Billions and Electricity

The Billionaire had weighed his options carefully, and then decided that he had too many options to weigh carefully, so he went with his gut instinct and motorcycled out to the countryside with a bag of spare clothes. There were philanthropic meetings that he was missing, a date with his ex-girlfriend who wanted to be reconsidered as a girlfriend, and the looming task of adding another wing to his house because Frank Gehry offered, but he declined to tell any of his obligations anything, and loved his heart beating his chest as he escaped everything. It felt like a dramatic timpani, signaling the end of whatever he was doing and the beginning of something else.

The girl with electricity that coursed through her body sat underneath a tree with a book that she had gotten from the library. It was all about how to make a dugout home, and she thought that this hill and this tree would be perfect. She already had dirt under her fingers from her job as grave-digger, and she longed to not only set the dead underneath the earth, but herself as well. Why did corpses get all the fun of constant cool and natural shelter? The book had dirt stains on its pages and seemed to hold an endless amount of fine sand. She alternated between learning and daydreaming about Bilbo Baggins.

The Billionaire stopped at a diner for breakfast, and he wore his sunglasses inside so that he wouldn’t be recognized. He felt pretty sure that no one in this hamlet would recognize him, due to a lack of subscriptions to Forbes magazine, a fact he had checked with the Forbes editor-in-chief two months before.

He had been on the cover of Forbes magazine twice – once as the youngest billionaire, and again when he bought all that ocean from the UN to make a giant, man-made island. Both times, he had been photographed by Annie Leibovitz, and both times, he felt like he looked too fat.

The electric girl was on a hill half a mile away from the hill she had come to think of as Her Hill. She was sketching and doing a survey of the land; the topsoil and the undersoil – it all seemed ideal. Her dugout home was going to be perfect, and she was going to spend her life on it. A labyrinth all her own. She felt giddy at the thought of it and her pencil lines were more erratic the more she thought about it. She set down her pad and her pencil and stared up at the sky instead, listening to the sounds of the earth and wondering what silence sounded like. Death, probably.

The Billionaire traded his custom-built motorcycle for a dirtbike so that he could ride around the countryside without roads. He felt good, being a participant in the Now, rather than the Far Off Future. So many of the things that beared his name were projects in Development Hell, including his island that was mostly built from the concept drawings for the now abandoned EPCOT dream of Walt Disney. He biked off road and felt peaceful, if a bit more deafened than he liked.

The ground rumbled for a full hour under Electric Girl’s feet, steadily growing in volume until she felt like she might scream along with the tremor. When she saw, in the distance, a man driving a dirtbike straight for her tree, she stood out in front of it and felt angry, which was bad news for the electric system of the bike. It shorted, and then the engine died, and the man coasted down one hill and came halfway up hers before he jumped off the bike to look at the machine quizzically.

“Get away from here!” She shouted, running towards the man and then shoving him. The man took off his sunglasses for the first time in days and blinked in the un-shaded daylight.

“Is this your land?” he asked, confused for two reasons now. Here was a bike that stopped working and a girl who was shoving him. The Billionaire was too mild-mannered to be mad or shove back. Instead, he absorbed the shove and fell down.

“No, it’s no one’s land, but it’s my home!” the electric girl said. She was ferocious at the beginning of the sentence, but confused and annoyed at the end.
“Oh,” The Billionaire said. “My name’s David.”

“I’m Claire. Your bike won’t work again. I broke it.” The air crackled between them, which David took to mean that he was falling in love. He didn’t think this a lot, but he had never felt electricity between himself and a girl before.

“How did you break it, Claire?”

The electric girl was going to explain, but when she opened her mouth to do so, she cried instead, and then ran away to the tree. Her illusion of escape was shattered.

“Don’t worry, I’m not mad, I’m just confused,” David said, following. He saw the mud house book propped up on tree roots and put two and two together quickly. “I’ll leave you alone.”

“Wait, David. What are you doing here? I’m sorry about your bike. I promised myself never to break anything again, and yet here I am, breaking your things.”

“I don’t mind, I can always buy new things,” David answered. “I was just trying to escape,” he added.

Claire looked at David and saw in him a kindred spirit. “I’m making a house out of mud so that I can be away from electricity.”

“Why not just join an Amish community?”

“You’re not the first person to suggest that.”

David rolled up his sleeves, happy to be only David, and not David the Billionaire. “Well, can I help?”

Claire looked at his nails, which were pristine, and grabbed his hands, which were soft. “It’s not going to be easy,” she said.

“Good thing I’m not looking for easy,” he answered.

And they both began to dig.

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