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April 1, 2007

Sub Prime Mortgages

Tom McLaughlin

Humor by Tom McLaughlin

Roooooooooofus! Rooooooooooooooooofus! The long O's reached deep into the swamp where Rufus was just capping another jug of shine. He remembered the meeting when the last "fus" penetrated his eardrums. Using his foot, he stomped out the fire and slowly released the pressure from the kettle.

"Put on your Sunday best," said Maude as she pulled over her flowered dress. The trailer was creaky, leaky and rickety and in desperate need of removal to the recycling center where the denizens turned in cans.

Rufus got dressed, slicked back his hair after licking his hand and helped Maude down the rickety steps to the ancient pick up. They drove to the county seat where the mortgage company that had been advertising on the local country radio station was located.

"No money down, no credit check," the voice told Maude while she was canning the last of the summer squash. She had put up 843 jars of the stuff and it should last at least until Christmas, she hoped.

John Michael Roosevelt the III seated himself at the desk, upstairs above both the Chinese restaurant and the adult bookstore. Between the greasy odors of fried rice and the grunts of approval from the guys purchasing the magazines, he processed mortgage applications. He had finished his second one and hoped this Maude and Rufus couple would meet at least the minimum requirements. The other two didn't.

He had been thrown out of the New York Stock Exchange and disbarred as a lawyer. Even the Wall Street Journal had cancelled his subscription. The only thing he had left was his rich wife, whose father said he had to prove himself before he would regain entry into the scions of the tuna fish empire.

Maude slapped Rufus as he tried to glance between the slits of paper put up over the Tuna Bookstore window. Hauling up her dress, she climbed the stairs, with Rufus still rubber necking the store.

Roooooooooofus! She shrieked.

John had never heard that wail from the adult store below and wondered what new magazine had arrived. Rufus quickly bounded up the steps.

After an hour and a half of pleasantries during which John had to listen to the family history of the past five mountain generations, he got down to the basic question.

"How much to you make?" he finally managed to blurt.

Rufus added up the number of jugs and multiplied by the going price. "Oh, about a hundred per.."

"Year?" interrupted John hopefully.

"No," said Rufus and Maude.

"A month?" said John.

Rufus and Maude nodded. After taking all the information and adding up the incomes of each member of this Chinese-like extended family, he came up with a number. He hoped it would satisfy the lenders.

Maude and Rufus left when told he would call them.

John got on the phone and started calling people who may buy the mortgage thus lending the money to Rufus and giving John a commission. The regular lenders, like reputable banks, would not touch this one, he knew, so he began calling the sub-prime lenders.

After two calls, he found one that would accept the loan.

Robbum, Cheatum and Plunderum, the lenders, offered Maude and Rufus a mortgage for 40 years. The first three years they would pay $75 per month. The next 37 years would be $15,000 per month. Maude and Rufus quickly signed the note not even hearing the third year monthly payments or the interest rates.

"What the hell is a sub-prime mortgage"? bellowed the senator to his legislative assistant.

The aide shrugged his shoulders.

"Don't know!"

"What the hell is a mortgage? the senator asked. Most elected officials on Capitol Hill had no clue because they received their homes free from lobbyists.

Maude and Rufus climbed the stairs up Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Banking. They had been asked to come by a consumer advocacy organization.

The legislators had sat through four mind-numbing days as expert after expert drawled on and on explaining the incomprehensible intricacies of the sub-prime market. They moved each of them to the near death experience of complete and absolute boredom. Yet, they had to look alert and fresh as the television cameras were present and sometimes flashed on as a senator would ask how one normally figures percentage. An expert would then go through what percentage 50 cents is of a dollar, which took the better part of half a day.

Maude explained how they got the mortgage and how later they were thrown out of their "new" third-hand trailer. One senator asked how they thought they would pay the monthly fee.

Rufus was in his element. He expounded on the price of wood to heat the boiler, the cost of jugs and transportation to his customers. He explained he did not figure in the increase price of corn because of the newly created ethanol market. This was also going to mean war with Mexico now dubbed the Taco Conflict.

One senator grabbed the microphone and stated it was a dirty shame that honest, God-fearing moon shiners had been duped in this fashion and something ought to be done about it. All the others agreed. The cameras went on and a "here here" arose as each senator blasted the sub-prime mortgage market for seizing the home of hard working people like Maude and Rufus.

As they left the capitol, word passed through the House and Senate of their plight. Legislative aides ran up to the couple and placed orders to help them out and provide white lightening to assist the elected officials get through another few months of hearings.

I hope this may end your confusion about the sub-prime mortgage crisis facing the country.

Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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