Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "More Valuable Than Money"

This poem came out of the February 4, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] ravan. It also fills the "Caught in the Act" square in my 2-1-20 card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] fuzzyred. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains a character who is unashamedly obnoxious, and it's not Shiv. Asshole warning!

"More Valuable Than Money"

[Friday, September 4, 2015]

Shiv didn't like Jack.

Strictly speaking, he wasn't
supposed to dislike customers,
but Shiv wasn't a people person
to begin with and Jack was a jerk.

He fussed over the menu,
didn't seem to like soul food
despite coming into a jazz joint,
and wanted changes to everything.

Shiv put on his professional face
and did his best to deal with it.

Not even dessert seemed
to make Jack happy, and
damn but Cook made
a fine chocolate cake.

Finally Shiv could bring
the bill and get rid of Jack.

That's a fake, Boss White sent
just as Shiv reached for the money.

Shiv put his hand down on the customer's,
pinning it in place. "We don't like fraud or
counterfeiters around here," he said sternly.
"Now you sit tight while I test this."

Then he pulled the test-pen out of
his apron and ran it over every bill
right in front of the man, making sure
they were all genuine American mint.

They were, except for the one meant
as a tip, that wasn't a real bill but
actually some religious shit
faked up to look like a twenty.

Frowning, Shiv frisked the man
with his superpower, feeling

And oh look, wasn't that lovely?
Mr. Jack Ass had a money clip.

Shiv bent it carefully, carefully,
so Jack wouldn't feel a thing
changing inside his pocket.

But the next time he took it out,
his money would fly away in the wind.

"Now, did you want to leave a real tip,
or were you planning to stiff me?"
Shiv said, sliding the reject back.

Jack grumbled but slapped down
another twenty on the table for him.

"Thank you," Shiv said, making it
sound good. "You from around here?"

"Just passing through," Jack said.

"Good," Shiv said. "Keep going,
and don't come back. We don't
want your kind around here."

"You can't throw me out,"
Jack protested. "It's called
freedom of religion!"

"It's called fraud,"
Shiv said. "You want
to talk to the cops
about this nonsense?"

"No," Jack muttered.

Even though the bill was
obviously fake once opened,
it wasn't when closed, and that
was enough to piss off the police.

They'd write him a ticket and send him
to community court, and if he kept doing it,
then the Secret Service might just decide
he knew too much about counterfeiting
and come ride his ass about that.

"Neither do I," Shiv said. "So if you
ever come back, then I get to play
with you, which I would enjoy and
you would not. Are we crystal?"

"Yeah, yeah, it's clear," Jack said,
trying to squirm away from him.

Shiv let him go, and Jack
scrambled out of his chair
like it had caught on fire.

Then Shiv thought about
how Tolli and Simon handled
jerks like this, and couldn't
resist taking a parting shot.

"By the way, there is something
more valuable than money,"
Shiv said. "It's called integrity."

* * *


Jack Ashton -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair with a bushy mustache. He is a traveling evangelical. Jack is good at getting attention, but bad at making people actually like him, because he's such as asshole. He has a rude sense of humor, such as leaving religious tracts as fake tips. He doesn't get away with that at Blues Moon, though.
Qualities: Good (+2) Determination, Good (+2) Getting Attention, Good (+2) Memory, Good (+2) Stamina, Good (+2) Traveler
Poor (-2) Asshole

* * *

Counterfeiting causes a variety of problems. There are test pens to reveal some types of counterfeit.

Fake money in the form of religious tracts is a vicious attack on people least able to defend themselves, usually service workers. It also makes the Christian church look very bad, and some people have shamed congregations for using this tactic.

Terramagne-America handles counterfeiting and related fraud very differently than local-America does. Here, innocent people are punished for being victimized by counterfeiters, because the government takes away the fake money but does not replace it with real money. This is worse than useless, because it aligns the interests of the victim with the counterfeiter: the only way to avoid getting cheated is to pass on the fake money to someone else. T-America therefore recruits victims to assist in catching counterfeiters by encouraging people to report counterfeits in exchange for legitimate currency. If a pattern appears, the police know to move in closer -- either because a counterfeiter is foolishly trying to launder money through official channels, or because they're hitting the same area repeatedly, and thus can be trapped. This aligns the interests of the outraged citizen with the authorities against the counterfeiters, resulting in faster capture, a crucial need in a society with more advanced technology. (Unless you're the Maldives: their super-gizmo money cannot be counterfeited.)

Similarly, L-America does nothing about the type of fraud perpetrated with religious tracts that superficially resemble money. T-America frowns on that because, even though it can be distinguished easily as soon as you unfold it, the tracts are passed as money, usually in the form of tips. (Play money for games or education doesn't count, because it's not used in circulation and is honestly just pretend.) It occupies a gray area between felony counterfeiting and allowable pranking, so it's not strictly speaking illegal in most cases. But it is destructive to the trust and respect that underlie a healthy society. For this reason, if someone files a complaint, it typically goes to community court along with other antisocial misbehavior. It's also a warning sign that someone either doesn't have good social skills (not realizing how much it hurts), is seeking to entrap people in religion (a cult habit), or actively enjoys hurting people (seen in several serious personality disorders and crimes). So that's not something T-America wants to ignore.

Assholes are thriving in L-America right now, to the point of justifying cartoons like this. Learn to identify assholes with a simple flowchart or more complex formula. Most assholes do not actually know they are assholes. It is important to distinguish among being assertive, aggressive, or an asshole. There is also a convenient community to ask, Am I the Asshole?  (If so, stop being an asshole.)  Understand how to deal with assholes. At work, aim to establish a No Asshole Policy. (This can be hard on people with mental illnesses, touch dominance, neurovariance, or other differences, so try to discern the root cause of bothersome behavior.) If you are in charge, be willing to fire the asshole if necessary.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, economics, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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