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American Pennies

Bruce Abel

the police officerís thin eyebrows arch in disbelief as she shines her flashlight first on my face, and then slowly down my skinny, bare legs.

Iím wearing blue flip-flops and a green silk bathrobe. Iím standing by a row of newspaper boxes on St. Georgeís Square in downtown Guelph. To complicate matters, it is almost three oíclock on a snowy December morning. I also have a yellow-handled screwdriver sticking out from my pocket.

"Er... ha... I guess, I do look... er... strange," I say.

The circle of light inches up my body. A gust of wind grabs hold of my bathrobe, and as if I were a bar stripper in centre spotlight, the robe springs open. The officerís small nose wrinkles up as though she were in pain.

As I try to cover myself, the screwdriver jumps from my pocket and proudly sticks upright in the snow. I also drop my pennies. American pennies - all two hundred of them. They donít all fall at once. A dozen go. The rest, reluctant to leave the warmth of my pocket, linger until a handful get brave enough to dribble down my leg. Then, there is a pause, and thirty or so more drop.

"No sir, not strange at all. At this hour, especially in December, I often meet people dressed like you." There was something in her tone, however, that led me to doubt her sincerity.

"The paperboy, well it maybe a papergirl, and... er... I couldnít sleep and..."

The officerís round face creases into a thick frown. "Sir, please explain this," she says, pointing to the screwdriver.

More pennies drop.

"Ah, you see we didnít get our newspaper and I couldnít sleep and..."

"The screw driver, sir."

"Well, I didnít have any quarters. Oh, I just remembered, I have two loonies and a toonie in the kitchen top drawer."

Her frown deepens.

"You see, I was going to gently pry open the newspaper box without doing any damage and leave the pennies. Theyíre American pennies too."

As if waiting for the cue, another dozen pennies slowly trickle to my feet.

The officer sighs. Itís funny how you can tell the type of day a person is having by the expression on his or her face. For this officer, the entire year must have been bad.

At the police station, I stand before the Desk Sergeant. "Start at the beginning, keep it simple, and go slowly so that I can write everything down," he says as he types with two fingers on the computer keyboard. I sense from his watery, grey eyes and long, thick ears that he has seen and heard every possible tale.

More pennies drop. Not content with just clattering onto the brown marble floor, they dance around the Sergeantís well-polished black boots.

"I couldnít sleep and our paperboy, or maybe a papergirl, didnít come and I didnít have any quarters even though I remembered when I was telling the police officer that I have two loonies and a twonee in the kitchen top drawer but I did have pennies, American pennies at that, and I had the screwdriver to gently pry open the newspaper box without doing any damage and leave the pennies..."

Thatís when I notice he isnít typing. His grey, bushy eyebrows are arched in disbelief.

And my pennies continue to trickle.

They really werenít my pennies. You see, I borrowed them from Sandieís piggy-bank, well, it isnít a piggy bank, itís a jar, and I couldnít sleep and...


Bruce Abel is a Guelph, Ontario writer and e-journal editor.

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