Arjian is a local hairdresser and a regular gambler at Atlantic City–a casino town at the southern end of New Jersey. There’s a previous story about him here.
On Saturday morning, when Arjian’s wife Mei goes to the drive-by ATM machine, she finds that the balance is increased by about $10,000. She doesn’t know where this money is from. Arjian doesn’t know where this is from either. They are both sitting in the car and Mei reads out the balance to her husband. When Arjian hears the news from his wife, he thinks this is a good opportunity for him to show off a little bit. After all, Mei has been complaining about their lackluster family finances for years, which depresses Arjian every time he hears it. Now it’s an opportunity for him to show his strength. Who cares where the money is from? He didn’t rob a bank or anything. Probably Buddha has finally taken a liking to him and wants to reward him. So he promptly invents a story about his side business deal, which finally brings a windfall. To make the story more believable, he adds that because he is afraid of Mei’s scolding, he has never dared to tell Mei about it.
Mei smiles happily. Arjian thinks that she hasn’t been this happy for years. What a good thing he has done–to lie to her? It makes her so happy.
“You are not going to gamble this money away, are you?” Mei looks at Arjian sharply. “I have an idea. I am going to call my friend who’s working in a financial company. She told me about 529 and I’m going to put the money into a 529 account for Jack.”
“What’s 529?” Arjian is puzzled.
“It’s a saving account that can only be used for college education.” Mei says. Jack is their son and he is quite a good student. Mei has big hopes for him.
Arjian acquiesces but in his heart he’s a little hurt. Does Mei still love him? Why can’t she say let’s go away for a vacation or at least go to a steakhouse? Mei only loves her son Jack. Arjian is just the mule of the family–all work and no play and only a little bit of hays at dinner time. And they are not even tasty hays since Mei’s cooking skills are just so-so.
Mei makes the phone call and is scheduled to go to the financial office next Tuesday to open a 529 account. Here Arjian is getting increasingly uneasy. He remembers his long hours of laboring in his hair salon with inadequate ventilation–he may suffer an early death working in such an environment. He remembers all the strategies Mei has come up with to save money, which practically squeeze out all the little pleasures the life provides. Then an idea emerges.
At first he’s a little guilty of the idea, but the longer he thinks about it, the more he wants to do it. Monday is his usual day off after a busy weekend. His wife works on Monday. So he can pretend that he visits his friend in Philadelphia. In reality, he’s going to go down to Atlantic City and enjoy himself.
When Monday comes, his wife leaves for work without even asking him what he’s going to do for the day. So he gets up and drives south.
At the casino, it only takes several hours for him to lose most of the $10,000. At first, he thinks he only wants to gamble $1000, but then when the limit is reached, he can’t stop. So he set up $5,000 as the limit. Anyway, eventually he loses everything. However he enjoys himself immensely. Since this is easy money to start with, he doesn’t feel bad at all when it is gone.
As he drives back on Monday night, he starts to concoct stories to tell his wife. She’s going to be furious, but he is going to use all his charm, his evasiveness, his contrition, his commitment to change to convince her that his imaginary business is going to bring another windfall next month–and of course in 30 days, her fury will subside and the whole thing will pass. Even if she won’t see another $10,000 in the bank by then, she won’t make much of a fuss.
As soon as he opens the door, Mei hurls herself at him and starts to beat him up with a cooking spatula she happens to hold. It’s a wooden one, which can’t do much damage to Arjian. He knows he’s in the wrong and dares not fight back, only trying to defend himself from the blows. The two eventually roll onto the floor, but Mei’s hands clutch so tight on Arjian and he feels a little difficult breathing.
“I went to the bank in the afternoon. You didn’t answer when I called you and I started to suspect you were doing something like this. So I went to the bank to try to stop you withdrawing the money, but it is too late. Fifi, the bank teller, tells me the money is already gone.” Mei says.
“Don’t worry. There will be more coming our way. We will do a 529 when the new money comes. My side business is booming and it will…” Arjian says.
Mei, now sitting on him, tries to use the spatula to inflict the biggest damage to anywhere she can hit while Arjian flailing his arms to defend himself.
“You are such a liar. Such a liar. I can’t believe I trusted you. Liar. I feel like I want to kill you right now. I will kill you and I will escape to the rain forest of Boneo. That will be such a satisfaction. Fifi told me that’s the money from the Internal Revenue Service and most likely it is mistakenly credited to our account by the government. They are going to ask for the money back soon.” Mei screams at him.