America strolled along the sidewalk in Seattle. It was a beautiful day (although overcast as usual), the Space Needle looked gorgeous, and best of all, nowhere to be seen was—


America cringed and checked a shop window to look behind him. Sure enough, China was quickly walking toward him. Ever-so-casually, he sprinted down the street and rounded the corner. China put on a burst of speed and came around the corner as well. "Alfred, we need to talk—"

"Who is this 'Alfred' you speak of?" said a mustached man with a straw hat in a thick German accent. "My name is Bob!"

China face-palmed himself. "Alfred, take off that silly disguise-aru. I just want to talk."

America looked surprised as he took off the mustache and hat. "How'd you know it was me?"

". . . let's just say that you may want to buy better disguises-aru. At any rate, your clothes gave you away."

He looked down at his outfit. "Oh."

"Here, come with me-aru. We can talk in that café."

America and China entered the café on the corner, sat down, and ordered a coffee and a tea respectively.

China pressed his fingers together and said, "I noticed you've been avoiding me all week-aru."

America started to protest when China continued. "I suppose you think that I came to collect the money-aru?"

"Yeah . . ."

"You're almost right. I have a proposition for you, America, one that is—thank you-aru!" The waitress had served them their drinks. Each took a sip.

China spoke again. "A proposition, as I said, one that is in your best interest to accept-aru."

. . .

"America, are you even listening-aru?"

"Huh?" America looked up from his pyramid of small jam and cream containers. "Oh yeah. Proposition. Best interest. Go on."

China eyed him suspiciously before continuing. "This proposition, if accepted, will take the interest off of your debt-aru."

America frowned. "Just the interest?"

"And any future interest-aru. I believe that the interest is rising even as we speak, every second of every day-aru."

"Hold on . . ." America took out his smart-phone and speed-dialed a number. He waited a moment, then said, "Hi, boss! It's me! Listen, I know we owe China some money, and—" he paused. "Okay, fine, not just some money, a whole lot. So I was wondering, how much of it is just interest?" he paused again. "Yeah, I'll hold." America continued stacking containers, this time trying to get it in as high of a vertical tower as possible. Then his eyes widened – apparently his boss had come back. "Holy. . . . That much? Really? Yeah . . ." He listened for a moment. "Because China's talking to me, and I might be able to get the interest off of the debt. Call you back!" He hung up and faced China again, frowning to see that his tower had collapsed.

"Let's hear this deal of yours."

China smiled. "My deal-aru . . . is that for one entire month, you do whatever I tell you to do. I tell you to get me a drink, you get me a drink. I tell you to shine my shoes, you shine my shoes-aru."

America thought for about five seconds. "Okay, deal. Seems easy enough."

"Thank you. I promise I won't ask you to do anything illegal-aru."

"So this would be at your house?"

"Yes, it would-aru."

". . . when should I start?"

"Today's the 30th, so tomorrow. And don't forget, tomorrow is the start of a 31-day month-aru."

"Right. Hold on, calling boss back." He dialed the number again and waited. "Yeah, boss? I'm staying at China's place for the next month. Think you can handle it without me?" he waited, then laughed. "Good one, boss! See you next month! Or today, I'll need to pack some things." He hung up again and put it away.

"Aaaand I have to go pack up, China! Bye!" He ran out the door.

He seemed in an awful hurry. . . . thought China.

"Your check, ma'am!" The waitress said cheerfully, laying a paper on the table.

. . .


If you were wondering what America's boss said, it was something like: "We should be able to get twice as much done without you here, Alfred."