The Coin-Operated Forest
It wasn’t fair, my getting fired. Sometimes when customers put a quarter or dollar coin into a tree trunk, it wouldn’t make it to the cash box. There was an understanding among the workers that these stray coins were fair game – a little compensation for our low wages. Besides, the owners could have upgraded the trees, but didn’t want to give a portion to credit card companies. They claimed the retro feel was important to customers, but personally I think they wanted an all-cash business for laundering money. Not that I have any proof of that. Be that as it may, someone ratted me out. It was a good gig while it lasted. I got to tool around in an ATV to make collections. It was equipped with a sensor that unlocked the view of the trees in full leaf, gratis. A friend who worked for a rival company without that perk said it was no fun driving around all day looking at bare branches. Just like customers, they had to pay for a view. Now, at night I watch the glow from the company’s restaurant/casino complex out at the expressway exit. I used to go there for a happy hour beer or two, and maybe drop a few quarters into a slot machine, but not anymore. I’m not officially banned, just shunned – which is somehow worse. And anyway, I’m putting all my spare change in a jar so come spring I can see the lilacs bloom, however briefly.
Marc J. Sheehan is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Greatest Hits, and Vengeful Hymns; two poetry chapbooks, Limits to the Salutary Effects of Upper-Midwestern Melancholy, and Minor Late Empire Diversions; and two chapbooks of flash fiction, Dissenting Opinion from the Committee for the Beatitudes, and The Civil War War. He lives in Grand Haven, Michigan.