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Unlucky Pennies

Shondra Snodderly lives in Saint Joseph, Missouri, where she works retail and thinks way too much about all kinds of things. Some of those things eventually become stories. She has been published in Speculative City and the anthologies Phantasmical Contraptions and Other Errors, Unearthly Sleuths, and Myths, Monsters, Mutations.
The stink of copper assaulted Esme as soon as she entered the house. It used to bother her, back when she first started in the business, but now she didn't even bat an eye. Instead she smiled at the couple that answered the door and allowed them to show her inside.
She took out her flashlight and shone it along the baseboards, taking note of the glint of metal as dozens of tiny devils scurried for cover. She marked her findings down on her inspection form. The couple had hovered over her for the entire inspection, and now she could feel their eyes drilling into her while they waited for her verdict. "There's no doubt about it," she said. "You've got pennies."
The husband ran a hand over his face and huffed. "We already knew that. What we don't know is how we got them."
"It's been years since I've even seen a dollar bill in person." From the look of the wife's boutique-style dress, Esme could believe it.
Her tour of the house had taken her through two bedrooms with toys scattered on the floor. It wasn't hard for her to make the connection, but sometimes customers needed a little help.
"You have kids, right?"
"They're at school," the wife said, already going on the defensive.
"What have they got to do with it?" She could almost hear the accusation in his tone. Are you calling us bad parents? Esme put her hands up in what she hoped was a placating gesture.
"I see this sort of thing all the time. Kids go outside to play. They see something round and shiny on the ground. It's cute, right? Harmless. Maybe they bring it home. Or they lose a tooth at school and another kid tells them about a fairy that trades presents for teeth. Before you know it, they're everywhere."
The husband opened his mouth to argue, but nothing came out. His wife went pale and put a hand over her mouth. She had seen this reaction before. It had probably never occurred to them to educate their kids about safe spending.
The wife recovered first. "So what can we do?"
Esme hefted her case onto an empty countertop and opened it. Inside were a few shiny piggy banks. She pulled one out to show them. "I'll start out by laying out some traps. In a couple weeks, I'll be back to check them and move them around if there's been no activity."
The banks went in the usual areas: Behind the couch, under the kids' beds, next to the washing machine, and on the table by the front door where the couple kept their keys. She drew up an invoice at the front door.
"You'll be considered free from infestation when we can go three visits without finding anything. In the meantime, start teaching your kids about digital currency. Start them out with branded gift cards, and from there work them up to full-fledged debit accounts. And for goodness sake, don't let them put any teeth under their pillows."
Esme processed their credit card payment and emailed them their invoice. Back in the truck, she checked on her other appointments for the day. The only other one was a call from the city. The town fountain was full again. She sighed. Setting up the fountain was a great collection method, but it was always an all-day job. She just hoped she hadn't forgotten her wading boots again.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, August 18th, 2020


The seed for this story sprouted when I was digging through my pockets for something and some loose change slid across to the other side like it was scurrying to stay out of sight. Coupled with the news that some businesses and even entire countries are going cashless, it seemed like somewhere down the road, cash might start to seem like a nuisance. And where there's a nuisance, there's someone whose job it is to remove it.

- Shondra Snodderly
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