It was a chilly February morning. Saturday, the day he was supposed to be off, but there he was at the shop, and by himself at that. He was fine with it, he was a lone wolf, anyway. He found people to be annoying, and it was amazing that they would practically blurt out their life's story in places like the line at the supermarket, This old rural waste of a town, where most of the factories had closed, and the population had made way for petty criminals and dollar stores. He was stuck here, with a wage that twenty years ago would have been considered bordering on rich, but now barely meets the middle class, and few connections.. He had more in mind than this, he thought as he banged through his work, pressing this, programming that as the aluminum bars formed into parts, based on what he told it to do. He reflected back to just a couple of years prior, when the old boss used to hand crank the machine. He chuckled out loud, what a sap. People were so averse to change that they would rather hand crank and get burned by the little bits of metal than be able to use a simple computer program and be able to do other things, like sit in their office watching porn.
With that he decided to go in to check his email and thought about how much he hated that the town had gone so downhill. This used to be a mecca of the furniture and chemical industry. It was a place where a man , in one day could resign a job with a better one already obtained, the pure capitalistic nature. Now it was all outsourced to third world countries, the place desolate as a tumbleweed infected ghost town. He turned on the television screen to see an info-mmercial. “Do you want to make money? We all do!” the voice blaring from the audio. He focused on that word, make.. What if he could somehow make money, literally? How would that work and what would he need? He thought about it for a minute and realized that he had all he needed right here in this shop and in his brain. He had the milling machine, the lathe, why he could manufacture plates that he could use.
This was crazy, he had not had a foray like many in this town into the jail cell, not even a minor infraction. He had worked hard all his life, but what had it really gotten him. He was in a cell of sorts, stuck in a circular motion. Would it make a difference if he just got a little for himself? Who was it hurting anyway. Work, home, and back again. He had no partner, no dependents. If he did this it would be a risk on him entirely. He figured he would make a little at a time, not twenty dollar bills or higher, they were always checked. He planned on creating fives and tens. Few people checked to see the smaller denominations. People were generally greedy, and that is how they got caught. He did not want to go overboard, just enough to live more comfortably. To maybe be able to get out a little more, afford to travel.
He decided to make the ten dollar plate. He would bleach a one dollar note, and turn it into ten. One hundred would become one thousand. One thousand would become ten thousand. The thought of it filled him with anticipation and relief. He imagined the things he could do, the places he could go. He thought of Dr Seuss and laughed, he was getting way ahead of himself.
He stayed all night, working fabricating , getting them just right. He was thankful that nobody cared enough to place cameras at the shop nor check on him. He had always been a great employee. Each time he used a tool, he wrote it down in his little black book. He calculated, and scribbled, really tedious work. He had to design a way to align the plates, as they were receded into high grade metal. The dollar needed to fit well, so he used a drill rod as dowells to align the plates to precision. He recessed the image into the stainless steel, so the image would fit well into the plate. Each ten dollar bill had a different sequence number, so he decided that each ten should have a different serial non sequential number. But how many would be enough? He decided on ten. He threw numbers in a hat 0-9 and randomly drew them out of a hat. He pulled them out one by one until he had 8 numbers. He did the same with letters having looked up the letter that matched the mint. Near dawn, the finished product was complete. He had ten plates for ten dollar bills with different serial numbers staring up at him.
It was Sunday at 0502. He would always remember the time. The first bill came out of his pocket. It came out crinkled the edges. He smoothed them out and stared into the face of George Washington. He turned it over and saw the all seeing eye in the pyramid. He almost gave up at that point, it just felt intrinsically wrong to alter the print he had known for all these years, He took a deep breath and slowly and methodically dipped the dollar bill into the bleach concoction. In God We Trust slowly faded as it was submerged. A toothbrush to the bill did the rest of the work and he had a clean slate to work with. The next thing needed was building a press. He placed the ink on the plates and the bleached bill in the recessed area. He held his breath as he pulled the lever. The bill prototype came out with alignment well, but the ink was off. He compared the forgery with a regular bill. He had some work to do.
He gathered the plates together sometime before eight. He realized that it might look very odd if someone was there so long. Not that anyone would really notice. He needed some sleep, and perhaps he would look back on this and see the error of his ways. He entered his small house and put his keys in the bowl by the door. He laid down in his weathered couch and immediately fell asleep. His dreams swirled around the colors money green and police blue.
The next two weeks he slowly but surely perfected the ink and the bills started to flow. He kept them in a duffel bag that he always brought around with him, to avoid any suspicion. He started going around to small stores, hitting mom and pop shops and dollar outlets. Nobody ever looked twice at the ten dollar bills. The true test would be at the bank.
He woke up in a sweat, the same dream he had been having all week. He was labelled a crook, and paraded around town on a platform made of money and the etching plates. On his forehead was Cheater in black ink. He brushed off the dream, and took a cold shower.
He took a deep breath as he got out of his car in the bank parking lot. He had chosen three regular tens and two home -made ones to deposit. He entered the bank nonchalantly and pulled up to the clerk, whom he knew. “ Hey there Rebecca, I need to deposit.” She haphazardly looked at the bills and placed them into the counter, “all set, have a good day”. He walked out with a slight smile, then slightly frowned. He wondered if maybe she didn’t pay close attention because she knew him. He would have to ride down to the next town next week and see if it still worked.
That night, his dream was back with a vengeance. He was thrown down in the dungeon, with nothing to eat except ten dollar bills. He had “made” twenty thousand dollars. He had tens in packs of fifty with a small rubber band around them. He sat there in his small home, looking through his duffel bag. He did not feel any better with this new wealth. In fact he felt guilty as sin. He wasn’t and never had been a cheater, he had pride in his moral turpitude, yet he wasn’t living what he believed.
He knew what he had to do and that was get rid of the plates. It was Saturday early. He was due at the shop again, and he brought his bag with him, as always. He pulled the plates out and programmed the mill to flatten the engravings. As he sent them down the line, he felt a pang of sadness, yet a giant breath of relief. He watched them go, and as the tools touched the metal, he instantly felt better. He hoped his nightmares would disappear, and he vowed to get rid of the rest. He located a metal trashcan in the workroom and brought outside to the dock. He then started a fire with his Stepdad old lighter with a eagle on it. All that money was engulfed in flames, and he watched it until there was nothing but embers. He threw the ashes in the field out back when they were cold. The wind and nature's fury would soon take care of those. It is true what they say, money can’t always buy happiness, but in the right circumstances it helps.