So many words are already written on a dollar bill, it hardly needs more language from me, words as evocative as God and Trust, as if heaven had to sanction my buying a croissant, beautiful words though, about my public and private debts. Legal Tender is practically a poem. That this dollar is a Note from the Federal Reserve made me want to reply. I drew a speech balloon with a felt-tip pen, to give tight-lipped George Washington, so long silent, his say. “Hi,” he said, in red ink, jauntily, and I spent him on butter. I wondered if I’d gone too far. The Latin, the coded numbers, a proper study should be done before any of these documents change hands. Two days later I got my reply, slipped in with some other change, the bill unfolded and addressed me directly. “Hi,” it replied. And so began my recruitment. The next balloon said “I am the root of all evil.” I started watching cashiers’ faces for glimmers of complicity. These dollars are harder to spend. The clerks and I, the cabbies and I, the waitresses have to decide how we feel about these dollars. Those with the most writing don’t even look like money. The felt-tip ink bleeds through and taints them, front and back. I love to receive them in change, but then, I also make friends with wrong numbers. They bring me into a conversation others never hear. Overall spending has declined. I pass these notes with greater care and think about what I get in return and the value of what I’m giving. I shake hands with every dollar and it shakes every hand it passes through. I can’t buy breakfast any more without wondering what the eye above the pyramid means to the fry cook.

Copyright © March 20, 2008 David Hodges