06 February 2013

Exact Change

"Exact change."

"Excuse me?"

"Exact change," the ferryman repeated. "For passage to the other side."

I dug in my pockets. "I think I was mugged."

The ferryman huffed a sigh. "They don't bury people with exact change any more," he said, almost sadly. "Used to never be a problem, but these days . . . People have all kinds of things with them: rosaries, holy books, fancy jewelry, fine clothes, lots of flowers"—and here he sniffed—"'llergic to flowers," he muttered.

"But just the two coins, nobody ever has 'em."

"I don't have my wallet," I said, feeling a bit panicked.

"'Course not," said the ferryman. "Don't bury people with wallets."

"I'm buried?"

"You best be. I don't come get you 'til you are. Dead and buried."

"Then where was I before I was buried?"

He shrugged. "What do I know? Or care? You're here now, so you're buried somewhere." He pointed to the darkness above us. "What do you think that is?"

"What if someone's creamated?"

The ferryman shrugged again. "Doesn't mean anything to me."

"Well, what if they were creamated and then the ashes were buried?"

Now he looked at me as if I'd gone mad. "Pile of ashes ain't going to have two coins either. I'd just leave it there with the rest of the dirt." He gestured in the general direction of my feet.

"Look, I don't have any coins," I said. "Are you going to leave me here?"

He sighed again. "If I did that, there wouldn't be any room left here at the dock. Get in." As I scrambled uneasily aboard his ratty little pirogue, he muttered, ". . . Owe me . . . list of IOUs the length of . . . trying to give me credit cards . . ."

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