Hourly Wage

The man thinks, I can’t live like this anymore. I hardly have enough to cover the bills. I’m old but I need to work. He goes to the big factory in town and talks to the foreman. He’s always losing men so he agrees to take him on.

“What’s the hourly wage here?” the man asks.

“It’s a decent per-hour,” the foreman explains. “The hours buy you a living.”

“How does it work?” the man asks.

“One hour buys you a nice meal, two hours buys you a pair of shoes, a couple of full shifts could score you Xbox, get the idea?”

“So it’s hour by hour, day by day?”

“Yep. You work, you buy what you need, day by day.”

The man accepts the job and begins right away. The work is hard and he finds he has to put in more hours than he expected to buy what he needs. His back begins to ache and he begins to wonder.

He asks a fellow worker, “What if I want to save my hours?”

“What for?” the guy’s surprised.

“So I can buy something bigger, better.”

“That’s a different story,” the guy says. “You can save it with a custodian, but that ain’t free; there’s a fee to save your hours.”

“I guess that’s all right,” says the man.

“What are you saving for?”

“A vacation – maybe to the beach.”

“Nah, man, forget the beach, that’s nice, but what you got when you get back home? Everyone goes to Vegas. Out there you can turn your one hour into days if you’re lucky, and you ain’t lucky here.”

This sounds like a smart idea so the man goes to Las Vegas to try his luck. Luck must have been waiting for him – with his first hour, he wins a full day. The man thinks, this is my time and soon, the day he won tops out big with four days. The man’s on a roll because not long after that, he’s won an entire month.

People in the casino ask him questions. “What are you doing? What’s your plan with all those hours?”

The man ponders. He feels something strange inside, expanding. He feels he can breathe. Maybe he can win enough hours to quit his job.

“I just want to rest,” the man says.

The casino boss hears about the man and questions him. “What’s the idea with hoarding your hours; you gotta play them all.”

“But if I save them, I can do greater things on my own time,” the man explains.

“There’s a cut to the house if you’re holding more than a month,” says the boss.

“No one told me that before I started.”

“Well, that’s how it is. Time’s are hard, everyone’s gotta eat. You gotta hand over twenty percent on every month you win.”

The man weighs it over and still he thinks it’s a deal. His streak is unheard of and the people in the casino begin to get nervous.

A woman pulls him aside. “Are you cheating the house?”

“No, of course not.”

“You better get out of here before you lose it all. Go home and get back to work,” she tells him.

It’s too late – the casino throws him out.

“No one ever gets that far, you sly sonuvabitch,” says the boss.

But the man has won a year, and even with twenty percent off the top, he has more than he ever thought possible. When he gets home, he thinks he can make it and he quits his job to rest.

A year later, he’s back at the factory, his time spent.

“I worked here last year, remember?” he tells the foreman. “I have experience.”

“Experience?” The foreman laughs. “That won’t get you far – the job’s different now.”

The man’s surprised and thinks this over. “What’s the hourly wage?”

“Two hours buys you a decent meal, three hours gets you discount shoes, and with nights and weekends, maybe you get groceries for a while. Like before, only harder.”

The man’s back begins to ache. He nods. “I’ll take it.”

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