Negotiable

In a bizarre turn of events, my father, the original deadbeat dad, overpaid his spousal support obligation to my mother, the original woman suffering from a unique sense of entitlement. No worries, I say, we need only write a check reimbursing your ex for the overage. Ma was crushed, actually slumping over and putting her head on the table in despair. She’d only been waiting 14 months for this horribly insubstantial sum, whisked away from Pop through a kafka wage assignment. Then she popped back up and asked with some excitement: can we send it to him in pennies? Er, no, I said, because I wrote the check just now while you despaired. Well, she says, how about you blow the check up really large, like in publisher’s clearing house commercials, and send it to him so he has to haul it to the bank under this arm and wedge it through the teller window? Good question, Ma, I said, I’m glad you asked that. That way, she continued, I could call him up a day after we mail it and ask him if he received the big check I sent him. Ma, I said, you’re such a card.

Too subtle. I think her mind was on other things. Alternatively, I’m not funny.

So I, the latest iteration of the dutiful daughter, confirmed that blowing up a check really large is a basic service at the all day all night one stop copy shop whose name I won’t mention and rhymes with gingkos, and can usually be scammed for 90% off if the employee handling the transaction is really really angry with the supervisor. Fine.

The other thing was whether the blown up check would be, you know, negotiable. So I called the issuing bank and axed the nice lady, who had to put me on hold because this was not a routine question for her. After many minutes, which I gladly spent in a completely empty-headed fashion, she returned to tell me everything her supervisor said. A lot. How to obscure the numbers on the blown up check. How to remove identifying financial institution information. How to–

And I stopped her and said, yes, those are excellent things if you )don’t( want the check negotiated, but what if you )do( want it negotiated? She paused and excused herself for another many minutes, which I resumed spending, only now a little self-consciously, in empty-headedness. Indeed, how come it was so still inside my head? Why, exactly, wasn’t I thinking something? Had I, just this moment, lost the capacity to be constantly engaged in cogitation? No answer. I started feeling clammy, but then the nice lady came back on the line, and I immediately started thinking about her.

This bank does not negotiate blown-up checks, due to the limits of its check-reading apparatus. Do machines read checks, I wondered aloud, or do people read checks? I thought she might pick up on this and intone, Chevron-stylee, People Do. She Did Not. If the check were the right size, however, and contained the correct information, it could be on any substrate, I offered, could it not? You mean, she asked, like a napkin? Back of a napkin, I corrected. No, she said. I got the feeling I really wanted to pursue this line of inquiry, but it would be a bad idea to press this nice lady any further. Brow furrowed and brain active, I thanked her and rang off.

Ma was disappointed that she couldn’t send Pa a Big Check. How about the pennies? she said, her mind already casting further for a new and shaming currency. Green stamps? Marlboro bucks? Pepsi points? Frequent flyer miles? Beads? I cut it short with an apologetic moan. It’ll cost more than the pennies to send the pennies, I rationalized pointlessly. How so, she said. The weight, Ma. You could hand deliver them, she countered. I moaned again, mind racing.

Z said: She’s funny. Too bad she’s trying to hurt someone.

Pulled up short to think that comment all the way through and ended in slow sage nods. If I’d had a drink in my hand I would have thrown it back in one gulp and walked out of the bar into the cold, inky darkness, climbed in the truck and barked the tires on my way out of the lot. Then I’d drive. And drive. And drive.

Thoughtless.

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