The Loan by Lisa Blaushild
I don’t mean to badger you, but you’re once again late with your monthly payment. My wife and I agreed to lend you five dollars with the provision that you’d send us seven cents on the first of each month until the loan is fully paid off by the year 2018. Of course, five years is a long time to wait to have our five dollars returned to us, but we were willing to do so because you’re experiencing severe economic hardship and we wanted to give you time to get back on your feet again. Yet so far you’ve missed all of your scheduled payments, which include March, April, May, and now here we are at June. As a result of this astonishing negligence, you currently owe us a whopping twenty-eight cents, and if you continue to thumb your nose at the payback terms, that sum will quickly escalate to an even steeper thirty-five cents by July, which is right around the corner. Do you see how quickly debt can mount up if you don’t stay on top of it? You haven’t even shown the courtesy of letting us know the reason for this delinquency and when we can expect a check. Is this any way to treat one of your oldest friends, who went out on a limb for you?
My wife and I broke our rules for you. We’re often approached for loans by those who have fallen on hard times and in desperate need of emergency funds. And as billionaires, we’re delighted to be so extraordinarily wealthy that we can afford to help our friends and relatives out. I think our generosity speaks for itself. Over the years, we’ve lent staggering amounts of money ranging from two dollars and fifty cents to a cousin who lost everything after her home tragically burned down in a fire, all the way up to a mind-boggling eight dollars when my brother-in-law was diagnosed with a terminal illness and my sister asked for “whatever financial assistance I could offer” to cover the cost of his exorbitant medical bills. But we recently made the difficult decision to stop being such generous do-gooders because the money is rarely returned to us, and more importantly, the borrowers’ inevitable guilt causes them to avoid us as if we’re lepers, not even returning our repeated phone calls or signing for the certified default notices we send, which leads to those precious relationships that meant so much to us becoming irrevocably damaged. To give one example out of many, after my brother-in-law died, I confronted my grieving sister at the funeral about her husband’s outstanding debt of eight dollars, and merely asked if he’d been decent enough to leave it to my wife and me in his will. Well, she refused to answer my reasonable question and stormed off like an angry child. Sadly, my sister and I have been estranged ever since. So although it brought us great joy to ease people’s financial woes, the consequences just aren’t worth it.
However, when you phoned that night and explained how your entire life savings had been wiped out after some bad investments and begged me for a loan to tide you over, I didn’t have the heart to turn you away. You repeatedly apologized, and admitted how deeply humiliated you felt, but claimed you were in a desperate situation and had nobody else to turn to. I meant it when I said that you’ve always been like a brother to me and had nothing at all to feel ashamed about. Truth is, I was actually enormously flattered that you felt close enough to me to reach out in your time of need. To try and make you feel better, I shared some of my own huge losses from foolish business decisions that cost me millions over the years, proving that if a financial genius such as myself who has repeatedly made the Forbes’ Richest Americans list can make idiotic mistakes, you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. If it were solely up to me, I would have agreed to a loan without hesitation, but since it needed my wife’s approval, I promised to give you an answer after I discussed it with her.
I waited until my wife and I were in bed, and then cautiously brought up your loan request. She made the point that we need to show more backbone and stick to our no-loans policy, and not succumb to every sob story that comes our way. I attempted to sway her by vouching for your character, filling her in on how much you’d done for me in the past. “He was always there for me, both emotionally and financially, giving me hundreds of dollars back in our college days when I was a struggling student and flat broke,” I recounted, so moved by those warm memories that I felt close to tears. “He encouraged me to follow my dream of becoming the CEO of several multimillion dollar corporations rather than a dentist like my father. I doubt that I’d have become the billionaire I am today without his support. This is my opportunity to show my profound gratitude by being there for him during this crisis.” Reluctantly, she agreed to a loan of three dollars and twenty-five cents, but I argued that was too small considering the dire straits you were in. I bravely raised the amount to nine dollars, which she predictably balked at, but she was right that an unsecured loan of such a large sum would be far too risky. So after a few more hours of going back and forth with different figures until the sun began to rise, we finally compromised and settled on five dollars, a number we both felt comfortable with.
The following morning, I skipped a meeting with shareholders of one of my Fortune 500 companies to go straight to the bank, and instructed the teller to select the crispest, most attractive five dollar note she could find without any unsightly creases or marks. Yes, it would have been easier to simply write you a check, but knew you’d appreciate having access to the funds immediately. I sacrificed more time to wait in an excruciatingly long line at the post office to overnight the loan (Express Mail: $18.30), along with the payback terms of seven cents per month that I’d hired my lawyer to draw up (attorney fee: $475.00). How I wished that I could be a fly on the wall to see the happiness on your face when you tore open the envelope, discovered that fine looking five dollar bill waiting for you, and realized your prayers had been answered!
Let’s talk. We are willing to work with you before taking stronger action. Maybe we could adjust the payment plan if you are finding it too high. But it’s costing me time and money to try and track you down in order to have a simple conversation. I took a cab ($18.25 round trip, including tip) to your seedy neighborhood a few days ago, a low-class ungentrified part of town that I normally steer clear of, but my intent was to have a civil conversation with you and resolve your debt amicably. I hiked the five flights to your flat, and after pounding on the front door with my fist for several minutes, the superintendent emerged from his apartment with the news that you’d been evicted for failure to pay the rent, and are residing in a homeless shelter. Since you rudely didn’t inform me of your new address, my only recourse is to send this letter to every homeless shelter in the city, which will be an additional expense and really isn’t fair to me.
Would you be able to send at least one of your past due payments of seven cents? It would prove to my wife that you’re not the piece of shit she keeps calling you, and are at least making some effort to pay us back. She’s a compassionate woman, and I might be able to convince her to lower the payments to four cents per month if you’d find that more manageable. Call me an eternal optimist, but I continue to believe the best about you despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s not too late to prevent the irrevocable harm to our friendship that will occur if you continue down this irresponsible path. Let’s not allow money to come between us. Do the right thing.
© Lisa Blaushild, 2014
Lisa Blaushild is a fiction and screenwriter. Her fiction has been published in many magazines and anthologies, including Up Is Up, But So Is Down: New York's Downtown Literary Scene, Love Is Strange, Between C & D Anthology, Titters: A Collection of Women’s Humor, Exquisite Corpse, Bomb Magazine and others. The satiric short story, Love Letter to my Rapist was displayed in an exhibition on women and violence at the Museum of Modern Art. An original screenplay was optioned by the film director, Atom Egoyan.
The Loan was read by Max Woertendyke on 4th June 2014