Sunday, June 4, 2006

Legal Tender

a short story


Thaddeus Rutkowski



When I pull out a twenty-dollar bill for some reason-some payment or other-she says, "My money," and takes the cash and runs away with it.


I chase her and retrieve the bill, but instead of letting the cash go gracefully, she throws herself down, onto the floor or ground, and screams, "No!"


"It's not your money," I say.


"It's mine," she says.


I give her a one-dollar bill, a single clam, a lone simoleon, hoping she will be satisfied, but she is not happy. "I want more money!" she says.


I can't believe she understands the value of a twenty versus the worthlessness of a one, and by extension the comfort of riches versus the agony of poverty, but apparently she does. Perhaps she won't grow up to be like me, with my devil-may-care, artists-must-starve attitude toward money. Maybe she'll build up a stash before I die and give me some of it, as a sort of fatherhood stipend.


Or maybe she just prefers Jackson's face to Washington's. Or maybe she likes the first piece of paper currency she held and doesn'twant to exchange it for another that feels just as good when rubbed between the fingers.


"Look," I say, "a dollar has value. It's worth a lot more than a penny. Some people worship it. Others steal it. You should be generous with it."


"Dah-roar!" she says. "It's a dah-roar. Come on!"


I know then that it's time to go out and spend some money, on lord knows what.





Thaddeus Rutkowski's second book, Tetched: A Novel in Fractals, was published recently by Behler Publications in California. His first novel, Roughhouse (Kaya Press), was a finalist for an Asian American Literary Award. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter.

Thaddeus Rutkowski gave a reading in Ithaca on July 7 at 8 p.m. at Junas's Cafe at 146 E. State Street, on the Commons downtown. For information about Juna's readings, and poetry open mics, telephone 607.256.429, or check their web site You can find Thaddeus's web site at


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