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Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024
The Observer

25 cent story

The Senate and the House are planning on changing the tax code, and the impact on the economy could be large. This recent development, as well as the issues of trade deficits and the fact that we sometimes flippantly think about the market capitalizations of companies such as Apple and Microsoft, made me think about the sheer dollars that are involved in the American economy. So many small steps are required to reach these points and developments, and the following thoughts came out while I was thinking about all of this.


What can 25 cents buy you?

Nothing, you might say.

A candy, a spoiled sweet.

A broken pencil, broken like dreams I have seen.

You may see me, grimy and dented,

And leave me on the road, waiting like a hope

For someone’s callous fingers to pocket me.

In many ways, this is the story of 25 cents.

A journey as long as mine bundled into 25 pennies,

Greed and loss, triumph and sadness

Worth two dimes, a nickel.

You may see me and leave me,

Not worth the dirt of my travels.


I was minted in fire,

Ready to burn in a new world.

I was coddled in a senator’s pocket,

But his booming voice lasted for but a day until I was handed over

To pay for an afternoon snack.

The world was good, I thought.

The sliding of a cash register inhabited my thoughts,

And I was well loved by fellow coins.

But it is my life to be passed on.

I slipped into jeans that smelled like soap,

Freshly minted, ready to see a new world.

I remained in the warmth of the fabric of the jeans

For comfortable eternity.

I was saved, kept, cherished, cleaned.

But time had her way and out I flew with a clink

From a fray in those perfect jeans.

They say that the first scratch you receive is the most painful.

They are wrong. They are right.

Weeks and months I spent in sidewalk cracks,

Starting to run with muck and slime, freshly minted, but not fresh,

My birth is just a date coldly gouged into me.

I learned this as my shine became as dark as the hole I fell into.

Clink, clink, clink.

Off of sewer walls and splash!

Droplets spray everywhere.

I’m at the bottom of a hole with broken beer bottles and candy wrappers.

An ancient penny to my left, mold covers his face.

Death too soon for a new quarter.


I hear feet and awake to the feeling of a sewer rat’s claws.

I am the prize of vermin, a 25 cent gleam that shows a hoard.

A reflective collectible.

I am displayed to other rats.

A hero, better than them, but lower,

Because here I am merely a metal compound.

Even among vermin, I saw jealousy.

A fight to the death one night, as I am thrown aside,

Landing next to used theater ticket stubs.

Silence becomes my friend until flood waters of Styx rush upon me,

Rising, rising, rush!

I slip between the gates of a duct and enter a street.

Snowflakes kiss the asphalt and tar, and me.

I am covered in grime and grease, and the flakes stick to me.

Fingers in fake leather gloves grab me.

I am lost in a hot leather jacket with glasses and an inhaler.

I inhale.

My new owner is going to become a doctor.

Pockets buzz with new ideas and imagination.

I am willing to help him if he keeps me, and he does.

Never used, I am saved, buzzing with the potential energy of dreams.

Do I dream?

My dreams are cut short.

Moonlight shows my shadowed face.

I hear. Anger.

The silence that means my rest is over and I must go on.

Then, a solitary bang.

Gravity wins and I stumble in that fallen pocket.

I know.

Broken hopes and dreams strike a deeper notch,

Harder, more painful than the first time.


Tired eyes glance at me for the thousandth time.

I rest on a table in a cramped apartment, smaller than pockets I have known.

The eyes belong to a bronze woman who holds a phone to her mouth.

Her mouth moves but words are spoken through her eyes.

Come home, come home, they plead.

The tearless eyes speak of a tired soul broken from asking.

Come. Home.

The eyes are answered by pounding fists with pounding feet.

Maybe just this once.

But pounding words shoot and charge the air.

Screams, yells, the feet charge away, away, away, away.

The eyes well up,

Great rivulets crashing from a river behind a dam 20 years high.

I am grabbed stiffly.

Pushed into a bag with other coins.

Flung out of an open window towards unstopping pounding feet.

I become the gift to buy flowers.

I am paid to have a car washed.

Years and stories notched like those around my circumference.

I saw an old man die,

And I drove him there.

I was in the pocket of a photographed star,

I watched the stars from an aging van.


I am chipped, broken, dirty, disgusting,

And I rest at the bottom of the ocean now.

But I am at peace.

I rest in weary waves with one solid knowledge.

I have seen your heroes fall, and killers rise.

I am greed. I am death.

I have sealed pacts, broken pacts and separated friends.

But before this watery death,

I found myself in the hands of a tiny girl.

Laughter bubbled up inside her,

And I found myself flipping high over her head,

Touching the clouds.

Even as she lost me,

Even as I fell into the ocean,

To be held or touched no more,

The silence of knowledge overtook me,

And I knew my owner had been innocence.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.