John had arrived home beaten by the world. His car broke down in the parking lot at work. His boss yelled at him in, what had been thought to be, the safety of his office. He had spilled coffee all down his shirt. And now, money was low. So low, there were barely any funds for food for the last week of the month. John had fell into his couch in defeat, not knowing what to do about sustenance. John lived in poverty all his life. But he never experienced a time when providing for himself became an issue.
He then thought of some change he might have in an old bank he made. John flung himself from the couch and went to his closet. Upon opening, a few old shoes, some with missing laces, some with holes ground through the bottom, and a few clothes he never wore, that were bought from a thrift store, fell from the cramped pile. John pushed some boxes on the top shelf to the side, spilling other items onto the floor. Eventually, he found his closed jar. It was something he had made years before in art class. It was indeed a coin holder. It was oblong in shape; flat on the bottom, and fairly egg shaped around, with a thin and poorly made slot. The coin slot was not centered at the top. It was as if the cooking process had allowed the once centered slot to droop over from the heat. Since there was no opening on the bottom to retrieve the coins easily, John had to decide if the coins inside were worth it. John shook the jar hoping for a hefty rattle.
Cracking into the piggy bank, hope did not thrive. A few coins, barely enough for a meal consisting of fast food; a onetime meal, fell from the shattered mess. The hopeful savings account was now smashed to bits of ceramic shrapnel.
John sat. Shifting through the coins, he humored himself by arranging the coins. After counting, it summed up pocket change. John looked around to ensure himself that he found every coin that fell from the exploded pig. One penny found its way across the room, almost hidden within the brown 70’s carpet.
Upon picking it up, John noticed that the surface touching his index finger was smooth. Turning the coin in hand, the face of the president that once was on the coin was now a silhouette of a figure. Only one side of the penny had been greatly smoothed out by a previous owner. The penny’s face was unknown. The words were gone. The details, vanished. John’s thumb found its way from one side to the other, again and again, feeling its soft surface. It entranced him.
John forgot about hunger. John forgot about the other change. He leaned back against the rim of his bed and contemplated the coin. His thumb moving from the left to the right, and back again. John sat, feeling the coin until day break the next morning. Even then, all he did was stare at the coin and feel its soft surface.
Detective Quill ducked under the police line which bordered a part of an apartment complex located in an urban ghetto. There were cop cars blockading the street, bunched up in front of the complex. Police personnel walked in and out of the house while Quill made his way inside. First step in the house, everyone inside went silent. Quill looked around, searching for the reason they were all there. One man, while still staring at Quill, pointed down the hallway.
Detective Quill entered a room in the direction the man had directed him. It was a bedroom. The stench of decay seemed to sit still, making the air thick. Quill finally saw what he was called in for.
A man lay on his side at the base of a bed. Quill crouched to have a closer look at the body.
“Sir,” a man inspecting the body had said to Quill, “it seems as though he died of, what we can decipher here, natural causes. No murder here, sir. Simply, suicide. Accidental? Possibly. We’ll have better analysis once we inspect him in the proper setting.” Quill stood and stretched. His knees popped when he stood, and his back crackled when he straightened out. A moan escaped Quill’s lips when he stretched. “Well then, no need for me to be here.” As Quill began to leave the bedroom, he stopped, thinking about what the man had been holding onto. “Hey, uh . . . you,” talking to the same person by the body, “let me see that coin.” The man pulled the penny from between the man’s fingers, allowing the index and thumb of the dead man to snap shut. The man who took the penny from the stiff fingers did not hand over the penny immediately. Instead, the man was in a half standing, half crouching position between the corpse and Quill. His hand, and penny, hovered between his own face and Quill. The man’s gaze never broke from the penny.
“Hey! You handin’ it over or what?” The man rapidly blinked, still locked in place, as if he himself had rigor mortis just as the dead man on the floor was experiencing. Quill became impatient and picked the penny from the officer’s hand. Once the officer was rid of the object, he shook his head and returned to the body.
Quill turned the penny between his fingers, rubbing whatever finger had laid on the soft surface back and forth against it. Quill stood for what seemed like minutes.
Without taking his eyes away from the object in hand, Quill walked out of the room, still turning the coin over and over again.
Quill stopped showing up to work.
His boss had called, concerned.
Quill’s wife, Margie, had answered and only said that her husband no longer communicated. Instead, he had locked himself in the basement. She only knew he was still alive because she would hear him, in the dead of night, talking to himself. They were only a few words every so often, but he was still talking. Margie figured that since he was up late at night, he must have gone to the fridge and had eaten something. Because, “no one can go that long without food or water.”
Quill’s wife was a submissive woman. Quill would often come home from work, or the bar, and offer Margie all the aggression he held. Once physical, but mostly verbal. She would offer food to Quill, as he sat in the basement with his prized possession, softly knocking on the door calling to him. Quill would respond with angry growls and a crash of something fragile. Margie would whimper away at his malice. After that, he was left alone until the next time she attempted to feed him.
Quill sat in his dark, damp dungeon of a basement. He sat on a metal fold out chair at a builder’s desk, turning his coin again and again. The only light in the basement came from a soft glowing bulb that was attached to a clip on lamp. Only his hand had been visible. His face barely illuminated. Valleys of shadows were pressed thickly to his face. All that needed to be seen was the coin. Nothing else.
One week later, a smell resonated within the house. Margie woke to the stench. She no longer was submissive. She wailed on the basement door. When there was no answer, she threw her body into it.
“Ma’am. He seemed to be admiring this coin. Does it mean anything?” Detective Butch had explained to Margie that he had died of dehydration, consoling her as possible as government personnel walked throughout her house. Margie knew nothing about the coin. The detective saw no need to keep the coin, since Quill’s death was, as documented, a suicide. When the last person, except Margie, had left the house, it was found that someone had left the penny on the fireplace mantle. When she saw it, she flung herself onto the couch and cried herself to sleep.
Less than a year later, Margie had died. Some close relatives and friends had said she died of a broken heart.
Quill and Margie’s only son, Todd, arrived at their house, soon after her funeral, to sort out everything. After a few days of boxing things up and arranging them accordingly, ready to sell or put them into storage for future generations to rifle through, Todd was slowly closing the front door, about to leave his parents’ home for good, until something gleamed from the mantle. The door halted with only a few inches away from fully closed. Todd squinted toward the glare. Todd once again entered the house and directed himself toward the fireplace. He saw that it was a penny. Todd saw no harm in pocketing a penny that was once his parents. Now dead, what use is it to them? He pulled his shirt pocket open, leaned down to even the mantle with his pocket, and brushed the penny in with the side of his hand. Todd walked right out the door just as he did before.
Months later, Todd’s clothes washer broke. The mechanic arrived and pinpointed the issue almost immediately. An easy fix.
While the mechanic was working, something fell from the washer while leaned forward. The object hit the ground with a ting and rolled off a few feet away from the mechanic. Interest pushed him. The closest thing the mechanic could see that would make such a sound was a penny. It was tail side up, showing the rough years it had endured. Upon picking it up, the mechanics finger had rubbed against the face. The soft, smooth texture where the face once was.
The mechanic left Todd’s house without payment, leaving his washer out of place.
The mechanic was found dead days later. He had lived alone. It was his mailman who had smelled the stench when he shoved the mail through the slot in the door. The mailman found his way through to the backyard and entered the mechanics house through the unlocked back door. He found the mechanics body and called for an ambulance. While waiting, he saw what the mechanic was holding. A penny. Seeing the smoothed out surface, the mailman became intrigued. He had begun caressing the penny while it was still in the mechanics hand. With jealous rage, wanting the penny for himself, he pried it from the mechanics dead fingers and went home.
The mailman, Carlson, had a girlfriend, Leina. Carlson and Leina did not live together, but both held a key to each other’s place of residence. Leina arrived back home from a vacation. First thing she did back was visit Carlson. What she first noticed was that the door was not locked. There were over thirty messages on the machine, unread. He wasn’t home. Not anymore. All that remained was his rotting body. Carlson was found sitting at his desk, face against the table surface. His arm was outstretched across the desk. His hand was open, lying over the side, hanging out in the open air. The penny had fallen from his grasp and rolled across the floor. It rolled itself behind a bookshelf, wedged between the wall and wood.
The apartment was cleared out.
After some time, it was renovated and open for rent once more.
The next resident was a young woman in her early twenties, Tammy. She was what some would call a germaphobe. Within the first week living in her new apartment, she inspected it for anything that did not suite her. For anything “unclean.”
Tammy was always careful when looking for what she intended to find. She was very aware. She stumbled upon a little space on the brown baseboard that did not match. With a closer look, she noticed that it was an old penny wedged into the wood with force. With a gloved hand, she pried the penny out and put it into her apron pocket. She did not plan on keeping it for herself. The penny, in her own mind, was indeed unclean. Unsuitable for her pure existence. Instead, the next day at work she walked up to the register and dropped the penny into the “free penny” jar, still touching it with only her protected hand.
The penny sat in the dish for days on end.
Eventually, one day during closing, an employee counted the drawer and found that it was short a few cents. The penny dish was then dumped into the pile of change.
Through transactions, the penny was passed on throughout different parts of the world. It passed by some people’s attention without notice, but it effected most that handled it. The faceless penny went from hand to hand, life to life, taking the spiritual existence of those who were entranced.