A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Losing 100 Bucks

Originally published: 8 December 2005

I had my usual midweek trip to Mowbray on Tuesday afternoon but before I left home I had to take Tashi with me to the autobank to draw money for the pair of us.

She was going shopping, I was going shopping - you know how it goes.

I didn't have my wallet with me (I don't even know where it is - the last time anything significant was in it was about four years ago) so Tashi peeled off some hundreds just like a real loan shark and I stuffed them in my pockets.

I use the plural here because I don't like getting my money confused when I'm out shopping in Mowbray. It doesn't look good to the casual passerby or burly policeman when a white boy is sitting outside a Mowbray house fumbling about in his pockets for change.

I had one spare hundred which I put in my other pocket and completed my various business transactions. I left with a cheery wave, a blast on the horn and a squeal of rubber as I set about my ever-persistent goal of cutting down the time of the drive home from eight minutes to seven.

Not quite there yet, but on one freak day - in which the traffic moves aside as I approach, like Moses before his Red Sea - I'm going to do it. Or die trying. The latter, probably, now that I come to think of it.

On the way home I had to stop at the Rosmead Spar for ingredients and as I was going inside with my Green Bag I got a horrible premonition.

I stopped dead in my tracks and dived into my pockets ... and the spare hundred was gone.

I rushed back to the car, hands frantically scrabbling at all pockets in a frenzy of incomprehension. I opened up all doors and began the greatest search since Pa got off the bus.

To no avail. It was gone.

Let's pause here for a moment so that I can explain something: I have a very healthy relationship with money. When I have it, of course, which is rare.

I don't regard it as anything more special than a means to an end, and although I like it as much as any corrupt politician I don't get emotional about it - ever. I've made it, spent it, lost it, borrowed it, given it away, stolen it and had it stolen. It comes and goes. Just like people.

But losing that 100 bucks wasn't pleasant - I don't have spare cash to chuck about and even though I won't die it's not nice to think of it lying on a lonely Mowbray road to be discovered by some wide-eyed innocent whose day just got a whole bunch better.

I earned that hundred bucks fair and square by working very bladdy hard and now some bastard is having himself a fine afternoon on the town at my expense.

A hundred bucks gets you a very nice bottle of something, although the pragmatist amongst us will recognise that while one fine bottle of alcohol is always nice, 10 bottles of cheap plonk is infinitely better.

That's because after the first awful bottle the second doesn't taste so bad, and by the 10th you could be drinking a bottle of alcohol-laced vomit for all you care.


Mind you, 100 bucks doesn't buy you much more than a pack of smokes, a greasy newspaper filled with slap tjips from the Rosmead Muslims and a room-warmed five-litre Cellar Cask of indeterminate, dodgy vintage.

Actually - that all sounds pretty appealing right now. Substitute the viticulture for a sixie of Labels and we're talking.

I've lost plenty before - my treasured hat was stolen from my head, drunken wallets have magically staggered off into hazy bars and even my stomach lining disappeared along the way, suspiciously soon after The Tabasco Incident.

But I've gained plenty too - money, wallets, bags, strange underpants in my drawer (too small, unfortunately), beach towels, toasters ... hang on a moment - did I just say I found strange underpants in my drawer?

WTF?? Why have I never wondered where they came from before? I do now. An interesting little Q&A with wifey tonight, methinks.

The point is that one man's loss is another man's charity. You win some you bloody lose some. Some days there's a queue and on others you're it. Someone took the biggest doughnut but the one they left was fresher. One man's meat is another man's murder. A teacher's chalk is a student's cheese.

It's all cyclical, which makes it easier to be philosophical about losing R100. You're bound to get it back in some form some time.

And I suppose it's kinda cool for the bloke who eventually found it. You don't start out each day expecting to come across a bloodstained blueback lying in the Mowbray gutters, and when you do you snatch the bastard and run like a pig.

I certainly would. The most I've ever found was a twenty which - in all fairness to me - was already halfway out of my mother's purse. If the speed with which I left that crime scene is anything to go by I reckon I'd do the 400-metre steeplechase in eight seconds flat if I found a hundred-rand note.

I hope it gets put to good use by its new owner and not frittered away on necessities or baby clothes. I've got a lot invested in that hundred - it was earned in front of the barrel of a gun and cost me the love of a fine woman. If it gets used for anything other than disgustingly trivial decadence I'll feel it all the way here in Claremont.

Straight to the heart, man.

At least I have something to look forward to now. If the wheels of life turn as they should I ought to be happening upon a lovely little stash of something anytime soon.

I've always dreamed of finding the proverbial briefcase stuffed with cash beside the country road - maybe my time has come. You give a little; you take some back, so to speak.

See those rapidly-diminishing skyscrapers behind us? That's the city receding.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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