Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dirty Penny

Dirty Penny
By Michael Cannata

            All she knew for sure about herself was her first name. It was "Penny." The few kids she knew called her, "Dirty Penny," because her clothes were old and ragged. Eventually, that's what everyone called her when she was growing up a ward of the state. For her first 9 years all she knew was rejection. She lived in too many foster homes to count. If she had a last name, she never knew what it was. She had no idea who her parents were or if she had any family.

            More desperate than any 9 year old child should ever be, she recalled the day everything changed for her. To the people passing by on the bridge she looked like any ordinary child gazing into the rushing waters below. Her placid face never showed her real intent. Tired of life far too early, she was going to jump and drown herself.

            Out of the corner of her eye, as she hung over the railing, she caught a glimpse of light that reflected off the dark surface of what appeared to be an ancient coin. She stretched her hand out as far as possible and, just as she got hold of it, the railing cracked and she plunged into the water.

            Unable to swim she struggled to stay afloat as the waters pulled her under. It was then that she heard the voice of an angel whispering to her. "Don't let go! Don't ever let me go."

            The next thing she knew she was waking up in a hospital room and staring into the kindest face she had ever seen. It belonged to the only man she would ever come to call, "Dad."

            Once she realized where she was the first thing she said was "Where is it?" When the nurse looked at her with a puzzled look she asked again more urgently "Where is it!? I need to find it!"

            The doctor approached her and told her to relax. He had saved it for her.

            "We couldn't pry it out of your hand until we had you sedated." He explained gently. "I knew it must be something super special." Her took her tiny hand and placed the dirtiest penny she had ever seen into it.

            "Do you know what it is?" he asked.

            "Yeah," she answered." It's me."

            A year later the doctor that had helped keep her alive saved her life again. He and his wife took her into their home, cared for her and finally adopted her. From the day she found it she never left her house without her dirty penny. She wore it on a chain all through high school and during her college years. Her attachment to it became legendary. It was while studying to be a law and business major that she reclaimed the nickname "Dirty Penny." But this time she took it as a mark of pride. She felt unbeatable as long as she had it with her. The penny would usually lay warm against her skin, even on the coldest days. But just as often it would suddenly grow cold and irritate her skin as if trying to warn her of some impending danger.

            Like the time her friends all decided to go for a drive with a guy they had just met. They had all been drinking and decided to go to a party. As she clutched her dirty penny it seemed to grow as cold as ice. She refused to get in the car. Only two of the five people in the car survived the crash.

            It was when she met her first and only husband that she ignored the warning. Her fiancĂ© thought it looked childish and downright ugly. He gave her a beautiful diamond pendant. His objections to the penny grew so strong that she decided to take it off.  She placed it carefully into a hidden compartment in her jewelry box.

            And for the next five years, through all the beatings and lying and infidelity she endured, the penny remained hidden away. Finally she decided to seek out the magic that her penny had always provided. She needed to make a decision and she knew the penny would help. When she went to look for it, it was nowhere to be found. In a panic, she turned her house upside down but to no avail. It was gone. She never told her husband where she had put it… but still she became convinced that he had something to do with it going missing.

            She knew then that some decisions were hers alone to make. She filed for divorce that same day. After two months of legal wrangling the divorce became final. She still has no explanation how it happened but  the next morning, as she lay on her bed trying to plan what her future would be like, a glint of light caught her eye. On the dresser in plain sight was her dirty penny. She picked it up and cried as she clutched it close to her heart.She swore again, this time, she truly would never let it go.

            "Wait! Oh shit." She muttered to herself as she rummaged through her purse. Then she remembered. She had taken it off in her office while she freshened up before the meeting.

             "Driver!" she shouted. "We need to go back to my office. I've forgotten something very important."

            Her already frazzled personal assistant got even more frazzled. "Ms. Carver, we're already running late. We can't keep these clients waiting. Everything we've all worked on for the last ten years is riding on this meeting. Coming in late puts all that work at risk."

            Her assistant's words hit home and brought back memories of other risks. She knew what her assistant said was right. But in her heart, she knew it was a risk she had to take. Things could go wrong, that was true. What was just as true was, as long as she had her dirty penny, everything would work out.

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