Paper trail

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It started simple enough.

A 6 1/8” by 2 5/8” piece of coarse paper.

It was dyed on both sides with various patterns and sent off to the bank. Thus began the journey of this particular dollar bill, serial number B22675432G.

It was placed into the hands of Barbara Wilson, a middle-aged, red-haired divorcee who worked at the nearby paper mill. Barbara, who had a reputation for fiestiness, noticed the crisp, new bill as she cashed her check.

She smelled it, as she envisioned what it could do for her.

It traveled in her wallet to a nearby grocery store where it, along with a few others, was traded for a dozen extra large eggs.

It stayed in the dark cash register drawer all of 15 minutes, at which time it was given as change to a miserly, wrinkled, gray haired gentleman who lived in a one-room apartment off Clay Street. Living off his monthly Social Security check, he held tightly to the little cash he acquired. Thus, it stayed in his top nightstand drawer for three months, until it was finally traded one cold morn at the local store for a cup of coffee. By now, it was not quite as crisp.

It quickly entered the pocket of 17-year-old “Scoot” Thompson as change for a Snickers bar and enjoyed a speedy ride back to Scoot’s house in his new Mustang convertible, leather interior and all.

Upon Scoot’s exit from his car, it took a tumble from the front left pants pocket and landed amongst the No. 57 rock in the driveway, where it sat for 16 days.

At that time, 5-year-old Marty Schumaker from next door, upon throwing rocks at birds, discovered it. Being an ingenious lad, he entertained the possibilities and decided it was the perfect size for his new-found activity of paper airplanes, and thus it became his newest creation.

But on its third flight, it sailed over the backyard fence into the neighbor’s yard, and Marty’s interest turned to the large, black beetle discovered under the bricks at the shed.

A week later, doing yard work, Chris McCutchen found the makeshift plane. Unfolding it, he marveled at his find, for there was just something about finding a dollar bill that invigorated a man’s soul.

But that feeling quickly diminished as his wife needed cash on her trip to the hairdresser.

It was used as a tip for Betty Jean, who knew everything about everybody.

And so it was that this bill continued its journey from new owner to new owner. And though just a rectangular piece of paper, it carried with it an unearthly power that affected all who came in possession of it.

Some owned the bill. The bill owned some.

By now weathered and torn, it, along with over a million others, came into the possession of one Mr. John C. Williams, III. Here it sat for years, behind the thick walls of a safe, until the demise of its owner.

Being the custom to place in the casket those objects most adored by the deceased, it

was decided to place within the right hand of Mr. Williams that which he most valued.

And so today, at a particular church cemetery, burial plot 119, encircled by the bony fingers of Mr. Williams, is a wrinkled dollar bill, serial number B22675432G, waiting to be unearthed by some soul and sent on its journey.

Rex alphin is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is