Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lemon-Aid

In need of a well-deserved - albeit temporary - break from piracy, I decided earlier this week to invest in a card table and open a lemonade stand on the corner. Unfortunately, when I arrived at work yesterday morning I found the place reduced to smoking rubble as a result of my principled refusal to pay protection money to a group of six year olds that control the summer beverage corner sales racket in my neighborhood.

Despondent, I sat in a nearby Starbucks sipping coffee while I pondered my next move. As I scanned to crowded room, it occurred to me that one of the lonely stay at home moms that comprise the store's weekday morning customer base might be willing to pay handsomely for something to break the monotony.

After perusing the room, I spotted an easy mark.

She was a brunette in her mid-30's who was, at that moment, trying desperately to control her two year old son, who was wandering around happily tipping over people's drinks and marking his territory by spreading cupcake icing on everything he touched. On her lap, she held a screaming infant that steadfastly rebuffed all efforts by her mother to placate her. Bottles, pacifiers, keys, hugs, and songs were all stubbornly rejected, and the obligatory diaper check showed nothing amiss.

I stood at her table and broke out my best smile.

"It appears you have your hands full...and that you can use a little company. Would you mind if I joined you?"

Tears of gratitude welled in her eyes as she motioned to the empty seat beside her. As if by some sort of miracle, the baby chose that very moment to accept the pacifier. As she calmed down, the boy returned to the table to satisfy his curiosity about the strange man that was chatting up his mother.

Over the next half-hour we spoke for about the world we live in and life in general. Occasionally, she'd reach out to brush my hand or stroke my arm affectionately - tentatively at first but then with a growing familiarity and (dare I say it) intimacy. As our time together drew to a close, I went for broke.

"This might be out of line," I ventured, "but I was wondering if you might be interested in taking me on as your kept man."

I braced for a slap, but to my surprise she appeared to be considering the proposition.

"How much?" she asked.

"$5,000 a week would suffice."

"That sounds reasonable. You can start as soon as I receive payment."

"Payment?"

"Yes, we just agreed that you'd give me $5,000 a week to be my kept man"

"You're supposed to pay me!" I argued. "Besides, I don't have that kind of money!"

"You should have thought about that before you made the offer." she said flatly. "I'll tell you what. You seem like a nice guy and I'm feeling generous - so why don't you just give me $3,000 a week?"

I hesitated.

"That's my final offer," she said. "You have ten seconds to accept or I'm walking out the door for good."

"I don't think you understand how the whole 'kept man'thing works." I ventured.

"6...5..."

My head spun.

"4...3...2.."

"Deal!" I screamed in a panic.

All eyes turned towards me as the shop when completely silent forcacophony before exploding back into it's customary cacaphony ocaffeineing children, cell phone conversations, and caffiene laced beverage preparation noises.

"Good. I'll drop the children off no later than 7 each morning and I'll pick them up at around 5 each evening"

"But we didn't say anything about babysitting!" I protested.

She arched her eyebrow.

"3...2..."

"Okay."

*sigh*