Savings Account for a Cow?
by Henry Suarez
This was my first real check. I’d worked a summer job before and been paid for odd jobs, but this was my first steady job. Don’t be fooled though it’s not like I was minting money, at $7 per hour and working part-time hours I was lucky to pull down $150. Nonetheless, I’d never felt so proud, real money earned by my hard work. Stocking reams of paper at Staples wasn’t back-breaking work but I earned this damn check and acquired a vast knowledge of copier paper. You only live once, splurge for that card stock.
Soon as my shift let out, I wandered down to the check-cashing place to turn this bad boy into cold hard cash. Maybe head down to Sam Goody or The Wiz, pick up that new Ghostface album. The lyrics are a bit unorthodox but he can put together an album.
Waited my turn in line to cash the check and I was floored when the lady said it would be a 5% fee. Get the fuck outta here! She must be crazy, I thought to myself, Uncle Sam already took a third of this thing without doing anything, now these fools want another five on top of that? “Nah I’ll take that back, thank you,” I said.
My dad had cashed one of my summer checks for me and he rounded it up to the next dollar when he paid out, why would I settle for less?
For anyone that hasn’t had the displeasure of the check-cashing place experience, it’s truly depressing. You’re typically greeted at the door by a drunk or homeless person who graciously opens the door in the hopes that you’ll slip them a few bucks on the way out. After you cross the doors into this palace of dreariness, you’re usually met by the usual band of characters, the local building porter cashing his check and then spending half of it on lotto tickets hoping to hit it big, the much too young couple with a stroller waiting for some money being wired to them so they can buy milk for the baby and on the opposite side of the spectrum is the lady wiring money back home to DR so her family can go food shopping and buy her mother’s medicine. It’s like a diagram box of how crappy life is, especially when you can’t have a bank account. I’ll hop off this soapbox and get back to my story.
My father happily agreed to deposit the check for me and said he’d bring me the cash the next day, my CD shopping spree would have to wait another day. The following afternoon I was off from work and so I went straight home after school to catch my dad as soon as he arrived. From the moment he walked through our apartment door my eyes were fixated on him. Watching his every move to see when he would give me my money.
After about 10 minutes he finally asked, “¿Qué es lo que pasa?”
“What happened to the money?” I replied.
Out of his work bag he pulled a small money envelope, he stretched out his arm to hand it to me and as I extended my arm he pulled it back and asked me to have a seat at the table.
What could it be? Or worse what have I done? Is he in need of money? Will I have to give him a percentage in return for everything I’ve received over the years?
We sat down across from each other at the table and he slid the envelope my way. There’s no telling what he’s about to say, so I figured I’d grab it and open it before I’m talked out of it. As expected he rounded the money up, it was already a win. The excitement was overtaking me, physically I was still in the chair but mentally I was on my way to the record store. And then he started, I could tell he was going to preach.
He put his hands together like a Dominican Dr. Evil and stared intently, this is his signature move. I should’ve known a sermon was coming because everything with my dad involved lecturing. Was I better off just giving the 5%?
“Son, you’re starting to earn your own money and I’m proud of you. This is a big step in a man’s life. You’re not independent yet but you’re on the way.” he said.
“On my way? Fuck is he talking about? Is he kicking me out? This is $130, I can barely get an unlimited metro card. I ain’t paying rent,” I thought.
“An important part of life is not just making money, but saving it and investing it, so that one day you’ll hopefully see it grow,” he continued.
“Papi, I’m sitting on a couple of twenties here. I’m lucky if I can buy lunch with this,” I said hoping to avoid a drawn-out ordeal. Guess I’m lucky he’s talking about saving and not about using it to reimburse him.
“That’s where it starts though, sacrifice. You sacrifice buying lunch and you take the leftovers that your mother packs. It’s better for you and you’re not spending unnecessarily,” he rebutted.
“There’s no way I’m taking leftovers with me. ¿Usted cree que yo voy a calentar bacalao en el trabajo? Será para que me boten. Plus what chicks are gonna wanna go out with the dude eating leftover locrio?” I pleaded.
The raised right eyebrow was a sign he was growing tired of my constant interruptions. It was time to change my game plan, so decided I would entertain it.
“Ok, so are you recommending I open a savings account?” I asked, with an inquisitive look.
“That’s a good idea or maybe put it into a sociedad (or susu). You get your money together and buy something that will grow in value. Ahora mismo vamos a comprar unas vacas para la finca. You won’t be ready for this round but we’ll be buying continuously. You put some money into cows and it’ll grow exponentially,” he said.
All I could give back was a blank stare. Open a savings account to purchase cows. God damn cows! The ridiculousness of it just seemed too much. Here I am born and raised in NYC, the financial capital of the world and my father’s investment advice is to buy some cows in a fucking campo back in DR. Not a bond, nor stocks or even a bank CD, but bovine!
“Dad, this sounds like a fantastic idea, it’s a lot for me to process right now but I’ll give it some thought.” It was all I could say, this man was dead serious about this livestock purchase. “I’m going to head out, mind if we continue this another time?” I asked.
He nodded in approval, so I grab my $130 and I was off. Heading straight to the record store and after picking up my CDs I stopped off for a burger and fries. It was a sign that I couldn’t be trusted to own cows, I’d eat all the product.
I never gave the cows another thought. My father either forgot or just decided I wasn’t a worthy investor.
About 6 months later the whole family went to DR for Semana Santa. DR never disappoints: the food, the beaches, the beautiful women, and the ice-cold Presidentes. You haven’t lived until you’ve enjoyed a frosty Presidente in the Dominican sun. “Vestida de novia,” as we say. Even our time in the campo was great. Easter dinner was at my grandmother's house and on the menu was sancocho, which is one of my favs. The one thing I noticed absent from the whole trip was my dad’s prized cows. Where was the investment that would literally change this family’s fortunes?
“Papi, what happened with the cows I haven’t seen a single one?” I asked.
“Didn’t work out with the cows. They got sick and died,” he said matter of factly.
“¡Pero dieron justamente para el sancocho!”
Henry Suarez is an emerging Dominican-American writer from New York City. Residing in Westchester, NY with his wife and daughters. His writing focuses mainly on the immigrant experience, growing up bicultural/bilingual, and his journey through fatherhood.
Aztlan is melting