The Smart One
A Wapakoneta Novel
Wapakoneta, Ohio as seen in this novel is an alternate universe, entirely fictionalized version of an otherwise very fine and beautiful community. It is not their fault that I fell in love with the name.
The scam this time was paper money. Brad had worked it all out. The Government, he said, made a mistake. Did with the ten dollar bill what they’d been doing with quarters.
“It’s not the government,” Dink said. “It’s the mint.”
“The mint is the government,” said Brad.
“The mint isn’t the government,” said Dink. “It doesn’t make laws or pave highways or send kids off to war. It just prints money.”
“The guy on the radio said the government prints money to get out of financial trouble,” said Zach.
“You’re not helping,” Dink said.
“Do you want to hear my idea or not,” said Brad.
“I do,” Zach said.
“Let’s start with the money part,” Dink said. “Let’s not worry about the government or the mint.”
Brad laid it all out for them then. Whoever it was that made the money, they did that stuff with quarters. Made them collectible, made people want them. First they put out fifty quarters with the fifty states on them. Then they did presidents. Well that was all right because nobody much counterfeited quarters.
“You want us to counterfeit money?” Zach said.
“This is a good idea,” said Brad.
“Quarters would be much too hard,” Zach said.
“We wouldn’t be counterfeiting quarters. That would be stupid.”
Brad went on. The government–
“The mint,” said Dink.
Whatever. They were doing the same thing with ten dollar bills now, Brad told them. First they decided to put a woman on one, then they put another woman on, now they’re putting all kinds of different people on them. And that was the scam.
Dink and Zach looked at him.
“Don’t you get it?”
“No,” one of them said.
“We can make bills and not have to worry about who we put on them. We can make a ten dollar bill with like, I don’t know, Richard Nixon on it, and if someone at the store looks at it funny, we say, ‘Oh, that’s this year’s one, haven’t you seen it? Yeah, they put Nixon on it.”
“Nobody is going to put Nixon on money,” Zach said. “Not even the government.”
“Or the mint,” said Dink.
“Well okay,” Brad said, “that was just an example. We can put whoever we want on the bills and it doesn’t matter. We won’t get detected because, like, you hand somebody a twenty dollar bill and they know to look for Thomas Jefferson’s picture.”
“It’s not Jefferson,” Dink said. “It’s Andrew Jackson.”
“Well that’s my point. People know that face to look for. But they don’t now, not anymore, with the tens, so they keep changing them.”
“That’s really a pretty good idea,” Zach said.
Brad said, “And we wouldn’t get in as much trouble if we got caught.”
“But we won’t get caught,” Zach said, “because they don’t check tens with those pens they have.”
“I think,” Dink said, “that we would get in just as much trouble, no matter who was on the bill.”
“And less chance of getting caught,” Brad said, “because people would think the bills are collectible, like the quarters, so they’ll keep them instead of spending them.”
“That’s pretty brilliant.” Zach looking at his phone now, tapping his finger on it, sliding it on the glass screen.
“We could make the bills up at Zach’s work. They have a color copier.”
Dink said, “They have special paper they put the bills on, it has like, fabric in it.”
“So we could make the bills out of bed sheets then.” Seeing the look on Dink’s face, knowing what was coming. “White ones.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” Dink said. “Bed sheets are too soft.”
“We could starch them,” Brad said.
“John Wayne,” Zach said, eyes on his phone.
Dink and Brad stopped, looked at him.
“We could do a John Wayne ten dollar bill. Wouldn’t that be great?”
“You can’t do that,” Dink said. “John Wayne wasn’t a president.”
“Neither was Harriet Tubman,” Zach said. “She’s going to be on a ten.”
“John Wayne wasn’t that important,” Dink said. “He was only an actor.”
“He was on a postage stamp.” Zach held the phone up toward Dink. “See?”
“John Wayne wasn’t a president.”
“He didn’t play him in that one movie?”
“Wait,” Brad said. “I got this. Brittney.”
“Brittney Spears can’t be on a ten,” Dink said.
“No. Brittney my ex. She works in that women’s store where they sell sewing stuff and stuff. They have different kinds of cloth. I bet if we went there we could find some fabric that was stiff enough to print money on.”
“It couldn’t be too thick,” Zach said, eyes back on his phone. “It would jam the copier. Hey, how about Millard Fillmore?”
“You can’t put a comic strip on a ten dollar bill,” Brad said.
“Even I know that. Hey, what about we take the paper and glue the white bed sheet to the sides of it and print it that way?”
“Too thick,” Zach said. “And the glue might stick to the fuser. It gets really hot. Might jam the machine, then we’d really be in trouble.”
“Not like we’re going to be in trouble for counterfeiting bills,” Dink said.
“How about William McKinley?”
“If actors can’t be on money, then baseball players can’t be either,” said Brad.
“THAT’S IT!” Dink standing now, hands at the sides of his head, about to start pulling at his hair.
“Baseball players can be on money?” Brad said.
“No,” Dink said. Reeling himself back in, trying to keep from yelling, not really doing a good job of it. “I’m sick of you guys!” He paced in an oval between Brad and Zach, Zach finally looking up from the screen of his phone. “I’m sick of you guys not listening to me, I’m sick of you not thinking things through, I’m sick of living in this dump, and I’m sick of being broke.”
“We won’t be broke when we start printing money,” Brad said. “And we’ll be able to afford a nicer place.”
“This is not going to work,” Dink said. “Because it’s stupid. There’s too many other things on a ten dollar bill that keeps you from counterfeiting them. There’s too many other things that keep you from selling fake land deeds to retirees. They’re smarter now, look stuff up on the Internet. There’s too many other things that keep people from giving money to starving African kids. It’s like people out there have gotten smarter and you two haven’t. And I’ve had it.”
“I don’t see you coming up with any ideas,” said Brad.
“We can print the bills at my work after hours,” Zach said.
“Tell you what.” Dink moving toward the door now. “You guys can do whatever you want. Print up a bunch of bills with… with Condeleeza Rice or somebody on them and pass them off, see how far you get with it. Me, I’m out.” Moving to the door now, hand on the knob. “I’m done with you guys. Forever. I know I’ve said that before, but I mean it now. I’m gone.”
“What’ll you do without us?” Zach said.
Dink pulled the door open, face red, sputtering. “Something extreme. I’m going to… get a job!” He took two steps out the door, slammed it hard, and a picture of Miss February chewing gummed to the wall came loose and fluttered to the floor.
“He’ll be back,” Zach said.
“All I know,” Brad said, “is if they don’t let actors be on a ten dollar bill, they’d never let a rapper be on one.”