96 - "Mom, I need a quarter!"


You’ve been extremely patient, as patient as a nine-year-old can be, though the journey has been trying. Every day for the last twelve weeks, you’ve come to the corner store at Plank and


and put a quarter into the novelty toy vending machine. Each time hoping that the machine will drop a snap-shut plastic bubble containing the only thing you want among all the baubles: that sweet, sweet barbed wire temporary tattoo.

All the waiting, all the disappointment will be worth it, you know. Today is the day.

You’ve waded through every conceivable type of vendor trash to get your holy barbed-wire grail. Rubber balls, sticky elastic hands, costume jewelry, little capsules that turn into dinosaur sponges when you put them in water (okay, those were pretty rad), have all come your way and none have failed to disappoint.

You approach the machine and take a deep breath before delicately placing the quarter in the slot, face out. You turn the dial, and as George Washington’s face disappears behind the metal plate you swear you see him wink at you. Heck yeah.

The machine gears grind and ring as you turn the knob, before the final ca-chunk! of machine accepting the quarter and opening the release valve.  Is there a more satisfying sound in all the world? Your young mind is sure no such sound exists.

Soft clicks emit from the dispensing chute as the plastic bubble tumbles down. The hinged plate at the end of the chute gives a tiny clink! and moves outward just slightly as your prize strikes it.

You suck in another deep breath before the moment of truth. You lift the hinged plate and retrieve your prize – inside the bubble you see a white paper with printed instructions for a temporary tattoo. Your heat races with anticipation as your small fingers claw desperately at the snap-on lid of the bubble.

The top pops! open and you claim your prize. As you unfold it, the shape of your victory reveals itself to you in the form of…a Lisa Frank dolphin?

Your head hangs in defeat. You look up at the cloud of bubbles inside the vending machine display glass and shake your head. You trace your fingers along the stickers displaying possible prizes that adorn the outside of the glass until your index finger stops in the middle of the sticker for the barbed wire temporary tattoo.

You lean in close and whisper to your beloved. “I’ll be back tomorrow for you.”

You walk back home, confident that your twin sister will absolutely love the temporary tattoo you got her. You will be back tomorrow – you always will. No amount of losses will take your victory from you, and the fun is in the chase.

You’re nine years old, and quarters can still be magic.