Mr. and Mrs. Jones are having breakfast before work. She is going over the month’s bills and he is reading the newspaper.
"Honey," she says, brow furrowed. He absentmindedly passes her the honey server. "No, listen," she says. "The way it looks to me, no matter how I figure it or calculate it, we’ll probably have to pay for gas for the cars with Timmy’s soccer fees."
Mr. Jones looks over the corner of his paper at her. "The devil you say!" he exclaims. "Timmy can’t play soccer?"
She shakes her head. "No, apparently not. And it looks like we won’t be going to the movies on Saturdays anymore. We need every cent we can get, and the budget’s busted."
"Man!" Mr. Jones says, looking back at his paper. "And I was just reading the movie reviews."
Mrs. Jones’ fingers fly over her calculator and she looks up at the newspaper he is holding. "’Oil Companies Post Record Profits,’" she reads aloud. "No wonder. By the way, dear, we’re also going to have to quit the eating out for lunch in favor of sandwiches."
"Ham or bologna?" he asks without looking at her. "Says here folks in Iran looked at each other cross-eyed and that’s when the price of oil hit $75 a barrel."
"Definitely bologna," she nods. "If we do all that, we might be able to afford the gasoline to keep going to work and picking the kids up from school. I’m glad we traded in our Chevy for a Toyota!"
"It was hard going foreign," he admits, turning back to the paper. "Wow, GM just announced they lost $10 billion last year."
"I know how they feel," she says. She fiddles with the papers and calculator again. "Uh-oh."
"Uh-oh," she repeats. "There goes the barbecue this weekend with the Fitches."
He folds the paper over, aghast. "No!"
"Yes," she grimaces. "Our electrical bill is through the roof!"
Mr. Jones looks up at the roof, but all he can see is a blue tarp. "Wouldn’t be the first thing to go through there," he said.
"Well, we expected it," Mrs. Jones says. "Remember, they sent us a letter saying the state public service commission had given them the A-OK to go up on rates to repair hurricane damage to the electrical system."
They both look up at the blue tarp covering the hole in their roof. "Yeah, I remember," Mr. Jones says. "Funny nobody asked us our permission."
"Do you think I could ask Mr. Hartward and you could ask Mr. Friar for a raise to help us get our roof fixed since the insurance won’t pay it?" she ponders.
"Why not? The electrical company is getting a raise from us to fix their hurricane damage. Can’t the state public service commission do the same for us?"
He shakes his head. "We don’t count, we’re just taxpayers."
"Didn’t the electrical company have insurance?"
"Dunno. Guess not."
She shakes her head. "Well maybe we can take some money out of our savings to fix the roof."
He thinks a moment. "That little guy Juan and his brothers Julio and Martinez put that tarp up what, six months ago? We never got an insurance check for that hole?"
"Not a cent," she says.
"Unbelievable," he says. "We’ll have to dip into the savings again, I guess. Didn’t the electrical company have savings for a rainy day?"
"I dunno." She looks at more paperwork. "Oh, by the way, our insurance premium went up!"
"You’re joshing me," he says, wide-eyed.
"There goes your golf club dues, and I guess I’ll have to give up my pokeno game."
"Let me guess…" he begins.
She nods gravely. "Yep. Insurance commission. Let ‘em go up 50 percent on their rates. So we have to pay half as much more now."
They both look at the hole in their roof and the blue tarp wonderingly.
"And they cut our coverage to exclude wind damage," she says offhandedly.
They stare at the tarp a little longer.
"If a 747 drops a cow through our roof will they pay for that?" he asks.
"I don’t know," she admits. "But if there’s a nuclear war, we’re doomed."
"How long have we had that policy?" he asks.
"Um," she looks over the paperwork, "Eighteen years. Same as the mortgage."
They return to their duties, her to the bills and calculator, him to the paper.
"Says here that Congress just raised the cap on the national debt," he mentions.
They look at each other sadly.
"We’re going to have to cancel the paper, too," she announces.
"Just as well," he says. "No news is good news. All I read about is the Conservatives and Liberals trying to one-up each other. It’s like watching kids on the playground at recess."
"Honey," she asks, "are we Conservative or Liberal?"
"Neither," Mr. Jones says. "We can’t afford the dues."
"Well then, what are we, exactly?"