Chocolate Insomnia – Chapter 7: Currency Exchange and Sleep Deprivation

Ugghhhhhhhh I’m so tiiiiiiiiired……..

That was such a horrible idea to stay up all night when I already did that last night. I think I’ve been awake for like fifty-five hours by now. 

And the worst part about it is that there is only a single customer in the entire bank. Just one. I can’t even distract myself from how tired I am by working. 

This one dude, a portly older man carrying a large suitcase, has been all fidgety, standing in front of the service desks for a good five minutes now. I asked, “May I help you?” but he didn’t respond.

When he finally approaches me, I figure out why. “Hello, um…” He looks at my nametag. “Morgan. I want to make change.”

You and me both, buddy. Change to a new job, change to a new life. “What would you like, sir?” I ask.

He sets down the briefcase and opening it, revealing huge stacks of paper currency I don’t recognize. “I want to make change, yuan and mark.”

“Uh, what is this– I mean, yes, sir, let me consult with my manager about this.” I get up and knock on Larkins’s office. He doesn’t respond, but I see his silhouette through the frosted glass window. I knock harder.

“Get outta my face!”

“Customer for you, Mr. Larkins.”

At this, his springs out of his chair and comes shambling out the door. The front of his shirt is untucked, and now I really don’t want to think about that anymore for the rest of my life.

They talk about the currency exchanging stuff but my mind is far too unfocused to be able to follow what’s going on beyond the basics. Apparently this guy is some Euorpean businessman who came into possession of a large sum of Chinese yuan and wants it turned into German marks. Problem is, Georgia law has banned Chinese yuan from its exchanges as a result of some sanctions and whatnot. I think we’ve (technically) been at war with China since the nineties. It’s really complicated. Life is really complicated.

In the end, the two start yelling at each other about it, and I completely lose track of what’s going on. I just sit at my chair, wondering if I will ever get to the stage where I start taking a microsleep every couple of minutes. Maybe that’s already happening and I haven’t noticed.

“Get lost!” Larkins shouts. The man slinks away, head downwards. My boss looks at me like I completely understand why he yelled at a customer. “These people.”

“That person, you mean.”

“Tried to offer me a cut if I exchanged the currencies. At least I think that’s what it was. Couldn’t hardly understand him. Guy’s gone now, whatever he wanted.”

“Our only customer.”

“Want to go get coffee?” Larkins asks. “You look like you could use one.”

“Do I…?” I’ve already drank three this morning.

“You look like shit, is what I mean.”

“If that’s what you want, then…” Far too tired to object to bonding with my boss and getting paid to do it.

***

I’ve spent so much of the past year going between two floors of Peach Towers, that I’ve nearly forgotten that there’s dozens more I barely ever explore. My life’s become such a cycle of repetition that, other than the Atlanta Cares office and the food court, the only floor I’ve gone to at all this year has been to visit Karina at the Packard’s Pizza place a couple times.

She’s not there today, of course. She’s off. And she deserves to be, for everything she went through, and everything I put her through, in the past few days.

But today, Mr. Larkins and I have gone all the way to the bottom floor of the building, a place I ignore at such an alarming rate that I hadn’t even noticed the coffee shop that just opened by the west entrance, one I pass every morning when I enter and immediately go to the elevator.

This coffee shop is empty, as it maybe should be at eleven in the morning, at that dead period between the breakfast and lunch rushes, but on a Saturday? Kind of odd; I doubt this place will be here too much longer if this kind of business is typical.

We sit down at a table, and the barista–not a robot, surprisingly, but a cute white girl with pigtails–shouts at us from over at the counter, “What’ll you have?”

“Coffee, black,” Larkins says.

“What’s good here?” I ask.

The barista doesn’t respond. She points up, to the blackboard above and behind her. On the blackboard there is not a menu, but a chalk drawing of a coffee cup. She scowls.

“Um, I’ll have a coffee, with some milk please.”

She doesn’t respond, but she starts making some coffee.

Larkins turns to me. “What do you think of the place?”

“Well, I’m certainly impressed at their efficient menu,” I say.

“I invested in this store, you know,” says Larkins. “All that money I got when Dreamtech blew up… It’s really paying off.”

Are you sure, Gheb? Are you really sure? “Oh, I didn’t know you were investing.”

“Only two things you can do with a windfall when you’ve got good finances, kid,” he says. “Invest in business, or invest in politics. And I’m doing both.”

“Oh really, now…”

The barista comes over to our table with two coffees and sets them in front of us. Both of them are black.

“Oh, um, sorry, I asked for milk,” I say.

“We’re out of milk,” she says. Despite the pigtails, I can’t say she looks even remotely cute. She looks positively furious for me to have asked something like that. Also, her nametag reads, handwritten in all-caps, block letters, “Tony.” That sure is an odd name.

“Well then, um, sorry about that, Tony.”

She flinches. “It’s not ‘Tony’ with an ‘oh,’ you moron. It’s Tony, with an ‘ah.’”

“Tony?”

“Yeah, like, short for Tonya, Tony. I’m not a man.”

“Um, oh.” 

She huffs away.

Larkins shakes his head. “It’s short for Tonya.”

“I mean…”

Oh, whatever. It’s not like offending a random barista at a random coffee shop will ever matter. I’m ever not coming back to a place with such a limited menu that they don’t even have friggin’ milk.

“So, you voting in any of the primaries, Harding?” Larkins asks.

“Wasn’t planning on it. I only vote in the actual elections. All the primary stuff is even more squabbling than I’m ever prepared for.”

“Me either. Mostly because, whoever wins, I’m gonna ride on their coattails. I’m supporting everyone equally.”

“Everyone?”

“Besides the Values Party,” he corrects. “Aisha Baker won the Labor Party nomination, Geoff Morrison and Nathan Nguyen are duking it out for the SiPubs, and now we’re just waiting to see who’s going to come out of the New Hope Party. That’s where my money’s at. Well, some of it.”

“Yeah, I…” I really don’t want to talk politics with my boss. This is the most dangerous water I’ve tread since the time we both had to work overtime on Veterans’ Day. How do I get out of this? “I’m wondering how all the parties are going to be dealing with the fallout of the Social Media Killer, and all that.”

“Yeah, that was a big old woozy,” he says. “What with Kendrick Deal and Mayor Epstein and all that. Crazy stuff. My own private investigator got hacked, even. Had to let her go.” Heh, his private investigator… If he only know who Marge really is.

This coffee is alright. I really wish it weren’t so strong, but the taste is fine. Of all the things robots never got down, coffee is one of them, so I’m glad that Tony–er, Tony, is here to make it for us. Even if she is currently glaring at me even as I think.

“But,” Larkins continues. “The Social Media Killer’s gonna be caught soon. I’ve heard the police are getting closer to finding her. That’s gonna be a big topic at the tech expo next week, how to prevent anyone like her from blowing stuff up like she did. By the way, the bank’s closed all week since I’ll be doing some business ventures for the company. You’re free to do whatever you want.”

“Do I still get paid?”

He laughs.

“Still, you ever think that the Social Media Killer might not have been such a bad person?” I ask. It’s a loaded question, since I got to know her really well, but I still grapple with it myself.

“Well, maybe. I don’t particularly care who’s good or bad. She made me a buttload of cash, though. And what she did… Not shabby for a teenage girl with no friends. I’d’ve hired her.”

A teenage girl with no friends… No friends? That isn’t true, is it? She had at least one or two, right?

Wait…

“Shit!” I shout. I stand up, and once again Tony glares at me.

“Shit what?” Larkins asks.

“Um, nothing, but I just realized I have an urgent errand to do.”

“As always,” he says. “You’d be a good employee if you were ever here, Harding.”

“Sorry, Mr. Larkins!”

I dash out of the coffee shop and take out my cellular. Because I know where I can find clues on Jones’s whereabouts.

We missed such an obvious lead.

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5 comments

    1. Well, in the futureretrofuture, we will eventually see robots take over all jobs, so that The Jetsons can finally become reality. Sadly, this is still a transitional period.

    1. Jones was never real, unreliable narrator, Morgan is the Social Media Killer and also has been in a coma the entire series

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