Gordon Goldenage was gallivanting in the garden when Myron the Mailman showed up with the money.
"Hey, Gordo!" cried Myron, who'd known him forever. "I've got some government checks here for you and the little lady." (That would be Gladys.)
"Can't be," said Gordon. "We already got our refund."
"I'm just telling you what I'm telling you," Myron replied. "There's an eagle on the envelope and a check inside -- trust me."
"Don't I always trust you, Myron? Even when some of the coupons are missing?"
Myron looked offended. (He'd had lots of practice. He and Gordon had been having this part of the conversation for decades.)
"I had nothing to do with your coupons! I don't even know what you're talking about!"
Gordon smiled. He knew just what to say to get under Myron's skin.
"So give me the checks already!" Myron handed them over. They were just as he had described them -- eagles on the envelopes and that distinctive government heft. They certainly felt like checks. But why would the government be sending them checks?
"Cost of living, I'll betcha," said Myron. "For your Social Security."
"Impossible," said Gordon. "Cost of living went down this year."
"Down. We don't get the adjustment this year."
"So what then? You win the lottery or something?"
Gordon ran a yellowing fingernail underneath the envelope flap, extracted the contents and moved them back and forth until they finally came into focus. It was a check, all right, and a letter.
"It's a check all right," said Gordon. "And a letter."
"I knew it," said Myron.
"The check is for $250."
"And another $250 for the little lady -- just wait. And the letter says...?"
"You mean you didn't read it first? You didn't hold it up to the light already?"
Myron looked offended.
"I would never do such a thing. I would never even dream of -- "
"He just wants me to have it."
"Obama. He just wants me to have the $250. And Gladys, too. Everybody on Social Security -- he wants us all to have $250."
"I thought you said the cost of living went down."
"So no adjustment this year."
"So why the money? Just because?"
Gordon read the letter a second time.
"He knows times are tough, he says. He figures we could use the help."
"And by the way, don't get teed off about the Medicare cuts from the reform thing."
"He doesn't say that."
"But that's what he's thinking. 'Here's some extra money, don't get teed off about the Medicare cuts.'"
"Which aren't going to affect us anyway, right? Aren't they always saying that?"
"So why -- "
"But just in case you're still thinking they might."
"'Stop thinking. Here's some money so you'll stop thinking.' And so we'll stop complaining."
"It's hush money -- that's what it is. It's hush money for seniors."
Gordon Goldenage went silent for a moment. He looked at the envelope in his left hand. He looked at the other envelope in his right hand.
"I should be offended, yes? Getting $250 to shut up, it's normal to feel offended, yes?"
"I'll tell you what," said Gordon. "I am offended."
"Good," said Myron.
"You know what else?" said Gordon.
"I'd be a lot less offended for a thousand."
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.