Big Billy – You can bank on it

I knew we had $21 in the bank, so I go to the bank machine to squeeze the last $20-bill out of it, but instead, it spits the card back out and tells me I only got $9 in there. Why? Damn service fees, that’s why.

Them friggin’ banks with their interest on interest, and fees for usin’ a bank card and fees Big BIllyfor usin’ a teller, and fees for getting’ cheques, and fees for payin’ your bills – do you realize how many beer I coulda bought down the club last month with the bank fees we got charged?

Banks are like the rich kid nobody likes. There was this kid we knew growin’ up, everybody called him Gum-nuts Gouthro. I can’t remember where his name came from – I think it had somethin’ to do with a real bad accident one time in gym class. But anyways, ol’ Gum-nuts was this really annoying kid that nobody could stand for more than a few minutes. He was only a little runt of a thing and he had fluffy red hair like Ronald MacDonald and freckles the size of nickels.

And that kind of made sense because, compared to the rest of us, Gum-nuts and his family was pretty much made of money. While the rest of us were turnin’ our t-shirts inside out to get another wear out of them and wearin’ our brother’s old work boots to school, Gum-nuts came to school every day like he was going to church – clean, button-up shirt, shined shoes, pants with pleats – oh, he was some kind of dandy.

Anyway, he was right full of himself and made everybody feel like dirt, which is why, up until we were about 10, the only time anybody noticed them is if they had to puck him in the face. But the summer we were 10, all that changed.

Me and my buddy Murph were walkin’ home one day when we seen it – in the Gouthros back yard, halfway up a big white birch tree, there was a huge treehouse that went all the way around the trunk. The damn thing had painted wooden shingles and a corrugated tin roof, and was probably in better shape than my parents’ company house. It had a rope ladder right up the middle, and a great big spiral slide that had to be 20 feet high.

Needless to say, for the first time ever, there was a lineup of kids on the Gouthros doorstep wantin’ to know if Gum-nuts could come out and play. And he was a smart little bugger, too, because the first few times he’d just come and let anybody who wanted through the fence gate to the backyard so we could play in his treehouse.

We’d spend hours in a line just goin’ up the rope ladder and slidin’ down the slide, over and over again. For a couple of days there, it was almost enough to make us think maybe we misjudged ol’ Gum-nuts. If he was good enough to let us play in his treehouse and slide down his slide, he couldn’t be that bad a guy, right?

I can’t say if Gum-nuts thought of this from the start or if it’s somethin’ he realized after a while, but one day we all showed up and he was on the other side of the gate, lettin’ people in one at a time.

What in the hell is this, me and Murph said to ourselves.

The kid at the front of the line passed Gum-nuts half a bag of chips and was let through the gate. The next kid passed him a bag with about ten marbles in it, and sure enough the gate opens and he gets through.

Hey buddy, I said to him, how’s about a slide?

What can yis trade me for it? Gummy asks us.

Whaddya mean, trade ya for it? To go play on the slide?

That’s right, he said, leanin’ one on arm over the gate like he thought he was some big businessman. Slide’s mine, and if you want to play on it, you gotta trade me somethin’ for it.

Now, my buddy Murph, like I told yis before, got pretty much the worst temper I ever seen in my life, and he had it even then, when we were only kids.

No sooner did Gum-nuts mention a trade and lean on the fence, and Murph hauled off and pucked him square in the nose. His beak started bleedin’ like a busted juice bag, and while he took off screamin’ into their big house, me and Murph hoofed ‘er all the way home.

Which, I guess, is a really roundabout way of sayin’ – that’s exactly the same way banks are. They set you up with a simple account where you can get your pogey direct deposited and before you know it, it ain’t as easy as puttin’ money in and takin’ money out. They start chargin’ you puttin’ money in fees and takin’ money out fees. The list of fees was so ridiculous I found myself wonderin’ what they charged me to print it all out in a statement and send it to me.

I guess when you grow up, the banks are the rich kids. And instead of a cool slide, their treehouse got things like loans and lines of credit and mortgages and all kinds of stuff you gotta be in their secret club to be a part of. Ah well. Maybe tomorrow I should take Murph down the bank and let him puck somebody in the face.

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