March 10, 2016

Short Story: Quarter

By: Pineapple Blueberry

“That’ll be $4.50, ma’am” The barista in the coffee shop spoke with a smooth, hippie voice that begged me for money.

“Oh, and we don’t take credit cards.” The barista smiled, but I wanted to tear her face off. What type of coffee shop doesn’t take a credit card? I was never coming back.

I fumbled in my bag desperately searching for that last quarter. The customers behind me yelled impatiently. This is New York after all; its citizens were incredibly irritable.

“Screw you!” I shrieked back into the crowd of blood-hungry Americans. My hands fumbled for a quarter, that final 25 cents. They were getting louder and louder, and I was getting more furious as ever. The only quarter in my grasp was sewn into the lining of my purse, and I wasn’t going to give it to some desperately bankrupt hippie with freaking dreadlocks.

One of the neanderthals behind me saw the quarter. His barbarically inflated hand reached for the quarter. My heart stopped. No one besides me had touched that quarter in five years.

“You have ten cents here; get something cheaper and leave.” He shouted at me, though it was mainly spittle. The idiocy in his words were astonishing.

I wiped the spit off my face, though the pure anger in my eyes could have made it evaporate.

“That is a quarter, you fool. It’s twenty-five cents; the American school system has truly failed you, you unbelievably stupid sasquatch. Scientists should study you; we can use your brain cells on the enemy.” My words flowed out of my mouth. It felt so good to argue again. Screw my therapist.

I snatched the precious quarter from his meaty hands. Taking great care, I wiped the quarter gently trying, and failing, to erase the barbarism now imprinted on the coin. I’m going to have to boil it now. A futile expression still hung on his simple face– even though it had been almost three minutes. Finally, my words had dawned on him. His face got crimson; the blood poured into his brain– destroying the few air molecules up there.

“What’d you say to me?” He said in a drunkenly slurred voice. His fat fist drew up. The scene was too funny; up until the part where he punched me in my face. I blacked out. Chivalry truly is dead.

 

………………

 

I woke up in the interrogation room. The classic one in all the great cop shows, and movies. It had the double sided mirror/ glass window. As an incredible “cop show” fanatic, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. However, as a trained specialist in this area with my experience in watching all 15 seasons of CSI, I professionally deduced that I screwed up.

The detective walked into the room with a commanding gait. His badge was the old model; they had updated it eleven years ago. He was an old one. With more than eleven years in his arsenal he had to have either been a captain of a precinct, or– if incredibly useless– at least a head detective. Since Captains don’t conduct interrogations, I can glean that the man in front of me was the head detective of this precinct. Thousands of hours watching crime shows weren’t all for nothing; plus it said his title on his mug in his hand.

“Are you.…” He looked up. “…Sarah Zhou.” He said those words looking right at her.

“I refuse to say anything without a lawyer. And you haven’t read me my Miranda Rights, so I can say anything without being prosecuted.” I said those words proudly. The detective looked fatigued.

“Calm it right down GI Jane.” His irritated face glared at me, and I shut right up. Maybe he wasn’t useless. “We just want to ask you a few questions about the fight.”

“Fight? What fight?” Questions surged inside me, but there was too many to say.

“After you passed out, a fight broke out. People started throwing chairs, and punches. Eventually the cavalry was called.” He said these words annoyingly, like it was all a waste of his precious time. However, for me it was devastating; it was all my fault.

“Was anyone hurt?” I sighed. I never thought that it would become serious. The detective’s face softened when he realized that I had a conscience.

“No,” he said. Thank God. “But… witnesses say that you started it…” he looked at his case file, “… over a quarter.” The disbelief was clear on his face; he thought I was an idiot.

I put my head between my hands and laid down on the table. I couldn’t lose that quarter. The day I found those 25 cents was the day my life started.

The coin was just sitting there in the snow surrounded by the dying trees. It glistened and shined surrounded by all the reflective snow. I just thought that it was pretty, so i picked it up. And, my life changed forever.

For fifteen years the quarter stood with me constantly finessing good luck. It was my goodluck charm. Now, the minute it gets taken away I get arrested. My life depended on that quarter. When I was without it the paranoia immediately sets in. The claws of perils reach for my soul; everyone around me is an enemy waiting to ruin my life.

As I sat in that room, without my coin, the fear has settled and seeping into every nook and cranny of my paralyzed brain. Sweat coated my face, the same expression sat dumbly on my face. I needed my quarter.

“Take me to my quarter. Please.” I begged.

I knew the detective could tell the story of my quarter without me even having to say it. He knew everything, and I didn’t have to say a word.

“Fine,” he said. “It’s in our tech lab downstairs. Our technician, Amanda, has it. I’ll take you to it.”

Relief washed over me as a wave washes over a seabed; it takes the worry, and shells away.

I hesitantly stood up; the effect of the missing coin still lingered in my head. But, I would soon be reunited.

We arrived later down in the basement.

“Hi,” their lab technician was chirpy and happy. I liked her. With her around I felt more at peace. She gave some spiel about some science thingy; I understood nothing. Her face looked grim; as if it were coated with bad news. Something was coming.

“I understood none of that.” I told her. “You’re avoiding something; I know it. Just talk.”

“Okay,” she said. “This quarter used to belong to… Hitler. It was what was in his pocket when he died.”

Disbelief washed over my mind. A numbing feeling paralyzed my thoughts and stabilized my face in that clueless, idiot face. She gave me five seconds before talking again; I was grateful for every last moment.

“I’m not done,” she continued. “17 years ago, a pawn shop was robbed. This quarter was one of the prized possession belonging to the owner. It was a partner job. They killed the owner, and one of the robbers turned up later, dead, frozen into the ocean. The man who robbed the store has been wanted for nearly 20 years. This coin….” Her voice trailed off.

She didn’t need to finish. This coin, my life, was witness to murders. With an “s”.