Friday, March 19, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Why is the Nickel Bigger than the Dime?, or, The Feud Between Alexander Hamilton and God

God had been messing with Australia when Alexander Hamilton caught His attention. He was a smart little mortal, having just started his country and going to work on a national mint. He stamped his money with “In God We Trust,” which flattered the Big Guy, even if it was an obvious ploy to get His endorsement.

“You’re not so untrustworthy yourself,” He said, manifesting in the Mint.

“Welcome, Lord,” said Hamilton. “I’m a long-time supporter. Always happy to see another fellow in opposition of Thomas Jefferson.”

“I wish you’d stop using Me for that. I like Jefferson just fine. He’s a deist. They’re like Christians with calculators instead of Bibles.”

Well a conversation that begins like that never ends well. The two had a terrific falling-out. How exactly they got on the matter of new coinage, we really can’t say, but it’s known that God recommended currency bigger than the penny and less than the dime, since making nine cents change is such an ordeal, and back then you got paid nine cents for pretty much everything what with the smaller economy.

“I’ll give you something bigger than a penny,” Hamilton muttered in perverse prayer.

The next day he put out the nickel. Not only bigger than the penny, it dwarfed the dime. It caused massive confusion and a rush on banks for quarters because it sported the only national figure who was born and thus known at the time. George Washington found it flattering. (A century and a half later, a young FDR was baffled to find his face on coinage but took comfort that it probably meant he'd win office.)

God, being able to muck with reality at will, retaliated against Hamilton and made Thomas Jefferson’s face appear on those precious nickels. This threw off Hamilton’s anti-Jeffersonian platform, and the public suddenly thought the Secretary of Treasury had endorsed Jefferson as a candidate.

Hamilton wrote God several flippant letters over that weekend, each more biting than the last, until he got so excited that he knocked over his green ink well and ruined all his paper. This gave him a brilliant idea, and rather than throw the stack out, he invented paper money. Once again George Washington was the masthead, featured on the one dollar bill. The bill was bigger than any coin and came with nifty illustrations. Critics heralded it as a revolution in currency and literature, being as Thomas Paine wrote, "like an epic for those of small attention span." There was a rush on the banks to get the notes. George Washington was not flattered this time, figuring something was up, and left Washington D.C. in disgust with such bipartisan politics.

Hamilton showed up Monday morning to nominate himself for president. He was stunned to see the Creator had once again thrown down the gauntlet: He’d changed the very Constitution such that only natural-born citizens could hold the office. Hamilton, being a bastard from abroad, was thwarted.

The deity and founder never spoke again. God returned to Australia to mess about with the platypus and taxonomists. Hamilton was left destitute and furious. It’s said he got into a fight with Aaron Burr over a possible fifty-cent coin that would be even smaller than a dime, for which he was mortally shot. Burr never confirmed the story, though, and deemed it “contemptible, if true.”

This is the end of True History Week here on the Bathroom Monologues. Every day I've tried a little humorous Historical Fiction. If you liked today's story, please check out the others. They began Monday. All feedback is welcome!


  1. Oh Johm. I am not worthy.

    So clever, funny, and I'm glad to know you were once Hamilton, reincarnated as a man with a funny name. (you have a 'me' in the story that you may want to edit)

    God messing with Australia is probably one of the strongest, most enticing openings I've ever read. The best part? The story delivered. (still chuckling over platypus and taxonomists).

    Will come back and catch up on the week's worth of stories.

  2. Geez, it's not completely unlikely things happened exactly that way. (^v^) Somehow sad that flash fiction has to be so short, this would make for an excellent longer story with more detail and dialogue and such.

  3. Crikey I'm feeling so...Australian...after reading that. I was getting confused by all the presidential references!

  4. you totally had me at the title..superb, just superb.

  5. Brilliant. Just the chuckle I needed to start the day.

  6. "I like Jefferson just fine. He’s a deist. They’re like Christians with calculators instead of Bibles."

    Another great line from you! Excellent work. :)

  7. Peggy, thank you for catching that! I changed that paragraph minutes before posting and it's no surprise I left a typo. A little surprise it was so amazingly vain a typo!

    My apologies to international readers who can't be expected to recognize U.S. coinage or history. I try to write outside my culture much of the time, but this piece begged for specificity.

    Thank you all for the kind comments. I hope this brings nothing but laughter, especially in mornings.

  8. This did bring a lot of laughter this morning!

    I knew the stuff high school teachers tried to teach us about the Hamilton/Burr duel didn't ring true!

    Excellent, as always.

  9. That was quite an enjoyable read! The title it terrific, and the story certainly delivers after that buildup. Great job!

  10. Ha! This is so great. Hysterical Historical Fiction, and I like it a lot.

    "He’s a deist. They’re like Christians with calculators instead of Bibles.”"

    I mean, that is brilliant.

    Thank you for writing this.

  11. Your grasp of twistory amazes me! So darn mischevious! Great stuff, friend...

  12. John, John, John - I don't know which this is more hilarious or brilliant.

  13. I always wondered about the real history behind our money...
    Brilliant, John! Your humor astounds me.

  14. Thank you for all the kind words, folks. The exhuberance is really appreciated, and I'm glad I could make you all laugh.

    Diandra and like-minded readers might be interested: this flash actually factors into a bigger project I've been tinkering with for a few years, called "Amerikickass." It would be an absurd take on U.S. history, probably from the settlement period to the War of 1812 (AKA: Revolutionary War: The Sequel), perhaps coming back for installments on the rest of U.S. or even world history. Ben Franklin's kite gains sentience after being electrified, John Adams runs for president again after having his brain transplanted into the body of his conveniently similarly-named son, Paul Bunyan fends off the returning Mayans and digs the Grand Canyon to fend them off, etc.

  15. I'm not sure I could write something like this if someone had a gun to my head. (Although now that you've inspired me I might give it a try.) I am impressed. You've got the historical aspect but the story you've built around it was very entertaining. Money is more interesting than I thought.

    My favorite line- deists. Like Christians with calculators instead of bibles. :)

  16. I won't take that as an insult, G.P.

    It took me a long time to loosen up and write absurdly. It's a thing years of serious writing conditioned me to suppress. I feel much better this way. Maybe you can experiment with some bizarre next Friday? I look forward to whenever you decide to try!

  17. Very entertaining, John! I love it!

  18. You make this look easy, and we all know it's not. What a fabulous piece! Brilliantly executed.

  19. A great piece. Clever and witty, just the way I want my history. Thanks for this

  20. What? This isn't the way it actually happened?
    I dunno, John, call me naive but I think you're bang on with this baby.
    And funny, funny, funny!
    Why weren't you my history teacher?

  21. The presidential references left me a little confused, as you would expect from a non-US person, but the coin denominations were perfectly familia (we do, after all, get lots of American films and books here! Also, dimes and quarters are probably simpler to get one's head round that guineas, shillings and tuppence...I'm delighted the UK had switched to decimal by the time I moved here). The bit about how paper money came to be was inspired!

  22. That was a great first line! And rest of it, but the first line wowed me. I'd always wonder about that nickel and dime thing.



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