“And $3.04 is your change ma’am.”
As always, I squint as the frequent blinding light hits my face, and I prepare myself for the tedious ching of the homeless shelter, and the oncoming darkness. But this time, I feel myself being scooped up and passed to another pair of hands. My eyes swiftly direct themselves towards the homeless shelter where other coins watch me with envious eyes.
Pre-determined selection. That’s what a Thomas Jefferson told me it was once. He said only the most dingy and disgusting coins are given away, because the ground walkers prefer to keep the newer and shinier ones for themselves.
I pity them. What a shame their lives must be. Forever sitting in darkness, the best looking, but the least shared. I frown as I see them cryptically shuffle when a ground walker would move their sweaty palms toward them, hoping to lose their attractiveness.
At the end of the day, I don’t blame them. We’re money. Our only purpose in life is to be spent by some material hungry ground walker. If not, there is only one outcome that awaits us… the torture chamber.
This place, I’ve only seen it once. The walls are a solid gray, and the screaming of the bills and coins is never ending, even though many have been cut short by the shredding and grinding of a machine. Sadly, I was supposed to be among those whose screams would also be cut off.
I watched in terror as I was delivered closer to the fire-breathing machine that would melt away the history that I had created on this Earth. Just as I thought my copper career was cooked as I was slipping closer and closer towards my maker, I clinked of the edge of the hot metal, and hit the backside of a small ground walker who was visiting this graveyard.
Though I was but a cheap Abraham Lincoln, she looked at me as if I was a crisp Benjamin Franklin. Her eyes bugged out of her face, and her voice hole spread into a wide grin. I noticed that she had less teeth than most ground walkers, and that she had what they called pigtails in her hair. There were two of them, and they were blonde.
She had on a pretty pink dress that reached to her knees, had ruffles around the rim at the bottom, and there were white flowers all over it. She had on white socks with ruffles at the top, and black saddle shoes with the straps. She was what the ground walkers would call “adorable”.
Usually I could give less of a care what a ground walker looked like. True, I co-existed with them, but was their purpose here any better than mine? My purpose was to buy them things, and theirs was to spend me. Simple as that really.
But I remembered this ground walker for a reason. At that moment when she picked me up, she had a choice. Leave me there to face my brutal fate, or rescue me, the cheapest of all things, at a very high cost.
I didn’t know very much about ground walkers, but every coin knows that if their kind were to steal one of our kind, the consequences would be severe.
To my highest relief, she silently slipped me into one of her socks, without anyone being the wiser. I feel cotton rub against my copper exterior, and feel a calm feeling wash over me. I was never one to believe in miracles, but in that moment, I knew she was mine.
“Lucky penny”, she whispers as she pats me one more time before standing.
I snuggle deeper into her sock as I feel myself stroke against her ankle as she takes step after step. At some point in time, I feel her use her finger trying to push me back up due to some discomfort I hear her mumble about. I slide back up without a struggle, not wanting to bring any burden to this savior of mine.
I stayed with her some time after that. I grew a bond with her. The only ground walker I let myself get attached to really. I watched her grow, smile, and become a beautiful young woman, at least that’s what the ground walker that she lived with said that she had become.
Everyday, she would treat me the same way. She would get dressed, slip me into her left sock, pat me as she would say “lucky penny”, and go on about her day. She did this from elementary school, to middle school, to high school. I remember her one day stroking nail polish on my tail as a way to separate me from her other coins because I was special.
One day as she was out with friends at the mall, she was paying for a purse when she dropped a brother of mine. As she bent to pick him up, I slipped out of her sock. I watched as he rolled under the counter amongst the bugs, dust, and other long forgotten things as I landed heads up beside her shoe.
“Here you go!” she says as she hands me to the ground walker that slips me into the homeless shelter.
“No no no!” I yell out to her as if she could hear me. “Please recognize me! It’s me! Your lucky penny! Don’t leave me! Come back!”
Being a copper Lincoln, I can’t really tell you how long its been since I’ve last seen her, but I can guarantee you its been a while. Everyday feels colder without the warmth of her cotton socks around me. I’ve been passed from ground walker to ground walker, enjoying being spent as money should be, but I would trade this life swiftly for just one last walk with her in her socks.
“Jake look!” I hear the feminine ground walker say to the masculine ground walker, pulling me out of my thoughts.
“Hey! Look at that! That penny is painted red on the tail side just like the penny you had back in high school.”
“I think this is the penny I had back in high school Jake!”
“Come on. Don’t be ridiculous Sam. There’s no way this is the same one. That penny is long gone.”
I look up at the feminine ground walker and feel a crack in my copper. Though she had changed much, I knew this was the same ground walker that had accidentally abandoned me so many years ago.
“You’re right”, she says with an embarrassed giggle. “That was foolish of me to think that. Oh shoot! I left my purse at the register! Can you get it for me please?”
“Sure thing babe”, he says solemnly as he presses his voice hole against hers.
She watches him as he walks away, and then slowly turns towards the infant ground walker in the basket in front of her.
“Hey Penny. I got something for you.” My copper exterior melts with an unexplainable joy as she slips me into one of its socks, and then softly pats them and whispers, “A lucky penny… just for you.”