The Price of Time: A Tale of Love and Wealth

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This is a modern adaptation of O. Henry’s Mammon and the Archer that reveals the power of money to create opportunities and orchestrate events, even in love, while still leaving room for fate and the timeless interventions of Cupid, albeit unseen, to weave their magic.

Tony Rockwall, a self-made millionaire from his venture, Rockwall’s Universal Cleanser, leaned back in his plush chair inside his ultra-modern Manhattan penthouse, smirking as he peered out the panoramic windows.

His neighbor, the highbrow socialite Gregory Van Schuylight Suffolk-Jones, strutted to his sleek electric car, his nose wrinkled in disdain at the avant-garde architecture of Tony’s abode, dubbed by some as the “Cleanser Castle.”

“Elitist statue come to life,” Tony scoffed, watching Gregory. “One of these days, he’s going to freeze up like one of his own precious sculptures. Maybe I should deck this place out in neon lights and see if that gets his snob nose up in the air even more.”

Then, with the same booming voice that had once commanded attention across the wide-open spaces of Kansas, Tony didn’t bother with a bell but bellowed, “Mike!” as if he were calling over a prairie wind.

“Let my son know I want to see him before he heads out,” Tony instructed the staff member who promptly appeared.

When young Ricky Rockwall sauntered into the room, Tony put down his tablet, gazing at him with a mix of stern affection and amusement, his large, tanned face framed by a halo of white hair. He shuffled his feet, jingling his keychain as he looked his son over.

“Ricky,” Tony began, “how much do you shell out for your body wash?”

Ricky, freshly graduated and still adjusting to his father’s unpredictable nature, was momentarily taken aback. “Uh, around $50 for a supply, Dad.”

“And your wardrobe?”

“Maybe around $600 on average?”

“You’ve got class,” Tony declared. “I’ve heard of these youngsters throwing away $200 on designer soap and not blinking at dropping a grand for a single outfit. You’ve got just as much in your bank account to burn through, yet you stick to what’s sensible.

I still use our family brand—not just out of nostalgia, but because it’s top-quality. Anytime you’re spending more than a few bucks on body wash, you’re just paying for fancy smells and a pretty bottle. But $50 is reasonable for a guy in your shoes.

Like I’ve always said, you’re a true gentleman. They claim it takes three generations to forge a gentleman. Bull. Money speeds up the process. It made you one.

Heck, it almost polished me up to pass as one. I’m practically as refined and unbearable as our blue-blooded neighbors who toss and turn at night, agonizing over having me for a neighbor.”

“Some things can’t be bought with money,” Ricky pointed out, a shadow crossing his face.

“Now, don’t start with that,” Tony replied, visibly taken aback. “I’d bet my last dollar on money’s power. I’ve scoured every source up to ‘Y’ in search of something money can’t secure, and it looks like I might have to start on the supplementary materials soon. My money’s on wealth, every single time. Name one thing it can’t buy.”

“For starters,” Ricky countered, a hint of irritation in his voice, “it can’t buy a spot in the upper echelons of society.”

“Ha! Think again,” Tony boomed, the embodiment of confidence. “Would those ‘upper echelons’ even exist if the first wealthy pioneers hadn’t had the cash to make their mark? Money opens all doors.”

Ricky sighed, unconvinced.

“And that brings me to my point,” Tony said, his tone dropping a notch from its usual bravado. “That’s why I wanted to chat. Something’s off with you, kid. I’ve noticed it for a couple of weeks now. Spit it out. I could probably get my hands on a cool eleven billion in a day, not counting the property. If it’s a health thing, the yacht’s ready to jet off to the Bahamas anytime.”

“Pretty close, Dad. You’re not far off.”

“Aha,” Tony zeroed in, his interest piqued. “Who is she?”

Ricky started pacing the room, drawn out by the genuine concern and camaraderie from his rough-around-the-edges dad.

“Why don’t you just ask her out?” Tony prodded. “She’d be crazy to turn you down. You’ve got the cash, the looks, and you’re a good guy. Your slate’s clean. No trace of that family soap business on you. Sure, you went to college, but she’ll let that slide.”

“I haven’t had the chance,” Ricky admitted.

“Then make one,” Tony urged. “Take her out somewhere simple, like a walk in the park, or a coffee, or even from a fancy dinner. A chance? Nonsense!”

“You don’t understand the high society scene, Dad. She’s right in the middle of it, her every moment booked weeks in advance. I need her, Dad, or this city’s just a swamp to me. And I can’t just write to her—I can’t do that.”

“Come on!” Tony scoffed. “Are you telling me that with all this money, you can’t secure a couple of hours with her?”

“It’s too late for that. She’s off to Europe for two years, leaving the day after tomorrow at noon. I’ll see her briefly tomorrow night. She’s staying with her aunt in Larchmont now.

I can’t go there, but I’m to meet her at Grand Central tomorrow for the 8:30 train. We’ll rush down Broadway to the theater, where she and her mother will join their friends.

Do you really think she’ll entertain a proposal in that brief ride? No way. And at the theater or after? Impossible. Dad, this is one situation your money can’t fix. If money could buy time, the rich would live forever. There’s no way to have a real talk with Miss Lantry before she leaves.”

“Alright, Ricky,” Tony replied, undeterred. “You head on to your club now. I’m just glad it’s not something serious. But remember, occasionally show some respect to the almighty dollar. You think money can’t buy time? Sure, you can’t purchase eternity, but I’ve seen time slow down when it passes through a field of gold.”

That evening, Aunt Ellen, with her gentle demeanor and a life weighed down by the riches she barely noticed, wandered into Tony’s high-tech home office, disrupting his news browsing with a sigh-laden monologue about the heartache of young lovers.

“He spilled his guts,” Tony said, stifling a yawn. “Told him my bank account was wide open for him. Then he starts trashing money, saying it can’t crack society’s code, not even with a squad of billionaires.”

“Oh, Tony,” Aunt Ellen sighed, her heart heavy, “I wish you wouldn’t prioritize money so. Wealth means nothing when it comes to genuine love. Love conquers all. If only he had confessed his feelings sooner! She would never have turned down our Ricky. But I’m afraid it’s too late now. He’s missed his chance to speak his heart. All your fortune can’t guarantee your son’s happiness.”

The following evening at 8, Aunt Ellen pulled out an old, gold ring from a time-worn box and handed it to Ricky.

“Wear this tonight,” she implored him. “Your mother gave it to me. She said it was lucky for love. She wanted you to have it when you found your true love.”

Ricky accepted the ring with reverence, slipping it onto his pinkie, where it stuck halfway. He then casually dropped it into his pocket, in true masculine fashion, before calling his ride.

At the station, he managed to find Miss Lantry amidst the evening rush at 8:32.

“We shouldn’t keep your mother waiting,” she reminded him.

“To Wallack’s Theatre, and step on it!” Ricky directed the driver with earnest.

They darted up and down the city’s veins, from the sunset’s soft pastures to the dawn’s rugged peaks.

Near Thirty-fourth Street, Ricky hastily popped open the cab’s roof hatch, claiming a precious ring had slipped off. “Just a sec,” he assured, diving out in search of the lost item.

In that brief moment, a jam of epic proportions ensnared them: cabs, trucks, and trolleys converging in a mechanical maelstrom, trapping them in a standstill of historic scale.

“Why aren’t we moving?” Miss Lantry pressed, visibly annoyed.

Peering out, Ricky witnessed the chaos—a gridlock not seen in the lifetime of even the most seasoned New Yorkers.

“I’m so sorry,” he apologized, resettling beside her. “Looks like we’re stuck here. My fault for dropping the ring.”

“Let me see it then,” Miss Lantry sighed, resigning to their fate. “I’ve always found theatres overrated.”

Later that night, a light tap on Tony’s door was followed by Aunt Ellen’s angelic figure, gleaming with news.

“They’re engaged, Tony,” she whispered. “She’s agreed to marry Ricky. Their journey halted by a colossal traffic jam, giving them hours to connect.”

“And, Tony, let’s never idolize money over love again. A simple ring, a symbol of true, unselfish love, led to Ricky’s joy. He dropped it, and in recovering it, they were caught in the blockade. There, amidst the standstill, he won her heart. Love, not wealth, was the key.”

“Fine by me,” Tony grumbled, happy for his son but eager to return to his reading. “I said I’d spare no expense for him, but—”

“But what use was your money here?” Aunt Ellen pressed.

“Ellen,” Tony sighed, his attention half on his adventure book. “My pirate’s in deep trouble. His ship’s sinking, and he values money too much to just let it sink. Can we talk later?”

The story could end here, on a note of love triumphing over wealth. But truth, like life, often takes unexpected turns.

The next day, a man with work-worn hands and a garish tie, introducing himself as Kelly, arrived at Tony Rockwall’s door, and immediately ushered into the library.

Tony, leaning back in his ergonomic chair, swiveled slightly to face his vault-sized safe, then turned to his computer to initiate a secure transaction. “So, it was quite the production, huh? You said it cost around $5,000?”

“I ended up spending $300 from my own pocket,” Kelly explained, standing confidently in the sleek, high-tech library. “Had to bump up the budget a bit. Got the rideshares and private cars for around $50 each, but the larger delivery trucks and dual-engine hauls went for $100.

The drivers were looking for $100 each, and for the bigger rigs fully loaded, I had to shell out $200. The security details hit my wallet the hardest—$500 for a couple of them, and $200 to $250 for the rest. But man, did it go off without a hitch, Mr. Rockwall? Hollywood couldn’t have staged it better. And all done without a single rehearsal! Hit the timing to the millisecond. It was a complete standstill around that statue for hours.”

“$1,300, then,” Tony said, as he completed the electronic transfer. “Here’s your payment, Kelly—your initial thousand plus the $300 you fronted. You’re not one to undervalue the green, are you, Kelly?”

“Me?” Kelly scoffed, a grin spreading across his face. “I’d take down the guy who thought being broke was a good idea.”

As Kelly turned to leave, Tony couldn’t resist a final jab. “Just curious, Kelly, but in the midst of that orchestrated chaos, you didn’t happen to see a chubby kid running around without a stitch on, shooting arrows, did you?”

Kelly paused, puzzled. “Uh, no, Mr. Rockwall. Didn’t catch sight of anything like that. If there was a kid causing trouble, I’m sure the security teams would’ve dealt with him before I even arrived.”

“I figured as much,” Tony laughed, the sound rich and warm. “Well, take care, Kelly.”

Also Read: The Last Leaf or The Man Who Planted Trees

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