Jeff Friedman

Lost Tails, City of Money and Counting the Money
May 23, 2023 Friedman Jeff

Lost Tails

One day our tails fell off and lay at our feet like giant dead caterpillars. One of my neighbors claimed that he was molting and a new tail had already begun growing. He turned around to show us, but we couldn’t see anything. Another neighbor couldn’t remember the last time he had used his tail. Most of us tried sewing them back on, and that was painful. In a short time, the stitches ripped out or frayed to the point of splitting apart. Then we used superglue and that kept them on for a longer period of time, but our various tails just hung limply from our backsides and had no connection to our feelings or the workings of our bodies. Eventually we ripped them off each other. Removed from our bodies, the tails shriveled into filaments of fur. We dug a long trench to bury them. We told stories about our tails and then shoveled dirt over them. Without them, we couldn’t tell whether tears and smiles were sincere, whether those approaching were friendly or meant to do us harm.  Even though our tails were gone, we often felt them waving behind us, but it was only the wind reminding us of who we once were.



City of Money

When we try to spend our money, our broker stops us. “Your money is growing like a new city—shops, movies, schools, government offices. Leave it where it is.” But where is it? When our broker points to it on his share screen, it’s a tiny dot barely visible. “Look harder,” he says, and now we see our green city sparkling in the distance—cafes, restaurants, a lovely park, a lake with a kayak gliding across it, statues of us in the glistening grass and hundred-dollar bills showering from the puffy clouds. When we touch our city, beads of moisture linger on our fingertips.



Counting the Money

Before he went to sleep every night, my father, who was penniless in his twenties and lived in YMCAs during the Depression, counted the money in his wallet, licking his index finger and setting the bills on the dresser. If he lost count, he would have to start at the beginning. He knew how much was in his wallet, but he had to arrive at the correct total twice, never wanting to be short on cash. Once that happened, he could stop counting. For luck, he would tap the bills on their four sides and fold them into his wallet and say a small prayer for tomorrow to bring more sales, more money. Then he could shut his eyes and sleep. He often had a recurring dream, a shower of twenty-dollar bills falling from the sky, the streets filling with money. He bundled a fortune in his arms and walked as carefully as he could, but before he could arrive home, the wind had stolen his money. When he turned back, sunlight fell from the sky, and there was only some crumpled newspapers skimming the asphalt and a single dollar bill lifting its wings.

JEFF FRIEDMAN has published nine collections of poetry and prose, including The Marksman (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2020), Floating Tales (Plume Editions/Madhat Press, 2017), and most recently The House of Grana Padano (Pelekinesis, April 2022), cowritten with Meg Pokrass. Friedman’s poems, mini tales and translations have appeared in American Poetry ReviewPoetry, New England Review, Poetry International, Cast-Iron Aeroplanes That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 American Poets on their Prose Poetry, Flash Fiction Funny, Flash Nonfiction Funny, Fiction International, Plume, Dreaming Awake: New Contemporary Prose Poetry from the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom and The New Republic, and Best Microfiction 2021 and 2022. He has received an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship and numerous other awards and prizes.