I am cold, hungry and thinking it through, I might jump from a bridge tomorrow. If I wake that is. It has been an awful couple of months I would say. I have been mugged, lost my house, my car, my wife, my kids, my job. I lost everything but well…now I doubt I can lose anything else, right? Right?
Sigh. Let me start from the beginning, shall I? My name is Carston Dean, I was a very successful stock seller here in NY. I sold stocks for big companies and…I was good. I was really good. One time I managed to sell $2,000 on stocks and that day, I bought my first car. A Roll’s Royce Springfield I. God, it was beautiful. Black exterior, warm and cozy leather seats, red details and white-faced tires. I took Olivia to the theater that night.
Olivia is…was…my wife. Red head, freckles all over her pale face, green olive eyes and a cute little laugh that stole a smile from you each time. We met at a party my mother threw like 15 years ago. It was love at first sight. I remember the first gift I gave her. I worked 3 months for my father, I saved as much as I could from my birthdays and I bought her a bracelet. It was not the most luxurious but she seemed to love it and her smile that day. It made me feel the happiest man alive. I loved her so much, I tried to give her everything I could. Jewels, expensive clothes, the best of the best but for her…it was never enough. When I lost my job, she didn’t take long to change me for a wealthy duke in Europe or something of sorts. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know. She took the kids but now that I see where I am living, I guess it was for the best. This place is no place for kids.
You may be wondering by now: “How did you lose everything?” and that’s a good question. The market crashed a couple of months ago. They called it: “The great depression.” You should have seen it. It was chaos. Utter chaos. People selling everything as long as money had value. Jewels, cars, houses. People selling their kids away, men mugging each other. The policemen were even stealing things. Thought I’d never live to see the day the Chief of Police was running away from his mates. It was quite…quite…bah, I don’t even know how to call it.
Anyway, I was fired because my company broke. The first thing I did was sell my car. Sold it for $100. That is when Olivia decided to leave. I couldn’t afford her lifestyle anymore so she left. She took the kids and well you know the rest.
After that, I sold my house. But then I had to sell what little I had left. My hat, my coat and my rings. I only kept two things. My father’s watch and a flask he used to have. I must say that it does help sometimes. Now, I live off in a little shed in the outskirts of NY. The only thing I can get my hands on frequently is stale bread and I live off any work I can find.
It is quite a turn of events I must say. It could even make a tragic story, eh? “The broken banker.” Sounds good actually. Anyways. This is my life now. Freezing my butt in a wooden shack next to a lame fire I tried to do, stale bread as my meal and not a speck of hope left. Sigh. Well…could be worse as I always say. Could be worse.
Next morning, I was woken by the smell of food. Real food. I walked out of my shack and I followed my nose to my old friend Baker. As soon as I saw him, he waved at me joyfully.
-Morning Carl! –
-Morning Arnie. What you got there? –
I said as I walked closer. Arnie was a banker. An accountant, I think. He used to count every single bill, coin and touch every account they had. He was the best of the best. 4 languages, good with numbers and a good fella. He is running bald and his small glasses make him look a bit silly but I do enjoy his company.
-Remember I hadn’t been around for a while? Well, I got a job as a writer for a scientist. At least I think he is a scientist. –
-As a writer? Aren’t you a banker? –
-Well, could be worse, right? –
He said as he smiled at me, very well knowing that is my catch phrase. I smiled back and I too said:
-Could be worse, Arnie. Could be worse. So, what you got there? –
I asked as I stared at the stew he was making.
-Oh, here. Take a seat, please. –
He handed me his little stool and he went inside his shack for a wooden box. As he sat down, he turned around as if looking for peepers.
-What are you doing, Arnie? –
With his hands, he told me to get closer and he said in a whisper:
-I bought meat. Real meat. –
As soon as I heard him, my body shook in excitement.
I said in disbelief. But him, he nodded as he did the silliest face that dumbass has ever made.
-Yes. I did. Look. –
Arnie opened his coat and there it was. Beef. It was hanging from his pocket as…well, like beef! I couldn’t believe it. I threw myself to him and closed his coat.
-Where did you get it? –
-The scientist paid me yesterday. $5 dollars. –
I fell back at his words. $5 dollars was more than any of us had seen in a while. I was about to yell but I put my hand on my mouth and I stopped myself. I calmed myself down and I asked:
-$5 dollars, Arnie? That is more than I have seen in months. What did you do? –
Arnie simply kept on nodding with that silly ass face he had and said:
-I only wrote some articles for him and translated some others to English and before I knew it, I had money again. Look. –
He opened the other side of his coat and he had a lot of sown new pockets.
-I bought cheese, milk, eggs, taters for the stew. I even bought cigarettes. –
I swear I almost fainted when he opened his coat. It was like heaven. He invited me to eat. I tried my best to say ‘no’ but words didn’t even reach my mouth. That day I ate like a king. A good stew, a cigarette and I shared a cup of my flask whiskey. God, I hadn’t eaten like that in ages.
Days later, Arnie came to my shed and told me he was being called by another scientist to write more articles. He said that he was likely to not come back this time. I did actually get sad because even though he was kind of silly and didn’t know him very well, he was my friend. Kind hearted, generous, and a god damn good cook. But above all, I was glad he was getting out of this stink hole. He gave me his last cigarette and before he left, he said:
-You should try to write something, Carl. If people like it, they pay well. If I can do it, you can. See you, my friend. –
With that, he left. Never saw him again. That night I couldn’t even sleep. His words kept me up. I kept on repeating and repeating what he told me: “If I can do it, you can.”
Next morning, I went downtown and tried to find a job. I needed money to buy paper and a pen, or a pencil at least. After looking around for 12 hours, I came across a small convenience store. The owner was a big Irish man, that after along discussion and lots and lots of negotiation, managed to convince to hire me. He paid me ¢5 an hour. It wasn’t much but it was enough for now. I worked in that place for 2 years before Mr. McAbee decided I was “Too expensive” and I was jobless…again. The world was still fucked don’t get me wrong. The fall of the stock market did screw everything but well, at least I had a bit of money now.
One day, I was walking around downtown and saw the picture of Arnie on the front of a newspaper. It was not the headstamp but close enough to be seen. He was now a very well-known science articles writer. I was happy for him but I felt sorry for my self because I was still in the stinking hole I called “home”. That night I drank a whole bottle of whiskey I had bought a while ago but I wanted to keep on drinking so I looked for my always trusty flask and found the cigarette Arnie had given me before he left and I swear to God I heard his voice: “If I can do it, you can.” I dropped my flask and I chuckled as tears began to drop. I don’t know why I was crying but I was, and I remember what I said. I said:
-Very well, Arnie. If you can do it, so can I. –
That night, I spent 5 hours writing a tale of a broken banker that rose to become one famous movie star. I sweat, I bled and I drooled on my story. Literally. Cut my self with paper, I was sweating because of the whiskey and I slept on my work, drooling on it. Curious way to say that I worked really hard, I must say. But, after that night, I had it done. I had finished.
For the next months I tried my best to get someone to read it, but no one seemed to be interested. I didn’t know exactly how to publish it or even how to get someone to give it a try but well I thought that was only bad luck. One day, I wrote a tale for a small girl who lived near me. The mother came knocking on my door looking for some help. Money or medicine but I had nothing to spare so instead I wrote a tale. I didn’t like it a lot, but it was not for me, it was for a little girl. I took it to her and I gave it to the mother. Days later she came back saying that the little girl loved it. I didn’t pay any attention to it until one day a suited man came to visit me.
He knocked on the door and I opened. I swear I thought it was the government coming for taxes. I went pale. Paler than a vampire, I must say, but luckily it wasn’t.
-Excuse me, are you Carlton Dean? –
Asked the man. He was wearing a blue suit, coat and a hat. Glasses and an odd mole on his left cheek. Seemed like a nice guy but it was early in the morning and I wasn’t going to be “quite polite”
-Carston, sir. The name is Carston. What do you need? –
-Oh, sorry, sir. My name is Albert. Albert Hooks. I am here because I wish to discuss about your tale. –
Those words took me off guard. I was so confused I know he thought he had the wrong Carston.
-My tale? What are you talking about? What tale? –
The man reached for his briefcase and pulled out my tale, the one I wrote for the little neighbor.
-Did you write this, sir? –
I grabbed the papers sheets in disbelief and read the tittle: “The little Pixie.”
-Yes, I wrote it a while ago, what with it? –
-Oh, it’s because we wish to publish it. Of course, if you want to, that is. –
I didn’t even know what to say, so I started asking dumb questions.
-You want to publish it? My tale? This thing? –
-Yes, sir. May I come in? –
I swear that my brain shut off. I don’t know if it was either by utter confusion or total disbelief but I said nothing and moved away from the door. The man came in and I followed him. We sat in my little dinner table. Luckily, I had two decently looking chairs.
After a couple of minutes talking and my brain now working again, we came down to the offer for my children’s tale. He offered me to pay me $12 dollars if I wrote 5 more tales to make a book or $3 dollars for “The little Pixie.” I was so shocked I swear I twitched but before I said a thing I asked:
-Do you like this? Do you really think it is any good? –
He chuckled and said:
-My daughters love it and I must say they are not the only ones who would. You are a good writer, Mr. Dean. You have a chance here. So, what do you say? Do we have a deal? –
He extended his hand and before I even touched it, I heard him again: “If I can do it, you can”.
-Fucking Arnie. –
I said aloud as I grabbed Albert’s hand.
-We have a deal, sir. –
And so, I began writing children’s tales for a book. I liked some, I didn’t enjoy others but in the end; they ended up loving them all. I discovered that writing could help the little ones escape the rather grim world we had. The economy was now healing and people were now able to buy more things. Amongst those, my book. The editorial was so pleased they asked me to write another book and so I did.
One day, when I was about to move out from my little shack, I came across the first thing I wrote. “The broken banker.” I read it and it was really good but no one seemed to be interested to read it, so I threw it away.
Couple of years went by and I was doing alright as a children’s book writer. I remarried to a beautiful French girl, Anastasia. Blonde hair, blueish eyes, freckles and her touch. God, her skin was like silk. We had a little daughter, Darina. I called her like my mother. We weren’t wealthy but we lived happy until one day, another suited man knocked on my door. I opened it and guess who it was? Fucking Albert.
I recognized him immediately and I smiled at him.
-Albert Hooks! What a pleasure to see you again, friend. –
He extended his hand but I simply hugged him.
-It’s good to see you again, Mr. Dean. –
He said as he patted my back.
-Please, come in. Come in. –
We went to the dinning room of my small house. I presented Albert to my wife and daughter and he was surprised to say the least.
-You are a lucky man, Carston. You have a beautiful family. Who would have thought that beneath that angry man I meet a couple of years ago, laid a good lad. –
-I still would be that angry man you first met if it wasn’t for you, Albert. For that I’ll be forever thankful. –
Anastasia came back and brought a couple of lemonade glasses. We both thanked her and I asked:
-So, what brings you here, my friend? Are you still working for the publisher that pulled me out from the hole? –
-Yes. In fact, I came here because someone found this and took it to our office in the Bronx. –
He opened his briefcase and pulled out a bunch of old ragged, wrinkled and stained pieces of paper.
-I believe this is yours. –
As he handed it to me, I felt like I was back in my shack. All drunk and sweaty as I wrote it.
- “The broken banker.” –
I said in disbelief.
-Where did you find it? I tossed it away years ago. I thought no one had ever read it. –
-Well, a beggar found it as he scavenged through the garbage and he brought it to us. He said it was something “inspiring”. I read it and indeed, it is. The editorial wants you to turn this into a full out book. This has the potential to be a "Best-seller”, Carl.
So, what do you say? Do we have a deal? –
As Albert extended his hand, those damn words came up to my mind once again and just like the first time I yelled:
-Fucking Arnie. –
As I grabbed Albert’s hand. He laughed and he lifted his lemonade glass.
-To Arnie. –
I smiled at him and I toasted with him.
-To Arnie. Where ever that silly man is. –
Said both of us.
I didn’t get to know Arnie as well as I wished I had but it is thanks to that little man that I am where I am now. Where ever you may be, I wish you well, Arnie.