If I’m going to be self-employed, aka poor, I suppose I should get the coupon situation figured out. I’ve been clipping them lately, but that’s about as far as I get. I keep forgetting to bring them with me to the grocery store. Hell, I keep forgetting to go to the grocery store. I end up having to buy things one at a time, in the order in which my supply is depleted, at gas-station convenience marts and such, where it costs five bucks for a box of Cheerios.
Then I come home, where the coupons litter my floor like confetti, and I kick myself for paying full price for underarm deodorant when right there, floating in the dog’s water dish, is a coupon that could have saved me 50 cents. I hear it adds up, 50 cents here and there, to the point where people become jillionaires just by pinching pennies, able to retire and buy the best motor homes on the market, in which they camp out and cook coupon-bought Hamburger Helper, so content and safe they are in the cushion of their personal savings.
My own personal savings have been depleted into the less-than-zero range. I haven’t been this poor since college. I handled it then by eating free appetizers at happy hour. One dollar bought you a margarita and the right to attack the buffet like it was your own personal trough. Sometimes, if happy hour ended and I wasn’t finished being hungry, I’d sidle onto the end stool and eat all the fruit and cocktail olives out of the bartender’s garnish caddy.
I can’t do that now. For one, they don’t really allow babies in bars. It’s true that Mae is growing super fast even for a toddler, but I doubt there’s a fake ID in existence that can fool a bartender into thinking she’s over 21. So I’ve taken to clipping coupons, even though I have yet to wield one at the checkout line. Still, it’s kind of reassuring to see all the money I could save if I did. On Sunday mornings, I sit and clip and marvel at the all products. One dollar off on two cans of potted meat product, I think, comforted.
All this isn’t to say I don’t have money coming. I mean, who doesn’t have that? I remember my mother once had a sweet loser friend named Wes, who had an equally sweet girlfriend named Irene, who was old enough to be his mother. Wes had been fired from every job he had, one of which was at my mother’s office, where Wes had gotten a job by fooling someone into thinking he could file or whatever. They fired him soon enough, but not before my mother added him to the gaggle of misfits she called her friends.
Wes’ girlfriend later sold me her ’69 yellow VW Bug for $200, and I remember when I test drove it, Wes was in the passenger seat, drunk, telling me he’d found a rare coin, a penny from the ’40s or something, and how it was worth tens of thousands of dollars. That penny was gonna save him, he said. “Things are looking up,” he blobbered. “I’m gonna take that money and open my own strip club,” he continued, “only at my place, the strippers won’t have to strip if they don’t want to.”
In fact, it wasn’t so much a strip club Wes wanted to open as it was a safe haven for wayward strippers, a place where they could come and escape the ocean of boners they have to wade through every day. Wes then took a crumpled Polaroid out of his pocket and brandished it before my face, dangerously, I might add, since Irene’s VW had bad brake pads. The photo was of his favorite stripper in Las Vegas, a woman who had fake boobs as big as Liberty Bells, and Wes with his face so buried in her chest only one eye was visible to the camera.
“I love this woman,” said Wes.
“But what about Irene?” I asked.
“I love Irene,” he said, and then he faced me. “I love everyone.”
It was then that I noticed Wes had eyes like a gentle Spaniel, round and eager to please. He started talking about his penny again, how it was gonna change everything for him. How he was gonna turn his life around, how he was gonna prove his father wrong. He was not a worthless sack of crap, he said, he was a person with the presence of mind to recognize a rare coin, a coin everyone else had overlooked, and he’ll be rewarded for it.
Handsomely. “Things are looking up,” he finished.
When we drove back to Irene’s, she was waiting with my mother in the parking lot of her apartment complex, her hair freshly permed. I told her I would take the car. “Make sure you fix the brake pads,” she said, concerned. I was writing her a check when Wes returned from the apartment they shared and pulled me aside. “Look, here it is,” he whispered, opening his palm to reveal the penny. It looked like any other penny to me, but then I wasn’t looking at it through gentle Spaniel eyes. “You ever need anything, you let me know,” Wes said, and off he walked with all his personal savings in the palm of his hand.