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Five, maybe six or seven. 0

Dear Bradshaw,

As most of my salary is paid in cash, to avoid keeping large quantities of money in our apartment, I cover rent and other mutual expenses, and then I keep track of the money in Francesca’s bank account. When I need a large amount of cash, she withdraws it for me.

Though I have my own Italian bank account, getting to the bank is impossible because of the hours I work and the hours the bank is open, or at least the hours the bank is supposed to be open. Even if I have a cancellation and can get to the bank while it’s open, there’s always a line that lasts an eternity and for which I have no time because I have other lessons to teach. So managing my money is easier using Francesca’s account.

Last month I needed money to pay royalties to Yves for his Mark and the Molecule Maker illustrations. He’s living in London now but was in town for the holidays. Since Francesca worried she could never get to the bank and back in time to get ready for work in the morning, she gave me her credit card and I went on foot to her bank’s ATM, which is a few blocks away. Previously, however, we’d had a minor debate, with me suggesting we go together.

“It’ll take only five minutes,” I said, “and afterward you can head straight to your car and then drive to work.”

She insisted the chore would take 15 minutes at least, and that she didn’t have that much time.

“No way,” I said. “Not 15 minutes. Five, maybe six or seven.”

Leaving the apartment with a chronometer, I took the elevator downstairs. Before exiting the front door to our building, I saw rain drizzling down. I immediately took the elevator upstairs, and when I entered the apartment, Francesca said, “You’re back already? You ran!”

Keep in mind that I’d been gone no more than 30 seconds, maybe a minute, and yet she was convinced I’d sprinted to the bank (about 150 yards), went through the rigmarole of withdrawing the money, and then returned in less than a minute, which is a feat Flash Gordon himself couldn’t have accomplished.

Remember this incident the next time you take Francesca’s side in my squabbling complaints and sarcastic laments. You may want to reconsider whose side you’re on, pal. Meanwhile, in case you’re curious, when I returned from the bank, the chronometer read: six minutes and 25 seconds, and no, I didn’t run . . . much.

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