Quiet Desperation

Nocturnal sales pitches and worthless coins

Column by Craig Marshall Smith

I was warned. When I mentioned to a friend several years ago that I was planning to move my television to the master bedroom, my friend said, “You might regret it.”
I think she was right. I now watch about 10 times as much programming as I did when the set was in the living room. The programming isn’t any better than it used to be — in fact, it’s worse.
Add to that some horrific visions in my room of rest, like the one I had recently when I couldn’t sleep, and simply wanted something or someone to comfort me back into the arms of Morpheus.
I turned on the television at about 3 a.m., and a man who looked exactly like entertainer Jack Cassidy — just a little too good looking — started yelling at me about quarters. He was standing right next to hundreds of shiny, uncirculated quarters, row after row of them.
For a limited time only I could own all of them, and ones that were yet to be minted — for two easy payments.
He had his pitch down perfectly, never stumbled over his words, or let on that he was a shill — which he was.
He was exceedingly annoying, but I couldn’t stop watching, or wondering how many others were watching too and reaching for their credit cards.
Here’s a flashback for you.
For the final eight years of a dear friend’s life, I fixed her Sunday breakfast. I always brought her flowers. I checked in on her during the week. A couple of times I changed her bedding because of blood, provided updates to her relatives in North Carolina, and expected nothing in return — but I was receiving many, many things in return.
She was an artist. I am an artist. She was my final mentor, and I was able to see what it might be like to have dedicated yourself to a lifetime of art, but now it was no longer possible to make art, not for her.
Her husband, a brilliant poet, died long before she did. They lived in a small house on Kearney Street off of Colfax, where Ruth and Littleton made their art and poetry.
They created during the day, and enjoyed cocktails in the evening. I never met her husband, but I sensed that he loved Ruth profoundly, and wanted to ensure that she would be taken care of in her last years alone.
She told me that he began to invest in coins that were advertised in magazines, that would appreciate unimaginably, and provide financial security beyond belief for anyone who possessed them.
My constant readers know that I am a skeptic. I sometimes have doubts that Thursdays will follow Wednesdays.
When Ruth died, I was informed that I was to inherit her oil painting supplies. They hadn’t been touched in years, and were worthless to me. Imagine strangled toothpaste tubes.
I also was awarded a houseplant. It was monstrous, and I always said so, but I think she thought I meant that it was monstrously beautiful.
Finally, I was given all of Littleton’s coins, bags and bags of them, in neat little packets. I took the bags of coins to a coin shop on Broadway in Denver, and an employee asked me where I had gotten them.
He interrupted my story and said, “May I finish for you?”
He wanted to know if I had received them from someone whose spouse had died, but beforehand made a substantial investment in coins that would appreciate unimaginably, and provide financial security beyond belief for anyone who possessed them.
“Uh, exactly.”
He smiled and said, “I’ll give you $170.”
I didn’t heed my friend’s warning about a bedroom television — but I’d like to warn you about nocturnal sales pitches for the shiny quarters of your dreams. Or nightmares.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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