The late afternoon broke through the windows of the bar and fell across the face of the nondescript barmen as he sipped a whiskey. A short while earlier his stomach had spoken to him. It had made two distinct statements. It had said it was extremely hungry and that the cook here sucked.
He was now waiting for the delivery of a turkey sandwich. He hardly had time to evaluate the Scotch he was drinking before a man bearing a brown paper bag entered and announced the delivery of his sandwich.
The barman bit into the sandwich and had observed an interesting phenomenon.
The turkey sandwich he ordered had transmogrified into a ham salad sandwich topped with cellulose condiment.
Picking the note out his mouth he read “Why are you looking here the good stuff is in front of you.” Furrowing his brow he looked up into the face of the bearded man with the cool ring “Come join us,” he said.
The barman started to introduce himself but Panama cut him off.
“We don’t need to know your name and you don’t need to know ours. This gentleman here you can refer to as ‘The Bearded One’ and you can call me Panama. We’ll call you ‘The Barman’.”
“Well, that’s not really original now is it,” said The Barman.
“There are no points for originality in this endeavor,” interjected The Beard.
“And what endeavor would this be asked The Barman?”
“How much do you know about the penny, “ asked Panama.
“Well it costs more to make than it’s worth but for some reason it’s still being produced,” replied The Barman.
“Yea, well we’re the reason why they keep producing it,” added The Beard.
“Who’s we,” asked The Barman.
“We are a group of concerned citizens making sure the penny gets its due,” answered Panama. “A Penny Cabal if you will.”
“I appreciate your concern and excuse me if I sound a bit jaded but beings as this is D.C., what’s in it for you?”
“Well lets just say that we represent a few groups that would stand to lose a good chunk of change if production of the penny were to cease.”
“Like who,” asked The Barman.
“Well,” answered Panama,” the Convenience Store Owners of America for one. You think that ‘take a penny leave a penny’ garbage is done out of the goodness of their hearts? Sure it sounds nice but In the long term it generates some dough. Many folks do not value the penny and those are the kind of folks that don’t take a penny but leave many pennies.”
The Bearded One added “Yea and ‘take a nickel leave a nickel’ does not have the same ring. It will be awhile before the nickel achieves the same pocket clutter status as the penny. You take a survey of the average guys dresser top in this country and you’ll find that the ratio of pennies to nickels falls heavily in favor of the penny.”
“Yea, sounds like mine,” said the Barman. “But what about women?”
“They carry purses,” replied both conspirators in unison.
“Then there is the whole tradition of the penny and the man that is immortalized on it,” said Mr. Panama, his void rising and in danger of causing a scene.
“Lincoln should be a frickin saint not a vampire hunter.”
“Ok you’ve convinced me,” said The Barman. “You had me at vampire hunter. So where do I fit in?”
“You my friend are our eyes and ears on capitol hill,” answered Mr. Panama.
“You get a lot of representatives, aides and cocktail waitresses in here. They all drink and they all talk. Anything you hear that even remotely concerns the penny, you let us know,” added The Beard.
“Can-do. I do have one more question.” asked the Barman.
“Shoot,” replied The Bearded One.
“When do I get one of those cool rings?”
“In five days you will receive a ham salad sandwich on rye. You will pay with cash and on the merchants copy of the receipt you will write in your ring size in lieu of the tip amount,” replied The Beard.
“Ten days after that you will get a ham salad sandwich on pumpernickel. It will contain the ring. Do not eat the sandwich before you check for the ring.”
“Cool. What’s with the ham salad?”
“We have fans involved with hog futures. A lot of hog futures,” answered Panama.
“ I’ll be looking for that ham salad on rye,” was all The Barman could respond with before returning to work.
The Beard waited until The Barman was out of earshot and said, “I like that vampire hunter bit. That added to the subterfuge nicely. He won’t be able to keep that to himself.”
“Thanks, I like to keep it fresh,” said Panama. He laughed and uttered “A Penny Cabal. I gotta keep that part.”