Short story by Dennis Ward
“Your credit score is marginal, Mr. Ward,” the matronly new accounts manager sniffed. “I’m afraid you do not meet our impeccable credit standards to open a checking account.” How could this be I asked? I had always paid my bills on time. Sometimes I sent extra money just to make sure the next utility bill would be covered in case the apocalypse wiped out civilization. I would be happy dying of radiation poisoning, knowing my Atlanta Gas & Light account was fully satisfied.
Indeed, when I checked my account with said utility company, I owed eight dollars and it had been past due for three months. Yes, I had put in a change of address after moving; however, the postman on my route would later be found guilty of throwing bundles of mail in his favorite ditch. My final gas bill lay unpaid at the bottom of a frog pond. Equifax, deity and master of the credit universe, would brand my credit report for seven years as one of those feckless deadbeats who pay their bills late. Actually, I should have been caned for my credit sins.
Unable to cash my paychecks at a bank forced me to drive to the south side of Atlanta to cash my meager pittance at Pay Day Loans, located in a seedy rundown shopping center. Each check cashed came with an added bonus of an extremely high check cashing fee. I stood shoulder to should with those struggling to live paycheck to paycheck. Some of the customers borrowed small amounts of cash against their paychecks and were obliged to pay interest in amounts equal to buying a fleet of Cadillacs. Pay Day Loans did not flinch at charging interest in excess of three-hundred percent. In the money lending food chain, Pay Day Loans was at the lowest rung. They were a pack of vultures and their victims were spared no mercy. Big burly thugs, welding lead pipes and baseball bats, battered down front doors to collect social security checks. No one was spared; even Mother Teresa would have been coldcocked.
One Friday as I waited in queue at Payday Loans, an attractive lady ahead of me tried to cash a check. The surly clerk behind the bullet proof glass looked at the check as if it had been drawn from the First National Bank of Adolph Hitler. She refused to cash the check. No amount of supplications or identifications changed the officious clerk’s mind.
The attractive woman began unbuttoning her blouse, causing all the men in the establishment to immediately lose interest in The Price is Right. She took off her bra and let it drop to the floor. Behind the bulletproof glass, the officious clerk’s angry screams could not compete with the male customer’s whoops. Mothers covered their small children’s eyes, but they almost suffered their hands being bitten off. Next the slacks were disrobed and when the panties came down a roar rose up that drifted down Stewart Avenue. The attractive lady stood defiantly naked and by this time the small business was packed. There had only been a handful of customers at Pay Day Loans prior to the birthday suit fanfare.
I thought the negative reaction of the officious Pay Day Loan clerk was entirely misguided. The attractive naked lady was not only beneficial for business but soon attracted a reporter from a local news channel. The free publicity was tremendous. She not only should have cashed her check without that outrageous check cashing fee, but maybe she should have been given a house prize, too. A toaster or better yet, a lifetime supply of depilatory crème would have been nice. A minivan and film crew arrived and filmed the naked lady, later blurring her nether regions for wholesomeness for the six o’clock news.
I offered the naked lady a blistering hot cup of coffee; but later, when I returned home, I thought that could have been risky business. I hoped the naked lady didn’t think it was my intention to scald her sensitive erogenous zones. Heaven forbid. Upon reflection, I should have offered her milk. Cold milk would have been much more appropriate. Where’s a good old fashion milk bar when you need it at times like these?
Unfortunately, my naked friend was hauled away by the police. There I was on the six o’clock news offering a cup of coffee to the naked lady as if I were doling out java at Starbucks. My mother was so proud she told all her friends and video recorded the event, figuring that was the closest I would ever get to my five minutes of fame.
In the end, I was glad that postal worker threw my final gas bill in the ditch. I would have never had the pleasure of standing next to a naked lady at a boring bank. The forces of the universe brought us together over a steaming hot cup of Folgers.
© 2013 Dennis Ward