Mark Of The Penny Snatchers

“Mark Of The Penny Snatchers”


dedicated to my husband


December 25, 2008

and to his friends



Class of 68

Dubuque, Iowa

who inspired this tale.

Photo By:dfmead

” So you finally get to go on vacation, ” Chesa Appleway’s friend said to her at lunch. ” I can’t believe it. You on vacation. So. Where are you guys going?”

” To Seattle. ” Chesa said into her plate of Chilli-Fries.

” Well. That sounds nice ” Vicky said wondering why Chesa looked like she was going to Seattle for a funeral as opposed to Seattle which was at least six  States  away from work. ” Is it for a special occasion or …” Vicky snuck another look at the expression on Chesa’s face and thought- God, it has to be bad. but maybe it wasn’t so she asked, “I know you’re going to see that volcano- Mount Helen, right?”

” Mount Helen…geeze Vic is that all  you ever think about? It’s called Mount Saint Helens and we won’t be doing anything fun like walking up and down the side of a live volcano on this trip.”

” Oh no. ” Vicky could have pinched herself for being so dumb, of course it was for a Funeral or something like that- Chesa and Norbert never took vacations – Chesa and Norbert owned the biggest, the most well known Coffin making company in the United States. Those two were always working and if they weren’t working they were thinking about working.

” So why the trip? ” Vicky asked quietly, gently.

” It’s Norbert’s 40 year High-school Reunion.”

Both women looked at each other for a minute and then burst into tears.

” Oh God. I’m sorry Chesa. ” Vicky gave her friend’s sagging shoulders a hug. ” I am so sorry.”


Later, Chesa had to admit that the four days in Seattle weren’t her worst days, maybe not the best but they were far from being the worst.

Most of Norbert’s classmates enjoyed telling her stories about the Norbert they used to know and in turn they seemed happy to hear Chesa’s stories which more or less confirmed that Norbert  was indeed still Norbert.

Norbert still liked to read History books for fun, he still sang in a rock band on the weekends and he still drove to slow on the freeways- which meant he still got pulled over a lot because nothing looks more suspicious to a Cop then a sports car going to slow on a practically empty road.

And the one thing you could count on was that the roads Norbert drove on were going to empty because Norbert hated to drive in heavy traffic.

” Good old Norbert ” they said separately and together ” he’s still the same good old Norbert. “

So it was the night of dinner / dance down at waterfront when Chesa, Norbert and some of his friends stopped into a tourist shop that featured a Mummy, a collection of shrunken heads and a machine that flattened pennies that Chesa really did learn something new about Norbert- something that she never thought he would do.

Norbert was a member of a secret club.

 Chesa learned about the Club just after she and Norbert and some of his friends were all looking at the Shrunken Heads collection together. Chesa moved down to take a look at a two headed calf  and when she turned around a few minutes later she saw Norbert, Mark, Sean, Tony and Darren standing there in front of the Penny Flattening  Machine looking slightly embarrassed and a little guilty.

Norbert said, ” well if we had used this thing it would have saved us a lot of trouble.”

” What do you mean? ” Chesa asked.

” I mean, ” Norbert held his right hand up ” I could have been a Piano player AND a singer.

” What do pennies have to do with you not having the tops of two of your fingers?”

Darren looked around and said almost in a whisper, ” we were part of a secret Society called  ‘The Penny Snatchers’ “

” You lost your fingers stealing pennies Norbert ? Good. That was stupid. If you were going to steal money you should have at least gone for nickles. Maybe even…dimes.”

” No- ” Sean took her by her elbow and leaned down and whispered into her ear, ” we used to go down to the tracks on King Street and put pennies under the trains wheels while the trains were parked and right after they flattened them we’d snatch them off the tracks before the next set of wheels came along.”

” That.Is.The. Dumbest. Thing. That. Anyone.Has. Ever. Done.”

” Yeah. Well, we were kids. We were eight years old when we started  The Club. We cared more about that then being in the Boy Scouts even” Darren said as he started to go through the change in his pocket.

” Why on Earth did you do that?”

”  For the dare” Norbert said defensively “and we collected flattened pennies. Those things were valuable.”

 Invaluable ” The Penny Snatchers said all at once.

And then they heartily agreed at the tops of their  lungs with each other and just in time remembered to lower their voices. Fifty years may have gone by since the first official meeting of the Penny Snatchers, but from the looks on their faces it could have been two hours ago.

Chesa rolled her eyes upwards at the comments that followed about bravery it took to be a Penny Snatcher and the cool comics and candy you could trade your flattened pennies for. And as Chesa looked down and considered what to say to that she noticed that Norbert wasn’t the only one of the Penny Snatchers with missing fingers.

She looked up almost in shock.

” Whose stupid idea was this penny snatching thing? “

Mark raised his hand and smiled. “Guilty.”

Norbert and the other guys – who had indeed bought some flattened pennies from the Machine started to walk towards the front of the store.

Chesa and Mark were left standing alone by the Penny Flattening Machine and a shelf full of soaps set with scorpions and leeches- plastic ones Chesa guessed.

” For real, this was all about collecting flattened pennies?” Chesa demanded.

 Mark held his hands up in mock self defense and Chesa saw he still had all of  his fingers still attached to his hand ” I wasn’t there to collect pennies.”



Photo By:matildaben

Typical Trixie

Trixie was always late-


her family thought she had a mental deficiency because not only was she always late she never learned to tell time very well from clocks with faces. Even when those were replaced by digital clocks it still didn’t make a difference because Trixie still found herself chasing after buses or coughing up dust from the trains as they sped by without her to a place she was probably supposed to be an hour or two before.


Trixie always burned the food she cooked, her clothes were always damp or ruined when she took them out of her dryer and she studied the Piano faithfully for years and practiced but it didn’t matter because no matter how hard she worked her timing was always off.


“Oh Trixie “they would say “typical Trixie, you have to pay more attention to the time.”


“Why should I? “She would say “It looks to me like it already has enough people paying attention to it. I doubt it even misses me…for a minute” and then she would fall over laughing.


And then one day after a week that involved yet another late date with her fiance’ Barney, Trixie made her way to her sister’s house.

 Her sister Evie was in her sewing room unpacking a beautiful dress from a box. As she held it up she told Trixie, “ I was going to wear this myself, you know, it was supposed to be for my wedding…but being that I’m not going to be getting married anytime soon, it’s for you Trixie.”


“Wow Evie, it’s … are you sure you want to do that?”


“All I can say Trixie, is that you better not mess this up and show up late. How would that look? “


Trixie shrugged and said, “Well, it sure freak the guests out, that’s for sure.”


During that entire week Trixie stayed as close to her family’s home as possible and as the food and flowers started to arrive her Mother arranged for places for the long distance guests to stay over.


Trixie didn’t dare step foot away from the house, she stayed as close to home and her sister as possible.


“All you have to do is show up on time Trixie- everyone else will do all of the work. I can’t believe this is happening to you first. I always thought it would be me. I’m older after all.”


“Yeah, well, no offense but I feel the same way Evie. But when it happens you sort of have to go with it, you know?”


Evie just busied herself with the final touches on the back of the dress and she told Trixie, “You can have the veil to…”


“I hate those things. “


“I know veils aren’t your thing, but for this one time…”


Trixie touched her cheek and said, “Okay, it’s only going to be this one time. I guess I can handle it.”


And then on the big day, just as the guests were starting to arrive at the church and her fiancé was standing nervously in the Vestibule with her Father who kept walking into the vases full of flowers Trixie who had kept her promise to not put herself in a position to be late and had stayed close to home looked up from her Mother’s kitchen table and saw what the clock and said.


“ Oh No.”


So Trixie ran the four blocks to the Church and she breezed by her guests who were about to be seated.


 Trixie found her Sister sitting up front- and when the Organist saw her she nearly fell off of her stool when she saw Trixie.


Evie’s  arms were folded across her chest and her jaw was clenched so tight that she had to put her fingers to the side of her face to pop them apart.

 “ I’m sorry.”


  “Late for your own funeral…Typical!”


Evie turned and saw that Trixie was still wearing the clothes, torn and ruined and bloodied from four days ago when the Cab Trixie had taken to meet her fiance for dinner ran that red light and Trixie had been thrown from the car, head first, into a telephone pole.


“ Typical Trixie.” Evie said “ When will you learn to pay more attention to the time?”