by Courtney E. Webb


Buzz, buzz.

Denise stirred. Buzz, buzz, the sound continued. A soft, vibrating movement on her side.

She rolled back and forth a couple of times and her eyes popped open. The buzzing sound continued. She focused for a moment then hit the little tracker resting in her pajama pocket and sat up. Denise wiped the sleep out of her eyes and pulled the tracker out of her pocket. It read: 7 hours and 42 minutes.

Hum, she thought to herself. “Well, it’s not exactly eight hours of sleep but it’s probably okay,” she mused out loud. After taking a pee, she came back to her scales and stepped on; 146 pounds. She frowned. “Damn vacation!” She was up two pounds and she had been working so hard too.

Stepping off the scale she sighed, Guess that’s the price for fun, huh? Going over to her desk, she pulled out the sugar monitor and pricking her finger, put a little sample of blood on the test strip. After several seconds it read ‘94’. She smiled. Her blood sugar was doing great! And the new diet plan emphasized low sugar levels to get the weight off. She was working toward her goal nicely.

In the kitchen, Denise hit the start button on the coffee maker. Regular black, no special coffees or sugar additives. She opened a new box of Special K cereal and retrieved the non-fat milk from the frig. Slicing half of a green banana into the cereal, she started to eat.

Back at her desk she sliced open the envelopes with an antique ivory letter opener. A gift from her Scottish grandmother. Opening her mail, she began to check bank balances.

Hum.” she saw that one checking had a $5,000 balance and the other one was at an all-time low of $1,000. “That vacation again. Whew! Just wiped me out!” Frisky, the cat, sitting close by, looked concerned.

Savings had a nice $25,000 balance and her 401k was rocking along smoothly. Denise felt proud of herself. As the daughter of a welfare mother and humble beginnings, she was doing pretty well for herself.

However, thinking back, she had had to fight and fight with that travel agent to get them to take payment for the trip in cash.

But everyone pays by card,” the woman had said pleading, trying to push the bills back at Denise.

Denise skillfully pushed the bills back toward the travel agent.

I’m very uncomfortable using ‘cards’.” Denise smiled beatifically. “This is how I do business.”

The woman shook her head, mumbling and then reluctantly snatched up the cash and clumped over to her boss’s desk. The young woman handed the cash off to him and soft mumbling followed. The travel agency manager, was a chubby little guy, who didn’t do much, as far as Denise could tell, except eat and play games on his cell phone all day.

She had been to this same agency before and she wondered if he remembered her. They had gone through the same song and dance last time. The clerk was leaned over her boss’s desk, her back to Denise. The little fat guy stole a glance at her around his employee. She smiled back at him. She knew what was coming. He heaved himself up from his desk, reluctantly and cautiously approached her.

He smiled first. She smiled back.

Miss Smith,” he ventured, looking down at the agency document in his hand. The clerk lingered in the background, uncertainly. Denise, nodded helpfully.

Miss Smith,” he repeated, “we don’t usually work with cash transactions. They can be…” he searched manfully for the proper words, “they can be difficult to…trace.” He smiled again hoping to hell that she would understand without causing a fuss.

Denise was ready, they had in fact had the same conversation over a year ago.

Oh, yes, I totally understand, Mr… ?”


Mr. Shin.” She repeated carefully. “I absolutely understand your position but,” she smiled, “I don’t like using credit cards because of all the interest and banking fees. I know that’s how most people do it, but can’t you make an exception this time? Besides, you did it this way over a year ago.” Mr. Shin’s eyebrows shot up.

He’s probably surprised he let a woman get the drop on him before, she thought with a smirk.

The man stared at her almost a full minute then shook his head and waved for the girl to continue. He turned around and took the wad of cash back to his desk. With a look of almost disgust, he pulled out a metal box and stuck in the cash. He snapped the box shut with a scowl. Shin frowned at his cell phone.

Probably means an extra trip to the bank, Denise thought to herself. Oh, well!

Denise, smiling, completed her trip arrangements to Belize with the girl and got her confirmation paper. She left the agency smiling, happy when she got people to see things her way. She had learned long ago that the banks were the biggest rip off artists in the business with their interest rates and fees on top of fees. Better in my pocket than in theirs, she thought grinning.

She got into her little economy car and started the engine. It was an uninspiring grey green color that she hated; but what the heck, her brother, the used-car salesman, had gotten her a super discount deal, so – no complaints.

Now,” she mused. She rummaged through her purse and found what she was looking for. She had some coupons in her envelope that were about to expire. Needed to get over to the store pick up those items while they were still good. She sped off full of her next mission.


Miles away, two heads leaned together and whispered in furious tones.

“No, it has to been then, we must get ready!”

The other person sighed and slumped back.

End of Part I