Prose Header

Fred Looseman’s Misadventure

by Bertrand Cayzac

Table of Contents

Vers la version française...

Fred Looseman used to be the head risk assessor at World Wide Credit Corporation and the chairman of the Anti-Money Laundering Commission. Now he works as an automated teller machine repairman.

Sometimes he hears voices, and sometimes what he hears moves him to tears. His bank account overflows with the money of deliverance, and he becomes a financial super-hero: Floozman.

In this short episode, Fred Looseman overreaches himself by attempting to play the role of Floozman without becoming Floozman. His excursion is quixotic: he is even accompanied by a sidekick named “‘Sancho.” And the unintended consequences of a good deed are painful indeed...

The reference to “the time at the hotel” is an allusion to the episode “Figs and Riesling,” where Fred Looseman was first transformed into Floozman.

“You realize, Sancho, I’ve asked you to come with me today because we’re going to do great things. I want you to be a witness.”

“You scare me when you get weird like that, Fred,” Sancho answers, gnawing at his thumb. “You’ve been weird for several days now, you know. I say you’ve got a problem.”

Fred gestures over his shoulder at the sacks of banknotes in the rear of the truck. ‘We’ll give them to the poor and get on TV.”

“Are you nuts? Where’d you get that idea? We don’t have the right to do that. I took a day off to hear this crap?”

“Nothing will happen to us. Or to the deliveryman I borrowed the sacks from, either. And you know I’m protected. I think it’s because of the work I did before. And if not, so what. I saw a beggar woman yesterday. She looked me right in the eyes. That seemed really odd to me, and I thought: ‘That’s really what we ought to do: help them’.”

“You’re sure we’ll get on TV? That’s cool, but what’s in it for me?”

“You’ll see. It’s a good deed. Everybody will love it. And then they’ll want to interview you, and you can charge for it. If you play your cards right, you can get noticed and do other things. Now let’s keep a lookout.” Fred concentrates on driving.

“I’m not sure you’re really all right in the head,” says Sancho, “but okay, we’ll keep a little for ourselves, eh?”

“Not me, Sancho. As for you, we’ll see at the end of the day.”

“You’re nuts. You’re not gonna do it.”

* * *

The truck heads toward the suburbs and Plouvigny, passing through the poorest neighborhoods in the city. They remind Fred of a video game: here the textures are rough and the surfaces, bare. There are only high-rises and barred windows on delapidated apartment houses.

Fred Looseman spots a long line of poor people on the sidewalk. It’s a soup kitchen. “Let’s stop here.”

“But we’ll never get on TV with these bozos!”

“Sure we will. They’re victims. Trust me.”

Fred throws open the doors of the truck. He slides three big sacks onto the ground and opens them. “Come one, come all! Take some money! It will heal you!”

A few people turn to listen, but the first ones to approach are boys dressed in grey and black. They seem to come out of nowhere.

“Come and get it! This money will bring you a... er... superior relief! You’ll have enough to eat and you’ll experience warmth... the warmth of superior love.”

“Superior to what?” asks Sancho nervously.

“I dunno. Maybe like the time at the hotel? Or maybe these people are down below and the money comes from on high. I have to tell them something.”

“The Gospel is in him,” murmurs one of the teenagers.

“Naw, he’s just a dumb nut job. Let’s see the dough.”

The banknotes begin to circulate in the crowd gathering around the truck. The situation rapidly turns into a riot. The two young men don’t stand a chance against the natives. Blows rain down. A sack has already been taken.

Fred retreats up against the rear of the truck.

“The keys. Cough up the keys!” A toothless youngster with feverish eyes puts the point of his knife to Fred’s throat. Fred hands over the keys.

In a few minutes, Sancho and Fred have been robbed and are standing half-naked in the middle of the intersection. Sirens signal that the police are coming.

“See, I told you I’m protected.”

Copyright © 2009 by Bertrand Cayzac
Translation copyright © 2010 by Don Webb
for Bewildering Stories

to Challenge 369...

Home Page