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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

I Promise To Pay The Bearer On Demand...

I weaved my wheeled shopping bag through London’s Threadneedle Street, avoiding the approaching herds of reindeer and flocks of camels.

The imposing fašade of the Bank of England soon rose before me. I went inside and approached the reception desk.

‘Can I speak to Andrew Bailey?’ I said.

‘Have you come about those notes he signed?’ enquired the receptionist.

‘That’s right.’ I removed a bundle of twenty pound notes from my pocket. ‘It says on these that Mr Bailey promises to pay the bearer on demand the sum listed.’ I pointed to the phrase. ‘It’s just that with all the financial uncertainty at present, I thought it might be wise to exchange them for the actual wealth they represent.’

‘It was rather rash of him to commit to that in writing,’ sighed the receptionist. ‘What sort of wealth would you like to exchange them for?’

‘I hadn’t thought about that,’ I admitted. ‘What sorts are there?’

‘It’s all about finding things that have some generally agreed intrinsic value,’ she explained. ‘Animals are very popular because you can ride them, eat them, use their skins for clothes, and you can breed more.’ She consulted her computer screen. ‘There aren’t many cattle, sheep, reindeer or camels left, but I could let you have some elephants.’

‘I live in a one bedroomed flat,’ I said. ‘Have you got anything smaller?’

‘Bars of precious metals used to be in demand, but since the price fell you get rather a lot, and they’re very heavy.’

‘I’ve only brought this small, wheeled shopping bag,’ I explained, ‘and I’ve also got a bad back, so I don’t want to be lifting ingots. What else is there?’

‘In some parts of the world, women are considered as property and indicators of wealth,’ she replied. ‘Mind you, that’s not PC in twenty-first century Britain, so you wouldn’t be interested in the virgin slave girls.’

‘Virgin slave girls?’

‘One of the worst purchase decisions Andy ever made on the convertible currency markets. He exchanged a thousand herds of perfectly good South American llamas for two hundred harems.’ The receptionist shook her head in despair. ‘Now, we’ve any number of young, attractive, obedient, scantily clad virgins that nobody wants.’

‘Appalling,’ I concurred. ‘Just out of interest, what price are they fetching?’

She again consulted the computer. ‘Currently, one hundred pounds each.’

‘I think it’s important to diversify an investment portfolio.’ I said. ‘Perhaps it would be wise to buy some?’

‘It’s up to you, although there’s significant volatility in the market. You could find their value plummets tomorrow, and your investment would be of no value for anything other than mindless, non stop sexual gratification.’

I watched others leaving the Bank with animals, cloth, jewels and spices from distant exotic lands, and I considered my options.

I counted out my bank notes. ‘I’ll have four virgins and an elephant, please,’ I concluded.

That evening, I looked from my bedroom window to the parking space outside my flat where faithful Jumbo was settling down for the night. I then glanced at my bed where my remaining assets were safely stored.

I reflected on the benefits of wealth in tangible form and wondered how paper currency had ever caught on.