Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Doug and Mike"

They bought the press from a guy named Sal. Sal had no fingers. He had a press, but no fingers. Sal lives in an apartment with three roommates, but he has his own room with a view of a brick wall through a yellow square window. Sal cannot open this window. His room used to contain a beanbag chair and a printing press. Now it contains a beanbag chair and two thousand dollars.

Doug and Mike set up the press in Mike’s basement. They had no idea what they were doing. Mike’s wife came down to ask what the noise was three times. Each time Doug told her that there was no noise and that he and Mike were just tossing back frosty brews like always.

Mike hooked up the wires to his laptop, which told him he was missing a driver. He found one on a Russian forum and downloaded the driver and the fifteen viruses it carried in its backseat. They were in business.

Doug fired up Microsoft Paint. He said he was a Paint Wizard; that he had taken classes on Microsoft Paint at the library. This was a lie. Doug was at best a novice user. He selected the rectangle tool and dragged the mouse to make a shape. His first try was a diving board, too long. Then he drew Sal’s window, too short. Finally he pulled the lines into a perfect dollar-bill rectangle. He looked at Mike and flicked his eyebrows, as if to say, “This’ll blow your mind, man,” and then filled in the entire rectangle with pale green in one click. “The paint can,” he said to Mike. “Huge time-saver.”

For the next six hours, Doug carefully drew lines, numbers, and a drawing of Ulysses S. Grant. He shaded in different regions and manipulated many different line widths. Finally he was done. Mike returned his Boating World magazine to its space on the shelf next to an empty ceramic jar labeled "Boat Fund" and took a look. “That looks like shit,” he said. Doug considered this and agreed. He pulled up a photograph of a one-hundred dollar bill from the Internet.

They loaded the press with their special dollar-bill paper. Doug rubbed it on his face and said he wished he had a blanket made out of that paper. Mike was uninterested. Doug clicked Print and they watched the press spit out dollar after dollar, vomiting up an immediate return on their investment, ten-fold. Doug saw Mike's eyes get glassy and Mike said he had allergies.

“Five o’clock, right?”
“Yeah, he should be here any second now.”
Doug and Mike were cramped in Doug's Chevy Malibu in the parking lot of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. They had purchased Atlanta Falcons tickets on Craisglist and were waiting for a man named Terry to show up.
“What if he knows, man? What if he can tell? The ink smudged on the back.”
“Don’t worry. It’ll be cool.”
Terry pulled up alone on a tandem bicycle. He handed the tickets over and collected the money. “Nice doing business with you guys!”
“Have a good night, man.”

Doug and Mike sang along to the Dire Straits on the way home. “This is amazing,” said Mike. “We can go to all the Falcons games for free.” Between exit four and exit nine they high-fived eleven times while their cigarette-hoarse throats screamed "Money for nothing and the chicks for free" to no one in particular.

Mike rang Doug's doorbell at 5:00 in the morning. "Today's the big day." They painted each other's faces as if preparing for a performance and slid on jerseys and foam fingers the way the Yuchi Indian tribe would decorate themselves with images of snakes to emulate great spirits. They arrived four hours early to tailgate in the parking lot. After eighteen beers and two second-degree sunburns, they were first in line to enter the stadium. They smiled as they handed over their free tickets. The usher looked at them. “These are the fakest tickets I’ve ever seen, champs. What are these printed on, toilet paper? Step aside, boys. Looks like it’ll be the radio for you tonight.”

Mike dropped Doug off at his house after a ride home free of high-fives.

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