The weight of a U.S. twenty-five cent piece is just about 2.3 grams and is composed of something called “cupro-nickel” and has been that weight since the 1960’s.
In 1984, if you asked Gary Bleckner, well, he would have a different point of view.
“These damn things weigh a ton,” Gary remarked, heaving a sealed bucket off the hand truck and onto the floor of the cavern. “How much ya think’s in here?”
“Dunno. Couple hundred bucks?” Dennis responded, swinging a second bucket next to the first.
“Nah. No way. There gotta be more than that. Gallon jugs full of qwar-ders...I’d say...a grand a bucket.” Gary tore the tape that sealed the bucket off the container and pulled the top off to reveal coins of various denominations.
“I thought it was supposed to be quarters?” Dennis questioned Gary, wiping his hands on his Levi’s and kneeling closer to the opened receptacle.
Disregarding the interrogation, Gary asked, “Indiana Jones? Didya see that one? Now THAT’S a movie. I don’t know about all these pirates and blood suckers...in a kids movie?” Gary thrust his hand into the open bucket, lifted out a handful of coins, and began scattering the change on the ground. “And this ain’t the treasure? You know, when I was twelve, I would have killed for a bucket of quarters.”
“‘Cept it’s not quarters...it’s pennies, too.”
“Ah. Still. You know what I mean.”
The two men slowly took turns pulling up handfuls of change, one at a time, and sowing the ground with the fortune.
“Eh. I don’t know Gary. I like the Gremlins one. Made me laugh,” Dennis suggested, “I know it’s a kids movie...but it was cute. My girl loved it.”
“Oh yea? You like that one? You know I worked on that one?” Gary offered casually, slowing his pace and peering at the credulous Dennis who was kneeling and catching a respite. Gary turned back to the bucket of change. “That whole eatin’ thing was my idea ya know,” scooping a fresh handful and continuing, “...I was cleaning up green slime shit in a kitchen for goddam three hours and I told Steve that this mess reminded me of the time this old dog of mine got into the bottom shelf of the fridge while we were sleeping and got sick. Damn dog got into a jello mold that my wife made. Looked like ‘Nam!”
Dennis, shifting his glance to a sideways head tilt, likening himself to Gary’s fabled retriever, considered whether he would chew on this story any longer. The quiet was loud.
Gary cut through the silence, “Yea I guess those things were pretty funny lookin.”
And the men continued, shuffling around the artificial rock cavern tossing piles of coins at the earth.
“What is this supposed to be anyway, a cave?” Dennis questioned, walking over to the edge of some pooling water and looking up at the ceiling of the space.
“It said, ‘WISHING WELL’ on the production work order,” Gary answered.
“I guess that explains the coins? Are they supposed to be wishes? Maybe from the hole up there?” Dennis pointed to a gap in the cave ceiling, where an old wood barrel dangled from a rope.
“WORK ORDER. They give us the order and we work. Don’t ask so many questions!” The obvious tension built from Dennis’ earlier inquisition had yet to dissipate.
Dennis, understanding Gary’s tone, responded in-kind, “So did Steve get you the job here?”
“Yea-- Steve, right....It’s like I’m always saying...the union has weight. Maybe not as heavy as these goddamn buckets of qwar-ders...but the Teamsters take care of you. And THAT’S why I am voting for Reagan next week.”
Dennis listened to the pitch, and a few clumsy verbal somersaults, all the while nearing the end of his bucket of change.
“The Teamsters got me this job. And The Teamsters say to vote Reagan. I suggest you do, too.”
“I’m not so sure. Remember the airlines? What about all this bustin--”
“Dennis. This is the movies. Ain’t got nothin’ to do with the airlines. And while we’re at it, one piece of advice. They are always listening. Someone heard me talkin’ once and they even used one of my lines in that Goblins one.”
“Right. Gremlins! So watch what you say! You want to keep working around here? Keep talking like that! You’ll be beggin’ for coins instead of throwing them around a cave!”
In his heated defense of the Teamsters, Gary began to stumble. Tripping over an untied lace and losing his grip on the damp cavern floor, his steadying steps only found piles of soon-to-be discarded wishing coins to slide across. In what felt like a lifetime, the next few seconds Gary watched the inevitable tumble and fall draw nearer and he considered whether one of these coins was his own dream. His own wish. And whether he could take it back? Whether he could take it all back?
And as he closed his eyes and prepared for the darkness he felt it...the strong sure hands of Dennis.
“Careful there. I got you. You can’t keep working if you Die!” Dennis quipped confidently.
Loosening his grip on the steadied Gary, Dennis stepped back to his bucket. In one motion he lifted the almost emptied bucket of coins and splashed the remaining change over the pool of water.
Gary closed the other bucket and used it as a seat. He pulled a flattened pack of Winston’s from his breast pocket, lit up, and took a pull.
“Die? Ah shut up. You know what it’ll say on my headstone? Garys. Never. Say. DIE,” punching his pinched cigarette with each word.
In one week, an election would be decided, and somewhere off set, the not-so-great communicator, Gary, had inspired change...by the bucket load.