Lucky Penny

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2010

Mac Vogelsang

I couldn’t believe it! It couldn’t be true. How could someone you love just be gone? Grandpa seemed invincible to me, and I was shocked when he died suddenly of a heart attack. Just a few short days ago I was sitting next to him in the park. I feel empty now, like a part of me is missing. No more amazing stories, no more silly jokes, no more bird-watching. After all, he was the only grandpa I had. Now all I can do is sit here in my bed and mourn his death.

“Benjamin Michael Anderson! Open this door and get your homework done!” my mom yelled. I don’t think she realized it, but she sounded angry. When she’s depressed or frustrated, like me, she yells. I didn’t go.

I vividly remember one time with Grandpa when we were bird-watching in the park. We were sitting on the bench when I spotted a penny. Grandpa watched as I picked up the penny and showed it to him.

“When you found the penny, it was heads up. That means it’s a lucky penny!” Grandpa had said. “Did I ever tell you about the lucky penny that my mom gave to me?” I had said no to his question, but he ignored me and went on. “It was heads up when she found it, so she put it in a case and gave it to me when I was five years old.” He reached into his pocket and took out his wallet and said, “Here I’ll show it to you.” He took out a small, thin, stainless-steel case no bigger than the palm of my hand. He pushed it into my hand and I looked at the penny closer. The penny was dirty and partly black from old age. Right next to the profile of Abraham Lincoln was the date, 1951.

Lucky Penny sitting in the park

“Did I ever tell you about the lucky penny that my mom gave to me?”

“Back then this coin was new and shiny, but now it’s worn down. That’s why it’s special to me. I’ve had it for fifty-eight years,” Grandpa stated after he saw me studying the date. I gave it back to him, realizing that I never looked at the back of the case. But that was just a memory now and it didn’t bring him back.

It was getting late, so I went downstairs to find my mom looking through some of Grandpa’s things.

“Look, Bennie,” Mom said when she noticed me. “I found Grandpa’s old wallet. The hospital gave it to me with his other possessions after he died.”

She appeared to be in a better mood now. Mom handed me the wallet and I took it curiously. Remembering that one bird-watching day in the park, I wondered if the special penny was still there. I looked in the wallet and I was surprised to see the steel case holding the lucky penny. I took the case out of the wallet, and as much as I wanted to take the penny out of the case and touch it, I didn’t. I thought that since this is the only thing I have to remember Grandpa by, I’d better take good care of it. Then I thought about how I had never gotten to look at the back of the case. I carefully turned the case over and read the inscription on the back:

Dear Bennie,

I hope you’ll always remember me with this token and that it may bring you good luck at any task that you might encounter. I love you, Bennie!

Love,
Mom

Obviously, that Bennie wasn’t referring to me and that mom was my great-grandmother. I was named after my grandpa. Other people might think that note was addressed to me. No wonder this penny was so special to him, and now to me. I went upstairs and put the penny in the drawer on my nightstand. Then I went down to the table for dinner.

*          *          *

The next morning was a Saturday. I got out of bed and looked out the window. It was sunny outside, so I decided to take a walk and think about Grandpa some more. Thirty minutes later I was ready and I walked outside, not forgetting to take the penny with me; I wanted to look at it some more and to be alone with my thoughts.

As I turned the corner of our block, I encountered Mike, Billy and Joe, three kids from my school who act tough and like to bully me when they get together but otherwise ignore me when they are alone. Today, they were on their bikes, making jokes and laughing.

“Awe, look, what does little Bennie have in his hand?” Mike teased.

“Oh, it’s an old and dirty penny. Why would you want that?” Joe said. And they all laughed hysterically.

“Be quiet and leave me alone!” I shouted.

“Woo, little Bennie is in a bad mood today, we don’t want to interrupt your precious time with that dirty old penny. Why don’t you put it in the bank and you’ll be rich. Ha, ha, ha! Let’s get out of here! Have fun with your penny,” Billy said sarcastically.

They rode away still laughing and joking. At least they were gone. I kept on walking until I saw a new donut shop across the street. On the window in big orange letters there was a sign that read, GRAND OPENING!!! FREE DONUTS FOR EVERYONE!!! I rushed in and soon found my place in line.

With a full and satisfied belly, I walked out of the shop. I reached into my pocket to take another look at the penny, when I realized that there was a hole in my pocket! The penny was gone, and it must have fallen out somewhere! As I was searching frantically, Mike, Billy and Joe showed up.

“Is this what you’re looking for?” Mike held up the penny.

“What do you want with it?” I said.

“We have what you want but you’re not getting it!” They laughed and took off on their bikes, heading towards the lake at the edge of town.

Lucky Penny penny in the box

It seemed like I chased them for hours, and I was getting tired. I only had legs and they had bikes, really fast bikes, which was unfair, especially since they were stealing my grandfather’s possession. I was running towards the lake after them and was nearing the dock. The gang of three stopped at the end of the dock. I begged and pleaded for them to give the penny back to me, but they took the penny and the case and used it like a rock and skipped it across the water. I stood there in disbelief as I caught a final glimpse of the steel case before it plunged into the depths of the lake. I was so angry, angrier than a lion! I couldn’t believe what had just happened. That penny was one of the only possessions that I had of my grandfather’s. Losing it was like losing him all over again!

I ran home as fast as I could and felt ashamed of myself for not taking better care of the lucky penny. I slammed the front door in anger as soon as I got into the house. I was tense and breathing heavily. I began sobbing and it took a while before I could tell Mom what had happened. I just knew Mom would be angry too, and she might not trust me anymore.

But her calm reply surprised me. “It’s OK, Bennie. I’m very sorry that happened to you, but…”

“I still can’t believe that those kids would be so mean! I hardly even know them! Why do they choose to pick on me?!” I said fiercely.

“I know what they did was mean, but you don’t need an object to remind you of your grandpa. You will always have special memories of times spent with your grandpa, and no one can ever take those away from you,” Mom explained.

Deep down I knew my mom was right. I really didn’t need Grandpa’s special penny to remember him, but I wanted it. The memory of Grandpa is always in my heart, and each time I hear my name, Benjamin, I will think of him, knowing that our shared name is the one thing that cannot be lost or taken away.

Lucky Penny Mac Vogelsang

Mac Vogelsang, 12
Bloomington, Indiana

Lucky Penny Jeremy Anderson

Jeremy Anderson, 13
Fort Worth, Texas

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