James was now a teen. Fittingly, Rory threw him a bash. Rory also hit a landmark birthday on the same date. The party was fun. Finances were tight, the utility bill far higher than he’d like, but he knew the promotion was coming. Rory did something stupid. Banking on said promotion, he believed a raise would be included, so he took a bit of money from their account to throw the combined Birthday Bash. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow the lights go out? A gamble he seemingly lost.
Yet, this first post-promotion paycheck proved very, very short. Rory just couldn’t figure it out. He’d shown up each day for work, as required. Did his very best to perform, worked hard to keep himself in the appropriate mood. But, somehow today, his work was deemed inadequate, as reflected by the very short check.
When he got home from work, he was tense. The family was all there, his two littlest sons out in front of the house, ready to greet him.
“Pops,” Johnny said, giving his father a hug. “Mom bought us a slippery slide, come on, you’ve got to come try it out!”
“We’ve been waiting for you to get home, first,” Jaron added.
Rory put on his best smile as he took the boys by the hands. “Let’s just go check this thing out.”
Johnny’s phoned chirped which he answered right away, “Dad, Auntie Aubrey wants to know if she can come over and hang out.”
“Of, course. Tell her to bring her swim suit and her best sliding tricks.”
Within moments the entire family was out back giving the new slippery slide a good workout. Even James was in on the fun. Joseph, at first, watched from the sideline, but before long the elderly Sim joined his family. He and James competed on which one of them could do the best side-slide action. The old versus the young.
After a time, Ericka dried off and began to grill up a nice meal for her family. Rory, although he felt a tad better, still had that huge over eight-thousand Simoleon bill hanging over his head. When he last checked his bank account, the family was still about three-thousand short. That was after what Joseph brought in. Again, Rory wondered just why his paycheck had been shorted. The more he thought about it the more tense he grew. Listening to the excited giggles of his family enjoying this new toy, he turned abruptly when an argument erupted.
“James, that’s not funny!” Johnny accused. “Turn the water back on.”
“Yeah, we can’t slide without the water!” Jaron said, “Ever since you got to be a teen you’ve become a jerk!”
James stood there dripping wet, holding out his hands. Rory noticed the boy wasn’t snickering. Normally, his random bouts of mischief were followed by snickering. His expression was one of perplexity. “Hey, it wasn’t me. Why would I do that? I was sliding and having as much fun as the rest of you. It wasn’t me.”
Rory walked inside the house. The lights, sets to auto to help save on the power-usage, didn’t come on when he entered the back hallway. Walking over to the bathroom sink, he tried the water. It was off, too. Walking out front, he checked the mail There it was the unhappy red tag he hoped he wouldn’t see.
"Dear energy consumer, you have failed to pay your bill in the allotted time. We gave you forty-eight hours and heard nothing from you. We gave you a second warning, allowing you twenty-four more hours. Again, you failed to pay your bill. You power and water has now been turned off until we receive the payment you owe us, in full. Thank you, Willow Creek Power and Water Company.”
That did it. Rory made his way over to Magnolia Park. He strutted right up to the Whispering Wishing Well, made an offering of §1000, but the well decided it wasn’t enough. So, digging into his pocket again, he offered yet another §1000. Still, the well was dissatisfied. In defiance, and knowing he was now two-thousand shorter in meeting the bill, Rory made his wish anyway. Golden tongues of fire burst from the mouth of the well. Above his head, the face now wore the same hood as the Grim Reaper. Rory took a step backward, as he could feel the coin in his pocket rattle about and suddenly what remained of his currency flew outward from his pocket to be swallowed by the Well.
“What?” Rory said. “You took all that I had.”
“You were greedy,” came the reply.
Rory looked all around him. “Wh-who said that?”
“I did,” said the face above him.
“I made two offerings amounting to §2000. I needed an additional §4000 to make ends meet, and you stole what was left of my account. Now I have nothing. No lights, no water, and no Simoleons. Just who's the greedy one, here? I just needed a little help. A small loan. Just enough to get me over this hump. It wasn’t greed, I was doing it for my family. And now I have nothing. Nothing! You diabolical pile of — bricks. You have no idea just how lucky you are that I left my laser guns at home! I have a rather good mind to transform you into a simple block wall!”
Rory headed home. The aroma of grilled hot dogs met his nose as he walked in through the front door. He had forgotten just how hungry he was until then. Grabbing a serving he sat down at the dining table and ate.
“Rory,” Ericka said, “what’s wrong?”
“Nothing — everything. Why do you buy such expensive things for these kids? We can’t afford the extravagance.”
Whispering, she said, “That’s not fair. I cleared this purchase with you ahead of time. It’s hot. Every day the sun rises and it’s just plain hot.”
“The built-in pool isn’t enough? What do I have to do, sell that, too?”
“What’s this all about? This isn’t like you.”
“They shorted!” Rory dropped his voice, “they shorted my paycheck. I took money from our account to throw the birthday party thinking the raise would cover it. I was wrong. They gave me less than I normally make in a day today. I don’t understand it, but you can bet Management is going to get an earful from me first thing tomorrow.”
“Rory, don’t lose your job.”
“Who needs it? Thanks to their shenanigans we have no power and no water. James wasn’t pulling a prank. The city cut our water off.”
“Not to worry, I’ll just sell a few items on Sbay and pay off the bill.”
“That puppet stage for starters. The kids hardly ever use it. It just sits there taking up space on the patio. I’ll sell some of my lab equipment, too. So, it’ll be fair. I’ll get rid of the lights on the third floor. Nobody uses it, either. It’ll be sensible. Logical.”
Rory wasted little time carrying out his plan. Humiliated that he had to enact it at all. He sold anything they weren’t really using and Sbay was rather kind to him, giving him good prices on what he offered them, unlike a certain Wishing Well. Before long, he was able to pay that eight-thousand plus bill and the lights and water were restored.