"Under your jacket?"
The man, comically adorned in an oversize raincoat and wide-brimmed fedora, put his fingers to his lips. His eyes darted left and right. He leaned toward me.
"Yeah," he whispered.
|Art c/o Nazia|
"A whole empire?" I whispered back, still not believing.
"Sure, why not?" he answered.
"I figured you had stolen watches or drugs or something."
"I got those too- Afghanistan's hot if you're into opiates, otherwise it's parcels of South America."
"Parcels of or parcels from?"
"You're still not getting it," his contempt dripped through his words. "I'm offering empires. Growing, dying, military, commercial, global, regional, local. Whatever you need, babe, I got."
He tapped a hidden pocket and winked as punctuation.
"I'll bite," I said while opening my purse. "What can I get for a twenty?"
"Oh, honey," he sighed. "Oh honey, I can't do much for twenty. You want an empire, you gotta pay empire prices."
"And what's an empire cost?"
"Blood. Your humanity. Basic human decency. You pay that and I can get you an empire."
"What are you even talking about?"
"Media empire - sex tape, minimum. Real estate empire - morality. Military empire - the lives of your citizens as they subsidize your troops. Twenty bucks ain't gonna get you much."
"I don't know if I want to make that kind of trade," I said.
The man shrugged to excess. I started to walk away.
"One sec - I got it!" The man called me back. "A nation. I can get you a nation."
"Twenty bucks will get me a nation?"
"Yeah - throw it at me."
I considered it for a second. My curiosity got the better of me and I forked over the twenty.
"Thanks," the man said and started walking away.
"What - what about my nation?" I demanded.
"DO-NATION!" he yelled and broke into a run.