Today I learned that May 23rd is Lucky Penny Day.
DeShawn and Penny raced down the uneven sidewalk, both determined to reach the intersection before the other. DeShawn flailed his skinny arms as if they’d propel him like bird wings. Penny’s tight, black braids were more airborne. Together they hopped over the hump where the oak tree’s root split the concrete. DeShawn landed, then plowed forward like a linebacker. Penny’s landing was graceful until an untied shoelace tripped her into a belly flop.
“Ouch, DeShawn, you pushed me!”
“I did not,” the boy shouted mostly out of habit as he kept running.
Penny scrambled to her feet but the ache in her knees kept her from chasing after him. She looked down at the checkered red cuts the pavement had left and gasped. When she brushed the pebbles from her wounds, they stung worse than bees. She winced and clenched her fists, not wanting DeShawn to call her a baby for crying.
“Now see this is why I tell you two not to run. Brush ’em off Penny and–Deshawn, get back here!”
“Nana, I need band-aids.”
“You’ll have to wait ’til we get back home.”
“Come on! We’re gunna miss the ice cream!” DeShawn whined, wriggling impatiently as he returned to his grandmother.
“There’s no reason to hurry,” Nana sighed. “Penny, tie your shoe before you trip again. The store doesn’t close ’til nighttime and by then you’ll be in bed.”
“Hey, look!” Crouched over her half-tied shoe, Penny squinted at the copper glint in the tree root. She shuffled toward it. A shiny penny, not even a year old, had fallen into the crack she tripped over.
“Penny, come on now.”
“Look, I found a penny!”
“That’s nice, dear. Put it in your pocket before you lose it.”
“DeShawn, look what I found!” Penny boasted. She shoved her coin into her brother’s face. He frowned.
“So? It’s just a penny.”
“It’s a lucky penny, just like me.”
“It’s not lucky. I bet that’s what tripped you.”
“The tree tripped me, stupid!”
“Now, that’s enough both of you,” Nana warned, walking between her grandchildren to separate them. “Any more arguing and we’re going home without ice cream.”
DeShawn and Penny shoved themselves through the door of ice cream shop and battled their way to counter. A man in a candy-stripped uniform stood in front of the soft-serve machine like the guard of a great and delicious treasure. The siblings marveled at the glistening silver machine, both wishing the broken ice dispenser on their home fridge could dispense ice cream instead of rumbling and air.
“Now, we only have enough for you to get small cones,” Nana said, plodding up behind them. She was rifling through her handbag, trying to gather enough nickles, dimes, and quarters to pay for two treats. The man watched as she deposited coins one by one on the counter.
“Can we get a medium cone-?”
“I just said a small cone, DeShawn. Now tell the man what you want.”
“Chocolate, please!” DeShawn drummed his hands excitedly on the counter top.
“I want vanilla, please,” Penny said. She had one hand stuffed in her pocket, spinning her lucky coin, while the other massaged the side of her knee.
“That’ll be two dollars and eight cents.”
“Let me count!” DeShawn volunteered, immediately separating the coins by denomination and adding them up aloud. “Twenty-five, fifty, seventy-five, a dollar! A dollar twenty-five, a dollar thirty, a dollar forty, a dollar-”
“Hey, Nana, we only have two dollars and seven cents,” Penny observed. DeShawn glared at her. He hadn’t yet mastered mental math.
“Well, I don’t think I have any more,” Nana muttered as she looked deep into her purse.
Penny frowned and pulled her lucky coin out of her pocket. She glanced between it and the soft serve machine, her gaze carrying the weight of the world. Quietly she placed the shiny penny on the counter with the other coins.
“Here you go, sir.”
“Oh, do we have enough now?” Nana asked as the man took the coins. He nodded, his eyes following Penny as she trudged to a booth and sunk onto the beaten red seat.
“I guess it was a lucky penny after all,” DeShawn said to try and cheer his sister up as he slipped into the seat across from her. Nana sat down and they waited in silence for the man to bring the ice cream.
“Here you are,” the he beamed, handing over two medium cones of swirling chocolate and vanilla.
“Oh, we ordered small cones.”
“I know, ma’am. Seems the machine’s broken so it pumped out too much. If you want I could put it in small cones…”
“Please, Nana, can we have these?”
“Oh, alright. But you’re brushing your teeth twice tonight.”
“It really, really was a lucky penny,” Penny smiled.
Back at the counter, the man glanced over his shoulder at the girl with the bubbly laugh, skinned knees, and generous heart, and smiled.