Conflict of Interest

Flash Fiction Month 2019, Day 23

Challenge  #10: Write a story involving something that sparkles, and someone who wants to steal it.

“On behalf of Ólafsson and Sons, I’d like to thank you for banking with us and—”

“Ahem.”

Grundi Gunnarsson and Frig Hjörleifsdóttir turned to stare at the dragon who had just poked his head (and most of his neck) through the window.

“I don’t mean to interrupt,” said the dragon, “but I have a proposition that I think you’ll want to hear.”

“I’m sorry,” said Frig, “but this isn’t a good time.”

“I’m afraid it’s the only time.” The dragon poked its beaky snout towards the cloth pouch on the table. “It pertains to those sparkly jewels of yours, so naturally I must put the idea forward before you entrust them to the care of this establishment.”

“I really don’t think that—”

“Hang on.” Grundi put up a hand. “Let’s at least hear the creature out.”

“Well, Ólafsson and Sons is a fine institution with plenty of satisfied customers who trust them with their treasure, but have you at least considered the dragon-guarding option?”

“No,” Grundi admitted, “I have not.”

“It’s a little old-fashioned, though, isn’t it?” put in Frig.

“You could also say it’s a well established tradition.” The dragon huffed a cloud of smog.

“I’m sorry, but if you want to smoke you’ll have to go outside.”

“I am outside.”

“Ah.”

There was a pause.

Frig turned back to Grundi. “If you choose to leave your jewels with us, we’ll pay you interest on your balance. You’ll get more treasure without even having to do anything!”

“Ooh!” said Grundi. “That does sound good.”

“Still doesn’t keep up with inflation, though, does it?” the dragon pointed out.

“It’s more than you’d do,” returned Frig.

“It is indeed.” The dragon’s eyes narrowed. “Why don’t you tell him how you get that extra treasure.”

“Well…” Frig folded her fingers together. “We use the capital you provide us to make a diverse range of investments that generate income. We then use that income to cover our payroll and other business expenses, pay dividends to our stockholders, and of course pass to our customers the agreed-upon interest as a percentage of the value of their current balance.”

“They’re spending your treasure,” summarised the dragon.

“It’s not quite like that…”

“Eeeyeaaah…” Grundi winced. “I’m with the dragon on this one, it sounds as though it’s exactly like that. What do you do when people want to get their treasure back?”

“Well, it’s not a problem as long as they don’t all do it at once…”

“What would you do with my jewels?” Grundi asked the dragon.

“Put them in a big pile with everybody else’s and sleep on top of it.”

Frig made a disapproving little noise.

“Why do you want a bank?” asked the dragon. “So your stuff won’t get stolen. Who’s going to steal stuff from under a sleeping dragon? Nobody.”

Grundi nodded. “That is a good point.”

“See? It’s basically the same as keeping it under your mattress, only there’s someone big and scaly who breathes fire lying on that mattress at all times. Simple, safe, no-frills.”

“But you do have frills!” shouted Frig.

“I know. I do wish you’d get a wider window, by the way: they get scrunched every time I do this.”

“So stop doing it, then!”

“If the success of your business depends on customers not knowing about the alternatives,” said the dragon, significantly, “it can’t be very good, can it?”

“Yeah,” said Grundi. “I have to say, the dragon really does sound like the safer option. I’m sure Ólafsson and Sons is great for people who want to live a little dangerously, but I’m a simple guy and I just want to know I’m leaving my treasure with someone who’ll look after it.”

With some difficulty, the dragon popped its head back out of the window. The ground trembled as it pulled up alongside the building and stuck its arm through the window.

“So do we have a deal?”

“Sure.” Grundi shook one of its mighty claws, then picked up his bag of jewels and handed it over.

“Excellent! You won’t regret it.”

The dragon pulled the bag out through the window. A moment later, there was some extremely loud crunching. A few emerald fragments dropped onto the windowsill.

“Mmmmmm.” The dragon tossed the empty pouch back inside the room. “Thanks. You can have that back.”

“By Odin!” Grundi clasped his hands to his head. “I thought you were just going to keep those for me!”

“I still can! You’re welcome to make a withdrawal at any time. I mean, as long as people don’t want theirs back all at once…”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

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