The Big Well
For Clinton LaRue the nightmare
Greensburg, Kansas, on a sunny day in March 2014. Clint was traveling from his
home in Pennsylvania to Colorado for a job interview. He would have preferred
to fly, but money was tight. He hadn’t worked in almost six months and funds
were running out, surely but not so slowly. As he came into the small town, he
noticed a lot of new construction and then he wondered if this was the town
he’d heard or read about that got wiped out by a tornado. Seemed like it was
back in about 2007, or maybe 2006. Supposedly, they were rebuilding everything,
but with a twist—Greensburg would now be the “greenest” town in America, with
everything built to the latest, high-tech clean energy standards.
As he cruised slowly through
the town, he
noticed their single tourist attraction had apparently come through the tornado
unscathed. There was the sign, “World’s Largest Hand-dug Well & Pallasite
Meteorite, Left two blocks.”
Well, why the hell not? He found
the turn almost without thinking about it. He’d been sitting for hours and he
needed a stretch and a restroom visit anyway. Might as well look at the big
hole in the ground, too. Nobody can say I’m
not a sport, he thought, as he parked and got out at the gift shop.
Inside, he walked around and
looked at the
tourist junk and found the restroom, then he paid his admission to see the big
rock from space and the big hole. The meteorite was a thousand pounds of
metallic iron ore, pocked and partially melted by its trip through the
atmosphere and interesting in its own right, if one liked that type of thing.
The well was 109 feet deep and
32 feet in
diameter, lined with concrete that was poured on the surface and lowered into
place as the digging progressed. This task began in 1884. For its day, it was
an engineering marvel. Clint decided he’d do the climb. He’d paid his money and
he might as well get some exercise along with his history lesson.
At the bottom, there wasn’t
all that much to
see. A pool of water and a man-made cavern of sorts, and that was about it. He
was alone at the bottom and he read the plaques and decided he might as well
start back up. It would be a bit tougher than coming down.
Then, suddenly, he was no longer
was a little brown-skinned guy in a turban standing there looking at him. He
stood about four-foot-nothing and besides the turban, he wore baggy pants and
those goofy shoes with the toes that turned up.
Clint hadn’t heard him
come down the steps,
which were iron, and they had made considerable noise as he came down. There
was a peculiar smell in the air, too. As soon as he thought about it, Clint
realized what it was. Ozone. The smell you get around electric motors and
transformers, where high magnetic fields and sparks have changed ordinary
oxygen, adding a third electron.
“What language, please?”
the little man had his
palms pressed together, fingers outward, and was bowing to Clint.
“Ahh . . . English, I guess
. . .”
“Ahh, thank you, that is
good. I am fluent in
nearly all languages, but English is one of my favorites. So many nuances, so
many homonyms and antonyms. It is a fun language. Now, how may I be of service,
“Okay, ah . . . wait, what?”
“How may I serve you, Sir?”
The little guy
bowed again and then looked up, expectantly. Clint was reminded of his Jack
Russell terrier, Bennie, when he was seeking a treat. The bright-eyed
expectancy was spot-on.
“Serve me? Why would you
. . . wait, who are you?”
“I am The Genie, Sir. At
“You’re a Genie.
Riiight. Okay, nice meeting
you, Gotta go. . . .”
“No, Sir. Not A Genie, Sir. The Genie.
You see, I am me and there is only me. There are no others. . . .”
“Right. So, where’s
your lamp, or bottle, or
whatever? Aren’t you supposed to be freed from a lamp or bottle and grant wishes?”
“Oh, yes, Sir. That was
in the olden days. It
was actually a means of travel for me, you see . . . a type of portability. Now
I get around in a Prius, like everyone else.”
Clint was starting to like this
whoever he was. He sounded sort of like Rajesh Koothrappali, from The Big Bang Theory, or maybe Apu,
the owner of Kwik-E-Mart from The Simpsons. Might as well have a
little fun. . . .
“So, does that mean I get three wishes, then?”
“Oh, no, Sir. I only get to grant one wish and then only once every
hundred years. Like everywhere else, we’ve had cutbacks, you see.”
“Oh, right, right. Cutbacks, yeah. The economy, I suppose.”
“Oh, no, Sir. Not the economy.
It’s the lack of
belief in magic and all that it entails. People today do not believe properly
in magical things, spells, hexes, curses, and the like. They think it is all
clever illusion, merely put on by charlatans to entertain and make money.”
Clint had decided to play along
little charade for a while. “Okay, so what are you going to do for me, then?”
“Anything you wish, Sir.
You may have wealth,
you may have women, you may have any pleasures you like, but you must be careful,
Sir. All things granted have their price, you see.”
“Going to capture my soul,
or something? Steal
“Oh, no, Sir! I am not
the devil. There is no
black magic here. Only karma. But karma is very powerful. Choose wisely and
think always of the outcome of your actions.”
Clint didn’t have to think
very long. He
remembered a book he’d read once, or maybe it was a short story, about a guy
who asked for only one thing, but it was cleverly done. He looked at the little
Genie and said, “I’d like to have a magic wallet that would always provide
exactly the amount of money I need to cover the cost of anything I want to buy.
You see, I’m not greedy, and I don’t need to be necessarily rich. But it would
be nice to never have to worry about money, or holding a job.”
“It shall be yours, then,”
The Genie said, “and
thank you, Sir.”
“Why are you thanking me?”
“You have allowed me to
continue my journey for
another hundred years.”
There was that ozone smell again
and then a
blinding blue crackle and flash and Clint was once more alone. At his feet,
lying on the concrete floor was a reddish-brown wallet of thin leather. He
picked it up and opened it and found it empty. He almost tossed it in the well,
but then he decided, what the hell?
“Okay, that was fuckin’
weird,” he said as he
headed back up the stairs, “I’m gonna have to find out how they did that shit.”
He shoved the wallet in his back pocket.
When Clint got ready to hit the
realized he needed gas and he pulled in at the Farm-Rite station on the main
drag. He filled the tank on his old Ford Crown Vic, a car that had been a
police car and had seen better days. He knew his Visa card was almost maxed out
and he was very low on cash, but when he reached for his wallet, his hand found
the other, new wallet instead. On impulse, he peeked inside and found $26.50 in
cash. The exact amount showing on the pump. He leaned against the side of the
Crown Vic and did some deep-breathing exercises for a minute, then went inside
to pay. The wallet was now empty.
After paying for his gas, he
thought and he went and got a sandwich, a bag of chips and a Coke from the
cooler. The clerk rang them up and Clint opened the mysterious wallet. There
was five dollars and seven cents—the exact amount on the register. Clint felt a
grin starting to spread across his face. He paid for the snack and ran for the
Seventy miles down the road,
Clint had another
thought. Why was he rushing to a job interview, when he had in his pocket a
wallet with an unlimited supply of money? Why did people work in the first
place? To promote their livelihood, put food on the table, be able to buy the
necessities of life in a modern society. He took the next exit, turned around
and headed for home. Fuck the job, this was just too cool.
Clint arrived back in Pennsylvania
in a new,
gunmetal-gray Lexus with all the bells and whistles. The back seat and trunk
were packed full of toys and gifts and he was giddy with his new-found wallet,
the source of everything and anything he’d ever wanted.
Within a few weeks, he’d
moved his wife and
kids to a nicer house and paid it off in cash. The wallet had swollen to the
size of a small briefcase to hold all the money required for that transaction,
and the real estate company had three salesmen with counterfeit pens going over
the hundred-dollar bills for hours.
Life became very idyllic in their
of the world. His wife Katie would later remember those days with fondness as
some of the best times of their marriage. With two kids, Dawn and Michael, two
dogs, one cat, and no mortgage, it seemed they were set for life.
~ ~ ~
The first visit from the IRS
came seven months
to the day after Clint’s visit to the World’s Largest Hand-dug well. Two
Federal agents rang the bell of the $418,000 suburban ranch and quietly
demanded to see all tax returns, pay stubs, payment receipts, and bank
statements for the last seven years. Katie was all ready to spill the beans
about the wallet, but Clint would have none of it. He knew that if the Federal
government ever got their hands on a source of unlimited cash . . . well, look
how far in debt the country already was. Politicians with a magic wallet? That
could not be allowed. He’d go to jail first.
By the time the agents left,
indictments soon to come for fraud, money laundering and God only knew what
other charges, Clint and Katie were poised between a shit and a sweat, their
fight-or-flight mechanisms in high gear. They opted for flight.
While Katie started packing stuff
new Ram four-wheel drive pickup, he took the Lexus and went to pull the kids
out of school. Upon his return, they packed kids, dogs, cat, and themselves
into the truck and lit a shuck for Tennessee. The magic wallet was still
working fine, covering all the bills, including the cost of the AR-15 rifle and
ammo they bought just before they crossed out of Pennsylvania.
Within a few days, they were
settled into a
modest cabin on a small lake buried back in the hills and, at about the same
time, they officially went on fugitive status with the feds. They carefully
avoided going into town together. They always paid cash for everything. They kept
to themselves, and hunted, and fished, and life went on.
Then Katie made a mistake and
called her sister
in Maryland from her cell phone while she was in town, shopping.
An operator at the NSA flagged
and recorded the
call and emailed it to an agent at the IRS. The exact cell tower that the call
went through was pinpointed and the hunt was narrowed. Twelve million illegal
immigrants went about their daily grind, unmolested by the federal government, while
the La Rue family was mercilessly hunted down.
The agents camped in the town
where the cell
phone call was made, set up surveillance, and waited. By the time Katie came to
town and did it again, almost a million dollars of taxpayer money had been
wasted trying to prosecute people who had yet to break any laws.
As the IRS agents took Katie
into custody in
front of the hardware store, a small man in a blue Prius drove by, observing
the action. This was getting good, he thought, but it was about to get better.
Katie gave up the location of
the cabin in about
five minutes. No torture required. Katie had always been a good girl, and she
had been taught to obey authority figures. Did Clint have any weapons? Yes, he
had a new rifle. What kind of rifle?
It was an AR-something. Aha. An assault
rifle. The agents parked her in the county jail to await further developments.
That was why she never got to
see the FBI SWAT
team move in on the cabin, and her husband heroically defend his right to Life,
Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, not to mention his right to protection
from unreasonable search and his right to keep and bear arms.
At least the SWAT team didn’t
set the cabin
afire or kill the kids.
When it was all said and done,
Katie only told
one small lie. She had to admit she didn’t have any idea where Clint got his
money. When the FBI handed over his personal effects, the wallet was in there.
Katie’s spending habits
were much more modest
than Clint’s had been. But it was nice that she was able to cover his final
expenses so handily.
~~ END ~~