For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“Canal Street”

Ian Frazier


The unit of exchange on Canal Street is the dallah. Dallahs are dollars crossbred with dinars, pesos, yen, dirhams, zlotys, rubles, piastres. Salesmen in storefronts and sidewalk venders who know almost no other English yell “Fifty dallah!” and “T‘ree dallah!” and “Ten dallah!” up and down the street. Dollars often exist only on paper or video-display terminals; dallahs are always real. Dallahs are green, of small demonination, faded, crumpled, marked with ink and duck sauce and fingerprints and smears of blood. Dollars are carried in a bankbook or a wallet; the proper way to carry dallahs is in the right-front pants pocket in a folded wad with a red rubber band around it. When I ask Gary to lend me forty, he says, “Take sixty.” He pulls his wad from his pocket and peels off three twenties. Then he stands looking at me with his eyebrows raised and his thumb poised above the bills, in case I might want more. He says, “All you got to do is ask.” He says now if he gets robbed that’s sixty he won’t lose.

We read it in Gone to New York.

Originally published in The New Yorker: April 30, 1990.