The prompt from the instructor was: “Write a story that begins with a man throwing money from a convertible and ends with a woman pissing in a bucket.” I remember thinking there was no way I could do that and have the events connected in a good story. Then I got mad at myself and decided to do it anyway. So, …
Too much of a good thing is like bad sex; no one ever believes it exists until it happens to them.
Driving very slowly along Hermann Park Drive, throwing hundred dollar bills from his convertible, Bill pondered that thought.
He had experienced bad sex with his ex-wife. The memories were obviously too painful to recall fully because he couldn’t quite remember the gritty details, just the intense feelings of disgust engendered by “doing his husbandly duty”.
And, “too much of a good thing” he was experiencing now. Winning the lottery should have made his life joyous. The phrase “winning the lottery” has even become synonymous with the greatest possible luck. But ever since he won $473 million there has been misery in his life.
It hadn’t seemed so at first, of course. He had taken delight in giving his daughter $10 million; making Ashley financially independent had made Bill feel good. Buying himself a yellow Mini Cooper convertible with cash had given him pleasure. Giving money to his church had been gratifying.
But then his cousin Brenda had asked for money and when Bill gave her $100,000, Brenda was angry it wasn’t more. The pastor of his church made sure the entire congregation knew that the pre-tax lottery winnings amount of almost a billion dollars is what required a tithe and the one million dollars he gave was only 1% of the amount God deserved. Relatives he hadn’t seen in years called.
Cousin Sheila called wanting a $50,000 “loan”.
The PTA wanted money.
The library wanted money.
Local reporters followed him around.
As he continued throwing the $100 bills and listened to the crowd make noise, he should have enjoyed it. He chose Houston’s Hermann Park Drive because the people who gather in Hermann Park are generally not wealthy. They come to the park not only because is is beautiful but because it is free. Their exclamations of joy upon realizing the bill they snatched from the air was a $100 bill should have given Bill pleasure, but they rang hollow instead. When he saw a vicious fight break out over the money, he quit throwing it. As he sped up to leave the park, the crowd really became angry. His heart was heavy.
Parking next to the Museum of Natural Science, he managed to exit the car quickly enough that no one associated him with the yellow convertible. He took the briefcase with the remaining cash but did not even bother to put the top up on the car, leaving the keys in the ignition.
He walked along in the depressing sunshine, listening to depressingly happy people spread the rumor about the golden convertible full of money. He made his way toward one of his favorite places, the Japanese Gardens. There was a bench secluded amongst bushes near a nice multi-tiered waterfall. He remembered being happy sitting on that bench. it was worth a try.
Entering the Gardens, he felt slightly less depressed. The beautiful bushes surrounding the waterfall did seem to calm him. As he came into sight of the bench he was jolted by the sight of a young woman sitting on it.
She looked a little like that actress Ellen Page. She had coal-black hair and very pale skin. Her eyes were very light brown, almost golden they were so light. She started the conversation.
“What you lookin at?”
Her eyes, her whole being, were so sad that he couldn’t seem to comprehend it. She was infinitely sad. Something deep inside him ‘shifted’. He didn’t know exactly what it was but he knew it wasn’t trivial.
“I’m just looking at you. I expected the bench to be empty.”
Anything but blunt direct truth seemed inappropriate. She seemed taken aback by the simplicity of his answer. He could not take his eyes off of hers.
“My Momma always told me it was impolite to stare.”
As he considered his response to that, bluntness and truth still felt irrefutable. He could no more have said something trivial than he could have sprouted wings and flew, so he asked her exactly what he most wanted to know. “Why are you so sad?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I need to know.”
“Need to know? You don’t even know me. What the hell is it to you?”
“I need to know.”
She did not answer. She just turned and stared at the waterfall. He gingerly, slowly sat on the extreme end of the bench, giving her as much space as possible.
She was wearing a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. All were extremely threadbare and filthy. Her black hair looked like it hadn’t been washed for quite a while. She was beautiful in spite of the grime on her face, but the single overwhelming aspect of her was sadness, a powerful all-encompassing sadness.
He put the $1500 Heathclie briefcase next to her on the bench. It had maybe $20 or $30 thousand in it. He said, “take this.” She ignored it. He was obviously dismissed.
For some reason, he thought maybe the money would bring her some happiness even though it had been a curse to him. He turned and walked away, looking for another bench. Finding one, he sat and tried to clear his mind, but he could not stop thinking of her.
He decided to try again to communicate with her and walked back toward the waterfall. As he came into sight of her he was once again jolted by what he saw. The scene was surreal.
The very expensive briefcase was still sitting on the bench, apparently untouched. She was squatting next to the stream at the bottom of the waterfall, pissing into a very large can with a Campbell’s Tomato Soup label on it.
He almost blurted out something clever like “what the hell?” But managed to hold his tongue. She apparently felt like an explanation was necessary and said, “I didn’t want to get piss in the stream, it’s so pretty.”
His laughter was the first that had come from his throat for a long time. It started from his toes and gathered momentum till it burst violently from his throat. It was pure. It was simple. It was joyous.
Then a wonderful thing happened. The sad girl with the golden eyes smiled at him.
He was really looking forward to the rest of the day.