Monday 18 September 2023

Platinum by Jim Bates, lemonade

I had been doing research on an article I was writing when I came across a story in one of those online blogs that were so popular in the first part of the twenty-first century. This one was written in 2022. The blogger’s name is Jared. I think it’s his first posting. It certainly is his last. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

Hi. My name’s Jared. I’m addicted to my credit card - my treasured platinum one. Or was. I don’t know, maybe I still am. Addicted, I mean. Anyway, the point is I’m trying to break my habit. My counselor suggested I share my story so I thought I’d give it a try.

I’ll never forget how it all started. My wife Brittany and I had just returned home from a long weekend up north on Lake Superior. It had been nice to get away, but we were already bemoaning the amount of money we’d spent for two nights at the swanky hotel, The Inn On The Lake, not to mention the four-star meals we’d eaten and the souvenirs we’d purchased. Plus, I’d secretly bought Brit a Lake Superior agate pendant for her birthday the following month. My credit card was maxed out.

We were sorting through the mail when Brit took one look at the envelope addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins and screamed. “Yea! I’ll bet this is it!”

            I dropped the stack of bills I was dutifully sifting through and hurried to her side. “Is it…?” I peered eagerly over her shoulder. “Is it what I think it is?”

            Brit ripped open the envelope, her big blue eyes wide with excitement. She pulled out the letter and quickly scanned it. “It is!” she grinned, nodding at me. An excited sheen of perspiration appeared on her forehead. “Look.” She held up a sheet of paper. “It’s an application.”

            “Oh. My. God,” I said. A grin exploded on my face from ear to ear. “I can’t believe it.” I’m not a demonstrative man by nature, but I couldn’t help myself. I started dancing around the room waving the letter above my head. “Yahoo!!”

            Brit grabbed me by the shoulders and turned me so I was facing her. “Believe it, honey-bun.” She leaped into my arms and wrapped her long legs around my waist. “We’ve finally made it.”

            “Our own platinum credit cards!” I gushed.

            “One for each of us!” she added. Her eyes were sparkling with unbridled excitement. “I’m so happy!”

I began kissing her passionately. She returned my kisses just as enthusiastically if not even more so. Wow! So this is what it’s like to be among the financial elites! Access to all the money we want and a rockin’ sex life to boot. Wow and WOW! Who said dreams don’t come true? Ours just had. Big time! No more gold cards for us. No sirree. It was platinum all the way, baby. One for each of us. Could life get any better? No way.

            We wasted zero time. We filled out the application online and sent it in. We were approved immediately. It was so easy!

Within six months our lives had changed dramatically. Gone was the tiny two-thousand-square-foot condo in the high-rise in downtown Minneapolis overlooking the Mississippi River. In its place was a steel and glass, two-story, five thousand square foot mansion in a gated community in Lakeview, a suburb south of Minneapolis.

We each purchased his and her Teslas – red for Brit and platinum (of course) for me.

Then there were the new clothes to reflect our new status and new ‘accessories’ (as Brit called them) for our new home: a cook, a maid, and a gardener. To top it all off we hired a butler for when we entertained, which was a lot. After all, if you can’t flaunt it what’s the point?

            No doubt about it, life was good. We were young, both being twenty-eight. We had good jobs: I worked at a prestigious law firm that specialized in personal injury and was on the fast track to becoming a partner in a few years. Brit was a buyer for a chic department store. She had such an eye for fashion and what would be trendy not just three months in the future, but six months or even a year out, that she was paid a handsome salary. There was talk of her becoming part owner. So, yeah, life was good.

            Having that platinum card made it even better. Why pay cash when you could charge? And charge we did.

And there the blog had ended. I’d read it, taking notes as I went along. The article I was writing was for the online magazine Pandemonium. The editor had asked me to come up with something on spending habits now in 2070 and comparing them to how it was back in Jared’s time, nearly fifty years ago.

It was an interesting assignment because it was on a subject I’d never really thought about. Nowadays, of course, we are all given a stipend to live on. There are no rich people anymore like there were back in Jared’s time. Or poor people, either, for that matter but, that’s a story for another time. Nowadays, of course, all of us live on the same income.

            So, I wrote my article, being careful not to ruffle any feathers of the powers that be, and gave it to my editor. Then I went home to my wife Jackie.

            “How’d it go?” she asked when I walked into our living space, a one-bedroom apartment in the Citi Center complex. She meant the story.

            “Fine,” I told her. Shakira already read it. She told me that she liked it. It’ll run a few months from now in the August edition.

            “That’s good.” Jackie mused my hair. Then she turned and stepped to the kitchen on the other side of the room. You hardly noticed her limp.

            We sat down for a meal of what we called Muck, a mixture of soy paste and vitamins. It’s pretty tasteless, but, you know, healthy. We ate in silence, not talking much. When we were done, I cleared the table and washed the dishes. I made us some herbal tea and joined Jackie at the table. I set the cups down with a soy cookie for each of us.

Jackie had been scanning her phone. She looked up when I set down the tea. “Thanks,” she said and took a tiny sip. “You know, I’ve been thinking about that story you wrote.”

            “Oh, yeah? What?” I asked. I was looking through my phone. Nothing interesting was going on. I sighed. Watching programs on our phones was our only form of entertainment. In the last few years, the air outside had turned too polluted for us to go for a walk. Plus, there was talk of another pandemic surfacing its ugly head, so going outside was risky. But we’d been forced to be inside most of our entire marriage and were used to it.

            “I wonder what ever happened to Jared.”

            “Really?” I set down my phone and turned to her.

Jackie was thirty-five, the same age as me. We’d been married for fifteen years to take advantage of the extra money we received for a “marriage stipend” to encourage monogamy. We had no children. Again, our choice. We were given extra money not to have kids. You know, overpopulation, lack of food. That kind of thing.

            “Yeah, really,” Jackie said, reaching across the table and taking my hand. “I’m curious.”

            I smiled. Jackie had always been curious. It was one of the things I liked about her. She was a research scientist, looking into ways to produce new food. The way we thought about it, and just about every other sane person you talked to, anything would be an improvement on Muck.

            “Well, in that case, you’re in for a surprise.”


“I happen to know exactly what happened to him.”


            “Yeah.” I took a sip of tea. “I interviewed him for the article.”
            “No kidding?”

“Yeah. I tracked him down.”

Jackie sipped her tea. “Cool. How’d that go?”

            “Good.” I smiled. “He was quite talkative. I think he was lonely.”


            “Yeah. He’s still here in Minnesota. Apparently, he never left. He’s living up north in Duluth in a retirement home.”

            “Still alive. Hm,” she mused. “Imagine that.” She took a bite of her cookie. “How old is he?”

            “Nearly eighty.”

            She chewed slowly, thinking, I’m sure, about her own situation. The doctors had given her less than two years to live. “What’d you talk about?”

            “I read you that blog entry of his, right?”

            “Yeah. It was interesting.”

            “Well, I asked him whatever happened to him and his wife.”

“His wife, Brit?”


            “So what happened?”

            “Guess,” I said, joking with her. It was nice to chat like this. We didn’t do it much anymore.

            Jackie grinned, reached across the table, and slugged me in the arm. “Mark! Tell me.”

            “Okay, okay,” I said, rubbing my arm and pretending she’d hurt me. She didn’t. She didn’t have much strength anymore. “I’ll tell you.”

            I took another sip of tea and said, “It was a sad story, but I suppose one all too common back then. They bought lots of stuff, accumulated lots of possession, and bought and bought and kept getting further and further into debt. Creditors started sending them notices which they ignored. Then their bank wouldn’t honor their card.”

            “They each had one, right? Platinum?”

            “Right.” I sighed and sipped my tea. “They were able to get more cards and it just got out of hand. Their spending, I mean.”

            Jackie nodded. “Sounds like it.” But I could see she was drifting and having a tough time focusing.

            I hurried along. “So, to put it in a nutshell, they lost everything and had to go through what they called bankruptcy. Their credit was shot, their reputations were ruined. It affected their work and their relationship. They lost their jobs and got divorced.”

            At the word “divorce” Jackie lifted her eyes to mine. “They got divorced?”

            “Yeah. It was pretty bad.”

            “So, what eventually happened?”

            Jackie was getting tired, I could tell. Time to wrap it up. “I guess Brit married some clothes buyer she met in New York City.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Jared lost touch with her.”

            “What happened to him?”

            I smiled. “Well, that’s kind of interesting.”

            “How so?” Jackie leaned forward on the table. She’d perked up. It was good to see her so engaged.

            “He became a teacher.”


            “Yeah. He told me that during the time they were going through bankruptcy he’d gone into counseling and tried to turn his life around. He’d always been interested in science, so he became a science teacher.”

            Jackie nodded thoughtfully. “Cool. Good for him. Did he enjoy it?”

            “Yes. Very much. He said that one of the first things he did was to learn about platinum.”

            Jackie laughed. “Seriously? That’s ironic.”

            “Yeah. He found out about how rare it was. Still is, of course.” She nodded pensively but didn’t say anything. “He learned how it was used in catalytic convertors back then because they were impervious to corrosion.” More nodding from Jackie. “How, because of its rarity, it was associated with prestige; like in the record industry back then how one-million albums sold was considered platinum and how it was considered prestigious to own a platinum credit card.”

Jackie looked at me. “Even though it was made of plastic.”

            I nodded. “Exactly. Like the one that got him and his wife into so much trouble.” I was silent for a moment. Then I said, “They used it in watches and things like that because it was so durable.”

            “But rare,” Jackie said.

            “Yeah. Rare.”

            We were both quiet then, thinking. Jackie’s illness was rare, too. The doctors couldn’t do anything for her. Our decision was to live our lives together the best way we knew how. There was talk of using valves made of platinum as part of her treatment. However, the doctors cautioned us that such thinking could be dangerous. “We’re still many years away,” one of them had said.

            Jackie took my hand and squeezed it. “So, Jared ended up doing okay?”

            “Yeah, he did. He taught science at the high school in Agate Bay up north of Duluth. He taught biology, chemistry, and physics. I guess he liked chemistry the best.”

            Jackie nodded. “That’s good to hear.”

            Chemistry was what Jackie had been trained in when she was in school. She had an aptitude for it, hence her ability as a research scientist. But I could see she was getting tired. “Do you want to lie down?” I asked.

            She smiled at me. “Sure. That’d be nice.”

            I folded out the couch and made our bed. We stretched out on top of the covers. I put my arm around her and she lay her head on my chest. After a few minutes, I could feel her breathing slow down. Outside, through our one window, the light faded from the sky. Next to me, I could feel Jackie’s heart beating. The doctors had said that her heart valves were wearing out. Platinum valves were thought to be a possible solution, but they were still many years in the future from being made viable. Plus, how’d we pay for them? We didn’t have all that much money, and, you know, credit cards like the one that got Jared and his wife into so much trouble years ago were things of the past.

            As if she could read my mind, Jackie stirred and said, “You know, Mark, I was wondering.”

            It was nice to be talking. I’m glad she still wanted to. “About what, sweetheart?”

            “Do you think it would be possible for me to meet Jared?”

            “I suppose so. Why?”

            “He sounds kind of intriguing,” she said. “He went through a lot and made something of his life. It’d be interesting to talk to him.” She was silent for a few moments and then said. “Plus, you know, he likes science. Like me.”

            I grinned and held her tight. “Sure,” I said. “I’m sure he’d love to talk to you. As I understand it, he doesn’t have many friends up there. I’ll send him a message. We can set up a video chat. Would you like that?”

            “Yeah, I would.” Jackie nestled closer and kissed my cheek. “I’d like that a lot.”

            We fell asleep.

            The next day I arranged for a video chat with Jared. It went well. Jackie and he got along great, so much so that they now chat on a weekly basis. The staff at the nursing home tell me they haven’t seen him doing so well in years.

            Jackie’s doctors say the same thing.

            Me? I’m holding out hope that they’ll be able to find a cure for Jackie with those platinum valves. Do I find it ironic that Jared’s problem with a platinum credit card led to him becoming part of the article I wrote that eventually resulted in him and Jackie becoming friends? Yes, I do. Do I care? Not at all. All I care about is Jackie’s happiness. Whether or not platinum plays a role in our future, only time will tell. Until then, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it does. Like Jared told me once, “Those platinum cards ruined my life. And they were just plastic. It’d be wonderful if real platinum could be used to help Jackie.”

            He couldn’t have said it any better.

About the author 

Jim lives in a small town in Minnesota. He loves to write! His stories and poems have appeared in nearly 500 online and print publications. To learn more and to see all of his work, check out his blog at:


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