Using this translation turn the pages a bit odd - sorry




Time is Money

A Short Story by Lee Falk


ill. F. Fredericks
[First (and only?) published in Playboy desember 1975]

IT IS UNDERSTANDABLE that Tom was desperate. Near panic. His time was running out. To be more precise, his account at the Timebank had a balance of one hour, 14 minutes and 27 seconds. 1 hr 14 min 27 sec. If he could not make a deposit within that period, his account would be closed. At that moment, he would stop breathing. He would be dead. Perhaps this requires further explanation.

In this land, which is far away from ours, in time as well as in space, there is a huge building in the center of the capital. It is the tallest and the widest building in the land. It has no windows, for no one cares to look in, and there is no one inside to look out. Inside, there are only endless wires, dials, meters, calculators, robot computers, circuits and, equally important, circuit breakers.

The endless rows and tiers, row upon row, tier upon tier, click and hum quietly. Occasionally, there is a louder click, more of a clack, as a circuit breaker closes an account. This is the Timebank.

How could Tom have gotten into such a predicament, to allow his account to get so low? Sloppy bookkeeping, he told himself angrily. Like everyone else, Tom kept a record of income and outgo, credit and debit, in his own bankbook. Once a month, a statement arrived from the Timebank, when you could (and should) balance your records against it. But he'd neglected this for a long time.

He'd always had a safe margin in his account. Not like Dick or Harry, but safe. Once, he had fallen as low as two days! (47 hr 54 min 13 sec.) That had been a three- alarm sweat session.

But he'd managed to sell a block of that oil stock to good old Dick, a big block good for over four months' credit (cred 4 mo 3 d 7 hr 12 min 19 sec). Too bad the oil stocks hadn't worked out. That's the way it goes. No risk, no gain. Ancient history. But now, 1 hr 14 min 27 sec.

How had this happened? That girl with the scarlet hair, the emerald eyes? When the founding fathers of this land, prudent merchants all, sought a motto to place on the Great Seal, on the Green Flag and upon the currency, they unanimously chose those words that best expressed their deepest philosophical and religious beliefs.

Time is money. Upon this base, they built a mighty nation. Mothers whispered it to babes at their breast. Maidens murmured it in the depths of their wedding beds. Youths bore it aloft on banners as they charged into enemy fire. Shipwrecked sailors gurgled it as they went down for the third time.

Tom dashed to Dick's office. Fortunately, it was next door. As he dashed, he tried to recall. That night with the girl with scarlet hair and emerald eyes? There had been so many drinks. What had happened? What if Dick wasn't in? Fortunately, he was.

He was seated behind his desk, going over his accounts. He was careful about that. "Dick, old friend, it's time to rally round the flag," said Tom as heartily as he could but perspiring profusely on his forehead and under his collar.

Dick looked at him questioningly. That is, he raised his eyebrows. For Dick, the hearty tone and the perspiration were clues to what was coming. "I've something special for you, extraordinary, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Tom as he rifled his briefcase, trying to decide which folder to pull out.

Dick watched him coldly. That is, he did not appear excited by the prospect. But he waited.

Tom glanced at the folder he'd pulled out. Not bad.

"A uranium mine, Pure uranium, fabulous." "You told me about that last month," said Dick.

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