Saturday, July 26, 2008

"An Expensive Diet"

Todd Koberg came from a long line of money eaters. The Kobergs were an elite family whose skill in the money eating trade could be traced back to the 16th century when Boyd Koberg would dazzle crowds by scarfing down shillings, pennies, sixpence, and farthings. Todd Koberg made his living in New York City, eating money on street corners, piers, in waiting rooms and office buildings. Eager fans would take the train from all over the city to see him wolf down a quarter or nibble a dollar. He came to be somewhat of a tourist attraction; visitors would stop by saying, “There’s the man who eats money. I wonder if he likes nickels?” Any time someone would offer him a quarter he’d smile and eat a dollar.

He always set down a hat in front of him for tips, but once the crowds formed and he got into the show, a nice rhythm of swallowing fives and devouring dimes, his tips were no longer currency; they were dessert. He loved his job, the thrill of the crowd, the smiles on the kids’ faces, the way his belly jangled with each horrendously painful step on the way back to his apartment that was three months overdue on rent.

What his father and grandfather and great-grandfather had failed to mention to their boy was that in order to succeed in the money eating business one must be mindful of his or her savings. Todd hadn’t saved a dime. He had eaten them all. He was sitting on his sofa, which he had found in a dump, one day when the mail came. In it were four overdue bills and a credit card statement saying he was six thousand dollars in debt. He could barely move to get the mail, he was so stuffed. Someone had tossed forty half-dollars into the tip hat that afternoon. When he picked up the bills he stared at them for a long time. He didn’t know what he would do. Could he ask his dad for a loan? Get a second job? He couldn’t decide on a solution, so he did what he did best. He got out his best fork and knife and ate the bills, licking his lips just as his grandfather did after a Thanksgiving dinner of one hundred dollars.

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