Loose Change
By Forrest Aguirre

It starts when I go to put a quarter into the newspaper machine and George Washington cries out. “Lies! Rumor mongers! Gossip and untruth!” he shouts in his watered-down English accent. Not again. Not one of those days – yet another numismatic nightmare. At least the news looks good, I can find some solace there. The DOW broke 12,000 for the third day in a row. This should be good for business.

I have some errands to run before work, so I forego looking at the stock quotes. My instincts have been good lately. Only one company’s stocks have lost value all week, the rest holding even or increasing in value. I think my luck should hold out.

I walk over to the bank. My conscience always bothers me when I enter a financial institution. I think that somewhere in there That Coin just might be flittering in a bag of currency or an old lady’s purse or a security guard’s pocket.

That Coin has haunted me for years. A 1956 double-struck quarter. Not real – a fake. I had counterfeited the second strike myself, then sold it to old Nathan Yellow Crow, a weird old fossil from the reservation, for four thousand dollars – my largest sale ever, and one of my last sales.

It is my turn to step up to the teller window. I open an envelope and explain that I need to pay for two overdrafts. The young teller, very pretty, but with lots of facial piercings – she must be a college student – takes the paper, stamps it twice and smiles.

“OK, two overdrafts at fifteen dollars each is thirty dollars.” She looks up at me with a look of mixed understanding and pity. Yes, she has to be a college student working her way through school. Probably majoring in a non-science: unfunded – she knows about debt and overdrafts.

I reach into my wallet and pull out a hundred. Oh no, I think, Ben Franklin – here comes the moralizing. He mutters something in French then says “a penny saved is a penny earned. . . ,” the volume increases with his rage, “. . . and you heartless curs haven’t earned any of this money! Usurers!” I smile sheepishly at the teller who hands me a fifty and a twenty with trembling hands. The fifty makes it into my pocket, but the teller squeeks as I drop, then pick up the twenty. Andrew Jackson takes up a different strain than Franklin, but in the same tone of voice.

“You un-American sissies! Sedentary chair warmers! Get off your lazy duffs and do something with your hands. You, young lady, shouldn’t you be bearing children by now?” I continue to fumble the bill. “This country will not be won by slothfulness, but through sweat, toil, perseverance and, most of all, by young women knowing their place in society. . ." I shove the twenty deep into my pocket and quickly exit the bank, leaving the teller with her mouth agape.

Yellow Crow, I wish you were here so I could kick your friggin’ teeth in. Oh, how I hate you. I hated you when you came into my coin shop. I hated you when I sold you that fake and laughed out loud in the back room as you left with it. I hated you and laughed even harder when you told me you would curse me with some shamanistic voodoo nonsense. I still hate you, only now I have good reason.

On my way to the post office I see a homeless man. I want to prove to myself that I am a giving person, so I take a fifty cent piece and a dime out of my pocket. You see, I’m really not that greedy. As I reach over to drop the coins in the can Eisenhower yells “Communist! Commie pinko scum! Distributing wealth to those who refuse to contribute to society? That is communistic. There will be inquiries into this matter!”

Roosevelt chides Ike: “Easy for you to say, Mister Prosperity. When I was President. . .” I drop the coins in the can and mumble something like “will you guys shut up?” The bum's white eyes get even wider and he looks from side to side like he wants to be sure he’s not alone on the street with this maniac. Then he stutteringly thanks me and I go on my way.

I have a piece of mail to get out – back payment on the debt I incurred when I had to shut down the coin shop. It was after Yellow Crow laid his curse and took his business elsewhere that my products decided to speak up, offending everyone who came into the shop. Now I work with an investment firm speculating online. I don’t have to suffer with a bad reputation, though. I moved away after selling what I could of the store and try not to let people in this town know my name, just in case. . . well, just in case I have a day like today.

Into the post office I go. At least it’s cool inside, if a little run down. I ask for one stamp and count out my change: Washington, Jefferson, three Lincolns. This should be entertaining. Jefferson is the first to speak. He’s always the loudest: “Thirty-three cents for a postage stamp! What an outrage! If there were any negro servants left in this country, perhaps services wouldn’t be so costly!” Everyone in the room looks at me, including the young black police officer known by the locals as “Bull”.

The three Abraham Lincolns respond, moving their lips in unison, creating a kind of stereo effect: “Sir, you must understand that slavery is an evil that had to be abolished in order to satisfy the dictum that all men are created equal.”

Washington comes to Jefferson’s defense: “You, sir, are what? A lawyer? Do you hold any land? How dare you address a landholder with such insolence!” I drop the coins on the countertop and take the stamp, glad that I only sold money (and not stamps) when Yellow Crow walked into my shop.

On the way out I feel a sharp pain in my rear. I reach around and slap my wallet hard, drawing more perplexed stares. The credit card yips, growls, then bites my butt again with its hard plastic jaws. I’m sure I’m bleeding.

I sigh. Christmas is only a few months away. I’ve instructed my family not to send cash.

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