Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Sean had a paper plane floating around the room doing acrobatics when his mother entered his bedroom carrying the change jar. She watched the plane flutter to the floor and shook her head. She asked, “Can’t you find something better to do?”
“I’m grounded, remember?” Sean asked. He’d been forced to stay at home all week except for his excursions to the store.
“Well, Max is up and around now so I guess your grounding can come to an end,” his mother said.
“Gee, I’m thrilled,” Sean said thinking about what he’d find on his next trip to the store. Max was going to be out for blood. He said, “He’s going to kill me.”
“You boys used to play together when you were kids,” his mother said.
“That was before his body started producing excessive quantities of testosterone and he got dumb,” Sean said.
His mother handed the change jar to him with a groan and said, “It is allowance day.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Sean said taking the change jar from her. It was a gallon pickle jar that his dad had picked up from somewhere on his travels. When it was filled with coins it felt like it weighed a ton.
“I’ll need the jar back,” his mom said before closing the door.
“I know,” Sean said to the empty room. He dumped some of the coins out on his desk. He started sorting the coins using the magic to have the coins flip over. As he checked the coins, he sent them to the jars at one edge of his desk. The pennies went into the penny jar, the nickels into the nickel jar, the dimes into the dime jar, and the quarters went into the quarter jar.
Using his magic gift, checking the coins went a lot faster than usual. He was amazed at how much time it used to take to turn over the coins. Having them flip to the right orientation was very convenient. In the whole jar of coins, he found one that he didn’t already have. It was actually a pretty good day.
Once he was finished, he sat back and looked at the coin jars. They were all pretty full. He thought about counting them, but decided that it was a whole lot easier having the clerk at the store count them. He grabbed the penny jar. He reached inside and grabbed a handful of pennies. He stuffed his pockets until they looked like the cheeks of a chipmunk. Patting his pants, he said, “That ought to be enough for the next trip to the store.”
It was the first trip after receiving his allowance despite the fact that it was his third trip of the day to the store and it wasn’t even lunch time. Sean entered the store and went over to the shelves where the groceries were located. He picked up a can of soup and took it to the counter. The clerk asked, “Did it ever occur to you that it was possible to buy more than one thing at a time?”
“That would be too easy,” Sean answered. He wasn’t going to say that his mother sent him to the store over and over.
“You’re a real pain in the ass,” Sam said looking at the bulge in Sean’s pants. He knew what that meant.
“Ring it up,” Sean said.
The clerk scanned the can of soup and hit total on the cash register. Hating what he was about to say, he said, “Seventy four cents.”
Sean reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of pennies. He dropped them on the counter and asked, “How many is that?”
“Don’t make me do this,” the clerk said staring at the stack of pennies.
“They are legal tender,” Sean said.
“You can have the can of soup,” Sam said.
Shaking his head, Sean said, “It would be a crime for me not to pay.”
“I hate you,” Sam said starting to count out the pennies. He knew that this was only the beginning of three days of torture. For the next three days he would be getting paid for every purchase with a ton of change.
“You can’t hate me,” Sean said.
“Why not?” Sam asked looking over Sean.
Sean smiled and answered, “Because I have dimples when I smile.”
“I need eighteen more cents,” Sam said knowing that it was useless to argue.
“You might want to count that twice, just to make sure there isn’t a mistake,” Sean said. He was half tempted to make the pennies move around, but resisted the temptation. He reached into his pocket and took some more pennies out.
“Put the pennies on the counter and I’ll count them out,” Sam said.
Sean put the pennies on the counter. The clerk counted out eighteen cents and added it to the pile of pennies. Rolling his eyes, he pulled the pennies out of the pile by twos counting aloud, “Two, Four, Six, Eight, Ten...”
If Sean was of a slightly meaner character, he would have started calling out random numbers just to see if the clerk could stay focused. He wasn’t, but that didn’t prevent him from entertaining the idea. Of course, the clerk was expecting him to do that and Sean’s silence was beginning to unnerve him.
The clerk stopped counting and looked up at Sean. He said, “I know what is going to happen. You’re going to come in here twenty times a day and pay for individual purchases with a mountain of change. I am going to get a line of grumpy people wanting to pay for their coffees in the morning while I’m counting a mountain of change so that you can buy a stupid box of cereal or something. You know that the till won’t hold all of the change.”
“That’s how it goes. I get my allowance in change,” Sean said.
“That’s stupid. No one gets their allowance in change,” Sam said staring at Sean.
“I do,” Sean said.
Grinning, Sean said, “That’s how I want it.”
Sam finished counting out the pennies and put them in the till. Knowing that he was going to be counting change for the next few days, he asked, “How much is your allowance?”
“I don’t know,” Sean said.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Sam asked incredulously.
“If you got paid in change, would you want to count it?” Sean asked.
Sean left Sam stuttering at the counter. Stepping outside, he spotted Suzie walking up to the store. He said, “Hello, Suzie.”
Suzie looked at Sean and asked, “Allowance day?”
“How did you know?” Sean asked.
“You always walk around looking like you robbed the parking meter on allowance day,” Suzie answered.
“Oh,” Sean said.
“You know, you might want to change how you get your allowance,” Suzie said.
“I like getting it in change,” Sean said, “I collect coins. I convert my allowance to bills after I’ve checked all of the coins.”
“How do you do that?” Suzie asked staring at his bulging pockets.
“I keep the bills Mom gives me for shopping and spend the coins,” Sean answered.
“After you check the coins, why don’t you take them to the bank across the street and get them changed into bills?” Suzie asked.
Sean looked blank trying to come up with a good answer to that question. He was having a little difficulty since the thought of doing that had never come to him before. Looking at him, Suzie burst out in laughter and said, “You never thought of doing that, have you?”
“Uh,” Sean said, “No.”
“No wonder Sam hates you,” Suzie said laughing.
“I always thought that he didn’t like my wry sense of humor,” Sean said.
Suzie shook her head and said, “I don’t know who is weirder, you or your mother.”
“Mom is okay,” Sean said.
“She sends you to the store a hundred times a day,” Suzie said pointing out one of the more obvious ways in which his mother was a little different. She knew that she was exaggerating, but his frequent trips to the store were a common topic of conversation among the kids she knew. It was one of those things that gave him the reputation of being odd.
“She doesn’t like shopping,” Sean said.
Suzie said, “You don’t think it is weird that a woman doesn’t like to shop?”
“I never thought about it,” Sean said.
Suzie grabbed his hand and said, “Come in the store with me while I get a drink. You can walk me home.”
“Okay,” Sean said looking down at his hand unable to believe that he was actually holding hands with Suzie. He was pretty sure that she had no idea what effect she had on him.
Suzie pulled him into the store. Although she could talk about his mother all day long, she had more pressing things to talk about it. She said, “I heard that Max is looking for you.”
“He knows where to find me,” Sean said shrugging his shoulders. Considering that he walked behind Max’s house several times a day, it was almost a given where Max would find him.
“He’s going to kill you,” Suzie said in a concerned voice. She walked over to the cooler pulling Sean along by the hand. Much to his disappointment, she let go of his hand to get the drink out of the cooler. She picked out a diet drink and turned to face Sean. Concerned for his safety, she said, “Don’t walk here alone.”
“Don’t worry about me,” Sean said.
Afraid of what would happen when Max and Sean met on the path, Suzie said, “You know how Max is.”
“I know,” Sean said following her to the counter. He patted his pants and, hearing the rattle of hundreds of pennies, said, “Let me buy you that drink.”
Upon hearing Sean’s offer, Sam shouted, “No!”
Sean shook his head and said, “You’d think they would hire people who aren’t afraid of money to work at the cash register.”
“You’re right,” Suzie said with a smile.
“It’s on the house,” Sam said.
Dumping a handful of pennies on the counter, Sean said, “Don’t make me look bad in front of the lady. I offered to buy her a drink and I don’t need you to ruin the gesture.”
Giving up, Sam counted out the change. At least there wasn’t a line of people waiting. He knew that it was going to be bad the next morning when Sean showed up to buy cereal or something with three hundred pennies. He put the money in the register and said, “Don’t come back.”
“Service in this country is going downhill,” Sean said ruefully.
Deciding that a graceful retreat would be better than a ten minute battle of words, Suzie grabbed Sean’s hand and led him out of the store. Sean went along quite easily. Of course, Suzie could have told him to get down on all fours and bark like a dog and he would have happily done it. Outside, Suzie said, “Walk me home.”
“Sure,” Sean said enjoying holding hands with her.
They had walked a little way into the woods when Suzie asked, “Are you looking forward to being a senior?”
“I guess,” Sean said unenthusiastically.
“You should be excited. We’re going to be seniors,” Suzie said wondering why he wasn’t more excited.
Sean said, “I don’t see how it is going to be any different than any other year in school.”
“We’re going to be the top dogs at school. We’ll be the seniors. Freshmen will tremble when we walk past,” Suzie said. She looked over at him and said, “Okay. That was a bit of an exaggeration.”
“You’re forgetting who you’re talking to. Last year the freshmen stuffed me in the cafeteria trash can,” Sean said.
“No they didn’t,” Suzie said with a laugh.
“Okay, but you know what I mean,” Sean said.
Suzie was quiet for a moment and then said, “I know. You’re just a little too eccentric for kids our age.”
“Eccentric. I rather like the sound of that,” Sean said.
“That’s a highbrow way of saying batty,” Suzie said nudging him with her hip.
“Batty. I rather like the sound of that,” Sean said with a smile.
“You would,” Suzie said with a sharp laugh. She slowed down at the junction of a path with the one they were on. She said, “We’re at my house.”
“I know,” Sean said. The path ran behind all of the houses along their street. It ended behind the convenience store. All of the kids who lived along the street used the path to travel to the convenience store. The woods were part of a state nature preserve and were used by all of the kids for exploration, tree forts, and other activities.
Suzie turned to Sean and said, “Watch out for Max. You know how he is.”
“I’ll be careful,” Sean said.
“Maybe you can come over for a swim later,” Suzie said.