Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Story of a Penny

She was lost. Had been lost for a very long time. She was so lost she didn’t even remember a time when she had been found. 

Lost beneath a bed, with the dust balls. 

Which isn’t as bad as it sounds, dust balls being thoughtful neighbors. She wasn't put-upon. She wasn’t nagged. No one made demands on her or had any expectations for her. She wasn’t exactly lonely (her own thoughts were marvelous company, and always had been) but, as time went on (and on and on and on) she found herself growing curious. 

This, as you probably know, can lead to trouble. And it did. 
Her curiosity made her restless. It made her impatient and discontent. It made her bored. None of these characteristics are becoming in a penny. She started to grumble and grouse. The dust balls moved away from her. She felt unwanted (which, by now, she was) and this made her determined to leave town. 
It wasn’t easy, but she persevered. It took time. She had plenty of that. I won’t tell you exactly how she managed it (you wouldn’t believe me if I did) but our little gal got herself from under the bed to beside the bed. Wow! What a view. A rug, table legs, chair legs, a lamp base, a slipper, another slipper. Ahhh, slippers. She’d always had a weakness for slippers. 
Eventually, she made her way over to the right slipper. Slippers can be peculiar. Some are welcoming, but others are suspicious, even haughty. The penny made a tentative approach. The slipper did not spurn her. She edged closer still. The slipper, while not overwhelmingly warm, did nothing to rebuff the penny. So she slid on in. Wiggled her way down into the toe. It felt lovely there. Soft and cozy. The perfect spot for a nap. She felt a deep sense of accomplishment, our penny did, of a voyage well navigated; an adventure completed.
Let us pause here, to celebrate the penny’s good fortune.
Now let us move on. Because with pennies, as with people, things change. And circumstances are about to take a turn.
A woman lived in the house. You might have guessed that, but the penny didn’t. The slipper, of course, belonged to the woman and not to the penny. Later that morning, the woman crammed her bare feet into her slippers. She was still tired, hadn’t been sleeping well for a while now, and she was distracted (so many thoughts, so many worries). 

At first she didn’t acknowledge the cold hard pinch at the tip of her right big toe. But by the time she arrived in the kitchen she couldn’t ignore it any longer. She kicked off her slipper, lifted it up, and shook it out. The penny fell into her upturned palm.
Oh joy. Oh rapture. Our little penny was beside herself. This was far better than she ever anticipated. “Look at me. Admire me,” she preened, imagining herself shining brightly in the morning sunlight. She knew she had a deep coppery complexion. The woman would be sure to find her adorable. Perhaps even irresistible. (The penny was already imagining herself being placed into a thin strip of leather and going everywhere wonderful in the company of a loafer, which only goes to show how very long she had been living among the dust balls.)

She didn’t know, poor thing, that she was no longer shimmery and shiny, no longer perky, no longer (truth be told) attractive. Our little penny was tarnished and dull, green around the edges, dented even. 
But here’s the truly hard part: even if she had been brand spanking sparkly new, even if she radiated the essence of pure, fresh penniness, it would not have been enough. The woman was not a penny lover. That’s all there is to it. Some people are and some people are not. The woman was not. 
Without giving so much as a second glance to the flirty penny she flung her onto the shelf behind the coffee maker, aiming for a blue jar she kept for just such a purpose. Buttons, tacks, the odd safety pin (and let’s face it, all safety pins are odd once you get to know them) found their way into this blue jar. And the penny, had she landed where she was meant to land, would have —  in time — discovered some sense of contentment among the bits and pieces. 
But she did not land in the jar. 

It was not the penny's fault. The woman wasn’t wearing her glasses. She should have been, but she wasn’t, and what can we do about that? Not a thing. Her aim was off and the penny missed the jar, landing on the floor behind the shelf. It was a soft landing, as these things go. She had a brief moment to catch her breath, recover her wounded pride, and congratulate herself on yet another fine adventure. (Always the optimist, our girl.) 
She looked around her. Another dark space. Now that was disappointing. But it smelled very nice. French toast, thought the penny. She was something of a snob and considered French toast to be superior to any other sort of toast. Let us forgive her. After a few deep inhalations she began to wiggle around, just to get a sense of her new environment. She was already seeking out a meditation corner.
“Quit that,” came the gruff voice of her new neighbor. It did not sound like a benign and benevolent dust ball. Who could it be, wondered the penny. Perhaps you are wondering the same thing. 

It was a sock. Alas, not a confident, stripey sock or even a bouncy polka dot sock. It was a once-white (but now grey) athletic sock that belonged to the woman’s husband. Who was long gone. As was the sock’s mate. 
This was not a happy sock. It was a disappointed sock. Opinionated. Frequently stubborn. A dissatisfied and self important sock; not a pretty combination. 
In an instant, the penny sized up her situation and realized it was less than ideal. 
“Perhaps I should have stayed where I was, among the dust balls,” she thought. 
I have to agree with her.