“Jeremy, we just struck gold!” exclaimed Cody as he dusted off the greenback that was now blemished with skateboard wheel marks.
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“Dude, it’s only five dollars. That won’t even buy us a pizza.”
Cody shook his head with disdain. “Always the cynic, Jeremy. Five dollars may not buy us a pizza, but it will buy us a soda and a chocolate bar from the convenience store down the road.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Yes, you are. And you’ll certainly be thirsty once you’ve raced me to the 711.”
Cody took off, swirling up dust in Jeremy’s general direction. Realizing his defeat, Jeremy surrendered to a skateboard race in the middle of an excruciatingly hot summer day.
Jeremy dashed straight for the soda cooler after losing yet another race to Cody. “What drink do you want, Cody?”
“Get me a Pepsi, and I’ll get us each a Hershey bar.”
They then took their purchases to the tired old man standing behind the register. The arthritic fingers tapped the keys on the register ever so slightly and painfully. “That’ll be $2.50, boys.”
Cody handed over the five-dollar bill in exchange for the two ones and two quarters. “Thanks, mister. We’ll be back tomorrow.”
After the boys skated back out to the street, the cashier studied the five-dollar bill he was still holding in his right hand. The bill was filthy, wrinkled, and old-much like the cashier’s hands.
He figured that this five-dollar bill had bought many Pepsis and Hershey bars for numerous children, paid countless entrance fees to museums and amusement parks, and traveled the world ten times over since one particular someone had cashed a paycheck at their bank.
‘Some good it’ll do for me,’ he thought dismissively as he placed the old bill in its slot in the cash drawer. He was fortunate to have a few ones in his wallet and a few hundred dollars in the bank to pay the rent and buy groceries. Such was life for him, though; he had grown up and grown old poor and was accustomed to it.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Rand,” greeted a young, high-pitched voice.
“How are you doing today, Señora Lula?”
“Fine, gracias. I have a paycheck for you to cash today,” she explained as she handed Rand the official-looking blue check.
Rand took a glance at the number scrawled in the little box on the right of the check. One hundred twenty-five dollars. That was a strange number.
“Señora, if you don’t mind my asking, why such low pay this week?”
Lula sighed heavily. “I missed three days of work this week because the baby was sick.”
“I’m sorry to hear about that. How’s the little squirt today?”
“Much better, but he’s still tired.”
Rand counted the cash-fifty, one hundred, one twenty…and there’s that five-dollar bill. “Here you go, Señora. Have a great weekend.”
“You too, Mr. Rand.”
“I think little Carlos is back to being himself today, Lula,” said Señor José as his wife entered through the front door.
“It’s too bad we can’t take him anywhere,” Lula lamented. “Staying home with him cost me half my weekly pay.”
“Not to worry, bella. You know I got paid today, too. How about we walk down to the deli and have us each a sub for dinner? Then we can come home and relax.”
“José, we have to pay-”
José placed his hands on his wife’s shoulders. “The rent is paid, my love. Today is Friday. Let’s enjoy it together.”
“Are you working tomorrow, Deanna?”
“No. It’s a shame, though, because I’ll have to miss my grandson’s birthday party anyway.”
“Why? Your grandson will surely miss you,” countered Eva.
“Eva, I have no money to buy him a birthday gift. He’s only ten years old; birthdays are about gifts to children that young.”
“I still think you should go.”
“No. I’ll seem like a cake freeloader. Nobody likes that kind of party guest.”
“Deanna, I’d be disappointed if my parents didn’t come to my daughter’s birthday party whether or not they brought a gift or ate too much cake.”
The entrance bell rang as a couple and their baby entered the deli.
“Hello. Welcome to Danny’s Deli. What can I get for you today?” Eva greeted them.
“Two roast beef subs and a large Pepsi to share, por favor,” replied the man.
“Right away, señor.”
Deanna robotically stacked the meat and squirted the mayo as she had done for over thirty years in this deli. It was hardly work to her anymore; it was simply daily life. Otherwise she’d be one of those rocking-chair widows who did nothing but reminisce all day.
Lula watched the elderly woman prepare the subs, sensing sadness deep inside the aged soul. It made Lula wonder why she was down on herself so often because little Carlos sniffled so much or the rent was too expensive or the gas station attendant wondered why she had received such low pay. At least she had a husband and a son to come home to every day and love with all her heart. This woman behind the counter seemed lonely.
“Here you are, señor. Two roast beef subs and a large Pepsi to share.” The server’s announcement shook Lula out of her mind world.
“Let’s sit down, Lula,” said José as he led her to a booth by the window. They sat down and unwrapped their subs.
Lula was unusually silent as she ate. “What’s wrong, bella?” José asked her.
“Oh, nothing…it’s just that the woman behind the counter seemed so lonesome and sad.”
“I wish we could do something.”
That gave Lula an idea. She took the five-dollar bill out of her wallet. Usually, people didn’t tip at restaurants like this one, but Lula figured that the elderly woman deserved some sort of recognition for the work she did so methodically.
“Excuse me, señora,” Lula said when she approached the counter.
The elderly woman looked up at Lula but didn’t say anything.
“This is for you.” Lula held the five-dollar bill over the glass meat case.
The elderly woman made her way toward Lula with a slight limp. “Thank you,” was all she could say in response. It was all that was needed, though, as far as Lula was concerned.
Five dollars. What on Earth would Deanna buy her grandson for five dollars? Ten-year-olds wanted gadgets and things with wheels. “Eva, what do ten-year-olds like that five dollars can buy?”
“Chocolates, trading cards, useless trinkets…you name it.”
“My grandson entertains himself in a more sophisticated manner than that. His parents have pampered and spoiled him beyond Grandma’s wallet power.”
“Even the richest kid in the world can’t say no to chocolate,” Eva insisted.
After work, Deanna stopped at the corner chocolaterie on the way home. There were chocolate cherries and blueberries and raspberries, truffles and candy bars, coconut creams and maple creams and buttercreams-every chocolate that Deanna could think of and then some.
But what would her grandson like? Ten-year-olds are picky eaters. Surely he wouldn’t eat the maple creams, but what about the chocolate cherries? Maybe, maybe not. Deanna turned around and left without purchasing.
“Mom, when is Grandma coming over?”
“Remember, she said she wasn’t coming.”
Kara sighed heavily. She didn’t think her ten-year-old son should know that Grandma was too poor to buy him a gift and thought she wasn’t welcome because of it. “She just can’t.”
“Is her car broke down or something?”
Kara sighed again. “Just go play with your friends who are already here. We’ll deal with Grandma later.”
Jeremy put his helmet on and skateboarded out of the garage, meeting Cody and his other friends in the driveway.
“Where do you want to skate to, Jeremy?” Cody asked him.
“I don’t think we should go anywhere yet. We’re still waiting on someone.”
“Dude, the whole tribe is here, and my mom gave me ten bucks. Let’s go to the 711.”
“No, guys. We have to wait until everyone is here.” Jeremy had the feeling that she would come even though she had said she wasn’t.
Jeremy’s friends resorted to doing wheelies and skateboarding aimlessly in the driveway. When they weren’t looking, Jeremy retreated inside to his room.
Kara was taking the pizzas out of the oven when someone knocked on the door. “Coming!”
“Hello, Kara,” greeted Deanna when Kara opened the door.
“Jeremy!” Kara summoned. “Come downstairs!”
A series of loud stomps ensued. “What, Mom—oh, hey, Grandma!”
“Come give me a hug, Jeremy.”
Jeremy threw his arms around his Grandma. “I knew you’d come, Grandma.”
“Of course, Jeremy.” She tucked the five-dollar bill in his pocket. “Birthdays are priceless occasions.”
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."-Jeremiah 33:3, King James Version
"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."-Psalm 119:105, New Living Translation
The present and future are not about who you were in the past-rather, they are about who you are and who you will become.
"Writing is truly glorious in that an author can put on paper the words that fear denies the voice to speak."-from my short story, "Set Free"
"...What you feel is what you are;
What you are is beautiful..."
-from "Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls
Life surprises you! And I'm talking about the good stuff, because a bad surprise is not a surprise at all, it is just shock and horror. All of these good surprises, they are rewards, and the things that happen to remind you that you matter and that you should make yourself faithful so that you can be deserving of all of life's good surprises. Every wonderful surprise in life is a chance to flourish, so grab life by the horns-but don't ride, steer instead: life's horns are life's joystick. You can handle it, because your life's horns are made especially for you. If you don't give up, all of this will hold true and life will continue to surprise you.
Aubri, a. k. a. "Leopard Lady"