by Terry Hargrove
When it comes to managing money, some people have lawyers, some have accountants, and some have financial advisors. Me? I have a money fairy.
The money fairy came to me in 1986. I was at a yard sale in Tennessee, and stumbled upon a plastic egg that was marked at $5. That seemed a little stiff, but when I shook it, something rattled inside (an original Constitution maybe?) so I gave the seller five dollars, and she gladly handed over the egg, then took off at a flat sprint. Later that day, when I finally got the egg open, the money fairy came out.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“You gave five dollars for a plastic egg?” she screamed. “You can buy twenty of them for a quarter. I’m a money fairy and I can see my work is going to be cut out for me this time. Hey, loser. What else did you buy today?”
“Well, since you asked, I got this like-new BETA tape player. $100 I paid for it, but I think the future is BETA.”
That was the very first time she hit me. Even though the money fairy is just two inches tall, she has good bat speed, and then, as now, I was an easy target.
“Please don’t hit me with your little stick again,” I begged.
“It’s not a stick, it’s a wand. A magic wand! What part of fairy did you not understand?”
“If you’re a real fairy, do I get any wishes?” I asked.
“Just one,” she said. “You’ll wish you’d never bought that plastic egg.”
That was 23 years ago, and the money fairy is still with me. Her name is Belinda. I’ve moved eight times since 1986, but I can’t shake her. She always turns up, right around pay day, and insists I put some of my check into savings, then hits me with her wand when I don’t. My back and shoulders look like the Nazca Plains. But worse than the cuts are the shrill screams she makes when she thinks I’ve done something financially stupid.
“You’re buying stock in a company called Enron?”
“Only ten shares,” I replied.
“What do they make?” she demanded. “I’ll tell you what they make. They don’t make anything! They trade energy. I’m a fairy, but even I don’t know how that’s done.”
Two years later:
“You’re going to rent a house?” she screamed. “You don’t build up any equity when you rent. All you’re doing is paying off your landlord’s loan.”
Two years later:
“You’re going to buy this house? But then you’ll have to pay for all the repairs yourself. Then you’ll have to stay in it for seven years before you can sell it at a profit, and you hate this town!”
Two years later:
“You’re going to sell this house? It’s only been two years! We’re moving? To Connecticut? What the hell is in Connecticut? Ah, yes, expensive houses. The Gross National Product of Honduras won’t pay for a three bedroom/two bath home in Connecticut.”
Two months later:
“You’re not getting a teaching certificate so you can be a reporter? For a small town newspaper? Aren’t you the guy who said journalism majors are the only college graduates who earn less than public school teachers?”
Two months later:
“You’re going to radio school? For $10,000? Isn’t radio a dinosaur in this new age of information? Aren’t radio stations staffed with syndicated talk show hosts, leaving little, if any, room for newcomers? Didn’t we read that it takes fifteen years to break into radio? Let’s do the math here. How old will you be in 15 years?”
“Wow! And won’t you be a force on the cutting edge. I can see it now. Take your boom box to the bathroom because it’s time for Grandpa Rock! And you’re the guy who thinks big hair bands are going to stage a grand comeback any day now.”
Several times a week:
“You’re buying bottled water? That stuff is no better than tap water!” she scoffed.
“No, no,” I countered. “Look, there’s a picture of mountains on the bottle. This is pure, mountain spring water.”
“Do you see the words ‘mountain’ or ‘spring water’ anywhere on the bottle? Of course you don’t. Idiot!”
See what I put up with? As an English teacher, it’s hard to talk to somebody who uses exclamation points so liberally. Eventually, I surrendered to most of the advice of the money fairy. Boy, did she ever gloat when the news about Aquafina came out. But, sadly, I overruled her on the radio school thing. I graduated in March, 2006. I’m still not on the radio. Every month, when I pay the student loan, Belinda laughs and laughs.
The only other person who can see the money fairy is my son, Joey. I gave him a dollar yesterday and asked it he wanted some ice cream with it.
“I have to put my dollar in my bank,” he said. “Or the bee lady will hit me with her stick.”
“I’m a fairy!“ Belinda screamed. “And it’s not a stick. It’s a magic wand!”
“But I still want ice cream,” added Joey.
And so it was that yesterday, as we walked around the Old Saybrook Green, my wife and I peered into windows with capitalistic lust at all the stuff we’d like to own. The money fairy was in my shirt pocket screaming that nobody in his right mind eats ice cream on the day after Halloween, or pays $4.50 for a single scoop in a sugar cone.
At the Feather Lust Farm Bird Store on Main Street, a young gray parrot eyed me carefully. He never took his eyes off me, and it looked like he was smiling. I called him Buddy, and asked the store owner how much he cost.
And now, I’m wondering if my lease will allow a parrot. A tiny stick is thrashing my back and neck, even as I scout a place big enough to put a large cage. I’m being forced to add that it isn’t a stick. It’s a wand, and a magic wand at that. As if that makes it feel any better.