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The International Writers Magazine:

My Nightmare
James Skinner

‘My wife came back from the supermarket with a grim look on her face. I knew what was coming. ‘Bread’s gone up, milk’s gone up. Hell! There isn’t an item on the shelves that hasn’t a new price tag.’ I was too busy looking at a letter I’d just received from my pension suppliers.
It read:

‘Dear Mr. Skinner,
Due to unforeseen circumstances related to our investments, particularly in offshore stocks and bonds, we regret to inform you that your annuity will be reduced by 30% as from the 1stof November, 2008.
Although we hope that the financial situation worldwide will appease by the end of next year, we do not anticipate any increases in the near nor distant future.
Joe Bloggs,
Secureworld Insurance Broker,

Poor dear! During all our married lives I’d acted like a mail chauvinist pig. Money was my affair and nobody else’s. She never understood my investments during our lifetime anyway despite the number of times I tried to explain the basics. Nor did she really care. After all, I always tried to please her with a constant supply of monthly pocket money. She has two credit cards but hardly uses them. If she needs anything extra, dear hubby comes to the rescue with a pocket full of cash. Not anymore!

‘OK’, I replied. ‘So the cost of a shopping basket has gone up 15% over the past two months.’ I crumpled the letter and threw it into the dustbin. ‘Haven’t you been watching the news lately? Seen what’s happening to the stock markets the world over? Can’t you see all these bloody politicians from Merkel to Zapatero running around the world chasing their tails not knowing what the hell is going on? Or are you just worried about… ’ I was showing unnecessary anger at her simple remarks about the price of bread and milk. I stopped short. She was crying. I held out my arms to hug her; a small gesture of consolation took place. My fretting continued.

First thoughts came to mind. The credit crunch was affecting everywhere but I already had debts of my own. Hell! ‘Where’ll I get the lolly to pay for my new car? I still owe the bank for the last one?’ I released my wife so that she could buzz off to the kitchen to store the still available food that she’d brought back from the super. I went over to my desk, switched on the computer. Shit! ‘I’ve still got to pay the store another six months for this piece of useless crap!’

I switched it off. I just sat there staring into space. Relief arrived. Dear wife brought me a coffee. At least this one didn’t cost 3 Euros at the local coffee shop. Jesus Christ! I’m comparing the cost of one of my small vices every day when I trot down for a small cup plus a bit of gossip with the locals. What next? I pulled out my cheque book. I began to cry! I was nearing the end of a positive monthly balance.

‘Calm down James,’ I said to myself, ‘it’s not the end of the world’. I paused for a few seconds. ‘Let’s start with the monthly outgoings.’ I began to list all the ‘extras’ that I could cut back on. I’ll resign from the local yacht club. I don’t have a yacht or a boat anyway. My wife and I go there occasionally for dinner as we’ve been members for years. That’s it! Cut out some dinners. I treat my wife to at least four outings per month. We’ll cut it back to one. Next on the list was the golf club. I’ve being playing this ridiculous game for centuries. I’ll just stick to a couple of rounds a week. After all, the doctor did advise me to do exercise and I couldn’t think of a better way anyway!

‘Next,’ I again said to myself out loud. I’m going to replace all the light bulbs in the house, get rid of the fixed line phone (already have a mobile), cut out my subscriptions to all those benefit agencies. Yes sir! No more monthly dole outs to the poor. I reflected! No! I’m not that badly off after a 40% in cut to suppress a simple contribution to the needy. I backtracked on this one. My wife came in; cheerful as ever; no signs of despair. She wanted the coffee mug. Hell! I’d forgotten to drink my coffee!

‘So? What’s up?’ Should I tell her outright or wait till the evening? Her monthly allowance! That’s it. I can work my way through the torture of explaining our predicament and future ‘tightening of belts’ by simply giving her less income. Let’s see now; what excuse can I give. Increase in car payments? She has a full wardrobe already? How about telling her I’m going on a diet and therefore can cut out my wine with the meals. No way Jose! I live in a good wine producing country with plenty of plonk to digest my food. I ain’t giving that up!

‘Just been checking the pension, dear and looks like we may have to cut some expenses,’ I said sheepishly.
My wife is a very calm, cool and collective character. ‘I know we’re in for a rough time, dear. I was at the hairdressers the other day…’ That’s one area, dear,’ I interrupted. I hadn’t thought of her weekly visit to the beauty parlour. ‘You’ll have to do something to reduce your visits…’

That did it. ‘As I was saying!’ she said, hands on hips, ‘my hairdresser’s husband has just lost his job after 30 years. She was in tears. A lady next to me butted in and said that she had to close her bookshop as the banks no longer gave her credit to buy stock. I know what’s going on! You don’t have to patronize me. If we have to make sacrifices, well? So what’s new? We’ve been through rough times before.’ I calmed down.

I began to think about all the other things that would affect us apart from money; jobless humans out in the streets; hundreds of bars and restaurants closing down in fun loving Spain; riot police out in brute force to control the angry mobs. It wasn’t only the personal cutback that would affect our lives. It was everything else around us would slowly begin to collapse. Dole lines, cues at the hand out dinners, hundreds of new beggars on the street; you name it the gloom would gradually settle in around us.

I was about to switch on my computer when I felt a hand stroke the brow of my head. I opened my eyes. It was my wife’s. Alarmed she said, ‘you’re sweating dear? Had a bad night?’ I was also soaked with perspiration. I looked around and eventually focused on the alarm clock on the night table. It was 8 o’clock in the morning. I just stared into space. Eventually I muttered something like, ‘nothing dear, just a bad dream.’

After breakfast, a stroll around the nearby park and the purchase of my daily newspaper I returned home to write for Hacks. Before taking the lift up to my apartment I emptied the letterbox. Apart from a bank statement, a letter for my wife and some junk mail was an envelope with a UK stamp.
I was from ‘SecureWorld’ insurance brokers.

© James G. Skinner. November 2008.

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