Up in the high and busy skies of the world that is the highway of planes and the playground of hawks, I observed no clouds. The sun was a yellow eye peering down out of a blue face with all the fury and hate it could muster. Yesterday it had been a crowded, choked gray, turning suddenly to silver when the rain began to fall. Now it was blue.
I have come to terms with the fact now, after nineteen weeks of lying upon my back and staring up at that same sky for a whole year, that I will probably never be picked up by another human being ever again.
I, every day, from the time I wake to the time I go to sleep at night, lay under the window of the popcorn shop. The man who runs it every day opens up and I watch people come and go, they buying, him selling. I simply peer up from my place, perfectly content to lay there on my back and be ignored. (Of course, being ignored is to be expected for a penny of my standing.)
At first on that fateful day when I fell from that person’s hand, bounced a couple times and rolled to a stop somewhere where I was sure nobody would find me, I was a little alarmed. I remember the thrill of falling, the bounce, the roll, then the fateful last spin as I came to a standstill- on my back. (I thought it very good of the man to have dropped me on my back) When I had gotten over my alarm, I assessed my situation, and what I could do about it, like every good penny should.
First I observed that I had been dropped outside. Plenty of people come and converse outside- that was good. Sooner or later my nice copper sheen would have attracted the attention of someone, and nobody could resist that. I was also in quite a convenient spot. A little to the side beneath the popcorn man's window, my edge somewhat in a crack and my eye peeking out with a wonderful view of the sky. I was grateful for the view of the sky at first, but then I put it out of my mind. Couldn’t have any distractions when there was an emergency to assess. I was lucky I had not been dropped inside- then nobody would find me there, with no sun to glint off my glorious copperiness. (I was a young thing, newly minted then.)
The first day went by after that fateful drop rather well, I thought. Many people hurried along. I shone my very best and tried my very hardest to gleam enough to be noticed. Every shoe that trod by I sparkled and winked and did all that I could to draw attention to myself. One shoe as it passed even complimented me on my fine shiny coat. That was the first day.
I was shocked when not one person stooped to remove me and put me in their pocket.
The second day came. My resolution was unshakeable still- I was going to be noticed and I was going to be noticed soon! I just knew it. Why wouldn’t someone like to keep me? I had finely cut edges, a shine that couldn’t be matched. I had perfectly cut mint mark and the most beautiful relief of Abraham Lincoln ever carved by machine. I told the world with all my voice; HERE I AM! A PENNY TO BE PROUD OF!
One week passed that way.
The second week I was just as confident, but still no one even glanced my way. What was their problem? Why wouldn’t they love and want and all clamor for such a penny as I!? How could they resist such a gloriously bright, shiny, and luminous penny? I was confused. Each shoe that clicked smartly by and each dog that panted past gave me just about as much notice as the sun gives to the people it burns- none. People would come to buy popcorn or a cold drink and not give me the slightest attention.
I glowed and begged and, had I legs, I would have strutted. I shone and glittered and shimmered. Was I not beautiful? What was their problem? Why did they not want me? Still they only walked past and I got to stare up their ugly noses and at the bottoms of their perfect shoes.
The third week I was a martyr.
It started when the idea came to me- when I thought...
They must hate me.
After that thought I was sure. I was convinced, their malice was complete. They hated my shine and glow. They hated my glorious shimmering. They were jealous of my perfect cut and beautiful mint number. At first, I glared my light into their eyes. Now, each clack of a fallen heel or skid of a shuffling foot was a dagger to my heart. They mocked my existence. Each shoe laughed and each toe stared at me in anger. I could just picture them behind their doors and perfectly painted picket fences whispering about me, how much they loathed me. I cried when it began to rain- why, the sky hated me too! I was beaten and spanked and hated and shaken, but I was unconquerable! Nothing could defeat my perfection!
But I was never picked up.
The fourth week I was afraid.
The thought occurred to me that perhaps they were annoyed by me. Being hated by all didn’t make them want you. Perhaps, I thought through my tears as I peered at the bleary sky, perhaps if I am quiet, not too loud, not too shiny, perhaps if I let a little lime grow and erode my perfect edges- someone will see me. Perhaps they are annoyed at my shine and loud presence. Maybe if I am quiet.
Everything I did or said was carefully measured. I was terrified I would offend someone, for fear I would be hurt by another blow. I looked away from the approaching shoe. I dimmed at every toe. I trembled and quaked. Please, pick me up. I am so cold. Don’t mind me. Don’t ignore me. Don’t hate me. Each day my metal got colder. Each night I cried like a child. Pity, me, oh please, pity me.
Please, don’t be mad at me for being a beautiful penny. It's not my fault I am perfect. I blamed my minter- for making me so perfect to make people jealous, mostly for making me so loud and obnoxious, to make people avoid me and annoyed by me.
Why couldn’t I have been a diamond!? Everybody loves a diamond. So pristine. So perfect. Attracts all eyes. A diamond has so many admirers, life for a diamond must be perfect. Instead, I am a penny, cold, alone, obnoxious and annoying to all who pass my corner.
I even began to imagine people would avoid this spot. Walk as far away from me as possible to avoid my presence. I could just see them whispering to each other; don’t go there. That’s penny’s spot. He is so loud and obnoxious. People would come and buy popcorn and hot drinks on rainy days or cold drinks on dry ones, still nobody bent to take me home with them. Even the couch cushion would be better than this!
The fifth week- I learned the truth.
Nobody wants a penny. A penny to the average passerby is as invisible as a rock.
When the realization of this first hit me- I cried. I cried for days and days without stopping. No matter how much I shined, nobody would give me a second thought. Not even a child would bend down and pick me up. I was a lonely, sad, sorry penny. My beautiful copper- gold sheen turned to a dull, listless brown. Rain fell on me- not caring or noticing where it fell. The sun glared down on and burned me- not caring. I was alone in the world and nobody even knew I existed.
I would watch shoes go past and the heels click by and not a glance or a word from anyone would grace me. I was never touched, never seen. Tears mixed with dust and left green moldy spots on my surface.
I was so lost in myself that whole weeks would go by with me crying and not caring. I would think to myself if only I were a quarter- why couldn’t I have been a quarter? Even a quarter is more wanted and caressed and worthy of notice. Everybody loves quarters.
Then the eighteenth week came
One day I laid on the ground with my eye looking up at the sky. I had just woken up from a long, tear-filled, nightmare strewn dream. I was suspended in that place where pennies often go after a long rest. It was the time of day before your head could be filled with self-pitying thoughts. Everything was quiet. The man who sold popcorn at the window above me hadn’t come in with his jangling keys to unlock the door. The scurrying feet hadn’t come to mock me yet. I was just there, and everything was still. The sun hadn’t even broken over the horizon.
In that moment of still silence before the mean thoughts and overwhelming sadness came, I turned my eye as far as it would go to the east which I could just see between the building tops. As I watched, the first few fingers of golden light of sunrise reached above the rooftops. Slowly the sun slid up behind the rooftops. It was free and unfettered. The sun seemed to fill the whole sky with golden song. Slowly, beautifully. With each ray of light another note that felt like gold filled the sky. This was The sky that I had been staring at for so long without even really seeing, That beautiful, graceful sky. As each ray of light touched the next cloud it too would light up and sing a glorious note, till the whole sky was a staggered burst of color and golden light. Red purple and gold. Shining, shimmering gold. Stacked one on top of the other. The sun filled the sky and the earth and the air with color and song. The sun reached past the sky and into the grass and each blade and rock and house and shop was painted with the sun’s careful strokes.
And I, the poor, humble, penny, was there to see it all. Somehow by a stroke of luck I had been chosen out of the millions of pennies on this planet to be the one penny with the perfect view, perfectly laid with my eye to the east to see the glorious sunrise. I just happened to be here at this very moment, on this very day to see the misty morning over the mountain.
Over the next few days, I watched in awe as the sun rose every morning, painting the world with color and light. I watched the rain fall in wonder as it streamed down from the sky making the colors of my world from the crack in the wall run and reflect the lights from passing cars. I watched as the sun became a bright beacon of pure light in the sky making the people come to buy ice cones and play at water fights. I wondered why I had never seen this before. Eighteen weeks and I hadn’t even noticed the beautiful people, the beautiful sky and the beautiful sun and the beautiful rain. I was the luckiest penny on earth. Other pennies would never get the chance to see the rain and sky and sunrise.
Now, at week nineteen I lay and watch the sun stare down out of the sky, as happy as any penny could be. As lucky as no other penny in the world was. The man who owned the popcorn stand opened up for business. People came and went. Shoes clicked by and I didn’t care, I was happy.
While I lay in perfect bliss a mother and her little girl walked up to the popcorn shop window. The mother ordered her popcorn and a soda, and the little girl wandered away. I was too busy admiring the sky and enjoying the warmth of the day to notice, but suddenly my attention was brought around when I heard these words.
In her little high-pitched voice the sweet girl said; “Mommy, look! It's a penny!” My little copper heart leaped. I gazed up excitedly. The little girl trotted over and scooped me up off the pavement with her little sticky fingers. The mother came over.
“Oh, Emily, that's not any penny.”
The little girl’s eyes got really wide. “Oh, really?”
The mother nodded. “Yes. That penny is a lucky penny.”
The little girl gazed at me with wide, bright eyes. A big smile stretched over her pink, happy face. “Ooh, mommy! When we go home, let's clean it, and put it on a chain, and I can wear it all the time and be as lucky as he is!”
The mother smiled. “Alright, lets.”
Once again that happy smile lit up her face. As that smile grew over her little happy face a warm feeling spread in my heart. It started from my very center and grew throughout my whole being till I thought I was going to pop. I smiled. The little girl giggled.
I was brought home and put on a chain just like she said.