If inflation keeps rising the way it is now, this is the kind of story we can expect to read on our society pages by 1981:

"Percival Flagstone, scion of the Flagstone chewing gum fortune and noted palyboy checked into Peppermint Hospital yesterday for a gall-bladder operation. In keeping with his reputation for free-spending Percival demanded a private room. He told reporters laughingly. I'm going to stay for two weeks and I may blow half my trust fund but what the hell, I might as well go first-class. When asked what his operation would cost, percival just chuckled and said, 'If you have to ask what an operation will cost you can't afford one."

The young millionaire has been noted for spending money like water. Last month he took a movie actress to dinner and they both had T-bone steaks. When the papers got wind of it , Percival was indignant and said, "It's my money and I can do anything I want with it just because most people can't afford T-bone steaks is no reason why I can't eat one if I feel like it."

Percival was left a fortune of $20 million which his bankers estimate is down to $5 million. One of the trustee told this reporter. 'The man has no idea that if he keeps spending at the present rate he won't have anything left in two years. He had strawberries for dessert three nights in a row, and he bought two pairs of shoes this year. No matter how much a person has, he can't keep up that pace and not use up all his principal.'

"But Percival has no intention of slowing down. He told this reporter, There are no strings attached to my inheritance and I'm even thinking of buying a new tuxedo this year. My theory about money is that if you 've got it, flaunt it.

"I was terribly criticized when I bought a new azalea bush for my house last year'! Percival told this reporter, 'but I happen to like azaleas, and although there are only about 100 people in this country who can still afford them we are giving work to greenhouses and florists, and it angers me when the papers make such a big deal of it!'

"Percival just bought a two-bed'room split level brick house on a quarter-acre of land in Washington, D.C., that is estimated to have cost him $5 million. The estate, which once was owned by a conductor on the Penn Central Railroad, has two bathrooms, one on the top floor and one in the basement. It also has a dining room. 'They say I went wild when I bought it. But I consider it a very good investment. In two years the house will be worth $7 million and then I wonder how many people will say I threw away my money.'

"'Is it true you're buying a four-door Toyota?' I asked him.

"'I haven't made up my mind yet, but someone has offered me one at a very good price and I might get it. Ever since I was a kid I've wanted a car, and I may sell the AT&T bonds my grandmother left me if I can break the trust. No one said anything when the Rockefellers bought a VW last summer for $2 million, yet when they hear I put in a bid for a Toyota it's a front-page story.'

"Perhaps.' I said, 'it's because you do everything with a flair. It is true that after your operation you are thinking of going to London on Laker Airways?'

"Yes, I am. But it's not just pleasure. I hope to visit our plant in Manchester while I'm there. Everyone thinks I fly Laker just for pleasure, but many times I use it for business.'

"Percival is known for the lavish gifts he gives the women he is seen with around town. Just the other day he bought a 14-carat gold necklace from J.C. Penny for $800,000 and last month he gave a well-known model a rhinestone-covered compact from Monotgomery Ward's worth $600,000.'To me they're just trinkers, but to most of the women I date they're a month's salary.'

"My final question to Percival before he was wheeled into his private room was, 'Percival, you seem to have done it all. You've eaten a T-bone steak, bought an azalea bush, you own a two-bedroom house and you've flown Laker Airlines. Is there anything you still want to buy."

"He thought a moment and said, 'Well, I've always wanted to own a crate of California lettuce, but even for someone like me that's out of the question."*