Friday, 11 June 2010

Mark 10:22b ff. (apocryphal)


Ruth wakes to buzzing - her cellphone vibrating on her bedside table.

It's Alfred J. Mackenzie Jr., her most profitable account holder, and the most demanding. He'd warned her he'd do this. She'd hoped he'd been joking. She picks up the phone.

"You woke me." No effort needed to sound pissed.

"Listen, Ruth," he says. "About that money transfer. I've changed my mind. You need to call it off."

Even at 2am, she can't resist a smug grin.

"You told me you'd do this," she says, "and you told me what to say: No."

She cuts the line and switches off her cell.

Immediately the house phone rings. She lets it ring off and listens to him speaking to her answering machine in the hallway.

"Ruth, pick up. I don't need this right now. Listen, I'll give you half the money. That's twenty billion, Ruth. You can keep twenty billion if you call off the transfer. You'll never need to work again..."

She waits to see what he'll say next.

"Look, bitch, just pick up the phone."

She climbs out of bed to cut the power to the phone. He's still talking.

"Ruth if you don't pick up right now I'll call all your clients. I'll make sure you never step foot in a bank again."

She picks up.

"Will you shut up, Mackenzie."

"No, now listen."

"No I'm not going to fucking listen. You listen. I don't know what that guru guy said to you, but ever since you met him you've lost the plot."

"I told you what he said. He said if I wanted to live forever, I should sell everything I owned and give the money to the poor."

"And instead of asking him if he needed a shrink, you actually decided to do it."

"Well, not exactly. I've changed my mind."

"Now you've sold everything and seen all those zeros in your bank account, you've changed your mind?"

"Look, Ruth, the intention was there."

"Right. And if I call it off for you, you meant what you said about the twenty billion?"

"Not exactly. I wanted you to come to the phone."

"And stupid me, I did."

Ruth slams the receiver down and pulls out the socket. She will not do his bidding any more. She will not call it off. She'd planned it all too well. Mackenzie had told her to be creative, and she had.

Tomorrow at 10am Eastern Time the amassed fortune of the illustrious Mackenzie family -- all forty two billion of it in single dollar bills -- would flutter from helicopters over the slums of Brazil and India, the hovels of China and Russia, and the plains of Africa.

She'd make sure it happened, especially now Mackenzie wanted to call it off. She'd give away all his money, every penny, even though he'd changed his mind. Did that mean he'd forfeited the reward of eternal life? She wasn't about to chase up the crazy guru to find out, but she hoped so. She'd tell Mackenzie that he had.

He could rot in hell.


  1. Oh dear! I can't help feeling a little sorry for Mackenzie! I like the Ruth character. "No effort needed to sound pissed" is excellent, I could hear her tone of voice perfectly

  2. Live forever...without money? Mackenzie should have thought it through before making a pact with the guru, as Faust learned.

    Last line is perfect.

  3. "He could rot in hell."

    Yes, he could. Danged solid close, David.

  4. The man who cried wolf. Got what he deserved.

    marc nash

  5. Guess he should have kept a nest egg. He better have a back-up plan because it sure looks like he needs it. Good story!

  6. Love the apocrypha, but Ruth's a little hard on him isn't she?

    Still it posed a great moral dilemma. You decide to give it all up, but can you really?

  7. This is based on one of my favorite gospel stories, but with a great contemporary twist. (In the original: when told to sell everything he owns, the young man left sad because he had many things. Kind of hard to feel sorry for him.)I like the way that Ruth dispensed with the money, and it surprised me that she didn't have a secret plan to take it for herself.

    I did get a little distracted by all the phone activity, probably because some of the terminology is unfamiliar (e.g., "socket"). I do think that the story would benefit from a little tightening of this description.

    Otherwise, a clever modern parable.

  8. Fun piece and a great retelling. Wonder what kind of riots that much money would spark...

  9. Ah Mackenzie, we stand or fall by our actions, don't we? I really enjoyed this, so many moral dilemmas to consider. I suspect I will remember this story for quite a while.

  10. I really thought she was going to keep the money, or a portion of it, for herself. I definitely think she is the bigger person here.

  11. Grat closing line. I had the same thought as Valerie, about the riots cause by the money. Root of all evil and that...