400 Pennies

I woke up with a three day hangover. I was at the end of my rope. Broke, drunk, and no hope for the future.

   My apartment was a mess. Even just waking up and seeing it was enough to make me want to go back to sleep. There were empty beer cans and cigarette butts everywhere and it smelled like dirty socks and ass. The ass odor was coming from my sheets. I jerked off a lot when I was hungover, it was one of the only things that made me feel better or let me fall back asleep.

   I dragged myself out of bed and found a warm, half finished can of Coors Banquet beer. I drank it and dry heaved. My room also smelled of feet and dry semen.

   There were plastic bags on the floor, the bags I had used to carry all that beer back. I started cleaning my room, loading the empties and cigarette butts into the bags. There was clothing on the floor too, socks and underwear and beer logged t-shirts. I stuffed them into other plastic bags and looked for change. I felt disgusting and I didn’t have any clean clothes. If I was going out anyway to throw out the empties I might as well do my laundry.

   I found a dollar and 30 cents in a pants pocket. Laundry would cost at least a little over $5.00, so I kept looking. I had already spent all of my quarters, dimes, and nickels on beer. I kept most of my loose change in an old baby shoe I’d found on the side of the road. For some reason, baby shoes were attracted to me. I wondered what happened to all those babies, how they’d lost their shoes. They were probably abducted and murdered. I had only kept one, a fancy Doc Marten baby shoe. I found it in a drawer and it was full of pennies. I counted them out until I got to 400. 400 pennies would be enough to do my laundry.

   I headed downstairs with all the plastic bags. When I got outside, I dumped the ones with the empties into a trash can. There was no recycling bin, but the homeless people would find the cans and recycle them. In a way I was doing them a favor. After that, I walked to the laundromat.

   The lady who worked at the laundromat refused to take my pennies.

   “I no want pennies! No one want pennies!”

   She sifted through them.

   “Too many pennies! Too many pennies!”

   “They’re still money. You have to take them. It’s the law.”

   We stood there looking at each other. I wasn’t going to let this go. After all this effort, I was doing my fucking laundry.

   She grunted and took the pennies.

   “You never bring pennies again! Never again!”

   She gave me four dollars so I could reload my laundry card. I shrugged my shoulders when she looked at me.

   “I might bring you pennies again, and you have to take them.”

   “No more pennies!”

   “If I end up with more pennies, yes. More pennies.”

   She flapped her hand at me in a shooing motion and turned away from me.

   I dumped my laundry into a machine and scratched my ass. My underwear was sticky. I should have taken it off in my apartment and added it to the laundry.

   As I sat there watching my laundry spin I thought about my life, the world, how the hell it had all ended up like this. Every day is a goddamn fight. You can’t even have clean underwear without fighting for it. Fighting for pennies.

   In a flash of paranoia I checked my back pocket to make sure I still had my wallet. It was there. I took it out and opened it up and there was $20.00 inside. I exhaled slowly and sat back down. Thank fucking god. I needed a beer after all of this, multiple beers, I needed them so bad I was afraid to even think about it when I thought I was broke. But now I could smoke cigarettes and drink beer like an honest to god human being for at least a few more hours.

   I came back to the laundromat with a 40 ouncer in a brown paper bag and the lady yelled at me.

   “You have money for beer but no money for laundry!”

   I took a long sip of beer.

   “I gave you money for laundry. 400 pennies. Remember?”

   She looked at me like she wanted to murder me.

   “You never come back here!”

   “I come back here.”

   “You no come back!”

   She turned around and wandered into a back room so she wouldn’t have to look at me. I felt a little guilty, but I didn’t understand why she was being so unreasonable. What did she care? Why the hell was she being so mean to me?

   After thinking about it I felt a little better. Jesus, I had paid her. It wasn’t easy counting those 400 pennies. She should have a little goddamn compassion. If I wasn’t broke and I had known about the $20.00 I wouldn’t have made either of us deal with 400 pennies. But I had no choice. It was either me or her, and it is money. Pennies are still money. I took a big pull of beer and decided to hell with it. Making me feel bad because I had to use 400 pennies. I already felt bad enough. To hell with her.    

   It’s been almost a year and I still do my laundry in the same place and the lady still hasn’t forgiven me. Everytime I walk in I can tell she remembers me and my 400 pennies. Sometimes I tell myself she at least has a grudging respect for me for standing up to her, but she doesn’t. She hates me so much she doesn’t even hate me. Sometimes when I come in she starts talking in Spanish to some of the other people doing laundry. I can’t understand Spanish but I know what she’s saying. That’s the guy, that’s the fucking puto who brought in 400 pennies. What kind of man has to use 400 pennies to do his laundry? Fucking pendejo. 400 pennies. 400 fucking pennies!

H. Seitz
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