The Last of Our Money

The Last of Our Money image 4
The Last of Our Money
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

Vance Rutherford was a reckless driver, especially when he was mad or upset. He ran through a red light and barely missed hitting a car going in the other direction. A little farther along, he made a right turn so fast that Rachelle hit her head on the side window.

“Slow down, Vance!” she said. “You’re gonna get a ticket!”

“I don’t care! If they try to stop me, I’ll outrun them!”

Rachelle groaned and rubbed her head. “You don’t want them to start shooting at you, do you?”

“I can always shoot back.”

“How are you going to do that if you don’t have a gun?”

“Who says I don’t have a gun? I have a gun in the inside pocket of my coat.”

“You do not! You are such a liar!”

“I know. I’m a fool, too, and lots of other things.”

“Don’t I know it!”

“Are you sorry you married me?” Vance asked.

“Every day of my life.”

“You can always divorce me, you know.”

“You’re forgetting that little bundle of pink flesh we have waiting for us at home.”

“Oh, yeah. Arlene. I almost forgot about her.”

“She’s the only reason I stay married to you.”

“One day you might decide she’s better off without her daddy.”

“And when that day comes I’ll let you know.”

“I’m a loser, Rachelle. I need money. Bad.

“How much this time?”

“Four hundred.”

“I don’t have four hundred dollars, Vance.”

“I know you don’t. If you did, all my problems would be solved.”

“For the moment. Tomorrow you’d be in trouble again.”

“Are you sorry you married me?”

“Never more than at this moment.”

“Have you talked to your grandma this week?”

“No, I haven’t. And I’m not going to ask her for any more money.”

“You know she’s got it, Rachelle. She’s got whole boxfuls of cash stashed away in that house.”

“That’s just what you believe!”

“You’re her favorite grandchild, Rachelle. You know she would never say no to you.”

“I’m not going to ask her for four hundred dollars, so you can just forget about it.”

“Not even if it would save my skin?”

“It might save your skin today, but tomorrow it’ll be something else. Some other trouble. Some other desperate need for money.”

“No, you’re wrong. I’ve grown up a lot in the last year or so. I’m changing, Rachelle. Really I am.”

“Somehow I just don’t see it.”

“No, I promise. If I can just get my hands on four hundred dollars right now, I’ll be all squared away.”

“For how long, Vance?”

“How long what?”

“How long will you be squared away?”

“You’re not very encouraging, you know that?”

“Let’s go home. I can fix us something to eat.”

“How about if I swing by your grandma’s house and you go inside and ask her for a little loan?”

“You know it’s not a loan, Vance. You don’t ever have any intention of paying it back. A loan is something you pay back.”

“She’ll be sitting in her chair watching TV. She’ll be glad to see you.”

“No!”

“It’s the only way, Rachelle.”

“You’ll have to think of some other way. I’m not going to ask my grandma for more money. She needs her money.”

“For what?”

“She’s old, Vance! Old people like to hang onto their money.”

“So the answer is no?”

“Yes, the answer is definitely no!”

“Just tell her we don’t have any food in the house. The rent is past due and you need your asthma medication. She won’t be able to turn you down if you put it in those terms.”

“I’m not going to lie to her on top of everything else, Vance!”

“It’s not a lie!

“I thought you paid the rent!”

“I was going to but I had to use the money for something else.”

“What did you use it for?”

“I don’t remember now. It was something important.”

“Oh, Vance! You’ll never grow up, will you?”

“I’m as grown up as you.”

“Let’s go home and I’ll cook some spaghetti.”

“No. Grandma’s first.”

Rachelle knew it was useless to object further. In ten minutes, Vance pulled up in front of Rachelle’s grandma’s house.

“I don’t think she’s home,” Rachelle said. “It’s her night for church.”

“All the lights are on, as you can plainly see.”

“Oh, Vance! I don’t want to do this!”

“She’ll be glad to see you. Try to get five hundred.”

“You said four hundred!”

“Well, five hundred would be even better!”

“Oh, Vance, you’re hopeless!”

“I’ll wait right here. Take your time.”

He cracked the window and lit a cigarette and turned on the car radio. He had smoked two cigarettes and was on his third one when Rachelle came back.

“Well, how much did she give you?” he asked impatiently before she was all the way in the car.

“She only had fifty dollars on hand. I think it was her grocery money.”

“Fifty dollars! That’s all she gave you?”

“It’s all she had.”

 “She would let you starve to death? Her favorite grandchild?”

“I’m not going to starve to death, Vance. We can use the fifty dollars to get some groceries.”

“Yeah, but it’s not enough! I feel like going in there and talking to her myself! Fifty dollars! The very idea!”

“Leave her alone, Vance. She has a cold and she’s not feeling well.”

“Well, isn’t that just too bad? I’m not feeling very well, either.”

“Let it go, Vance! We’ll use the fifty dollars to buy some groceries. We can get quite a lot with that.”

“I don’t want any of that stuff. I’m hungry. I want a steak. Let’s go to Roland’s and get a steak. I think that’s the best idea I’ve had all day.”

“That’ll take all the fifty dollars!”

“So what?”

“You would use the last of our money for a steak dinner?”

“Sure. Wouldn’t you? That’s how hungry I am.”

“I told grandma we were going to use it to buy food.”

“We are going to use it to buy food.”

“You’re a pig, Vance.”

“No more of a pig than you are.”

They had to wait for a table at Roland’s. Eating there always made Vance feel like an important person. He always hoped he’d see somebody he knew.

Finally they were seated at a small booth in the back of the room. Vance ordered an expensive bottle of wine. While waiting for their food to arrive, Vance sipped the wine and gave Rachelle a sly grin across the table.

“I have a secret concealed somewhere on my person,” he said.

“How nice for you,” she said.

“Don’t you want to know what it is?”

“Not especially.”

He seemed pleased with himself as he opened his jacket and showed her the gun he had hidden there.

“You’re a lunatic!” she said. “What do you think you’re going to do with that?”

“Well, grandma didn’t come through for us. Now things are getting pretty desperate.”

“What are you going to do? Hold up a liquor store?”

“Not a liquor store, but I do have a plan.”

“What plan?”

“Well, since you are my wife, I’ll tell you. I’m going to drive twenty or thirty miles outside of town where nobody knows me and hold up an all-night gas station.”

“That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard!”

“I won’t really shoot anybody. I’ll just use the gun to scare them.”

“Don’t think I’ll come and visit you behind bars.”

“You don’t like my idea? Do you have a better one?”

“Why not just rob the bank downtown? I’m sure they’d have a lot more money than an all-night gas station.”

“That’s my alternate plan in case the all-night liquor store doesn’t work out.”

They finished eating and the waiter brought the check. Vance stood up to go to the men’s room, taking off his jacket and laying it carefully across the chair.

Rachelle was sure he wouldn’t be back for at least ten minutes. He’d take his time going to the toilet and when he was finished he’d wash his hands thoroughly and comb his hair in the mirror. She reached around the table where he had been sitting and with one deft movement took the gun out of the pocket of his jacket and hid it in her purse. He had drunk too much wine; he wouldn’t notice for a long time that the gun wasn’t where he thought it was.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp