Quarter Dreams



Morgen Knight


“Heads, we get married; tails, we break up.”

Barbra glanced at the quarter in his left hand and then looked at the pistol in his right. “Quit this,” she said as if this were already a tired game. She remembered tossing quarters into fountains, trying to bribe a dream.

“Quit this?” he growled, amazed. “I catch you sneakin off, an you want me to quit? You got some sack, lady.” He ran a wrist over his wild hair. Eyes jumpy.

Barbra looked at the poorly stuffed bags on the filthy sheet. They were damning evidence. But he was supposed to be gone for another two hours. More than enough. No words, no note, an empty closet telling all the story that needed to be told.

She turned toward the grim-covered window, but Simon stepped in front of her. He was smiling, but it wasn’t his amused smile. “Are you gonna move?” she asked.

“Oh! I’m the jerk?” He touched the end of the pistol to his chest; his other hand was a fist. “You’re leavin me,” he snarled through clenched teeth, pushing the end of the pistol against her brow, “an I gotta be friendly? You’ve gotta confused mind, Barbi.”

Oh, he knew how she hated him calling her that, but she bit down; if she lost it, he really would.

“You don’t leave me.” He steadied himself with a deep breath. “You don’t getta do that.” He used the pistol like an accusing finger. “Besides, what’s a reason?” He shrugged, almost comically.

The drugs. The filth. The cockroaches and emptiness. The violence. What she said was: “I need a new life.”

“What makes this one so bad for you?” Simon sounded almost charming, the Simon she’d fallen in love with. If not love, maybe a twisted sort of co-dependent reliance. Tail-spinning children of broken homes.

“You’re holdin a gun to my head,” she said flatly.

Smile gone, his face reddened. “SHUT YOUR MOUTH!”

Barbra flinched, hands trembling. She was strong enough for this. She’d been strong enough to know she couldn’t keep living this life. She’d been strong enough to put her legs in those stirrups after she’d realized what was growing in her and the doom that brought. She was strong enough to start over, even if it was only for a quarter dream, so she had to be strong enough to see the end.

“I thought I loved you,” he said.

“Maybe you did.” She paused. “Simon.” He looked at her with a miserable hope, the anger flickering uncertain. “Flip the coin.”


“Flip you coin. Heads, I walk; tails, we break up.”

He smirked. “That ain’t no game. How do I win?”

“It’s the only game I’ll play.”

He thought for a moment, his face making a complicated expression. “Okay,” he finally said, nodding, the nod growing vigorous, jaw clenched. When he looked at her, it was with all the malice of the wounded. “What’s that song about breakin up bein hard to do?” he laughed, cocking the pistol. “I guess maybe we’ll see.”

“I guess,” she mumbled.

“You sure you wanna play?”

“Flip the god damn coin so we can be done.” It was the first angry flare she’d let out in this twenty minute abhorrence.

This time Simon flinched. His mad smile slowly washed back in like a tide full of plane wreckage. “Okay, Barbi doll, we’ll flip.” He readied the coin on his thumb. “Flip for keeps, like we said as kids.”

Barbra looked at the round coin. There was something about its shape that felt significant—karma; connectivity; repetition, maybe? She watched Simon toss the quarter into the air and thought about how some people only dream of being different.

The quarter bounced once, twice. It was like she already knew what it’d give her, she just had to see it. Just had to wait for it to quit spinning.

And then it did, his foot stomping down on it.

“I think I really loved you,” Simon pouted; it was the last thing she ever heard him say.

Sometimes quarter dreams are what we have to hold on to.

He lifted his foot.

    • David Jones
    • October 29th, 2013

    Very nice ending. Good deiiniation of the characters in this short format.

    Gritty story, and it hits me in a challenging place. Having a rural Missouri upbringing I knew men that sad. To this day it makes me want to go Jigsaw on these twisted wrecks of masculinity.

    Good to read something new from you. Be well.

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