Stromboli’s Nights of Wonder

I ducked into the icy water and filled my bucket. After double-checking I’d seized every coin, I scrambled out, dried off and lit the lantern in my crawlspace under the wishing well ramp where I kept my bedroll, clothes, coin catalog, my prized Duncan yo-yo and the photograph of my family which I kissed every night.

Whenever Herbie left me with the take, I’d look for valuable coins though there were usually none. I’d check dimes and nickels first. Pennies were always the majority, so I stacked them in piles of twenty to compare them against my catalog. I was fighting sleep after examining a hundred stacks of pennies, when I saw it – a 1914 D wheat penny nestled in my sweaty palm. 

I rechecked the page again and shivered from head to toe though it was stifling hot in the crawlspace. Could it be true? According to my catalog, it was worth $900.00 or more in good condition. I scrutinized it carefully for scratches or dents. It looked perfect. 

I thought of my family depending on me to keep my job and stared up at the battered studs with nails sticking out and spiderwebs in the corners. This penny could change my family’s fortune and pay our debts with some cash leftover if it were mine. I was aware stealing was wrong and especially dangerous to deceive Herbie. I also knew he never checked the coins. He’d never know if I supplied an ordinary penny in the bag. 

There was one problem. I’d no money and nothing of value, except the yo-yo given to me by my dad. I could sell it for a penny, if anyone wanted it. I put the rare coin deep into my pocket and tossed and turned all night. 

The next day I carried my yo-yo everywhere, showing off the tricks I knew. 

“Boy.” I turned toward the voice.

“My son wants to buy your yo-yo. How much do you want for it?” asked a lady grasping the dirty hand of a small boy.

“A penny,” I said. 

“You have a deal.” She handed me a shiny one. 

I passed her my prized yo-yo. In seconds, they disappeared into the crowd.

I reached into my pocket. My heart stopped. My stomach sank. It was empty, except for a small hole. 

“Wonderful,” said Herbie reaching down and flipping something to me. “Here ya go, kiddo. Don’t spend all at once.”

It was my penny.

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