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The PENNY

November 7, 2013

The PENNY
©2013 Kolyn Marshall

The sound of crunching rocks and pebbles echoed off the brick wall as Jack walked. Less than an hour ago he was sitting in on his couch playing X-Box with Steven. A typical Saturday afternoon for a couple of high school students. Life was pretty simple when you had no where to go and nothing to do.

Then the phone rang.

It was Jack’s mom. His brother Jimmy had been in an accident and had been taken to City Central Memorial Hospital. Jack hated that hospital. Just thinking of going there made his skin crawl.

Funny how life could change in so little time. In less than an hour he was transported from his comfy couch to walking down an alley wondering what was going on with his brother. Fate was a funny thing.

“Did your mom say what happened?” Steven asked.

Jack just shook his head. “Not really. Something about a pallet truck. She was pretty upset though. I could tell it wasn’t good.”

“I’m surprised Mr. Lawson let her off work.”

Jack looked at Steven and nodded. He doubted Mr. Lawson did. Knowing his mom she didn’t give him a chance to argue. She just left. It was always that way. Something would happen with Jimmy and Mom would drop everything. Was this the fifth or sixth job she lost now because of his older brother? He was just glad he had the job at Shop-n-Save down the block. It made it easier when he could buy his own stuff with his own cash. The last thing he wanted was a lecture about how money was tight.

“We still going to see Iron Man 6 next weekend?” Steven asked as he kicked a pebble down the alley.

“Maybe. I don’t work Sunday so we should be able to go. Not sure if I want to though. They haven’t been the same without Robert Downy, JR.”

Jack watched as an alley cat jumped from a crate and darted after something. The cat jumped, skidded, then lunged only to come up empty handed. Lucky mouse.

It happened quick. The glint was gone nearly as fast as it appeared but it was enough to catch Jack’s attention. Pausing, Jack looked down to confirm what he already knew.

Laying there on the black asphalt was a copper penny. A fairly new penny by how it looked.

“Find a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. Find a penny leave it lay, bad luck will find you that day,” Jack said as he bent down to grab the penny.

“STOP!”

Jack froze and looked up at Steven who was standing in front of him looking down, his eyes wide.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Jack asked as he stood.

“Is it heads or tails?” Steven asked.

“Is what what?”

“Is the penny heads up or tails up?” Steven asked as concern began to creep into his voice.

“What the hell does that have to do with anything?” Jack asked as he started to bend back down for the penny. He had a feeling he could use a bit of extra luck right about now.

“Everything,” Steven said as he grabbed Jack’s arm and pulled him back up before he could retrieve the penny.

Jack didn’t have the energy to argue. Looking down at the penny he said, “Tails.”

“Crap!” Steven replied.

“Why crap?” Jack asked?

“Heads is good luck, tails is bad.”

Jack just looked at his friend. He didn’t even try to hide the blank are-you-serious look on his face. The only alternative was to give him a raft of shit but he didn’t have the energy for that either.

“You’re seriously freaked over this, aren’t you?” Jack said.

“Yes…,” Steven replied in a voice barely above a whisper.

“Fine, I’ll leave the penny. Let’s get going,” Jack said as he stepped away. After four steps he realized Steven wasn’t following. Turning he saw Steven simply staring down at the penny.

“What is wrong with you?” Jack asked.

“You can’t just leave it now.”

“What do you mean. It’s tails. You said that’s bad.”

“Yes,” Steven said, “but you found it…therefore leaving it is bad.”

Jack was not a superstitious person by nature but he didn’t discount the notion either. Superstitions were generally rooted in some fact. Karma had a way of working it’s self into the mix whether you liked it or not. Regardless of how much Jack did or didn’t believe one thing was certain, he suddenly had a very bad feeling about what was taking place.

“So what do I do?” Jack asked.

“I don’t know,” Steven replied. “I remember hearing that if you find a penny you should then give it away.”

Jack nodded. He had heard that too. “Yeah, but that only increased the level of fortune. In this case…wouldn’t that mean more bad?”

Steven looked back at Jack and nodded. “I guess so.”

The cat Jack had stopped to watch ran across the alley, jumped onto another box, and then darted between Steven’s legs. Both jumped at the sudden movement.

“Stupid cat,” Steven shouted as he tried to regain some composure.

Jack only laughed. It did little to ease the tension he was feeling.

“Any other ideas?” Jack asked.

Steven turned back to the penny and looked. Jack could tell he was running through a dozen different scenarios.

“Well?” Jack asked again.

“Turn it over,” Steven finally said.

“Turn it over,” Jack repeated as Steven nodded.

“Turning it over will change it’s position and bring luck to the next person. You’re basically picking up and then putting it back down….the ‘pick it up’ part is basically fulfilled.”

“Okay,” Jack said. “Go ahead, turn it over.”

Steven looked down at the penny and then stepped back. “I can’t. It has to be you. You found it.”

For the most part Jack enjoyed Steven’s company. His level of OCD, however, for nonessential rules was one thing he did not enjoy. The only way he was going to get Steven moving again was to flip the penny.

Walking up, Jack knelt down and turned the penny over so Abe’s face shown upward.

“There,” Jack said standing. “Satisfied?”

“Maybe,” Steven said as he stared down at the penny. He could hear the crunch of Jack’s shoes fade behind him. Even though he knew it was stupid, he couldn’t help shake the feeling something was wrong.

Steven picked up the penny.

As he did the air was filled with the sound of screeching tires and the smell of burnt rubber.

From → Short Story

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