winter has been relatively mild so I give myself a goal in February:
walk 5,000 steps every day. May not seem like a lot to some, but it
is to me. Thereís something wrong with my muscles, you see. But
thatís a different story for a different day. This story is
minutes into my first walk, I pass by the local drugstore and spot a
shiny penny lying on the sidewalk. Heads up. I pick it up and pocket
it with glee. Itís amazing how happy I am about finding a penny
considering how obsolete pennies have become. But I am amazed.
Whenever I go for walks I always
especially for coins. And I never
anything. I carry
it back home like Gollum with his precious and then deposit it in my
favorite blue dish. The clink as copper meets porcelain is extremely
satisfying to my ears.
next day, I cross the street at a crosswalk and spy another penny,
this one dull and dirty. Heads up. I pick it up and pocket it with
glee. I genuinely canít believe my luck. Two heads up pennies
in two days. I am truly blessed.
the third day, I head straight to the gas station to buy a Powerball
and a scratch off. Iíve got luck on my side, after all. As Iím
walking through the parking lot I see another penny, so worn I canít
even make out the date. Heads up. I pick it up and pocket it with
glee. Three pennies in three days. I feel like magic.
February in the Midwest typically goes, we have a spell of especially
bad weather so I walk indoors for a few days. I slipped on ice when I
was in high school and broke my foot, so Iím extra cautious in
the winter, especially since my dad almost ran me over with his car
because he didnít see me fall. But thatís another story
for another day. This story is about money.
I resume walking outdoors, I change my path and walk past the fire
station. As Iím struggling up a particularly brutal hill, I
notice something in the street and crouch down to get a closer look.
Itís a dime. Heads up. I pick it up and pocket it with glee. I
feel like the chosen one, the finder of lost change. Seek and ye
next walk yields no treasure. Iím properly bummed, walking into
the house and flinging my boots off in resignation. I really wanted
to keep the streak alive and well. Then I remember. I never scratched
off the ticket I bought from the gas station. I use one of my lucky
pennies and promptly win a buck. I may not have found loose change
but I won a dollar. How is this happening?
bad weather and Iím walking up and down the hallway, looping
around the tiny house Iím renting, wishing I was outside
exploring the wild.
on the road, finally, and this time I walk past the elementary
school. Peeking out of the snow, a dark, old penny. Heads up. I pick
it up and pocket it with glee.
walking the following day, I run to the grocery store with my mom. In
the checkout lane, my mom hands the cashier a check (yes, she still
writes checks) and then hands me something. A penny she found on the
counter. Heads up. I accept it and pocket it with glee. I find
nothing on my walk later but count this penny as my treasure.
next day I pop down the alley behind the gas station and stop in my
tracks. Two pennies, right next to each other. Both heads up. I pick
them up and pocket them with glee. I feel faint. Iíve never
coins. This must mean something big. Am I finally going to get one or
all of the breakthroughs Iíve been waiting for? Is this my
season for miracles? I feel like it is.
next journey yields nothing. My luck has finally run its course. I
head home, dejected. I am no longer the chosen one, no longer the
finder of lost change. On the way up my drive I check the mailbox and
immediately flip to an unexpected letter from a friend. When I open
it, a check falls out. Twenty-five bucks: an early birthday gift.
Holy guacamole. I truly have no words. Just when I thought my good
luck had run out for good.
following day I run into a fast-food joint and immediately spot a
penny, half-wedged underneath a piece of carpeting by the front
counter. After I order my food, I realize I forgot to pick it up. I
remind myself to snatch it on my way out, but it slips my mind again.
Oh well. I saw it, I just didnít pick it up and pocket it. I
still have 17 cents, plus some cold, hard cash. Whatís one more
penny? I have more than enough blessings.
universe must agree. Every day afterwards, I consistently stumble
across more change but theyíre all tails up. I spy a quarter on
the sidewalk just down the street from me, then a penny by the high
school, another quarter in the alley behind the gas station, then
another penny by the VFW. All tails up. Do I pick any of them up and
pocket them? Hell no. I donít need any bad luck, especially not
52 cents worth.
miss walking home with a tiny souvenir in my pocket, a small kernel
of good luck that brightens my day. I donít miss the irony in
finding coins every day that I canít pocket with glee. But at
least I can be proud of myself. Iíve maintained my daily goal
and then some. And the tokens I do have, all of those pennies and
that one dime, feel like signs that Iím on the right track.
That things are looking up. For once.
a few days of February remain when I head out once again. I walk with
high hopes and low expectations, right down Main Street. As I get
near the end of the street I notice a piece of trash half buried in
the snow, close to the road. When I get closer, I see itís a
lottery ticket. A scratch off. I keep walking, thinking itís
probably trash, and just as I prepare to cross onto the next street,
something makes me turn around. Maybe itís a winner.
trudge back to pick it up and hastily stow it in my coat pocket
without even examining it. Iím cold and tired and just want to
head home. When I finally get back home, I forget about the ticket in
my pocket entirely.
isnít until much later that evening that I remember. Iím
outside, throwing some food in the yard for the deer and pausing a
moment to stargaze. I always say a little prayer when I stargaze so I
go through the usual list: health, happiness, financial security. It
hits me like a shooting star has fallen in my lap: the ticket.
run inside, grab my coat off the hook, and retrieve the ticket. Itís
sopping wet but itís not damaged. Itís a $5 scratch off
with a grand prize of $250,000.
it hasnít been scratched.
have never in my entire life found an unscratched lottery ticket. And
this one has play areas on both sides. Twenty chances to win on the
front. Ten chances to win on the back. The odds are in my favor. This
is a new, odd feeling.
immediately place the ticket in front of a box fan to dry out and
then try to calm down. But I canít. Because Iím about to
win the lottery. Iím about to win enough money to pay off all
of my student loans. To pay off all of my momís debt. To pay
for a new car since weíre now down to one after a hit-and-run
in October, which, again, is another story for another day. This
story is about money.
already spent all of the money in my head. Itís all gone. I
quickly realize the taxes on the jackpot and all of our debt would
use it all up. I donít think there would be enough for a car,
but I donít care. Iíve never lived life as an adult with
no debt. My momís never lived life post-divorce with no debt. I
canít even imagine what that feels like, but I know it will be
a few hours my fingers skim the ticket. It's brittle and stiff -- dry
enough to scratch, but fragile. Iím going for it. Tonightís
the night. I grab my porcelain dish and sort through all of my found
treasure, choosing the best penny circa 1935.
after number, row after row. I take my time so I donít
accidentally destroy the already fragile ticket. And as I slowly
scratch, I feel conflicted. Someone bought this ticket. Someone spent
five bucks on this thing before losing it. And theyíre probably
sick to their stomach, wondering if their carelessness potentially
cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. This could be someone
elseís ticket out of poverty or opportunity to live free from
the shackles of debt.
do I realistically do when (not if) I win? Do I keep the money? Do I
try to track down the original owner? Would that even be possible?
heart stutters and I remind myself to breathe. Just scratch. Pay no
attention to the numbers. Just scratch.
all is revealed. I sweep the dust off of my lap, close my eyes, say a
quick prayer, and start carefully scanning each row, knowing,
Iím going to get a match. The
are no matches, not a single one.
disappointment is crushing until I remember thereís a backside.
More chances to win. This time I have to match a symbol instead of a
number. I like symbols. Iím even currently reading a Dan Brown
novel so this is a sign, I just know it.
The play area revealed bit by bit. One last prayer and I again
carefully scan each row.
didnít even win back the money that was spent on the ticket. I
didnít even win two dollars. I didnít even win a single
feels like I had a quarter of a million in my hands and it all
slipped out, flying up into the sky and spirited away. I feel sick.
yet. I also feel relieved. If I ever win a massive amount of money, I
donít want to feel like Iím taking it away from someone
else. Because maybe the owner of the ticket would have gone out
looking for it and rescued it from the pile of snow. Or maybe it
would have disintegrated completely in the snow. Who knows?
way it was a gray area that made me uncomfortable. Now, I have no
tough decisions to make, nothing to feel guilty about, no ethical
pickles to sweat over. So maybe this was a blessing in disguise,
though Navient would probably disagree.
still have 26 unexpected bucks, plus the 17 cents I found. And the
losing ticket, which Iíll probably keep forever until it
crumbles to dust. And I canít forget that I clocked over
160,000 steps in the month of February. It doesnít have the
same ring as $160,000 (because, you know, taxes)
become a walking guru, leading people on walks through the snow and
ice. My feet are sore, but I walk on, head up.
Kathleen Miller prefers cold weather to warm weather and enjoys walking in the snow. She has a PhD in English Studies, lives in the midwest, is learning Italian, and writes flash fiction and poetry.
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