512 Words

Time Is Everything

M. Stanley Bubien


"I thought it was all about money," Trellaine, my companion, replied to the old man. Grey Beard everyone called him. He had no beard. And his hair, well that was black. But it was rumored that old Grey Beard here had broken the monopoly on truth. For the right price, of course.

"Time is everything!" he growled, kissing the rim of a bottle, poorly obscured by a paper sack. Payment from a previous visitor. Myself, I preferred cash---on the advice of my pal Trellaine. Good advice that never failed, at least not in the six months I'd heeded it.

Grey Beard stretched out his hand, open palm up---surprisingly spotless for this particular street-corner. I fished into my left pocket, but Trellaine tapped my shoulder.

"No, no." He breathed as if the air itself held authority. "Come clean, Mister. So time is everything? Explain."

"Eh!" The old man growled, but upon realizing no money would be forthcoming, he placed his quarry between his legs.

Wiggling his fingers, "Time for this, time for that," he shrugged. "Time to stay, time to go." He pointed at the freeway. "Time flies when you're having fun. No time to argue," he wrinkled his brow, "After all, this just isn't the time." With a wink, he dug his elbow into Trellaine's leg, "Time for a quickie?" A scowl was the only response, but he continued, "What time is it?"

He paused and we stared blankly.

"Hello! What time is it?"

"Oh," I twisted my watch into view. "Around 12:30."

He crumbled the sack against his bottle. "You're wasting my time! Now give up!"

Before I could move, Trellaine grabbed my arm. "I think not. You don't know anything about truth. You're just a babbling old fool."

"See here. We had---"

"Ah, come off it. You've got your booze. You don't need anything from us. Would've just been a couple of quarters anyway." Trellaine tugged my sleeve. "C'mon."

Grey Beard's eyes followed us as we departed, even as he upended his paper bag.

"I should've figured," Trellaine sighed. "All that talk. Nothing to it in the end."

He rambled on, and all the while I fingered the few dollars in my pocket. It felt cold, like chilled steel on a snowy morning. That, I couldn't fathom; I was only carrying bills.

"A con is---"

"I'm going back."


"I feel bad for the guy."

"Oh, please. He promised truth and didn't deliver. In the absence of product, there is no payment."

"Sure, sure." I tossed Trellaine the keys and told him to keep the engine warm.

Observing my approach, Grey Beard sniffed unenthusiastically, "Like a dog to vomit, eh?"

"Here," I said, dropping the wadded bills onto his lap.

Instead of glancing down, he glared at me---dead-on. "Had you pegged, I did."

Sighing, I glanced at my watch. "I have a lot of work to do."

"Yes," he replied, though I'd already turned to walk away. "Time is money, you know!"

And his bottle---it gurgled as he shook it toward my retreating back.

Copyright ©2000 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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July, 2000
Issue #51

512 Words