By Matthew Sanborn Smith
He had worked eight hours last week. After taxes, social security, health and life insurance premiums (not to mention vision and dental), dues for the International Brotherhood of Spaghetti Chefs, Local 219, and his two dollar donation to Hitching Unwed Mothers (HUM), Gunther’s first paycheck came to exactly seventeen dollars.
“Seventeen dollars,” he said, rolling the words around in his mouth. There’s something mighty sweet about such a round number, he thought. After a few phone calls with his tightly knit and rather odd circle of friends, they determined that such an amount of money was indeed sinfully delicious.
“I can build an empire with such riches!” Gunther exclaimed.
“You’re crazy!” Shooter said.
“No, wait!” Sissy, said. “I know where my mother keeps her coupons.”
“Coupons?” Shooter said. “What is ‘coupons’?”
“Coupons are pieces of paper that have the power to reduce everyday low prices on items that you may already be buying for your basic household needs, sometimes by as much as twenty-four cents,” she said.
“Twenty-four –! What madness is this?”
“It’s true! Just last week I witnessed my mother save twenty-four cents on Carter’s All- Weather Chicken Seasoning.”
“But . . .,” Shooter sputtered, “But I use Carter’s All-Weather Chicken Seasoning!”
“Ho-HO!” Gunther shouted. “Game, set and match! Come, my friends, it is settled then. We shall rendezvous at my abode. Sissy, that lamp in your bedroom –“
”The heavy one?” she asked, anticipating his need.
“The very one. It should make a fine tool for bashing in the head of someone’s mother before absconding with her coupons. Someone’s mother, like say . . . your mother?”
“Well, the coupons are right on the kitchen counter, I can just take them. My mother isn’t even home right now.”
“Good thinking. Take the coupons. We can always come back and bash in your mother’s head later.”
“My thoughts exactly,” she said.
After slamming the phone down for no apparent reason, Gunther remembered he had one more call to make.
“Hello? Mutumbu’s Spaghetti Barn? Well, you know who can fry up your spaghetti from now on? You can!”
“Sir, who is it that you wish to speak –“ But he hung up before she could finish her lame retort.
God that was sweet.
They came together finally, Shooter with his little brother, Dave, in tow.
“What’s he doing here?” Gunther asked.
“Mom said I had to watch him while she went to her bridge club.”
“But he’s thirty-seven years old! He doesn’t even live at home anymore!” Gunther and Shooter must have looked at each other for, like, a good four seconds.
“Mom said,” Shooter explained.
They took a cab into town and all the way Shooter gaped in wonder at Sissy’s ‘coupons’. Gunther was beside himself, trying to shield the treasure from the roving eyes of their cabbie.
“Will you put those things away? And don’t you say a word about these Dave Martin!”
“I have a doctorate in analytical psychology!” Dave said. “I would never say anything!”
They piled out of the little cab. Sissy crawled, after having to sit with the two-hundred and sixty-three pound Gunther on her lap for the entire trip. The fare came to exactly seventeen dollars. Gunther put his hands on his hips and said:
“Well that didn’t go nearly as far as I thought it would. Sissy, could you please call your mom and ask her to pick us up on her way home?”