Memoirs of a Quarter

By Emma Ross

When I was first born, I shone bright silver. I didn’t get the chance to shine for long, before they shoved me in an orange striped sleeve, and folded me and my siblings in. We couldn’t track what day it was, but eventually we were unwrapped and spilled into the correct tray with our distant ancestors.

We greeted each other, welcoming this chance to catch up with them and learn about our new home. The older ones silver had worn away and now was plagued with dark scabs. They told us of the outside world and all they had seen: the inside of mysterious cloth caverns, the flat rock that lines loud pathways with big machines moving quickly along them. But it wasn’t long before they started to disappear, the ironically soft flesh jabbing in and picking them, and their stories, into the open and mysterious air off to a new adventure.

One day, it was my turn to be picked up. The calloused end of the great being’s claw grabbed at me, placing me in another’s soft center. The being looked at me and the pennies in her hand, quietly whispering: “twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven—”

“Ma’am, I swear to you I gave the right change. No need to count it.”

“I’m just making sure… sorry!” This exchange confused me, but before I could think more on it “Ma’am” put me in the mysterious cloth cavern George Sr. talked of.

My time in the Ma’am caverns was an orderly one: she had a change pocket, a trash pocket (for gum wrappers and such), a pen station fully loaded with a spare pad of paper, a cell phone holder tucked neatly into the side. I was lucky enough to get a seat in the change pocket right up against the hole so that I could watch her colorful nails sink deep within the cavern every now and again to deposit a new item or remove one. I never got the chance to see her face, only the inside of her most precious possession. My favorite memory of the cavern was when she accidentally called Uncle Albert from the outside of her bag. He didn’t even care that she hadn’t said anything: he still told her the story of his wife leaving him for a “bastard because he has wads of dollar bills sticking out every hole”. This was hilarious because bills are the worst sort of money—they rip easily, and are covered in germs. Uncle Albert must be pretty lame to have been left by someone with bills.

Eventually I left my first cavern, but over time I rested in many more. I lived in so many places; I was quite a lucky silver piece. For 10 years, I sat in an old pickle jar with other coins. We sat watching the couple that put us there place more coins on top of us. They were so happy every time they added more; it was rewarding to see my job put a smile on peoples’ faces. After the decade passed and the jar was full, we were used to buy plane tickets to a place called Paris and it was back to the bank for me.

My next placement was in the hands of a young girl named Julie. Her big brown eyes looked at me with amazement. Her mother had given it to her for her coin collection. I’m not trying to boast, but I represent the beautiful state of Montana on my back, and I was just the state she was missing. It took five years for her to turn fourteen and realize that she had collected exactly $12.50 worth of quarters that could be used to buy the new CD her favorite band had just come out with.

        My most productive residence was when I was Mark’s. He loved coins. In fact, he flipped coins to make decisions his whole life. I lived with him the longest. His home state was Montana so, on the day he got me as change from the hot dog stand on the corner across from his apartment, he decided to keep me in his pocket from then on as a good luck charm. He flipped me when he was deciding between job offers, apartments, food trucks; he even flipped me when he was deciding if he should ask out the new girl at his office, throwing me into the air and catching my body in his smooth palms.

        One day he accidentally dropped me when his wallet dragged me out of our comfy pocket. I fell on the grass with no audible sound. I wonder what he coin he uses to make decisions now. Is it shinier? Younger? Copper? Vintage? Sometimes I wonder if he can make decisions at all, or if my scratched sides and slightly greened body is the only piece he would ever trust again.


He wiped the sweat from his brow as he looked at the clear rocks set on metal rings. Metal. Silver. Just like Montana. God dammit, how did I lose that one? His favorite quarter would come in handy right now. Always good for these things, Montana chose all the right things. It chose her.

“Excuse me, sir,” he asked the impatient cashier. “Do you have any quarters? I’m not exactly what you would call a decision maker.” The cashier let his eyelids droop further down his face, signaling his disapproval.

“We are a jewelry store. Do we look like a place people would give quarters to?”

Mark just let his stare go right back to the rings, silenced. A tanned and wrinkled finger tapped his shoulder.

“I happen to have a quarter on me today, and I guess it’s your lucky day because one of them is from the state I was born— Montana!” The old man smiled widely, and dropped the scratched and greenish coin into Mark’s smooth hands.


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