In the United States, people often say you should keep the first dollar you ever make. Why is that? Is it supposed to be good luck? Some half-forgotten superstition? Often when I go into a restaurant or diner or some little Mom and Pop store, there up on the wall, over the cash register or the grill or just somewhere it can be seen and heard and felt, is that single battered dollar bill, faded from ten-fifteen-twenty years of sunlight and cigarette smoke and nervous hope. Why? I don't know what's happened to the first dollar I ever made. I probably spent it on candy. So what drives some people to hold on to theirs like it's the last kiss from the lover they never thought they'd let go? I have no idea.

It was a big risk, and they felt it deep inside, even though neither of them wanted to talk about it: That huge loan from the bank that they would be paying off for 20 years, IF they were able to make a go of it.

The trust which was so crucial here was palpable. You could see it float in the air between them like an aura of thread. They had to pledge not only to remain married for the rest of their lives; they also had to work together, side by side, each and every day.

Abe and Annie would get to work at 5:30 AM each morning, except for Sundays. Annie would put on a pot of coffee while Abe put on his leather apron and began to sort the shoes which he would work on in the morning hours. Annie would dust and sweep out the store until opening time at 7:00. At that time, she would take her place behind the register on the same stool she sat on today. Thirty five years and millions of pairs of shoes later.

That old faded dollar was in a $2 frame on the wall behind the register. It had fallen several times. Each time, Annie would replace the glass without a thought of buying a new frame. Each time she looked at it,

All she could see was love.

When my grandad came home at the end of his first week of paid work, he handed his mother his pay.

It was a golden half-sovereign.

She put it carefully away in a place for special things, and when he left home, she took it out and gave it back to him.

He kept it all his life, and when he died, it came down to my mother, who boxed it prettily, and passed it on to me.

I'm glad my grandad kept the first dollar he ever made.

The first dollar I ever made took a lot of work. Finding the right paper. Getting the offset press exactly right. Some people claim you can use laser printers these days, but that's just stupid, anybody with a good eye or a lot of horse sense can tell the difference. I'll tell you, it makes changing the serial numbers a little difficult, but an offset press is worth the trouble.

It took me days to mix the ink exactly right, and more days to weather the bill. If that bill don't look like it's been in circulation, believe-you-me, people will look closer at it. And that's the last thing you want.

I don't think I've ever been so proud as the day I made my first dollar, not even when I broke Lefty out of the county holding cell before his arraignment. That was a fine piece of work, but a dollar is forever. I'd still have that little guy, but when the cops busted me up a few years back, it all went into the evidence lockers. I got off that time, but they weren't about to give me that dollar back. I still get a little misty-eyed when I think about that first dollar I ever made, though.

Well me and Frank (the Wookiee in his college days) had wound up flat broke in a roach-sprinkled Reno motel. That morning I'd woken up with a tongue tasting like cheap-ass Tequila, my manly frame inverted on a comfy chair that was shedding stuffing like Roseanne Barr Arnold at a lipsuctionists trade show. Frank was swatting flies with a squash racket he'd liberated from some touring Taiwanese salarymen. He'd duct-taped up the racket head to prevent the smaller targets slipping through. Evidently, there was acid to be had around here.

The room was full of old-fashioned waffle irons that we'd sprung from some poor bastard's storage garage the night before. We'd been so hopped up on goofballs that we kept dropping the damn things lugging them back to the car. My feet felt swollen. I looked up and saw that they were red and throbbing. I was just glad to see there were no griddle marks. Task one of the day would be locating my boots then.

To cut a long story short, which would be desirable at this juncture I sense, we somehow managed to trade them waffleirons for a bunch of bananas, a printing press and a betamax VCR. Mr. Lucky, our simian friend, was much obliged to get them bananas. I never saw a monkey drink as hard as that son of a bitch, and he really needed that potassium-rich snack to cushion the blow. Frank was tinkerin' with the press as Lucky and I played pool in the lobby. Lucky had to keep helping himself to tall glasses of water from the soda pump, but he still chalked up an easy win.

Well, we went back up to see if Frank was rational. He said he'd got the press working and had enough bananas stashed to convince Lucky to operate it for a few hours. We were all agreed and production began in earnest. I went down to the store to see if I could score any more yellow fruit while Frank started tearing up more king size and gluing it together again. He had a plan.

Laying blame would not get us anywhere after the event of course, so I mean Frank no ill. We were all guilty on this one. A week later of course we looked back at this episode and felt it could have been handled better. The key thing, of course, when the cops show up enquiring about why you've been trying to pass off banana-smelling one-sided notes as legal tender, is not to allow your lysergic-frazzled travelling companion to try to bribe them with more. I won't be making any more dollars, you can count on that.

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