01-19-2012, 05:08 PM
Casey was running the dust mop over the marble-tiled foyer when she saw the mail slide through the slot in the front door and flop onto the floor. She set aside the mop and retrieved the letters, then idly sorted through them one at a time. Phone bill, bank statement, another bill, something from the city of Las Vegas--oh, wait, there was something with her name on it. The return address read Bruin, Close, LLC. Oh, Lord, please don't let it be another lawsuit! she prayed.
She opened the envelope with trepedition and removed the contents. Instead of a summons, it was a cashier's check for one million six hundred and sixty-five dollars, along with a receipt signed by Richard Close, Esq. It took a good while for Casey to come to her senses and remember that this check was her share of the Piccucci estate. Still, to receive such an amout seemed so unreal to her. Never in her entire life did she have so much money! It was a windfall people only dream about, or come across only in the movies. But this was real life, and she was actually holding a million-dollar check payable to her. Reeling from the initial shock, she took the check and hid it in the drawer of the nightstand in her bedroom. She would cash it tomorrow when she took Mr. Springer to the Luxor Casino for the afternoon. Casey couldn't help but smile at the thought of taking such a big check to the bank and depositing it in her account. I can't wait to see the expression on the face of the bank teller when she sees this check! she thought, suppressing a giggle. She's totally gonna freak out!
She shut the drawer of the nightstand and returned to her housekeeping. She wondered what she was going to do with all that money. She would not squander it, oh, no. She had lived too long on a meager budget to go on any spending sprees; who knew what would happen in the future? The economy could take another nosedive, or Mr. Springer would die and she'd be left without a job, or her mother could get sick with cancer, or any other catastrophe could occur. Best to save it for a rainy day, as her grandma put it.
Still, she would like to have a place of her own instead of residing with her employer. Once she got her certification, she could switch to day hours, coming home every evening to a new apartment, or a condo, or even a small house. It would be wonderful to have a place that she could call hers, one she could decorate in her own tastes, one that would stay clean after she cleaned it and not revert to a pigsty the minute she turned her back like her old home. She could watch TV whenever she liked, and watch whatever she liked (her father usually dominated the family set, watching football, baseball, basketball, or whatever "ball" was in season. She was ten years old before she discovered there were other programs on television besides sports). She could even invite people over if she wanted. Maybe even have a party--not those beer-swilling get-togethers her father used to have, but a Martha Stewart-style affair, with color-co-ordinated napkins and tablecloths, and hors d'ovures on tiered trays. It would be sunny and bright and dressy, just like in the magazines.
Casey finished dusting the floor and went to fetch the vacuum cleaner. The Springer house had a central vacuum, so it was just a matter of hooking up the hose to the wall outlet and running the sweeper attachment over the carpeting. Casey thought about getting a central vacuum system for her dream home--no dusty bags to remove, no tripping over the cord, no dad yelling for her to turn off that damn vacuum so he could watch the game...
Her father. Casey suddenly remembered the court ruling that she had to pay her father two thousand dollars at the end of the month. She also rememebered her mother's dismay over the judge's ruling. But, hey, it was only two thousand out of a million and six hundred. Besides, they would only get the money if they found a job before then. If not, then they forfeited the award. That was the deal--no job, no two thousand. That would be incentive enough for anyone, right?
Casey began having doubts. Would either of them even find work? The job market was going through a drought, granted, but they still printed want-ads in the paper, so someone was still hiring, right? But would they even try? Dad was still disabled, and Benny was just plain lazy--neither had any ambition to do anything. And even if by some miracle they did secure gainful employment, how long would they keep it? A month? Two months? Just long enough to collect the money and them relapse into their slovenly ways?
But no. The judge ruled that if they didn't find work by the deadline, they would be forced into job training. But what would happen if they failed to comply? Would they have to go to jail? She hoped not, for their sakes. Besides, she didn't feel like posting their bail.
Maybe she could help them, she thought as she ran the vacuum over the living room carpet. She could ask around, check the job postings on the Internet, look over the want-ads. Forget asking Mr. Springer for help--those two would take over the house without doing a lick of work. No, they'd have to find someplace else. Maybe the hotels could use some help. Benny, at least, could do some maintenance and heavy lifting (though, truth be told, the heaviest thing he ever lifted was a forty-ounce bottle of beer).
When I go to the Luxor tomorrow, Casey decided, I'm going to go to Human Resources and see what I can find for Benny. If he knows what's good for him, he'll take me up on it.
Where am I? Criss thought as he walked through the filthy, wet streets of a city he had never been to before, nor had any idea how he got there, or why he was there in the first place. Around him, crumbling tenement buildings rose menacingly like prison walls, blocking out the sunlight, creating a more sinister atmosphere. All he knew was that he had to find his car so he could get out of there, wherever he was. But every corner he turned led to another dead end, every alley and byway he followed led nowhere. He was like a rat in a maze, searching for an exit.
The car. Where the hell did I park my car? Criss ran blindly through one street after another, searching for his car. Everywhere he looked he saw more filth and more misery--men in ragged, dirty clothes with cardboard signs around their necks reading Will Work For Food; children of the ragged, dirty-clothed men crying from the pain of their empty bellies; more desperate types competing with the stray dogs and cats in scavenging the trash dumpsters for scraps. One of these wretched souls, a huge man in soiled work clothes came up to him.
"You Criss Angel?" he asked gruffly.
"Yes," Criss replied simply.
The big man hawked back and spat upon Criss. "Mother(bleeper)! Spending four hundred thousand on a fancy sports! You can go to Hell!"
With those words, the ground opened up beneath Criss' feet and swallowed him whole. He felt himself falling, falling into darkness...
Criss woke up with a start in his black-walled dressing room backstage. "Oh, God!" he panted. "Oh, God!"
He looked around the dressing room, with the eerie image-shifting paintings and the other creepy decor. Comforted that he was back in more familiar surroundings, he lay back on the black-sheeted Murphy bed, drawing deep breaths to calm his heartbeat. The images of his dream had not yet faded from memory. Some guy had spat on him because he spent four hundred thousand dollars on a sports car. Was it the Spyder? It had to be. Criss had regretted buying the Spyder since the day he bought it at that auction; he had done it out of spite, of foolish pride to show up his rival. Was there something more to it than that?
Criss analyzed his dream. A poor neighborhood, with poor people in it: a slum, poverty. People digging in the dumpsters for food: the homeless, the unemployed. A man angry for his spending four hundred thousand dollars on a sports car: unemployed, angry, envious of his good fortune. The man tells him to go to Hell, and the ground swallows him up: what did that represent? Did the man actually send him to Hell? Only God could do that, he thought. Was the man God?
He recalled the crying children in his dream: helplessness, hopelessness, hunger. Criss always had a soft spot for children; he could not bear to see them suffer for any reason. Many of his charities dealt specifically with sick and dying children, still others for the disadvantaged. The children in his dream were crying for food, for help--the help only he could give.
Criss began to put the pieces of the puzzle together as best he could: a vision of poverty with hungry men and children; one curses him for spending four hundred thousand dollars on the Spyder; he falls into Hell. As he pondered this puzzle, the slow shock of revelation crept over him. Was that money he spent on the Spyder meant for other things? Was it supposed to go to charity? Was the purchase of the Spyder an even bigger mistake than he thought? Was God trying to tell him something?
The more he thought of it, the more he realized the answers to those questions was unequivocally "yes". And the more the truth sank in, the more ashamed he felt. I blew four hundred grand on a sports car when there's so much need! The economy's down the crapper and I'm spending enough money to feed a Third World nation on a car I really don't want! God! I'm a bigger (bleep)hole than I thought! Well, no use crying over spilled milk--I'm stuck with the damn thing!
Or was he?
Criss sat up bolt upright. Maybe he wasn't as stuck as he thought. He bought it at an auction; he could sell it at an auction! Yeah! Sell the damn thing and donate the money to homeless relief. The milk he spilled buying the Spyder was just a cupful compared to the gallons that could be purchased from its sale and given to the poor, hungry children he saw in his dream. He resolved to contact the first available auction house first thing in the morning, arrange for the Spyder's sale, and let some other poor (bleeper) take it off his hands. Then the cash would be sent to whatever organization deals with homeless relief in the area; he'd have to contact the county services for that. At any rate, no one would accuse Criss Angel of having a Marie Antoinette let-them-eat-cake attitude toward the poor, especially where children were concerned.
Feeling better about himself over his newfound mission, he got up and began to prepare for the evening's performance. Buying the Spyder had been a mistake, but Criss was a man who not only learned from his mistakes but benefited from them. If the Spyder fetched a good price, God willing, others would benefit from his mistake as well.