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 by Miracle Jones

There is a day in New York City when all the women decide to burst forth from the captivity of their winter clothes. After months of trying to imagine what women look like by squinting at the cut of their jackets or by applying mental calipers to their necks, suddenly you are surrounded by glorious skin. It is like getting stabbed in the eyes by stiff copper wires plugged into a light-socket.

It is the day in New York City when there are the most car accidents, the most knife fights, and the most suicides.

I hadn’t gotten laid all winter, and when this fateful spring day arrived, it made me feel like a member of the French resistance in occupied Paris. I was totally off-kilter, totally outnumbered, and totally outmatched. All I could do was stare and fantasize, swimming through the sea of hormones like a fish swimming through vodka.

I was going insane, but my rent was also coming due and so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to afford the “weekend sex ante.” Women are willing to break “The Rules” if you don’t play “The Game,” but they still require you to display minimum financial solvency. I wasn’t going to be able to afford the price of a beer, the price of a meal, or the door charge at a dance club.

I knew that if I wanted to get laid despite my lack of resources then I was going to have to be bold and creative. Damn food, damn shelter, damn self-actualization and the respect of my peers!

I had a five dollar Metro card, which meant I could ride the subway into Manhattan once and then home again, meaning I only had one shot when it came to finding a partner for the night.

Competition would be brutal. I would be up against professionals of every stripe -- stock brokers, lawyers, musicians, drug dealers, lesbians, scientists, professors, actors, married fathers -- and I knew that I was at the bottom of the pile. I was a lowly fiction writer.

I wasn’t going to be able to convince anybody that I would be a good “sex choice” based on my raw stats alone. I was going to need an angle. I needed some kind of trick that would surprise ladies and overcome not only their logic and good judgment, but also their emotions.

I tried to think about what fiction writers had going for them that gave them a comparative advantage when it came to seduction. Being a fiction writer meant that I had read a lot of books. I also had a good imagination. I had also learned to think in narrative, which meant that I knew that good ideas generated their own gravity, warping the world and creating opportunities through the magical contortion of possibility.

I could open minds, but did that mean that I could also open legs?

While taking a hot shower, I remembered a legend about Generalissimo Santa Anna and the War for Texas Independence.

According to the legend, Santa Anna had laid siege to a small Texas town in the Brazos River Valley and the town was starving to death. The occupying army was also running out of food, but not as fast as the settlers, and it was all just a matter of time before the people in the village would be forced to give in to the invading army from Mexico.

The town drunk gathered the settlers together and told them he had a plan to save them, but that he would need their complete obedience, no matter how ridiculous his plan seemed. The settlers, having no plan of their own, agreed to the drunk’s demands.

The drunk gathered together all of the food and liquor still left in the town, piling it on top of a big tablecloth in the town square. The drunk also demanded the town’s last living pig.

The drunk proceeded to stuff himself with food while the other settlers watched in amazement. He ate and drank while the settlers grew more and more angry. He even got the pig drunk on whiskey.

At first, the settlers left him alone, wondering what the drunk had in mind, but it soon became clear that the drunk had no other plan than to gorge himself at their expense. Furious, the settlers kicked the drunk and the pig out of town, tossing them to the Mexicans.

A Mexican army patrol found the drunk and the pig and took them both before General Santa Anna. The drunk explained that he had been wandering around inebriated and had gotten lost. He begged Santa Anna to spare his life. But Santa Anna wasn’t interested in the drunk’s misfortune. All he could see was how well-fed the drunk was. There were still crumbs on his shirt. How could the settlers have so much food left that they were willing to feed their fools?

“They have so much whiskey left that they are even getting their pigs intoxicated,” said Santa Anna, disgusted. He decided he would never outlast the Texans and so he took his army and moved on to the next town. The town was saved.

While I was thinking of how to apply the reckless cunning of this story to my own situation, it hit me.  You didn’t have to spend money to show people that you had it. I immediately toweled off and threw on some clothes. I grabbed a duffel bag and headed out the door.

Even if my idea didn’t work, I still had to try it.

I took my duffel bag to the bank where I had all of my rent money. New York City rent is insanely high, so this was much more than you might think. I told the teller that I wanted to close out my account. The bank teller asked me how I wanted my money and I told him that I wanted it all in dollar bills.

“You want dollar bills?” said the teller, disgusted.

“Yes, please,” I said, handing him the duffel bag.

I knew that the bank teller would have to do it. The bank teller disappeared and I waited for him to return. I felt like I was robbing the place. Twenty minutes later, he shoved the duffel bag into my arms with a manic leer.

“Do you want to count it?” he asked, leaning forward and glaring at me.

“No thanks,” I said. “I trust you.”

“Go ahead,” he said. “Count it. I think you should count it. I think you should make sure that all of your dollar bills are in there.”

“Thanks,” I said, taking my bag and skulking away. The bank teller leaped over his desk and ran around to the door. I thought he was going to punch me, but instead, he opened the door for me and then bowed low, clicking his heels.

“Let me get the door for you, sir,” he said.

I chuckled nervously and tried to pretend I didn’t understand what he was trying to say. I stepped out into the street and headed for the train.

Now I had a whole duffel bag full of cash, though I couldn’t spend any of it.

But it was money. It was the one thing everybody in the city wanted and it was precisely the kind of narrative gravity I needed.

I got onto the train and rode down to the Financial District. It had only been a few months since the towers had collapsed, but they had already started to reopen some of the bars down there. I figured that the Financial District would be the best place to put my plan into action, even with all the carnage and disarray.

If you are unstable, you don’t look for love in stable places. You go to anarchy, seeking your own kind, the way that moths fly toward the moon to meet other moths above the trees.

I went to the first bar I saw, some fancy place called “Shiftless.” It was empty since it was so early, but it seemed like a good place to get started. I could get comfortable there and pretend I was a regular.

I went straight for the bar instead of sitting at a booth. The bartender was a bored-looking middle-aged lesbian with neck tattoos and yellow teeth.

“Do you mind if I just sit here and try to get laid?” I asked. “I can’t afford a beer.”

She laughed at me.

“Nobody wants to talk to somebody who isn’t drinking,” she said. “They look like sex predators.”

“I don’t drink when I don’t have a job,” I said. “And I don’t have a job right now.”

“You can sit there all you want,” she said. “At least until it gets busy. I don’t like your chances, though.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ve got a plan.”

I sat down at a barstool with a good view of the door. I put the duffel bag at my feet, wrapping the straps around my boot so I could feel it if somebody tried to take it. It was all of my rent money, so I had to be paranoid.

The bartender watched cable news while I stared at the door, waiting for someone to come in. I knew that the clientele would mostly be Wall Street-types, but that was exactly who I wanted to fuck right now.

Somebody rich and aggressive.

Unfortunately, it was Saturday, and that meant the market was closed. I waited and waited, but no one came in.

I was just about to leave, when the door opened and somebody stepped into the bar as if they were passing through the airlock of a space shuttle. They were wearing a bright orange hazmat suit, complete with breathing apparatus.

The bartender and I looked at each other. The person in the bright orange hazmat suit carefully made their way across the bar like an astronaut crossing an alien world. We could hear the hiss of their respirator. They were carrying a lunchbox.

When the person finally made it to the bar, they sat their lunchbox down on the floor and then unbolted their helmet. The bartender and I both leaned forward, holding our breath.

The person wearing the hazmat suit was a beautiful blonde woman with a ponytail who looked a little bit younger than me and who was definitely a lot more cool. She had a simple nose piercing and her eyes were purple, an eye color that I had never seen before.

“Scotch and soda,” said the woman, looking at me.

I rocked on my barstool and didn’t smile at her. I lifted my duffel bag up from the floor and hugged it. The bartender made the drink and handed it to the woman, who sipped it, staring out into nothingness.

“You working on the towers?” I asked her. “Are they still cleaning up debris?”

“Not exactly,” she said.

“I think you are very beautiful,” I said. “Even in a hazmat suit.”

“Thank you,” she said nervously. “We finally finished up for the day. I just got done working a 15-hour shift.”

“That’s a long shift,” I said.

“Have a good evening,” she said, knocking back her drink and then standing up to go.

“Wait a second,” I said. “Don’t you want to know what is in my duffel bag?”

I patted my duffel bag.

“No thanks,” she said. “I’ve heard that one before.”

I unzipped the duffel bag and the bartender reached under the counter, tensing up. I pulled out a wad of dollar bills. I dropped them back into the bag, cascading them through my fingers. The bartender relaxed, shaking her head and wiping down the bar.

“It’s completely full of dollar bills,” I said to the woman in the hazmat suit, showing her the bag full of cash. “What’s your name?”

The woman in the hazmat suit leaned closer to me, curious.

“My name is Miriam,” she said. “And I am absolutely not a prostitute. Am I about to slap you?”

“Ha ha,” I said. “I am not offering you any of this money, Miriam. I don’t want to spend any of it. Not even to buy myself a drink.”

“Why are you carrying around a duffel bag full of money?” asked Miriam.

“I have a plan,” I said. “Do you want to hear my plan?”

Miriam was silent for a few moments. She looked at the bartender. The bartender shrugged.

“Okay,” said Miriam. “What’s your plan?”

“It’s very simple,” I said. “I want to go back to your place. We could go back to my place, but I bet you wouldn’t feel comfortable there. I’m not crazy or anything. I’m a fiction writer. Tell me if this sounds crazy: I want to take all of this money and I want to dump it out on top of your bed or futon. And then I want to fuck you on top of it. I want to soak the money in sweat and sex juice. I want dollar bills to stick to our thighs and our backs as we roll around in bundles of American cash until we both come. And then I will leave you alone forever. I promise.”

Miriam stared at me. She chewed on some ice from her drink.

“Have you ever had sex on top of a mountain of cold hard cash?” I asked.

“Nope,” said Miriam. “Do you have any idea how filthy money is? One single dollar bill can be a vector for a hundred different diseases, including typhus and staph. What you are offering me is worse than unprotected sex in a bodega bathroom.”

“That’s part of the point,” I said. “Reckless abandon.”

“Where’d you get all the money?” she asked. ”Did you steal it?”

“No,” I said.

“Your plan is disgusting,” said Miriam. “It won’t work on anyone.”

“What if I said I stole the money from my boss, who is a wicked criminal?”

“Then I definitely don’t want to get involved.”

“I will wear a condom,” I said. “I will wear two condoms.”

Miriam stared at me, her lips slightly parted.

“Let me tell you about my day,” said Miriam. “I work for the city. They have transferred most of the people from my department down here. Normally, I work a desk job. Normally, I take care of processing stray cats – getting them off the streets and into no-kill shelters. I am a vegetarian. I do yoga. But today, I spent the whole day chasing rats. Big fucking rats. You see, when the towers collapsed, they killed a lot of people. They killed a lot of rats too, but surprisingly most of the rats survived. You wouldn’t believe how many rats there were in the World Trade Center. Thousands and thousands of rats. The swarmed out of the towers and settled into the surrounding carnage like fallout from a nuclear bomb. At first, the city didn’t bother with rat control at Ground Zero because obviously there were bigger problems. But then we started to find corpses with bites taken out of them. We also started to find the kind of rat fleas that carry plague.”

Miriam shuddered.

“Anyway, the businesses are starting to reopen down here, so the city has us working overtime on rat control. First, we went down into the sewers, leaving bait traps and following the trails. Since nobody has been cleaning up the garbage down here, the Financial District has become rat heaven. The rats are thriving like philosophical Greeks. We followed the rat tracks, and we saw that all those millions of tiny footprints were headed for the same nest. It became my department’s job to find the nest and eliminate it.

“We have been searching for weeks, and today we finally found it. We tagged and tracked some alpha male rats to a forty-story apartment building in Battery Square. We followed the swarm of rats up through every level of the apartment building, knocking on doors, until we got to the penthouse. The penthouse had been abandoned and it took us a few hours to get the clearance to investigate, but the owner was more than willing to let us go inside. He went to France after the towers fell, and he hasn’t come back yet. He told us that he wasn’t surprised that his penthouse had become a rat nest, but he wouldn’t say why. After we suited up and busted down the door, we understood what he was talking about.

“When the towers collapsed, he must have been having a party. A raging coke party at 9 AM in the morning, can you believe that? His apartment was full of spoiled food and rancid drink. People had left paper plates full of bacon-wrapped oysters and stuffed jalapenos all over the place. There were banquet tables with hundreds of different kinds of cheeses, piled high with sandwiches and chunks of vegetables. There were chafing dishes full of eggs and soup. All of the food had gone rotten, but that didn’t stop the rats. Rats will always finish one source of food before moving on to another.

“The smell was like a wall of smoke. Grown men who had been in wars were puking into buckets. It was a smell that combined rich and aggressive food decay with rat shit and sweet death.”

“But the worst part was in the back bedroom, in a nest made from all the jackets that the party guests had left behind. Back there, we found a rat king. A rat king is what you call it when rats get their tails twisted together. This rat king started when a few of the rats got twisted up during their giddy rush to the banquet, but it just kept growing. Most rat kings don’t have a chance to get very big. The rats that are tied together fight each other over food and the rat king dies. But in this penthouse, there was plenty of food to go around. We found fifty rats tied together in a writhing ball. The other rats were feeding them, and because the rats couldn’t move or exercise, these rats had become bloated and huge. Rats have sex about six times a day on average, and this rat king was being constantly serviced by rat concubines of both sexes. That was how the rat king was growing. The rat sex was causing more vermin to get entangled in the scrum. Rats were coming from all over to pay their respects to this bloated monster, hovering around the edges and waiting for their turn.

“It took us fifteen hours to kill all the rats and clean up all the spoiled food. I don’t think I’ve ever been more disgusted. I think this might be the strangest and most horrible day of my entire life.”

The bartender and I looked at her. I licked my lips. We all sat in silence for awhile, imagining the churning ball of rats and the smell of all the putrid food.

I knocked on the bar and tried to smile. I raised one finger.

“You know what might make you feel better,” I said.

“Stop right there,” said Miriam. “I’m not taking you home with me. Weren’t you even listening?”

“Of course I was listening,” I said. “But you’re not a rat and neither am I.”

“Then why don’t you show a little decency and act like a human being?” she said.

I started to get desperate. She was tense. She was angry. She looked like she wanted to smash her empty glass over my head. Her face was flushed and her eyes were wild.

“So what about right here then?” I said.

“What do you mean right here?”

“Right here on the bar,” I said proudly.

“Right here on this bar?”

“Do you mind if I fuck this beautiful woman on your bar in a pile of cash?” I asked the bartender.

“Be my guest,” said the bartender, grinning at me. “At least until it gets busy.”

Miriam sighed and kicked over her lunchbox. I could tell she was wrestling with guilt, frustration, and disgust. She rolled her eyes and threw her hands up in the air. She smiled at me for the first time.

“Fine,’ she said. “Right here, right now, but I get to wear my hazmat suit.”

Miriam put her helmet back on and then unzipped her suit to her midriff. I took off my shoes and then my socks.

“I want you to know something,” she said. “I am not doing this because of your idea. I think your idea is really stupid. I am going to fuck you in a pile of money because I want fucking you in a pile of money to be the thing I remember about today. Not the rat king or the banquet full of rotten food. I am doing this because fucking you in a pile of money in a Manhattan bar is the opposite of burning rats with a blowtorch in a pile of maggoty shrimp.”

There wasn’t anything I could say to this. I dumped my duffel bag of cash on the bar, being careful not to spill any.

Miriam began to get excited. Her breathing got faster and faster inside of her respirator. I could see a peninsula of glorious skin between the open teeth of her zipper. I lifted Miriam onto the bar and the bartender cheered me on and gave me pointers as I pulled down Miriam’s panties and went down on her, the smell of human money and human honey filling my brain like a cloud of poison gas filling a room full of vermin.

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(c) Miracle Jones 2014