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Hundred Dollar Underwear
by Barry Smith

My brother and I were flying to California to visit our father. I was 13 at the time, my brother was 7.

We had lived in Mississippi our entire lives up to that point, had had little experience in air travel, and on this trip we would be flying for the first time without adult supervision. This was a big deal.

My grandmother was overseeing this trip, having made it her mission to see to it that my brother and I made it to California 1) alive, and 2) with our spending money intact.

The cause for concern was that we had to change planes in Dallas, and my grandmother was sure that during that change we would be accosted and relieved of our little wallets, leaving us unable to go to Disneyland once we finally arrived in the Golden State.

As the trip drew closer, many a sleepless night passed for my grandmother, desperately trying to figure out how to transport cash with two young, naive, incredibly unworldly boys in a way that would have both the boys and the cash arrive unmolested.

Then, with just one day to spare, it hit her. Eureka! She would sew a hundred dollar bill into the front of my little white cotton briefs! Of course! It’s so obvious!

I never asked her about the genesis of this plan, but to this day suspect the "Froot Of The Loom" guys appeared in a vision and revealed all. (This is where I get most of my ideas, and I’ve heard that this sort of clairvoyance is hereditary.) At the time, though, all I cared about was that she had finally dropped the idea of sending me to Cali laden with several concealed rolls of quarters, as that was promising to be a most uncomfortable ride.

The night before our departure, she took a pair of my underwear, and, with careful, grandmother-like precision, folded up a hundred dollar bill, stuck it in the seldom-used "fly area," and proceeded to sew the hell out of it.

My grandmother, you must understand, is quite the seamstress. She could fire up her Singer, feed a simple piece of dusty burlap into one end and from the other would emerge a frilly pinafore with a floral border. So when it came to securing legal tender in a pair of undies -- piece of cake.

She started with a zig zag stitch around the perimeter, then switched to a rolled hem for the second circumnavigation. A bold yet precise "X" through the middle, using what I seem to recall was an appliqué stitch, completed the job.

The next morning, as we were getting dressed to leave for the airport, my grandmother presented me with the "Golden Drawers," as they have come to be known in family lore.

I was, as you can imagine, more embarrassed than I'd ever been in my life, yet strangely excited. I'd never had a hundred dollar bill before, and I’d certainly never had one sewn into my underwear. And me so close to puberty.

Before we left the house, my grandmother felt the need to tape an additional twenty dollar bill to each of my shins. She also affixed a ten to each of my brother's shins, just so he wouldn't feel left out for not having any money in his drooders.

And there we were, standing in the concourse laden with concealed currency like characters from an After School Special adaptation of "Midnight Express."

After an uneventful plane changing in Dallas, we were in California in what seemed like minutes. Time gets all distorted when you've got a Franklin in your BVDs. And yes, I've tested this theory many times since.

Removal of the booty was surprisingly simple, as my grandmother had the foresight to leave the thread end unsecured, meaning that one simple pull would free the Bennie. Also, she had painstakingly embroidered removal instructions on the side of the underwear, complete with step-by-step illustrations.

We were at Disneyland the next day -- this was a trip to California, after all.

I handed the woman in the ticket booth my newly liberated hundred dollar bill.

The bill had been folded twice and sewn through thoroughly, so it now contained about ten thousand tiny holes. The dotted lines criss-crossed every which way, as if it had been repeatedly run through some sinister perforation device.

The ticket woman looked at me, then at the bill.

I looked at the bill, then at her.

She smiled.

I blushed.

Did she know? She couldn’t know. Could she?

She handed me my change.


A Mississippi Delta native, Barry Smith is pleased to share his writing with USADEEPSOUTH readers. Here's Barry’s bio from his cool web site called Irrelativity.com.

Says he:
Barry Smith writes the syndicated column, "Irrelativity," for The Aspen Times in Aspen, Colorado, and has done so for a good five or so years now, so you'd assume he knows what he's doing. He also writes poetry, radio sketch comedy, short film/TV scripts (which he has been known to actually produce), little to-do lists and the occasional phone number on his hand.

Lately he's been writing "I can do it!" in tiny letters, over and over again, on a large piece of poster board.

His writing has appeared in Adbusters, Cannabis Culture, The Mountain Gazette, The Aspen Times, The Aspen Daily News, The Vail Trail, The Phoenix Something or Other (forgot the name, sorry), The Roaring Fork Sunday, The Promised Land Entertainment Magazine, Roaring Fork Magazine, Sojourner Magazine and a whole bunch of other mags and 'zines and other self-publishing projects that you've probably never heard of and that he would only be listing here in order to make this paragraph look big and impressive.

He manages to enjoy his life quite a bit.

If you have any other questions, then may God have mercy on your soul.

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