"Doubloons" was selected as a finalist in Money Chronicles: A Story Initiative, a national short story contest supported by Principal Foundation.

Image of Principal - 2023
Ruth walked away from her laptop, and weeks passed. Just like that. People were angry because she hadn't written them back. Online bills came and went, unpaid. Red marks appeared on her credit score, then multiplied. At first, they looked threatening, but the longer she stared the more they started to become, she wasn't sure exactly. Vibrant, maybe? The little box that used to be a dull, predictable green turned to red, as if glowing. It looked like a treasure might look on an 8-bit video game. Something locked in a trunk that it is the job of a hero to find. To unearth. People were always burying things in video games and in old movies. She and Magnus talked about that once. In fact, when she saw the colors on her credit score, she wanted to say to him, remember when we talked about how buried chests were so big in the 80s? That growing up then primed us both for thinking one day we'd be walking in the woods, or on a cliff, or behind a waterfall, or traversing a great open field, just minding our own business, when the tips of our sneakers would hit the hard corner of an ornate wooden vessel cropping up from the ground, maybe with golden latches. Maybe with an inscription in calligraphy. Or in Spanish. It had seemed so funny to Ruth at the time. A running joke with Magnus about doubloons. Back before Magnus got sick, anytime one of them would trip in their apartment or go digging through the junk drawer, the other would crack a joke about finding buried treasure there. She hadn't thought about how funny the promise of buried treasure seemed in a long time, and then all at once it was too late to ever speak of again. The phone rang in their apartment constantly. Every hour, on the hour, but Ruth had learned not to pick it up because it was always the hospital billing department. They were indefatigable, the sum they were asking of her, a small fortune. Bigger than what could fit in a treasure chest, probably. Night after night, still sticking to her side of the bed, she thought of the maps in those old adventure films. So crudely drawn, so easy to follow. Their clearly marked paths to the vaults, the valuables, so effortless, so foolproof. Which was good because the heroes in those films were always so hapless, such underdogs. Scrappy, like Magnus used to call her. Surviving by sheer luck, by camaraderie. Another thing that kept Ruth up at night: if Magnus had left her a map of where to go next in her life, would she even know how to decipher it? Would she ever be capable again? Solvent? The life insurance company sent her a letter. They needed additional paperwork. The utility company sent her a letter. They needed additional paperwork. Magnus's alumni organization sent a letter and a form, asking Ruth to write a few lines for the in memoriam section of their yearly update. About the type of person Magnus was, how sorely he'd be missed. In one section where they asked Ruth for what words first come to mind when she thought of Magnus, she nearly wrote "dead broke," and though it made her laugh almost as much as those imaginary doubloons used to, she knew her answer was a little dark and more than a little on the nose, considering. Needless to say, she left that field blank. Needless to say, she stopped checking the mailbox soon after too. She swept her arms across the cold kitchen table, scattering the pile she had amassed there, the whole damn trove of letters, demands, due dates, and let them drop to the floor, landing under the kitchen rug, behind the cupboards, any which way. So many places no one would look. So many places no one would ever find them.