Spare Change by Don Lafferty

Mom was high on Percs or something when she told me about one of my father’s stashes of cash.

“Daddy has two bags of quarters in here,” she motioned to a large Tupperware container in the middle of a stack of identical containers that went from floor to ceiling in their unused bedroom.

“I think he paid over a thousand dollars for each one of those goddamn things,” she said. “That’ll be for you and your brothers after we’re gone.”

Mom didn’t know I hadn’t had heat for months, or that the court was chasing me down for child support payments. That I didn’t have car insurance, and hadn’t been able to keep up with the payments on the kids’ health insurance. And she couldn’t possibly have known, in the throes of her addiction that I had a habit of my own. A chemical mistress that ruled all of my decisions. Kept me squarely behind the eight ball, underemployed, and snatching twenties from her purse wherever I could pull it off.

“If those quarters are ninety percent silver, I’ll give you five grand a bag,” Bunch told me over coffee at his garage.

Five grand a bag. Ten grand just sitting there. A third of it was already mine, technically, and it was unlikely my brothers even knew about it. Ten grand just sitting there for the taking burns a hole in a junkie’s brain. I could get the heat turned back on, catch up on child support and still have plenty left to have a party with Brit.

I turned onto their street knowing Mom and Dad left forty-five minutes early for mass. God forbid they didn’t get their pew. It gave me plenty of time to get in and get out. I wrestled the Tupperware container out of the stack and sure enough, under a couple of Cabbage Patch dolls and an old blanket, I found two pristine mint bags of uncirculated quarters, and an envelope with my name scrawled on it in my father’s blocky style of printing.

 

Butch,

I can’t tell you what a relief it is to be dead. Nobody tells you that this life is a constant, painful, disappointing struggle, and that the only light at the end of the tunnel is the glorious day it’s all over. But I’m telling you now, so listen up.

 

His letter went on to detail the location of three quarters of a million dollars in cash tucked away in various places, including the barrels of shotguns, hermetically sealed and buried coffee cans, balled up in socks, and of course, sewn into his mattress. He included an inventory of Hess Trucks, Hummels, antiques and rare books, coins and other collectables that he and Mom had been squirreling away for more than seventy years.

The front door opened downstairs.

“Butchy? Are you here, honey?” my mother called from downstairs.

I looked at my phone. Mass hadn’t even started yet.

“Yeah, ma, I’m up here on the computer,” I said. It would take her a few minutes to hang her coat and make her way up the stairs.

“There was a power failure at church so we’re skipping mass this week. You want a beer or a cuppa coffee?” she asked.

“Yeah, ma, I’ll take that cuppa coffee,” I said, knowing that would give me at least four minutes while she nuked a cup of hot water for instant.

Bunch was waiting for me at Beefseeker’s Pub with the ten grand, and I was supposed to pick Brit up to go to A.C. by seven o’clock. I hefted the heavy bags of coins and weighed my options.

I would have to make it look like a robbery gone wrong, but that wouldn’t be hard because that’s what it was. I felt a twinge of guilt about my mom, although she’d never know what hit her, and my dad, well, I was about to do him a solid and end his struggle.

I gently placed the bags of quarters on the floor, tucked Dad’s letter into my back pocket and headed downstairs to murder my parents.

38 thoughts on “Spare Change by Don Lafferty”

  1. A sudden swift punch in the chest. When you recognize that dope really does work that way, cold and callus, it qualifies this story for the ‘horror’ genre as well…

  2. One of those times when I knew what was coming but I just couldn’t look away. Hello to Philadelphia. I miss it forty years on.

  3. Good show, Don!  Loved the inclusion of “Hess Trucks”  in the list of valuables – something only a Pennsylvanian east of the Susquehanna would recognize!

    1.  Thanks, Tony. My father started buying Hess trucks for a couple of bucks back in the day. As our family grew he would buy a truck for each of my brothers and I. Eventually he would buy 5 ever year – but we were never allowed to play with them. Consequently, he’s sitting on at least one complete collection and about 150 additional trucks, boats planes and oil tankers still in their original packaging. Not to mention GI Joes, Hot Wheels and on and on and on…

  4. Excellent, what great pacing, twist at the end, and characters that you thought you knew from the first line. Awesome example for others to learn from. Every word counted. Bravo.

  5. Okay, I didn’t see that coming.  Great character development – building right to the last line.  Really enjoyed it.
     

  6. Ha! I completely agree with Tony Conaway! I have about 7 old Hess trucks in my closet at home right now. Not to mention a small collection of Hummel figurines I inherited after my grandparents passed away. Eerily familiar territory for me. Although, I’m not a meth addict, so maybe not ‘too’ familiar. 🙂 Great job, Don!

  7. That last line hits like a wrecking ball. Great. Makes me want to write better, so thanks for that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *