Skip to content
"Money Walks," a serial novel by 16 Los Angeles writers who will be appearing at this year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, runs Monday through Saturday until April 24. The festival takes place on April 25 and 26 at UCLA.
"Find me, baby? You don't have to find me." Angie stepped from the dimmest corner of the room. She let her hands drop to Rudy's head, caressed his temples and the clenched line of his jaw. "I would never leave you, not like this."
From behind his chair, she wrapped her arms around his chest. Rudy did his best not to wince.
"I need you to listen to me, baby." Her right hand wandered to his hip. "I don't think I can do this anymore. Remember how I told you I did theater in high school and everyone told me I should be an actress and I got head shots and the whole thing, but the only auditions I ever got called for were for the chola or the maid or the chola-maid-vampire-hooker, so I said forget this and went back to school?
"I know you said literature would be different, but look at you, baby, look at us, look at how this thing turned out. I know your foot's gonna heal as soon as the people out there turn the page, but what about our pride? I have a PhD, Rudy. And you, until this thing started, you were hunched over Althusser's letters, in French. You read Mallarmé in the bathroom. But as soon as those readers show up, you throw a Raiders blanket over the bookshelves, pull on a wife-beater and pop in that Jackie Chan video."
Through gritted teeth, Rudy spoke. "I'm not wearing a wife-beater," he said.
"That's what I'm saying -- you're letting one wear you." Angie lifted his leg from the ottoman, unwrapped the towel from his foot. "We have an opportunity here, a real opportunity. There's no money anywhere. Haven't you thought about what that means?"
She untied the sash from his ankle. Blood gushed from his foot. Rudy bucked in his chair, bug-eyed with pain.
"OK, listen," Angie went on, dousing his foot with peroxide. "What did Marx say about money?"
Rudy squeezed his eyes shut. "Basically," he managed to grunt, "it's the universal medium of exchange that among other things conceals the true nature of social relations. It's 'the alienated ability of mankind . . . the fraternisation of impossibilities . . . the general confounding and confusing of all things -- the world upside-down.' "
"That-a-boy." Angie knelt to plant a kiss just beneath his navel. "So if there's no money, what does that mean? The world right side up?"
With a pair of cuticle scissors, she pried the bullet from between his first and second metatarsals. Blood spurted again as Rudy howled. Recovering, he shook his head. "It's not that simple," he said.
"I know, but it's a start. I mean we wouldn't even be involved in this novel thing if there wasn't some cash in it for us somewhere. But if there's no money, we don't have to play along. We don't have to rob anyone and you never have to wash another car. What does that mean, baby?"
"Stay with me, baby. Think big." She wiped away the blood and sterilized a sewing needle over a Zippo flame. "Money is exploitation in crystallized form. And now it's gone: wages, prices, taxes, fines. Who's gonna steal your soul and sell it back to you now? What's capitalism without cash? And what's this whole crooked edifice that we call democracy without capitalism? Forget democracy, what's literature?"
A smile spread slowly across Rudy's face. "Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?"
Angie winked and kissed his big toe. "That's exactly what I'm thinking."
Ehrenreich is the author of the novel "The Suitors." He will be on the "Fiction: L.A. Writes the World" panel at 2 on April 26 in Humanities A51 at UCLA at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.