their age, now do they. Do you know why, Lewis?” Zhon-Claude addressed Lewis instead of the other Zhons because Lewis was dirt poor, and therefore a complete idiot in the eyes of Zhon-Claude.
Lewis gave a sigh of agitation, folded his arms, and pursed his lips. “No. I don’t know why. Please tell me so that I can be enlightened.” Lewis said sarcastically. Lewis may have been quite poor, but he knew that squeltering was not even a word. He daren’t accuse Zhon-Claude of improper word usage. He might just have a dictionary made and stick the word squeltering in it just to prove Lewis wrong. Rich people can do that sort of thing.
Second thought, Zhon-Claude wouldn’t ever do that. He was far too lazy and dim witted. All the same, it was pointless to argue. He’s the type of person that had to win every argument because he was too pig headed to be wrong.
Zhon-Claude pointed his finger up in the air and moved his hands around to give emphasis on his informative lecture on the history of the wealthy. “The iron work on this house isn’t rusty because servants polish and buff it every single day. Extreme cleanliness is one of those very nice fringe benefits that only the very wealthy can afford. But hey, poor people don’t care about this type of thing. Having surfaces that sparkle like diamonds just don’t matter to the lower class. They simple adore living in filth. If this weren’t true, they wouldn’t go to such extremes to pile their houses so full of clutter that it’s impossible to wash anything down.”
It was a very good thing that Freya answered the door when she did, otherwise Zhon-Claude would have been beaten severely with the cast iron poker stick that Lewis noticed laying on the ground behind the shrubberies.
“Aye! Halloo Thar.” Said Freya in a very thick Scottish accent as she answered the door. Her long flowing hair flowed down to her waist, covering much of the floral sequin design on her pink sari. She gave Zhon-Claude a kiss on each of his cheeks and grabbed him by the arm. Then she immediately gasped when she noticed that Lewis and the Zhon’s were standing on a patch of mint and marjoram. “I wouldn’t stand there in that patch if I were you. They tarred and feathered the last brutes who stood in their herb patch.”
She motioned towards the door with her head and said. “Ah well, welcome to the frat house, come on in.” As they entered the house, Lewis noticed a strong scent of nutmeg and cloves, it smelled like someone might be cooking mulled apple cider. On the walls were real torches that burned real genuine orange fire. She led them into a room that was covered in fine silk tapestries that were hand woven and imported from Tibet. The room was filled with the scent of sandalwood incense and the smoke from clove cigarettes.
Crystal glasses with rich expensive port wine were sitting on wooden tables that were carved with Chinese designs of farmers in the fields with their oxen and little ornate Asian villages. There were little blue willow tea cups filled with spiked apple cider sitting next to plates of hors d’oeuvres such as stuffed snails, coconut frog legs, and chocolate covered ants and grasshoppers.
A few of the elite poshies were playing bridge, but most were very involved with an extremely competitive game of darts. Lewis felt stupid for bringing an entire bag of fizzy lifting drinks. It seemed so cheap and mundane compared to the lavish beverages being offered here. It wasn’t Lewis’ idea to bring the bag of drinks. Zhon-Claude said that it wasn’t polite to attend a party without bringing something to give the host. So he handed Lewis some money and forced him against his will to buy cheap drinks to take to a posh party.
Zhon-Claude also insisted that they all wear their finest clothes so they would make a good impression and fit in nicely with some of the richest people in the world. If these were the fine and fancy offspring of an elite class of money hoarders, they definitely did not show it. They were wearing old worn out blue jeans with holes in them! Their button up shirts were wrinkled, tattered, and torn. Not a one of them appeared to have brushed their hair any time in the last decade because their hairstyles were stiff and going every which way. Some of them even had eyes that were outlined in what looked like black shoe polish.
Lewis couldn’t believe his eyes. This was not at all what he had expected to see. He felt overdressed and out of place. He stuck out like a honky at a flea market in Afghanistan. And to make things worse, he’d just spent the last hour and a half being drilled on proper etiquette, as if his rude manners would get them tar and feathered or something.
Well, it didn’t seem like any one of these rowdy bunch of heathen had even heard of manners. There was a barefoot guy with torn blue jeans and no shirt hanging from a wrought iron chandelier. He aimed a dart at the dart board while a few others cheered him on. Lewis guessed that his name must have been “Ug” or something because that’s what they were all chanting when Lewis and the Zhons entered the room.
Ug threw the dart and made a bulls-eye. Every single person in the room screamed so loudly that Lewis’ ears began to ring. Then they all chugged down their port wine as Ug grabbed the chandelier with both hands and started swinging from it like he was a wild orangutan on a trapeze in the circus. Lewis looked up at the ceiling to see if it was about to collapse over their heads, but it seemed pretty sturdy.
Lewis turned to see what the Zhons were doing but they mysteriously disappeared without him even noticing. He heard the feint voice of Zhon-Claude coming from a stone stairwell that seemed to be leading to the basement. Lewis walked down the stairs that were lit by torchlight and saw a group of nicely dressed teenagers crowded together and talking in the wine cellar.
“So you’re telling me,” said Freya who was sitting Indian style on the floor drinking a glass of red wine,” that I can make more money peddling your products that I can with a hundred vending machines?” She put the glass to her mouth and took a sip that was so tiny that barely any went into her mouth.
“You’re pulling a triangle scam.” Said a skinny girl with short brown hair and a sexy red dress. She took a puff from her lavender cigarette and said in a nonchalant way. “There’s no way this is going to work. Eventually, you’re all just going to wind up getting thrown into the volcano for this, you know.”
“Yeah, totally! I just don’t get it.” Said another girl who was sporting a side pony tail. “If it’s so great, then where are your gold chains and your diamond rings, huh?” It was upon hearing this thing about the gold chains that Lewis finally noticed very peculiar about this lot of poshies. It wasn’t just the fact that their clothing was weaved with a higher thread content and were custom tailored to look more expensive. That was part of it, but it wasn’t the whole thing.
These kids were all wearing gold chains. And not just one or two little flimsy ones with a rinky-dink pendant of a broken heart that said half of the words “best friends forever”. These were the heavy gold chains that you might see on a New York City gangster.
Lewis sat down next to one of the girls to have a closer look. He had never seen anything made of real gold in his life. This gold wasn’t bright and shiny like it was described in stories. It was a dull color and it seemed to give of a certain kind of energy that made him feel inferior and intimidated. He felt unworthy to behold the sight of it. He also developed the sudden urge to rip off someone’s gold chain bracelet and make a run for it. One bracelet alone would be more than enough money to bribe someone into getting him off the island. But he didn’t do it.
Anyone with the money to buy a bracelet like that would have enough wits to know a guy like him had stolen it. Lewis didn’t want to steal. The penalty for stealing on Chesky Island was being thrown into the volcano. Lewis didn’t want to be thrown into a volcano. The thought of being tossed into hot bubbling lava and being boiled to death sent chills down his spine.
Lewis had been trying to figure out how to get off the island for ages now and he just couldn’t figure out how people were doing it. He knew that there was a way to leave that didn’t involve dying but nobody would tell him how it was done. There were no airports or boats that could take a person to and fro, and yet there had to be a way to leave, there just had to be. People kept talking about importing things from other countries. And the people at this party kept talking about other places that they’d been. But when he tried to ask, they acted like they didn’t hear or understand his question. Lewis was in quite the predicament.
Freya tucked her curly long red hair behind her ears and smiled pleasantly, revealing two very large and adorably cute dimples on both of her cheeks. “Well, everyone’s gotta start somewhere. I’m in. How does it work?” Said Freya. She held her breath, put on a disgusted facial expression and chugged down the entire glass of the wine in her goblet. Then she leaned forward, and poured herself another glass from a round wine bottle that was wrapped in woven twine.
“Yeah, let’s hear what you got.” Said the girl with the lavender cigarette. She seemed to be attracted to Lewis because she sat down next to him and tried to cuddle up next to him like a kitten.
“Awesome.” Said Zhon-Claude, rubbing his hands firmly together. He stood up and started pacing back and forth in front of the group as he spoke. “First of all, you have to buy the products yourself. Instead of eating Ding Dongs for breakfast, you drink the Avec-vu Power Shake. Instead of the hot and frothy Zorba and frog leg sandwich at lunchtime, drink another Power Shake. Then you take three pills at dinner time with a glass of water, instead of your regular meal, and wa la! You get thinner and more muscular.”
Zhon-Claude cleared his throat and ran his fingers through his jet black hair. “Avec-vu products enhance your muscles. In fact, you lose fat and gain muscle every single day that you use them.”
Zhon-Claude was motioning excitedly with his hands, his voice growing more passionate with every word as he continued on with his prepared business speech. “People will see the results and when they ask why you look so good…you can tell them your secret. And they’ll go for it. You know why? Because they’ll make so much money that they’ll never have to wind another crank again.”
Zhon-Claude put a hand over his heart as he reached out to his audience with heartfelt sincerity. ”We, the founders of Avec-vu, also sell learning enhancing capsules to help you do better on exams. And in addition to this, there is also another very nice benefit of our company. Once you get ten people under you buying and selling your products, you can make enough money to pay for the products you use and also have money left over to spend on fine clothes and expensive jewelry, more fabulous than the queen herself wears.” With these last words, everyone in the room gasped. Lewis heard a few of them say “ooh la la!” followed by quiet whispered conversations.
Zhon-Claude paced around them as he pounded one of his fists into the palm of his other hand. “Instead of spending all day in night winding cranks…you could be out doing archery or relaxing in the hot tub. There is a whole life of luxury just waiting for you all out there and the time is now. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Now is the time to go out and grab what’s yours. The time is now to manifest your destiny and be the person you were meant to be!”
Lewis had always thought the gimmicky business speech of Zhon’s was powerful and meaningful. Sure it worked great with the people back where they were from, but these people had money already. What did they need with some loser chump change that Avec-vu could offer? They apparently weren’t thinking at all the way Lewis was. They seemed to be totally into Zhon-Claude’s act.
Lewis wondered why these rich poshies were interested in finding a brilliant way to get out of winding cranks. From the looks of it, he didn’t think that any of them had even seen a crank. These younglings were all rich, and rich people were always looking for new and innovative new schemes to take money away from the low life poor people who could barely scrape up enough money to buy Ding Dongs.
In a serious, devout voice tone of voice, Zhon-Claude addressed the group with great enthusiasm. “Are you tired of working hard with nothing to show for it?” Freya stood up and grabbed Zhon-Claude by the arm, threw a fist up in the air and shouted loudly with great force and intense passion. “Yeah!”
Perhaps she was a cheerleader or some type of charismatic guru or something because everyone got up and said “yeah” too. Some of them even jumped up and shouted “We like it! We love it! We want some more of it!” Lewis wasn’t sure what was wrong with this rowdy bunch of rich snobs. What did they want money for? They already had tons of it. How else could they afford the gold chains? Unless of course, he was wrong and the chains were just gold-plated or something. Lewis really wanted to know. He wondered if he should try scratching someone’s gold bracelet with his pocket knife to see if it was real. Perhaps not. It might be a better idea to just ask someone.
The clingy kitten girl introduced herself to Lewis as Coco Chaton, and forced him to drink a very large glass of wine. Then she dragged him up a grand mahogany staircase to a very nice bedroom with tall gold pillars. Lewis thought the pillars might be made of real gold, as well. He wrapped his hands around it and knocked on it. He put his ear against one of them and determined that it was definitely wood painted to look like gold.
Coco made Lewis drink another glass of wine. This wasn’t such a smart thing to do, because after he drank it he couldn’t think straight. Words came out of his mouth before he could even stop to think. It was as if someone else was talking for him. He felt like a marionette puppet in an Austrian nursery. “Can I ask you something?” Said Lewis, who really didn’t want to ask this girl anything at all for fear of sticking his foot into his mouth.
Much to Lewis’ dismay, Coco grabbed him. He shook all over with fear and trembling at the thought that she just might try and kiss him. This was a horrible thought because, he could smell the frog legs on her breath, and it wasn’t the slightest bit pleasant. In addition to this, she had hairy legs and armpits. But what really turned him off was the fact that he could see every hair in her long dark nostrils. “Yes.” She said passionately with huge heaving breaths.
Lewis turned his head, pulled Coco’s hands from his shirt, and slowly tried to back away in a very discreet way so as not to offend her and get himself kicked out of the party. “Those chains that you’re wearing. Are they made from real gold?” He asked with a forced smile.
Perhaps Coco had a bit too much of the wine herself because she started laughing so hard that she started snorting. She sounded like a dying arctic seal after it had been giving large amounts of extra strength expectorant. Lewis didn’t know what was wrong with the girl. He tried to explain himself so as not to seem like a ding bat. “Well, everyone is wearing them, and everyone’s so rich that I thought that, perhaps, you guys had a gold mine around here somewhere and the parents wielded them for their children because they loved them so much and wanted them to be happy.” Said Lewis as he tried very hard to grab her by the arms so he could have a better look at the gold chain bracelet that she was wearing. But by this time, she was on the floor snorting in a fit of hysterics. Tears were rolling from her eyes as she shook her head and tried to calm herself down.
Finally, Coco managed to explain that the boys make them in a whittling class at their school. Each chain had been carved from a single piece of Osage wood and were then dipped in golden colored paint. The boys at her school apparently loved wooden jewelry carving so much that it became a sort of competition to try and see who could make the longest chain. Of course all the parents thought that the chains were junky looking and it drove them absolutely bonkers. The professors also hated the chains and didn’t allow them in school because the kids were always selling them and trading them for things.
Coco took off the very long gold chain necklace that she had wound round her neck several times and handed it to Lewis. “Here, take it.” Lewis hesitated and firmly blinked his eyes several times. He thought that the bracelet was the most beautiful piece of jewelry that he had ever seen. He thought that looked just like real genuine gold. “Seriously, you can have it. I’ve got six more just like at home, and besides, my brother screwed up really bad when he was making it, look.” She showed him where the end was wound together with a piece of twine.” Lewis reached out and took it. As soon as he held it in his hands he knew it wasn’t real. He’d heard that gold was very heavy. The necklace was very light, so of course it wasn’t real and he felt more embarrassed than ever for believing that the jewelry that everyone was wearing was made of pure gold.
Suddenly, massive amounts of teenagers ran through the hall and poured into the bedroom that Lewis and Coco were in. All of them were wearing loads of gold chains…wallet chains, necklaces, and bracelets. Some even had gold chains on their bare ankles. A guy came in and started playing a song loudly on the guitar. Some girls in ripped blue jeans started jumping and dancing on the bed. Several others started beating rhythmically on the walls, as if…they were poor kids whose parents couldn’t afford to buy them drums.
Lewis looked through the doorway and saw Freya and Zhon-Claude run past wearing white bed sheets like they do at toga parties. A pale skinned blonde girl came into the room came in carry a stick of sandalwood scented incense. She was wearing a red velvet sarong, and had a scarlet bindi stuck onto her forehead. She lit the incense with a match and instantly the room was filled with the sweet smell of Peruvian sandalwood.
“So, I guess you’re not around here?” Shouted Coco over the loud banging racket, getting close to him again. Lewis wasn’t sure what to say. What would she say if she found out that he was poor and lived in terraced housing? Did it matter? What would she do? Kick him out. The Zhons had specifically said that if anyone asked, he was supposed to say that they were from Milford.
“Milford.” Lewis said, even though he was almost positive that such a place had never existed. Lewis hadn’t been instructed on what to say if someone asked, “Where’s that?” Which is what Coco said next. He was a bit tipsy, which made it very difficult for him to change the subject to something else entirely. What does one change the subject to at a time like this?
Lewis looked down at the bracelet that Coco had just given him. “So…if all the boys are whittling jewelry for fun in their spare time, what do the girls do? Weave tapestries out of spun gold?” The idea seemed quite plausible. There were tapestries everywhere in the frat house. Coco laughed. “No way. Tapestries are incredibly complicated to weave. We had a woman from Baghdad try to teach us how to weave them, but it was a nightmare. It took forever and bored us to tears, and we all kept having to take out all the threads and start over.” Said Coco. “No. The girls pretty much stick to something more practical.”
“Oh really, what do the girls at your school make?” Asked Lewis who desperately wanted to know if the Bagdad weaver was leaving soon, and if so, could he go too? However, he didn’t quite know how to ask such a question without seeming like some sort of a psychopath. It is necessary to be prudent around the elite crowd, so he’d been told. If you do or say anything that the people in the frat house find offensive, they’ll banish you from their presence from henceforth and forevermore.
Coco slipped her hand into Lewis’ and cuddled up very close, nuzzling her head into his arm “We spend our four years of high school working on the gown that we wear for the debutant ball we have after graduation. It’s not just the gown, you know, we also have to make the corset and the petticoat. It has to be something really special because it also doubles as a wedding dress and a gown for attending other festivities that you can only attend if you have one. Anyway, you must be from far away, because otherwise you would know all of this already.” She stroked the fabric on his jacket, examining it carefully, and asked again. “So…where are you from?” A deadly pause ensues.
Zhon-Claude was sitting in the next room with Freya and they were still talking business. “Come on, Freya, I don’t know what the problem is. There is nothing wrong with meeting people and befriending them for the sole purpose of making them sell your products. Money is what we all need to survive. Everybody uses it and needs a way to make more. Think of it as doing your new found friends a favor.”
Freya groaned in exasperation. “Why do we have to talk about money all the time? There’s more to life than money, you know. This whole process is messed up. I feel like I’m using people.”
Back in the bedroom, surrounded by the rowdy kids and the loud music, Coco finally gave up asking about where Lewis was from, and had changed the subject to something else that Lewis was not prepared to answer. “So tell me honestly?” She said with a hand on her hip and her head tilted to one side. “What’s in those diet pills you’re selling? I hear those things are made in China and do you know what they put in those? Dog brains and cat intestines. Yeah, supposedly. It’s got this enzyme that makes your body turn fat directly into muscle but it hurts like krells, you know. It gives you serious stomach cramps, and you feel like you’re gonna die and stuff. Yeah man, my aunt took some of that crap and she swore…Never again.”
A big guy dressed in a burgundy Adidas jump suit with a long gold chain wrapped ten times around his neck did a summersault and back flip off the bed. He landed on his feet as if he were at an Olympics fest or something. He approached Lewis when he heard what their topic of conversation was. There must have been a serious case of collective consciousness going on in this house, because everyone else in the room stopped what they were doing and huddled around Lewis to hear what he had to say.
Lewis hadn’t thought about the fact that he was a curious stranger that had arrived and everyone wanted to know all about him. Everyone at the party already knew each other. They were from a small town and had known each other since they were babies. It wasn’t every day that someone new came to one of their fancy shin digs. Of course Lewis didn’t know what was going on. He just thought they were just a bunch of eclectic weirdoes.
Before he knew it, Lewis found himself in the center of a very large crowd of people. This was indeed what the Zhons had hoped for. After all, hadn’t he been told to meet everyone at the party and sign them all up part of the sales team? Sure, it sounded just fine and dandy on the train over, but now that it was really happening, he was a nervous wreck. They were all surrounding him, waiting for what he had to say. And to make things worse, he had to tell them what was in the Avec-vu dieting powder.
“No. It’s not from China.” Said Lewis, who would have given his left eye to get to go to China or anywhere else but the godforsaken place he was born on. Well, um, maybe he wouldn’t have given his own eye, but you get the picture. “It’s packaged right here on Chesky Island.” Said Lewis. He couldn’t imagine how something could be imported from anywhere.
“Yeah, man.” Said the Adidas wearing gymnast.” Coco folded her arms and eyed Lewis in a very intimidating way. “Let’s hear it, kid. What do they put in this stuff and where is it manufactured?”
“Yeah man, I’ll make a deal with you. If you tell us where this stuff is manufactured and what the real ingredients are, I will personally make sure that everyone at this party becomes a lead salesmen for your vitamin pills. Capish?” Said Coco, giving Lewis a jovial slap on the back. “Let’s hear it Lewie! Spill the beans…let the freaking cat out of the back and get the skeletons out of the closet, baby cakes.”
Lewis started to panic. He was surrounded by angry, hostile rich people and he didn’t know what to say to weasel his way out of his uncomfortable situation. He poured himself another glass of wine and gulped it down so quickly that he spilled a lot of it out of the corners of his mouth. It’s a good thing he was wearing all black because it dribbled down his chin and spilled all over his clothes. He wiped his face with his shirt sleeve. “Okay.” Said Lewis. His words were starting to slur. The world around him was spinning. His words just came out of his mouth without him actually thinking.
“Well, it’s funny that you should ask.” He said through a slurred giggle. “I fill them myself in the basement of my house.” Lewis’ words were becoming more and more slurred with every word as the port wine ran through his bloodstream into the speech centers of his brain. “Yeah, I fill them myself and stuff them all full of Chocolate flavored Zorba powder. Did you know that Zorba is a wonder drug? Yeah, big Zhon figured that one out. He’s such a genius.” Said Lewis, with a look of crazed intoxication on his face.
“I knew it! You Charlatan thief!” Screamed Coco irately right before she punched him square in the jaw. “You and those buddies of yours are nothing more than a bunch of Bernanke scammers!” She said angrily, shaking a scornful finger at him.
It suddenly dawned on Lewis, at this moment in time, that honesty really isn’t the best policy. Why hadn’t he made up some outrageous lie about a magical vitamin that was brought down by the gods? Suddenly a whole plethora of ideas about what he should have said popped into his head.
“Neek tah mare!” Shouted a few of them irately as they edged closer to him with burning red hot eyes of fury. Lewis slowly started to back away. ”I was only joking.” Lewis said with a nervous smile. He wanted to say something intelligent to save himself from certain death, but it was far too late for that. The entire frat house suddenly becomes outraged and scandalized by this sudden revelation. Almost instantly, the Zhon’s were sought out, screamed at, and brutally beaten with golden chains.
Apparently, this fantastic jewelry of theirs doubled as weapons in times of emergency. Lewis narrowly escaped out of window and ran through the vineyard like there was no tomorrow. He could hear screaming and shouting in the distance. A few of them shouted “Down with scammers”, another one shouted “Crucify them!” And yet another one of them shouted “Stone them!”
As Lewis left the orchard he passed a few metal barrels labeled tar. It looked like someone at the duck farm was tarring their roof. Lewis didn’t think anything about it at all until he’d run for about five minutes and looked behind him and saw dozens of torches lighting the night air, followed by screams of agony. When he saw the sky filled with loads of fluffy white feathers he knew at once what was going on. They were tar and feathering the Zhons. Lewis was lucky he left when he did or it might have happened to him as well.
The teenaged partiers held down the Zhons and painted them from head to toe with black roofing tar. Zhon-Claude saw Lewis running over the top of the hill. He was furious, obviously, and screamed loud enough for Lewis to hear him. “Come back here you little nincompoop. This is all your fault!”
“You’ve got the wrong guys. It is Lewis that you are after.” Shouted Zhon-Pierre as the last coating of tar was painted onto his head. “We had nothing to do with this. Lewis is the leader of this operation. We had no idea about the little scam he was pulling. We’ve been tricked and bamboozled!” He screamed out in a crazed tone of fury.
Lewis was quite lucky to have narrowly escaped this dire and dreadful catastrophe. He made it to the train just seconds before the whistle blew and it took off speeding down the tracks. Two hours later, he was back at home, sitting in his basement looking at all the packages of Zorba drink powder that he was supposed to repackage as Avec-vu vitamins. The sight of it all just made his stomach churn.
Well, actually it might have been the twelve glasses of port wine he drank mixed with the tomato-basil escargot dip he had been nibbling on all evening that made him really want to hurl. But all the same, he was feeling quite perturbed that his nice evening with the Zhons had gone to pot. It was disappointing, indeed, and he knew very well that the time had come for him to think of a new plan to make enough money to bribe someone into getting him off Chesky Island.
“Want a great job making loads of cash? Join us and we’ll make you wealthy.” Said Lewis to himself in a mocking sarcastic voice. A large German cockroach crawled across the table. Lewis didn’t notice. He sat down and began pouring his soul out onto the pages of his journal.
“So far, I’ve put in three thousand hours doing their grunt work and they haven’t paid me a thing. It’s all just one big scam and I’m nothing but a sucker. They’ve sucked me into a black hole of madness and there’s no escape. There just isn’t a way out of this god forsaken place!”
Lewis flung a package of Zorba drink powder across the room. It hit the wall behind the stunning figure of Violet Everglades. Even though she snuck into his house quite often, it still managed to freak Lewis out every time.
“Dreadful etiquette. I apologize.” Said Violet, trying to put on airs like a seriously sophisticated person might do if they were trying to be spooky and mysterious. It was a bit creepy, but that was just Violet’s way.
“Okay. Hi.” He said, trying to recover from being startled by his intruder. “Rough night?” asked Violet, standing against the wall, toying with the ornately decorated glass bottle that she had dangling from her neck. Lewis gave a long sigh and said in a slurred drunken voice. “Yeah. I went to this party with the Zhons. I ended up getting totally drunk and I wound up telling some girl that the whole thing was nothing more than a big scam and I blew this big business deal. A part of me feels guilty about it, but it really wasn’t my fault. How was I supposed to know they were going to react like that? They can just kiss my butt for all I care.” Lewis scoffed and threw up his hands haphazardly.
Lewis was silent for a moment as he held his head firmly between his hands. His brain was spinning around from drinking too much wine at the party. It felt like the time when he was little and those mean bullies from down the street made him stay on the merry go round for an hour as they spun it at lightning speed.
“You know what?” Snapped Lewis in an angry slurred voice as he beat his fist firmly on his work table. “They got what they deserved. I’ve been doing their work for months now and they keep promising to pay me and they never do. I feel like their slave. So maybe I did it because of some sort of deep rooted Freudian psychological desire to completely sabotage their business.”
Violet crossed he arms and stared at Lewis intently. “How very profound…are you a psychology major?” said Violet. “No. I haven’t exactly decided what to do with my life.” Said Lewis. He rubbed his aching head with the palm of his hand and let out a huge sigh. “Everything seems so pointless. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not depressed or suicidal or anything, I just feel so…
“Oppressed?” said Violet, finishing his sentence for him. “That’s it!” said Lewis, using his hands to give emphasis to what he was saying. “I feel so controlled by everyone else that I haven’t quite been able to think for myself or figure out what it is exactly that I want to do with my life, you know.”
“Personally,” said Violet. “I don’t let people run all over me. I like to take matters into my own hands. Tell me, Lewis, are you aware that there are other dimensions besides our own?” Said Violet, toying with the glass vial that was hanging from her neck.
Lewis squeezed his eyes shut tightly and then opened them again. Then he shook his head around a few times like it was a broken toaster that would start working again if he shook it vigorously. He’d heard rumors that she was the undead, and thought for sure that she was about to tell him that there was vampire blood in that little bottle of hers and he could be one too if he took a little sip of it.
Visions of changing into a bat and flying through the night air with a furry version of Violet passed through his mind. That might not be a bad thing, Lewis decided. If he were a bat, he could just fly off the island and never have to return. Lewis shook his head and wondered if there had been anything besides fermented grapes in that wine he’d been drinking.
Violet came closer to Lewis and whispered into his ear. “Are you aware that the dimension that we live in can be altered by just a little maneuvering?” Lewis blinked his eyes rapidly and tried to comprehend what she meant by this. “What?” He said, turning in his chair to look at her face to face.
Violet tilted her head and stroked Lewis’ arm with her long purple fingernail. “We, as humans, are stuck in this body and we aren’t capable of doing much. But those beings in the spirit world can go anywhere and do anything. Then can enter any body they please and make people do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. It’s how hypnotism and mind control work.
“What?” Said Lewis confusedly. He blinked his eyes and shook his head vigorously, he was not in the state of mind to comprehend profound topics of conversation. Violet smiled a mysterious grin and gently stroked the side of Lewis’ face and ran her finger along the side of his neck in a very seductive manner. “People aren’t so very complicated.” She whispered softly. “They drift off into space. Their minds wander off. And… if a person isn’t living consciously. If a person isn’t completely paying attention…their spirit is somewhere else and another spirit can wander in and make that person do whatever it’s been told to do. And it’s usually bad, unless it’s guided in the right direction by a trained professional.”
An eyebrow went up on Lewis face and he gasped. “A professional spirit conjurer?” he said jumping out of his chair from fright and backing away from her. Violet smiled a wicked grin and got a crazed look in her one purple eye. “Let’s curse them with the evil eye!” She said with an air of excitement in her voice.
“Do you mean that eye your mother gouged out is possessed or something?” Said Lewis, too drunk to really know what he was talking out. Violet hadn’t expected him to say this at all. She leered at him for a moment, and realized that he must have heard one of the rumors about her. She said nothing about it, though. She just kept quiet for a moment, pursed her lips tightly, and assumed a look on her face that let Lewis know that she was seriously contemplating something of great importance.
Lewis gave a sigh and said “I don’t know. A part of me knows that you should never meddle with voodoo and black magic. And a part of me just believes that it’s just a fantasy make believe land. Violet moved close to Lewis and touched his hand, leaning forward to put her face close to his. “Are you one of those seeing is believing kind of people? Let me guess, blind faith doesn’t rule your life, right?” She said, stroking the back of his neck.
“Yeah, pretty much.” Said Lewis, gazing into her one eye. He felt a connection with her for the first time. He didn’t know why, and he definitely didn’t want to analyze his feelings or anything. But, for some bazaar reason that he couldn’t explain, he felt the sudden urge to hold her in his arms. It might have been the fact that he was still quite drunk and she was seriously putting the moves on him. Never mind that, though.
This romantic urge of his quickly went away as soon as he started thinking about that missing eye of hers. Suppose he should accidentally stick his finger into her empty eye socket whilst attempting to kiss her or something. “Dear God, have mercy.” He thought quietly to himself. He tried to push the thought out of his head.
“Well, tell me something, Lewis.” Said Violet, still face to face with Lewis, hoping and praying that he would grab her around the waist and kiss her. Oddly enough, he was seriously contemplating doing just that. She had no hair in her nostrils. Her breath smelled sweet and fruity. Her teeth were sparkling white, and her lips were as red as the blood that most likely squirted profusely from her eye socket when she lost it. Dear God, why couldn’t he get that thought out of his head? He didn’t know why. He stepped backwards and leaned against the cinderblock wall. Three snails were slithering downwards from a crack in the ceiling leaving behind squiggly trails of slime.
Violet looked slyly at Lewis, moving towards him again. “What would it take to make a big skeptic like you to believe in the other dimension and the power of the spirits that can control it?” Lewis knew she wanted to kiss him. But he didn’t do anything about it. He was almost afraid that she might have actually lost that peeper of hers from some sort of eyeball eating amoeba.
Perhaps she was contagious. Lewis just wasn’t ready to be intimate with her. He would have to research reasons for ocular loss in the Encyclopedia Atlantica prior to oral contact with her. Maybe the whole eyeball gouging story was a cover up for some bacterial disease that was going around.
Rather than pull her closer, he scooted back and coughed into his fist. “Okay, if my mom gets up off of her fat cottage cheese butt, goes on a diet and starts exercising. I’ll believe anything!” He said as he carefully organized all of the orders for Avec-vu into containers and sealed them tightly.
Violet momentarily gave up on the soiree rendezvous with Lewis and returned to a full standing position. She tenderly slid her fingers through his, yanked him out of his chair, and pulled him up the stairs. She led him through the back door and onto the patio. The storm clouds hung low and thick in the sky and there was a feint mist in the cool night air. She picked the snails and frogs, one by one from the damp pavement, and tossed them over the edge of the patio into the foggy distance.
Violet opened her velvet patchwork bag and pulled out a little sequined bag. She opened it and pulled out a very tiny shriveled up eye. It was her own eye that had been viciously been ripped from her optical ligaments from her very own mother. Lewis closed his eyes and shivered with disgust. He opened them several moments later when Violet started drawing big circles around them with a piece of chalk.
“Now listen.” Said Violet as she placed him firmly in the center of the circles. “Stay put. Whatever happens, don’t move. Stay right here in this one spot and pretend that your feet are glued to the ground with sticky bubble gum or something.” She said with a nod, holding his arms with a firm grip.
“What happens if I move?” Said Lewis, jokingly. Violet turned around suddenly and before Lewis could cover his eyes, she’d moved her hair, removed her eye patch and opened her empty eye. “This!” She said pointing to the eye that wasn’t there.
Lewis screamed and covered his eyes. Violet laughed hysterically as if it were some sort of a joke, but Lewis didn’t think it was very funny. He was so terrified that he started shaking all over. Surely, he would have nightmares for the rest of his life because of this zany wench. He really hated it when she did that. He wished to God almighty that she would give him a warning ahead of time so he could avert his eyes or take preventable measures to protect his poor innocent mind from such a horrible freak show.
The escargot that Lewis had snacked on a few hours earlier started to come up and he really wished that he hadn’t eaten so many frog legs. Beads of sweat started forming on his forehead as he wondered if this spirit conjuring thing was the real reason that she had lost her eye many years ago. He would have asked her to explain the details of how she’d lost the eye, but he was terrified that this would make her show him the eye socket again and he didn’t think he could bear seeing it once again.
If Violet only knew that the only reason Lewis wouldn’t kiss her was the missing eye thing, she never would have freaked him out like she did. It is so strange how many people don’t realize that they can control the outcome of a situation by just changing what they say and do.
Violet stood back to back with poor devastated Lewis and reached back into her bag. She pulled out an old dark box that was intricately carved with bazar and evil looking designs. She took a piece of yellow chalk from the bag and drew some strange evil looking symbols around the edges of the circles. “This is powdered elubrium from a Parisian apothecary. It protects us from the evil eye. If you step outside the circle, something very bad will happen, so don’t move, no matter what. Lewis wasn’t sure if he believed her or not, but he wasn’t going to take any chances.
Violet pulled a copper jar with a tight fitting lid from her velvet bag. She carefully opened it and a bit of foggy steam rose from the liquid. Careful not to touch the liquid inside, she plopped the eyeball in. The eyeball quickly absorbed the liquid and turned back into a normal sized moist eyeball. It looked as clear and fresh as the day it was yanked from its socket. It was beating and pulsating like it was alive.
Lewis found this image before him to be both terrifying and disgusting to look upon, and he started to feel even more light-headed than he already was. All at once Violet began chanting something in the language of Enochian. Thick lavender smoke rose from the cup and traveled out into Lewis house through a crack in the broken window pane.
The air within the circles that Violet had drawn with the special powder remained as still and stagnant as an underground crypt. However, outside the circles the wind started to blow ferociously. The thick fog spun around them, encircling them like the eye of a cyclone. Some clothing that was hanging on the nearby clotheslines was flapping around like crazy. A pair of large pink pantaloons flew off one of the lines and stuck to Lewis’ face. He pried them off in disgust.