e-mail Jonathan Vos Post
THE MONEY PIPE
"Daddy," said Andrew, "please don't go to work." His three-year-old
face was a masterpiece of pouting lips and nearly tearful azure eyes.
There was a crumb of egg yolk on his chin, and a smear of cherry preserves
on his dinosaur T-shirt. The syrup smell of pancakes hung in the suburban
"Darling," said his father, in Sad-But-Serious mode, "I need to go to
work now. I don't want to be late again." He leaned over to pick up his
attache case, and Andrew coiled about his arm like an affectionate python.
"Don't go to work," he pleaded, "stay home and play with me."
"I will play with you more when I get home," said the father, trying
to pry loose and hug reassuringly at the same time, "but I need to talk to
some people about robots and rockets."
"Robots and rockets!" echoed Andrew "I like robots and rockets. Stay
home and we can build a giant Daddy robot."
"I'll be back this afternoon, after your nap. Now be a good boy, and
help Mommy water the garden." He traded kisses, slipped out the door,
tossed the daily paper onto the porch, and vroomed his yuppie-gray Subaru
towards the freeway.
Front yards with orange trees gave way to video rental stores. Gas
stations' reek turned into the smog and rubber stink of freeways.
Freeways away from home, freeways to other freeways, freeways to
work, freeways to the airport, freeways grinding slowly home at close of
business. The freeway giveth and the freeway taketh away.
The next morning, after a wrestle with pajamas and spilled coffee,
Andrew launched into the same battle. "Don't go to work, Daddy. I want
you to stay home with me all the time."
"Sweetheart, you know that Daddy has to go to work."
"Because I need to get some money."
"Because Mommy and I spend money at the store to buy food and
clothes and toys for you."
"Because only bad guys take things from stores without paying for
"I could hit bad guys with a big hammer!"
"I'm sure you could, honey," said the father. "But don't hit Mommy
while I'm at work. And remember to play Nintendo while Mommy does her
work on the computer. Mommy earns money too, even when she stays at
home with you." Kiss, kiss, door, paper, car.
That night, over microwave-thawed veal cutlets and reheated
broccoli, the father and mother rehashed the arguments for and against
pre-school. The stay-at-home-for-now compromise was voted in again,
narrowly. "I can't stand the way he begs me to stay home. It breaks my
heart to step outside without him, but the bills..."
Next morning was more of the same. "Please don't go to work,
Daddy." Andrew had been able, since babyhood, to blast a coherent beam of
cute-ons from his angelic face. The fundamental particles of irresistible
"I need to go to work, darling."
"You know, my little parsnip. Daddy needs to get more money."
"But I have money, Daddy," said Andrew. "Here are two monies." He
handed his father two shiny pennies. "Now you can stay with me and play
tennis with a soccer ball."
"Thank you," said the father, with that preacherly tone his wife
found so insincere. "I will keep those pennies, and here, let me give you a
nickel and a dime in exchange. I'll see you later, after you take your nap."
Hug and counterhug. Workwards and anti-workwards.
One odd moment while buying cardboard ravioli lunch in the company
cafeteria. On closer scrutiny, one of the pennies from the boy was a 1914
penny in, numismatically speaking, very good condition. "Haven't seen one
of these in circulation since I was a little kid," he thought. "Too bad it
isn't a 1914-D. That would be worth a few bucks." He tucked it into the
inner pocket of his vest, the one he'd kept tokens in before fleeing New
York for the good life. So to speak.
Again, next morning. Children never tire of repetition. That's how
they wear us down. That, plus the ability to spring from bed at dawn when
we're still in bleary half-focus. "Don't go to work, Daddy. We could paint
nice monsters on big paper. I won't spill the water, Daddy."
"Yes, honey. I know you are very careful, and I like the way you paint
with two brushes at the same time. But Daddy needs to go to work, give
some papers to his boss, swear never again to work a cost-plus-fixed-fee
proposal, and bring home more money."
"I can give you money, Daddy."
"Yes, Andrew. I was very happy that you gave me two pennies
yesterday. But Mommy and Daddy need more money than that. Do you still
have the nickel and dime I gave you yesterday?"
Andrew's face fell. "No, Daddy. I lost them."
"Where do you think they went?
"Down the money pipe, Daddy."
"That's nice, son. I'll play with you when I get home. Be helpful to
Mommy. Goodbye kiss? Oooh, that's nice. Bye-bye, now."
He was almost to his exit by the time he thought "Money pipe? That's
cute. Must remember to tell the wife."
She was bathing Andrew when the father got home. The splashes and
reverberating shrieks of laughter were unmistakable. Time to open the
mail. You're invited. Save an additional 5%. Adopt a pet today. Dear
Occupant. After tossing the bumph in the wastebasket, noting the lack of
personal letters, there was no way to avoid the bills.
Citibank Visa was dropping the interest rates on all new purchases.
Great. If only there were some way to pay off the old purchases.
American Express was adjusting the credit limit upwards, due to your
excellent credit history. A cash-out second mortgage was proffered by
two firms with generic names. Gas bill lower -- the solar water heater
would pay for itself by early next year. Electric bill up. Got to turn that
bathroom light off before going to bed. And the phone bill. Ouch. Wouldn't
it be cheaper to fly the mother-in-law in every few months, and let the
wife catch up on gossip then?
He forgot to mention the cute "money pipe" anecdote that night.
Next morning, into the breach again, good friends. "Don't go to work,
Daddy. We could play Batman and Robin Hood. You could be Smee."
"Daddy needs more money. These bills are getting to me."
"I could shoot those bills with a machine gun."
"They'd only send more. Here's a dime and a quarter for you."
"You remember, Andrew. A quarter is a half of a half. So four
quarters make a dollar."
"A diller, a dollar, a diller, a dollar, a dylan, a dollan. Thank you
"Don't lose your money this time, darling."
"Don't worry, Daddy. I won't go near the money pipe today."
"That's good. Give me a kiss. Thank you. And remember that you
promised Mommy not to put Gigantor in the washing machine again."
"Okay Daddy. You could be happy at work. See you later."
Org charts all over the office. Another reorganization by the
Division execs. Won't make a bit of difference when the annual report is
printed. The venture capital boys will want their pound of flesh. They
talk of "blood-letting" on Wall Street, and boost the stocks halfway back
to where they used to be, when the inevitable layoffs come. People eye
each other in the halls. Hope it's him, not me. Glad to get out alive, again.
Carbon monoxide in car exhaust is sweeter than the invisible dust of dread
that floats from filing cabinets.
Next morning, after the ritual bottle of half-tap-water-half-apple-
juice, now only used in morning, pre-bed, and car-trip situations, another
round. "Please don't go to work, Daddy."
"Believe me, Andrew, I would rather stay home and play with you.
When the vice presidents run amok, the office is no fun at all."
"I would crush those vice pelidents with a big rock."
"Might boost productivity, after all. Kiss? Great. And one for you.
Super. See you later, darling."
"Wait, Daddy, I have money for you."
This time it was an Austro-Hungarian gold piece, Emperor Franz-
Josef looking smug. "You should never, never take things from Mommy's
jewelry box," said the father, wondering why she'd never shown him this
particular item from her stash. Probably waiting to turn two of them into
earrings, or something.
"No, Daddy. I got this from the money pipe."
He turned it over and over in his hand all through the departmental
meeting. Checked the price of gold on the spot market in the morning's
Journal. $379.50 an ounce, and the Austro-Hungarian coin, hefty in his
palm, weighed an ounce. Numismatic value above and beyond? No, they
were all printed with the same mint year, only worth bullion. Pretty ritzy
earrings. Or whatever. Hmmm.
Extra half hour on the freeway; one Honda crushed like aluminum
foil, and ten thousand lookie-loos slowing, craning necks for better view,
accelerating away. Better him than me.
"Honey, did you know that Andrew's been getting into your jewelry?"
"No, but I have seen him push a chair into other rooms, then climb.
"He gave me this 100 Kroner coin, must be one of yours."
"I've never seen it before. Are you investing on the side? Getting
bonuses in Krugerrands and the like?"
"Bonuses? You've got to be kidding. They just laid off fifteen poor
suckers in Yasmin's department. If it's not mine, and not yours, how the
heck did he get his mitts on it?"
Andrew looked up from his fish-sticks, which he'd been laying out on
the table in a zig-zag line. "I told you, Daddy. From the money pipe."
The father laughed and recounted their 3-year-old's story to his
"Oh, yes," she said. "What an imagination. Today he was telling me a
story about Dog-Spider Land, where spiders bite dogs and dogs bite the
spiders right back. I think we've got a budding magical realist on our
hands. Trouble is, when I ask him if he's had a nap or needs to go potty, I
can never get a straight answer. You sure it's real gold?"
"I weighed it on the postal balance at the mail room. It's gold all
right. Worth nearly $400."
"Sell it tomorrow, during work," she said, setting the fish-sticks
back on Andrew's plate. The plumber's been bugging me for the second
installment on that toilet leak."
"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," she said.
That night, around 3 a.m., when the only sound outside was the
moonlit air rushing through the branches of the orange trees, and the echo
of chained dogs, the Andrew Radio crackled. Out of habit, they'd kept the
monitor turned on, still plugged in underneath his crib, although he'd
shifted to his regular bed six months ago. The receiver on the father's
bedstand creaked as Andrew rolled over in bed, just down the hall, and
sometimes thumped if he rolled off onto his "Where's Waldo?" throw-rug.
This time, the child was talking in his sleep, in a relaxed and cheerful
"Hello, my name is Andrew. I'm three years old. I can jump over
oceans; I can climb higher than mountains; I can bash bad guys. How did
you get here? Oh, yes, I know that money pipe. Okay."
"So that's it," thought the father, rubbing his nose against the cool
cotton pillowcase. A dream. Forget it." And then, just as he was sliding
back below the meniscus of somnolence, "but that doesn't explain where he
really got the coin."
The next morning, after Andrew had held the TV ransom until
allowed to watch Yogi Bear -- "Too much news is boring, Daddy!" -- and
after Mommy had to take his pants off and turn them right-side-front --
"But you are a big boy to put on your own pants" -- the parting scene rolled
by once more.
"Please don't go to work, Daddy."
"I wish I could stay, Andrew, But my boss would be angry if I didn't
go to work."
"Tell your boss he could stay home and play with his little boy."
"My boss doesn't have a little boy. Rumor is, he does fool around
with little girls, but I'd better not bring that up."
"I have a girl friend, Daddy. She's twenty-thirty-hundred and has
nice blue hair."
"Good work, Andrew. I know that some lucky girl will be happy to
marry a boy as handsome and clever as you."
"Yes, Daddy. I will marry Mommy, and live with her in a house with a
giant TV, and have a little baby who would be you."
"But Mommy is already married -- to me."
"That's okay, Daddy. We could take turns."
"Fine with me, darling. You take good care of Mommy while I'm at
work. Kiss? Very good. Hug? Wow, how strong you're getting. Hey, stay
out of my coat pocket. I'll see you later."
"See you later, Daddy. Have a nice weekend this Friday."
"Bye-bye, my little Gummi-Bear."
When the father groped in his coat pocket for a quarter's coffee
money, he felt something oddly massive and un-round. In the flickering
fluorescent, he ran his thumb over the tyrant's face stamped on an
irregular planchet of almost reddish gold, with letters that looked
halfway between Greek and the runes from The Lord of the Rings. What the
hell have I gotten into now?
When the boss slipped off for golf with Veep Spielvogel, the father
blurted "got to check up on some metallurgy, real urgent, if I'm not back
until tomorrow, just have the Brechner files ready for signature."
"What number will you be at...?" went the secretary's voice,
diminishing as the elevator doors clumped shut.
His throat was tight, and his stomach was churning like a jacuzzi.
wrong at home. She can't be taking Andrew somewhere like a coin shop or
museum, and not telling me, or him telling me. We don't have anyone I
know over who carries heavy duty loot with him. Must be she's seeing
someone else, Oh God, some bastard on the side, who's laying little
trinkets on her after he lays her in my own bed."
His fingers ached from clenching the steering wheel, while the red
needle crept past 70, past 75, and he jerked one hand loose, made a fist,
and pounded the dashboard right above the ever-slow digital clock.
"How could she do this? I never betrayed her once, not even when
Angelina came on to me so strong at Krzinski's party, shoving her cleavage
in my face and all..."
He forced a breath, his chest as stiff as fiberboard, and pried his
foot from the accelerator. Needle over 80, needle down to 75, down past
70, while his heart still raced.
"No, it can't be. None of the signs. No new hairdo. No new clothes.
No specially cleaned up house. No phone calls at strange hours. No secret
smiles and far-off gaze. Just a telecommuting Mommy consultant at home
amid the stink of diapers and the cackle of Woody Woodpecker. You
peckerhead. Get a grip, buddy boy, get a grip."
By the time he coasted into the driveway, he was the very mask of
rationality. But the armpits of his Arrow shirt reeked like week-old road-
He tiptoed through the front yard, creaked open the mid-garden gate,
and peered in the back windows. The waste-water drip from the washing
machine was drooling down below the water meter, and the neighbor's
rotten amber cat had clawed another garbage bag open beside the recycling
bin, but everything looked normal. Red-blue cartoon lights pulsed in the
family-room ceiling to cartoon symphony-cum-sound-effects. The blue-
violet irises had wilted, and laid their gray-brown heads mournfully on
the dandelioned lawn. A basketball bounced several houses down, and a
car ground uphill with more power in its boombox than in its engines.
Not sure exactly what he'd been looking for, he walked forthrightly
around to the front door, keys in hand, jingle, jangle, slip it in, twist,
click, and opened the door wide. "Hi, honey, I'm home" he boomed in jocular
She padded downstairs in terrycloth and furry slippers, an odd scrap
of computer printout shoved into the bathrobe pocket. "My goodness, love,
you're home early. Is everything alright?" She tucked a wisp of wheat-
brown hair behind one ear.
"She can't be so good an actress as to look so ordinary and innocent
unless she is," he thought. "You got all revved up over nothing. But still,
the old coin and the even older one...?"
"I asked you if everything was alright. Did something happen at
work? Oh no, not a pink slip!"
"No, no, no, nothing, nothing, it's alright," he said, taking her hand,
peering deep into those bottomless eyes, "I just got, I don't know, into a
panic over what Andrew poked into my pocket this morning. Look!"
"What's that?" she said. "Looks Phoenician. Never saw that honcho
"Phoenician? Who knows what's been stirred up with all the house-
to-house use of anti-tank weapons in Beirut. I haven't stopped at a coin
shop to sell the first gold coin, let alone this. Ought to be in a museum.
Which brings me back to: where did Andrew get it? Have you taken him
anywhere, met anyone?"
"Other than Homer Burnett's for barbecued ribs the other day, the
post office, Stop'N'Spend, the Old Park for swings and slides... nowhere.
What, do you think I'm not working just because I don't have a fancy office
and a secretary?"
"I share her with three other guys."
"I bet you do," she said, frowning. "Are you sure nothing funny's
going on at work?"
"Just the usual trickle-down recession-horrors," he said. "Let's get
to the bottom of this
once and for all. Where's Andrew?"
"Upstairs, watching TV. I gave him some pizza-pods and green juice
after his nap -- not long enough for me -- and he settled down after a few
rounds of Sonic the Hedgehog."
They went up the stairs together. The stairs they'd had carpeted
before Andrew was born: quick image of toddler with bloody scalp, no way!
Not-quite-wiped clean chalk scribblings on the veneer. Sucker-tipped
plastic dart jammed through the bannister. The old light fixture,
unrepairable, and the new one with the 150-watt bulb brighter than
"Andrew? Andrew? Daddy's home..."
But no child's voice. No gleeful rush to leap into his arms. An empty
house, inhabited by TV jingles, washing-machine in final spew,
refrigerator shuddering, and someone's car scraping past outside like
fingernails on chalkboard. They were in the nursery, and it was filled
with teddy bears and squeezable dinosaurs, but no no no little prince
enthroned before the boob-tube.
"Andrew! Andrew! Andrew-boy, where are you?" Like a couple in a
cheap ghost movie, they split up -- he took the upstairs, she scrambled
downstairs, one furry slipper abandoned on the topmost stair, upside-
down like a dead silverfish.
"C'mon, honey. Daddy doesn't want to play hide-and-seek," he said,
pushing through the wife-perfumed closet and the jumble of his own
cubbyhole of abandoned college sports equipment and unwearable
bellbottomed atrocities. Under the bed. Dustballs. In the bathtub. Shreds
of soapscum. The forced gas-heater attic? No, the matchbook was still
jammed between door and sill. Wife's office? Just the computer,
diplomas, pictures of European relatives in stiff garb and quaint
He almost fell, stumbling, rushing, grabbing the bannister,
landing, behind the raincoats on the hatrack smelling faintly of rubber
Daddy needs you right now! Andrew, babe!"
He checked the locked back door. "I already checked, you idiot," she
He checked his so-called office. Door shut, not room enough to
swing a chipmunk between the leaning towers of overstuffed cardboard
boxes. His bathtub. The kitchen cabinets. "I looked everywhere," she
insisted. "You must have missed him upstairs," and she was off like a
comet, terrycloth waving behind.
He tore through the toybox, tossing butterfly-balls, Du-Plo castle-
fragments, foam-bats, Halloween pirate swords, jig-saw Muppets, and
broken Crayola crayons all over the parquet floor, imagining a delicate
pitiful tiny body somehow jammed at the bottom like a broken Jack-in-
the-Box. Nothing. Skidded on a day-glo orange superball, then ran back
through the dining room to nearly collide with a wide-eyed gasping wife.
"He's gone! My God, there's no place he could be!"
Then, as they stood there, gripping each other like Sumo wrestlers,
the washing machine spluttered to a halt and the refrigerator stopped its
jagged hum. A small, pure, distant voice was calling from the master
bedroom. Upstairs again, breathless, they crouched above the Andrew
"Mommy, Daddy, help... I'm stuck here and I want more pizza-pods
"Where are you!" the father howled, flapping his tears away with a
windshield-wiper wrist. They swerved to the nursery, gaped at the hollow
space below the crib, the transmitter light glowing like the ruby eye of a
rat goddess. Not so much as a spiderweb. They flung themselves back to
the bedroom. The father was squeezing the mysterious coin in his hand as
if it would crack open like a walnut shell and divulge some reason in a
world of sudden chaos.
"I fell down the money pipe," he said, and they just stared at one
another like beached trout, mouths working wordlessly. "Mommy, Daddy,
get me out of here right now!"
"There's got to be an explanation," said the father, his fingernail-
bitten hands waving. "He must be at someone else's house, wedged in an
awkward position, who has a baby radio with the same frequency..."
"That's right, sure," she said, groping for reason, her body image
distorted so that her hands and feet seemed to be miles away. "We used to
hear dogs barking, and once even a parental argument, from someone else's
"They've got to be real close," he said, swept up in the hypothesis.
"This sucker doesn't have much range. You stay here, keep looking, and I'll
go door to door."
"Here's your hat, what's your hurry?" she giggled, inappropriately
remembering the phrase used by her grandfather at family holidays in the
long-buried past. "I mean, what am I saying, go go go right now and I'll
turn this place upside-down."
As usual, half the neighbors weren't home at the time, and few of
them, as best he could recall, had children and thus would not need baby
radios. Art and Dixie, next door, kept offering him a glass of lemonade, as
if his sweaty face and gasping presentation were no more than the
symptoms of a dry throat.
The Yeomans kept misunderstanding him, having interpreted his
description as proof that Andrew had been kidnapped and dictated a
ransom note on the phone answering machine.
Mehregeny Jones opened his door no more than the span of its chain,
apparently concerned by a Shuttle/Canadarm necktie askew and shirt-tails
flapping in the chlorinated breeze.
He sprinted home, convinced that he had done nothing but convince
the neighbors that he was a demented perpetrator of child endangerment.
"Have to have an open house, a garage sale, a barbecue, a block party,
something to pass ourselves off as normal again ... after we get Andrew
out of wherever he is," he thought, then nearly tripped on the welcome
His wife looked like she'd lost a wrestling match with a garbage
truck. Every hair was
out of place; a few strands of hair were twisted suburban dreadlocks. Her
bathrobe seemed to have dried a load of greasy dishes. "I can't find him
anywhere," she panted, "but he's still on the radio."
He stumbled over the box of bills and bill receipts normally on the
bathroom shelf, but now displaced by search. Papers spread like autumn
leaves across the bathroom tiles. Pacific Bell, Southern California Gas
Company, Southern California Edison, Alpha-Ralpha's, Los Angeles Times,
Las Flores Water, Home Savings (our home sure needs to be saved, he
thought), Trader Joe's, Shell Oil, Mobil Oil, Midnight Oil, Exxoff, Chase
Visa, Citibank Visa, Diners Club, Poppy Cleaners, Active Electric
Troubleshooters, Roto-Rooter, and all the rest of his paper trail sneered
documentary disdain at his indebtedness, which was bleeding him through
a thousand fiduciary cuts.
Kicking through the rubbish, which remembered those last four pesky
digits of his zipcode that he never could, he made it to the hall,
accelerated like a dragster, dinged his knee on the bookshelves, and hauled
himself upstairs, his heart trip-hammering. Light-headed, almost
fainting, he suddenly saw the nursery from an unfamiliar mental angle.
The National Geographic map above the changing table looked like a
squashed orange encrusted with blue mold and spots of eggshell. The
thread-and-photo mobile of the solar system Josh had sent became a dizzy
juggling of knife-edged ellipses, throwing loopy shadows that pecked at
his feet. Crumpled sheets on Andrew's bed rose and fell, entire mountain
ranges of orogenic wrinkles and accusatory cliffs. Stuffed animal toys
glared at him with malevolent eyes, poised to pounce, ready to rip. The
ammoniacal reek from the diaper bag smote him with an olfactory punch.
He reeled back against the closet door, totally disoriented, perspective all
"That's odd," he thought, surrounded by angles none of which were
right, "I don't recall
that corner of the room at all." He teetered across the rug, as if walking
steeply uphill on the level floor. The corner, oddly behind the bed, pooled
to a funnel of shadow amid the leaf-swirled sunbeams from the window.
Now the floor was all downhill. A sudden flashback from childhood
nightmare overwhelmed him for an endless moment.
He'd been terrified by the fierce-fanged dancing crocodiles in capes
that pas-de-deuxed with harmless hippos in Fantasia. Night after night,
the scaly green monsters chased him, gibbering, through the corridors that
led from dream to dream. Sometimes they tick-tock-ticked like the beast
that relentlessly pursued Captain Hook. These toothy cousins had
imprinted on his smell, and were hungrier each night for his flesh alone.
Nightlights would not dissuade them, nor huddling head-under-blanket in
the sweaty summer abyss.
One night was the worst. He was in an infinite composite of Grand
Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station. Corinthian columns rose into
the clouds that masked the miles-high ceiling. A myriad refugees, huddled
masses clutching cardboard suitcases, milled in despair and confusion,
howling in a thousand tongues. The boom and shriek of trains and tortured
tracks shook the filthy marble floor, littered with ticket stubs to
destinations forever lost. The smell of Sarbrett's hotdogs and sauerkraut,
knishes and Nedick's, hot pretzels and chocolate eggcreams had putrefied
to some unspeakable ooze from underneath a mummy's bandages.
His hands had slipped from the warm hugeness of Mom and Dad; the
crowd jostled him away from their horrified faces; he was lost in the
mob, buffeted by the overcoats of strangers, trying to yell for his parents,
but the words sticking in his throat. Suddenly he noticed that the endless
thousands of ragged travellers were keeping near the periphery of the
mile-square floor. They were staying far away from the center, which he
now saw sloped further and further to a darkened hole at the very center.
He knew, with gruesome clarity, that the monster crocodiles lurked at the
bottom of that marble-walled well, and would emerge at random intervals
to rend, claw, chew, and swallow the pulped bodies of hapless wayfarers.
Now, by chance, none of the vast crowd was looking towards the
central concavity but himself; only he could hear the scrabble of knife-
sharp talons rising higher and higher in the floorwell. Soon, the crocs
would clamber out, and fling themselves on gore-stained victims until
He tried to edge away, but gravity was twisted, and each step
brought him closer to the hole. He tried to run, but his feet slipped on the
marble. Helplessly, with agonizing inevitability, he skidded closer and
closer to the pit. The floor was tilted more and more from horizontal; he
was moving more and more rapidly for doom. Even now, he was far enough
down the funnel that his hands would not be able to slow his heedless fall.
The floor was spinning, the column-pierced clouds blackened, then parted,
and the ceiling was revealed as an artificial sky with lightbulb stars
picking out the traceries of alien and malignant constellations of
He tried as hard as possible to scream, but no sound emerged, indeed,
there was no sound in the Grand Central/Penn Station anteroom of Hell.
Silently he spun towards the central throat of the well, spinning faster
and faster, into the maw of perpetual black, and the eternal jaws of
The father stared, slack-jawed, at the funnel of darkness in the
hitherto-unseen corner of his little boy's room. Some metaphysical
barrier had been shattered between adult and child perception. Perception
defines reality; reality had been short-circuited.
From the rug-lined well a dulcet voice was echoing: "Daddy, get me
out of here..."
This was the entrance to the money pipe!
Usually after someone performs an heroic deed, they tell reporters "I
don't know what got into me."
"I'm scared of fire," they'll say, after rescuing someone from an
"I was only thinking about my buddies," they'll say, after throwing
themselves on a battlefront grenade which proved a dud.
"I have no idea why I chased that bank-robber down that alley,"
they'll say, as the reward is handed over in the flashbulbed auditorium.
It seems that the ordinary man and woman has the makings of
supreme heroism, if the opportunity arrives and they don't stop to
calculate the odds. Sociobiologists say that altruism is in our genes,
evolutionarily selected. Theologians say that human beings are
perfectible, and partake of angelic nature. Buddhists say that each and
every one of us is Buddha.
The father performed no arithmetic, consulted no genes, prayed to no
divinity. He just jumped down into the impossible rabbit-hole of the
Carpet gave way to smooth metallo-ceramic pipe. He fell, in strange
slow motion, what might have been feet, fathoms, or furlongs, and
jangled, legs buckling under, onto a pile of gold doubloons.
In the light of gas-jet flames from ornate gargoyles set into a
velvet-covered wall were boxes, bags, piles, and pirates' chests of gold
and silver coins from every nation on Earth, plus jewel-encrusted crowns
and swords and scabbards, breastplates, tiaras, necklaces, rings, earrings,
chunky rock-crystal goblets, carved ivory triptychs, parchment books in
pearl-besprinkled white lamb-skin, scrolls with the seal of the Library of
Alexandria, statuettes of supernatural beauty, and ornate doo-dads that
beggared all description.
More valuable than all of that, he saw his darling Andrew, his belt-
loop snagged on a massive silver hinge. "Andrew!" he cried, rushing to his
son, gold coins flying from his lap like waterdrops from a shaking spaniel.
"Daddy!" cried the 3-year-old, "You came down the money pipe to
He slipped the beltloop from the intricately incised hinge, lifted the
boy into his arms, and hugged his darling, weeping and laughing
There was a flash of blueberry-colored light. A woman with blue
hair, wearing a cross between a transparent nightgown and the wiring of a
NASA control center appeared.
"It's my girlfriend!" said Andrew, happily.
The father stared at her, goggle-eyed. Then he remembered Andrew's
throw-away comment days earlier. "My boy says you're twenty-three
hundred years old..."
"Close, but no guitar," she said, with a voice like silk. "I'm from
twenty-three hundred. It's safe for me to talk to your son, but not to you,
really. The risk of a paradox that can't be paradoctored...." She shuddered,
"But how did you get here? And --"
"No more questions," she said. I'm authorized to tell you only that,
to avoid transtemporal chaos, only one family at a time can be aware of
and have access to what your son calls 'The Money Pipe.' Now, before the
suspenders of disbelief slip any further off your shoulders, I've got to
split. Ciao, baby. Fare thee well." And with another flash, she was gone.
After stuffing his pockets, his socks, his shirt, and after strapping
several treasures to his right leg with a knotted necktie, the father found
that Andrew was correct: gravity was circumvented somehow. They fell
up out of the money pipe, Andrew in his father's arms, and lay there on the
rug of the nursery, between the bed and changing table, just as Andrew's
Mommy stepped into the room. He blinked his eyes, and the money pipe
vanished, but out of the corner of his eyes, an ineluctable hint of non-
Euclidean geometry remained.
Andrew was not allowed to go down the money pipe again,
unescorted, and it took months before the wife could initiate the optical
illusion that made the entrance visible and tangible. It took not much
longer to establish a very discrete relationship with a dealer in
numismatic rarities, antiquities, and incunabula; none of their items were
listed as missing from any registered collection, so the law was never on
alert. The best tax attorney money can buy knew loopholes that gave birth
to litters of new loopholes; the government knew that an obscure suburban
family had catapulted into The Four Hundred families and individuals, but
found no grounds to pursue the matter. In times of recession,
Congressmen and Senators tend to stay bought for longer than they used to
The little ten-room house in the foothills of the San Gabriel
Mountains was maintained unostentatiously. Security was chrome-steel
hard, but invisible to the naked eye. Neighbors noted that Andrew and his
Mommy and Daddy travelled frequently, but never knew of the Villas, the
Australian Gold-Coast beach compound, the restored hereditary Scottish
castle, the sea-plane lagoon in Mustique, the converted Saudi mosque, the
southeast Asian temple, or any of the other retreats.
The parents' pursued their hobbies, but as world-class aficionados,
and creative contributors that enriched whole fields of endeavor. They
never again had jobs, as such, but did
from time to time have to review the policies under which scores of
workers labored to make the family's life elegantly complete. The rich
usually have to work harder than normal, to manage their estates, attend
to political affairs, supervise the supervisors of supervisors, and the like.
But it's a well-kept secret that the super-rich can delegate even those
concerns. Magazines like Forbes like to list the richest people in the
world. Haven't you ever considered that there are people so rich that they
can bribe their way off those lists?
Even so, paradise on Earth is not the same as paradise imagined. Oh
yes, they did live happily ever after. But the day came, by and by, when
Andrew grew so fascinated by the literary and scientific worlds revealed
by his imported tutors that he wasn't quite as keen to build DuPlo robots
on the family room floor with his father, or to paint two-handedly while
Mommy praised his every brush stroke.
Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds, and let me not
to the marriage of true minds admit impediment. And yet, and yet, the day
dawned when Andrew popped the last fish-stick into his mouth, wiped his
cupid's-bow lips on a silk sleeve and said:
"Daddy, please go to work!"
*** The End ***
Want to tell the author what you
Andrew Carmichael Post & Jonathan Vos Post
a short story of Approx 5,500 words
Copyright 1992 by Emerald City Publishing.
All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission.
May be posted electronically provided that
it is transmitted unaltered, in its
entirety, and without charge.