Bob Jenkins dug into the left front pocket of his best dress pants. He dug with little hope, but the guy juggling on the street corner really deserved something for his efforts. The guy was good. As a long time amateur juggler Bob knew how much work went into the seemingly simple routine.
The sign at the feet of the juggler read: Is A Quarter Too Much To Ask?
Bob didn't think it was too much to ask, but he doubted that he had a quarter. He largely used his cards, these days.
"Oh, got something." he said. Bob pulled a quarter from the pocket he had thought empty. He dropped it in the basket next to the sign.
He watched a little longer, and then continued down the sidewalk. He had a job interview in about a half hour, and wanted to get to the place on time. He was not yet in dire straits, but he needed to find some income soon.
As he walked along he put his hand in the pocket from which he had retrieved the quarter. He found another one.
"I could have sworn I had no change in these pants." he said, bringing forth the shining coin. If it weren't so far back he would have given this one to the juggler, as well. He looked back down the street, but the juggler was no longer in sight.
Turning back toward his destination Bob continued his walk. Just as he approached the place he was to have the interview he spotted the juggler plying his trade on the sidewalk near the entrance.
Bob absently dropped the quarter into the juggler's basket. He was musing on the juggler and the quarters well into the interview, which did not go particularly well as a result. Coming out of the building Bob resolved to confront the juggler. He at least wanted to find out how the guy had gotten ahead of him on the street.
The juggler was nowhere in sight. Bob checked his pocket again, and found another quarter. He had pulled seven quarters from his pocket by the time he was convinced something very strange was going on in his pants. Pull a quarter, and the pocket is empty. Put hand in pocket, find quarter.
Bob had a vague recollection of a very old story about a man wearing a bear skin that seemed somehow similar to this strange event, but could not recall enough for it to be of any use. Bob pulled out another quarter and then stopped into a quickie mart to pick up a hot dog and soda.
He sat on the sidewalk and ate his meal, thinking about quarters and pants and men wearing bear skins. Bob resolved to go home.
At home he began pulling quarters from his pocket, stacking them in dollar stacks on the table. One. Two. Three. Four. A dollar. He did this for two hours. He had produced nearly a thousand dollars in that time. A thousand dollars, all in quarters, sitting on his table.
Bob looked at the shiny piles, and guessed that he had enough to test this new situation. He was afraid to remove the pants he was wearing, thinking he would break the spell. Did he want to live in the same pants, never taking them off? That wouldn't work, and he could already detect some wear around the pocket from constantly putting his hand in for another quarter.
He changed pants. He added another three hundred dollars to the stack while testing every pair of pants he owned. Finally he had enough. The pile of quarters was going to be difficult to move to the bank to change it into something more portable. He didn't want to do the quarter trick anymore. He was tired.
He ate a small meal, put on his pajamas and went to bed. He made sure that his pajamas did not have any pockets in them. He was tired of pockets.
In the morning he went out to the table, planning to find a box or bag to carry his quarters in and take them to the bank. The quarters were gone! He grabbed up one of the pairs of pants he had tested the night before and rummaged in the pockets. Nothing!
He quickly put on the pants and put his hand in the pocket. Bob sighed with relief. He pulled out a quarter. He had several dollars stacked on the table before he realized that it would make more sense to do this at the bank. That way he wouldn't have to carry all of the quarters.
Bob spent several hours at the bank, standing at a side table producing and rolling quarters. He had almost fifteen hundred dollars worth of quarters rolled by the time he felt he could do no more. He converted them into a savings account and some pocket cash and left the bank.
He dined in a fine restaurant that evening, mulling over his new wealth. He figured he could have enough to pay the rent and buy a new car if he spent the rest of the month doing as he had done today. Finished with the meal he wandered home, excited by his new prospects.
The following day Bob went to the same bank, produced quarters at an obscure side table and rolled them. He just did a few hundred dollars before he wanted to go to lunch. There was a nice restaurant he wanted to try but had never had the money before.
When he tried to put the money in his savings he discovered that there was no record of the previous day's transaction. His money was gone, as if it had never existed! The clerks and the assistant manager investigated, but there was no record of his money from the previous day. For a time Bob was irate, but over time he recalled the piles of quarters that disappeared from his table.
He thanked the tellers, apologizing for his error. He told them it must have been another bank, and that he had become confused.
Once outside, Bob sighed a great sigh. "The money won't last into the next day!" he said out loud.
Still, he had enough to try that great restaurant. Lunch was fantastic! He couldn't recall enjoying a meal quite so much. After the meal he sat over his coffee and thought about his new fortune.
"Though I have money for nothing, I am not a wealthy man." Bob mused. "I can easily take care of my daily needs, but cannot accumulate enough for big purchases. This is going to require a lot of thought."
The next day Bob went to the bank and worked long enough to have several thousand dollars in his pocket. He went out and bought a used van. He took care of all of the details that day, getting license and registration and insurance all taken care of with his cash. He drove the vehicle back to his apartment and parked it in his parking space. He had not used that space before. It looked strange, having a car there.
Bob had a simple meal that evening. He watched a little television, and then went to bed. He slept fitfully, and awoke early. He looked out the window.
The van was still there.
Over the next few weeks he spent part of each day at the bank, getting together enough cash for the day. He got the van running well, and began to outfit it to live in. It was a cargo van, one that would blend in anywhere. He figured he could live in it, parking wherever he could for those nights he didn't want to use a motel or a campground.
Motels and campgrounds would easily fit within the limits of the money he could produce in any given day.
Bob let the landlord know he would not be renewing his lease. He was moving out, hitting the road. He figured the income from his pockets would be enough to cover the day to day expenses of a mobile lifestyle. He wanted to travel, and now he could.
No more job interviews! No rent! The whole world was waiting!
On the day he was ready to leave on his fabulous journey, Bob stopped by the bank to produce some quarters and convert them into some more ready cash. When he came out he started to pass by a young lady holding a sign.
Is A Quarter Too Much To Ask? read the sign. Bob stopped and dropped a quarter in the hat at her feet, and added a five dollar bill. She smiled in thanks, and Bob gave her a wink.
As he got into his well used van and started the engine, he resolved to give away some of his wealth. As long as he was thinking small, thinking day by day, the quarters he could produce would be more than enough. He could afford to share with those in need who might cross his path.
He put the van in gear and pointed it toward the horizon. A whole new life awaited him. He planned to live it a quarter at a time.