Susan Charkes

No, I don’t need any more. Do you?

Once upon a time there was a princess whose skin was as thin as the sheen on her diamond tiara. It was so sensitive that she never got any sleep because her father the miser stashed all his gold coins under her mattress. “I don’t care what your problem is,” he said. “Deal with it because one day you’re going to inherit my castle and you’ll need to make mortgage payments.”

Hard by the Bahamas, the Spanish galleon Mamacita plunges through the gale, her sails taut as the black pinafore wrapped around the captain’s bosom. Of a sudden, out of the fog dense as sweet milk, appears a black mountain capped with a tower of spume, rising up, up, up. “La ballena!” cries the captain. “A babor!” To port, though, lie the rocks. The keel is shattered, the hull rent open, its contents spewed over the surface of the sea, regurgitated riches from the treasuries of looted merchant ships, glittering like trillions of tiny plankton. The captain wraps her legs around the mainmast as it plunges to the sea bottom. Sewn into the inside seam of her pinafore, a Seville escudo, for luck. And who knows? Maybe it worked.

Crows have the ability to use tools, and they’re willing to work for less than minimum wage.

Words and money, weak sisters, all sign and no substance. Without us they’d be jellyfish stranded on a beach, the ocean lapping them up with each flick of its foam-rimmed tongue. Suppose you’re at a clam-bake, with nothing to say to your fellow indigenous person. No worries! Gift a clam-shell to your neighbor. The purple ones are worth a lot more. But you won’t find them in a dictionary.

When was it, exactly, that those little dishes of pennies started showing up at cash registers? And what happened to the little dishes of mints that used to be there? Did the mints redefine themselves so they could switch over to coin production? But they didn’t get it quite right. That’s why there’s that occasional green penny in the dish. Go ahead, eat it. You had onions on your cheesesteak.

This one is guaranteed! At exactly noon on your birthday, take a fresh dollar bill and, using both hands, hold it under a course of flowing water. Look directly into the eyes of George Washington. Continue looking. Do not avert your gaze until you see Father George blink. Immediately say, “No horsing around!” Then lean all the way back and shoot a cherry-wood arrow straight overhead. Don’t worry, you won’t go blind. The white horse leaping over the stream will block out the sun. And it’s not really a horse. It’s a piñata filled with gold ingots. Now would be a good time to run, unless you brought your hard-hat.

Susan Charkes lives in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her poetry chapbook, sp., is available (The Operating System, 2017), and her poems have been published in Arsenic Lobster, Cleaver, Denver Quarterly, Gargoyle, The Matador Review, Paper Nautilus, Posit, Prick of the Spindle, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Wax Paper, and elsewhere.

more by Susan Charkes:
The Bird Who Came to Dinner
One Floor Over the Cuckoo's Nest