by Michael Doliner
(Swans - June 30, 2008) My cat Mitzie is a hunter -- of small lazy insects that buzz around in the garden. She fears chipmunks though she has been known to threaten a baby one until the mother squeaked at her and drove her terrified into the kitchen. Well, this last winter Mitzie was rather indolent and gained more weight than she usually does. So yesterday, when she jumped at something too small to see, missed it, and landed rather clumsily in a cabbage, it wasn't that big a shock. But to my surprise up popped Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve. With his bald head reflecting the sun, his extraordinarily well trimmed beard, and his excellent posture, he inspired just so much confidence. Standing next to a kale that was coming along nicely, he extended his hand to offer me one hundred billion dollars ($100,000,000,000.00) in non-recourse loans to solve the problem. You see, Mitzie had become too big to fail.
Of course there was a catch to it. He wanted a mortgage on the north forty, a six-foot by seven-foot tract of land, formerly a compost heap, which I had converted into a high-tech grass-growing facility. Now I was not entirely adverse to his plan. Although the north forty was technically mine, its position gave the local municipality such jurisdiction over it that, in fact, nothing could be done with it other than grow grass. The compost heap had probably been illegal and, while it was there, I feared every night that at three in the morning a Swat team would descend upon it. With helicopters hovering and blowing up dust, cop cars all over the place with their roof lights whirling, and burly thugs smashing everything, Homeland Security agents would drag us away to God knows where. Often, at some still hour in the morning I would awaken to peek through the curtains at the flagrantly illegal compost heap. Although the Swat team never materialized, I had more than one dream in which Donald Rumsfeld himself interrogated me about this compost heap. In this dream he declared that only Mitzie's service in the garden against Islamofascist terrorist bugs saved me from a spate of waterboarding. Although what he did do hurt quite a bit, Donald assured me that it wasn't torture, so I felt reassured. And in spite of everything, I never revealed to him that the compost heap was secretly a pile of ****.
Now fear of the imminent descent of a SWAT team at three in the morning who will smash down your doors and drag you away to some secret dark dank hole where they will do unspeakable things to you that are not really torture might seem like not that big a deal to the average red-blooded American, but I admit, it troubled me somewhat. So you can imagine my relief when my team of technicians texted me of the plan to convert the north forty to a high-tech grass-growing facility. One of my brilliant young Turks (not an Islamofascist) had come up with a proposal to make the north forty look exactly like the grassy area surrounding it. It was so brilliant, so simple! Why hadn't I thought of it before? We gathered our team and after only a few months of brainstorming came up with the scheme of seeding the area and protecting it with a security system consisting of wooden stakes supporting string to which we tied bits of white cloth torn from an old sheet. Naturally, we also had a phalanx of anti-missile missiles festooned with cutting edge radar guarding the perimeter against potential Islamofascist pedestrians. It was a good plan but it ran a bit over budget and was now costing me, oh, about a billion a month, mostly for resetting the wooden stakes whenever somebody walked by and accidentally kicked one over. I had outsourced the job to Halliburton.
So I admit, when Ben Bernanke came to me with his generous offer, the wheels began to turn. What if I gave him his mortgage on the north forty and then let him foreclose? He would then own the north forty and he would be responsible for its upkeep and the payment to Halliburton, and I would get to keep one hundred billion dollars ($100,000,000,000.00). Even though the good citizens of the United States of America would then own the north forty, it would legally have to remain just as it is. To the naked eye nothing would actually change.
According to the contract all I would have to do was see that Mitzie got more exercise, and I already had a plan for that. You see, Mitzie is a very affectionate cat who likes nothing better than to keep us company whenever we go into the garden. If I lounged in the garden stretched out on a comfortable piece of lawn furniture, Mitzie would join me, spend all day chasing bugs, and would soon recapture her, shall we say moderate, skills. She would lose that extra weight in no time. I don't know about you, dear reader, but I will snooze in the garden all day any time for one hundred billion dollars ($100,000,000,000.00). I admit it, I have my price.
Nor was I ignorant of Ben Bernanke's diabolical intentions. I well knew that Mitzie, with all that exercise, would lose the extra weight and would no longer be too large to fail, and that I, by carrying out the provisions of my contract with Mr. Bernanke, would in all likelihood lose the chance for any further bailout. We would have to scrape along on this one time only payment of one hundred billion dollars ($100,000,000,000.00). Or so he thought! But I had one more trick up my sleeve. You see what Mr. Bernanke had failed to notice, what he probably didn't even know about, was winter. In this part of the greatest country the world has ever seen, or ever will see, or can even imagine, autumn follows summer. And then comes winter. And during the winter Mitzie sleeps a lot, does little, and gains weight. Next spring she will be too big to fail all over again!
I had hit a grand slam, I had caught a Hail Mary, I had scored at the buzzer, I had filled an inside straight, and I had made a hole in one, but I was an American, so naturally, I asked myself, "How can I sweeten this deal?" The answer came to me almost at once. I was letting the north forty go far too cheaply. It was a potential subdivision. By dividing the north forty into square inch lots I could get over 6,000 choice lots out of it. At a billion dollars a lot that comes to six trillion dollars ($6,000,000,000,000.00), almost half of the gross national product of the greatest country the world will ever know. Well, being an American, I was reluctant to settle for half, but I'm not greedy.
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