A Penny Earned

lonely houseMy sister and I laid on the bedroom floor, sweat sitting on our upper lip and dripping from the back of our knees. We were bored, really bored. Usually we were good with nothing to do because it meant there was some fun to be had, but the Summer heat had zapped all aspirations for play. The room had one window and it was without shades or curtains so the sun had free reign to heat as it pleased. In fact the entire room was bare. That year dad rented a house, the first and only house I’ve known him to live in. He was so excited, giving us the tour and beaming with pride that for the first time ever we would get to have our own bedrooms on the weekends we came to stay. We rushed in claiming our rooms. I chose the smallest room or more like a nook—secure and secluded. And Lindsey chose the biggest room attached to the living area. We had nothing to put in our rooms except our weekend suitcases and a blanket pallet. We were living large.

That hot, Summer day, in that bare bedroom with the naked window, the sun got us. Delirious laughter took over, and we would doze off mid giggle. This continued on until we heard a car driving up our gravel drive way, the tires crunching the rocks. The car pulled up and parked close to our window. We jumped up and peered out like spies. My stomach hurt. I knew this car and the couple inside; they weren’t up to good, ever. Usually when they came, the kids were scooted out the door and told to go play with the door being locked behind us. My dad was at work this time and they were there to see Stacy, my dad’s current girlfriend. In private, we called her “Crackhead Stacy”. I don’t think she did crack, but she did always reek of pot.  She had an ambitious green thumb always tending to her herbs in the backyard.  Stacy also had a daughter my age, that lived in the house full time. She had a bedroom with a bed.

The couple climbed out of their car without bothering to shut the door. The man had a drunk limp, and I watched him walk down our hall into the kitchen, bouncing like a pinball from wall to wall. The woman gave no effort to fight gravity, her mouth always being pulled downwards along with her mood. She avoided eye contact with us and made it known we were a burden. I quickly shut and locked Lindsey’s bedroom door. We would be in the inferno for a couple more hours. We needed a plan. The best part about this house was none of the windows had screens so we could crawl in and out as we pleased; I had never felt more innocently, scandalous. We climbed in and out pretending to get food for survival; we tied our blankets together to escape out of the tower like Rapunzel. Boredom truly can produce the best in life.

Within the hour, rum-dumb man came stumbling down our porch steps back to his car. He felt around the hood of the car like a blind man trying to grasp and feel his way to his seat. He fell into the reclined passenger seat and was out cold. His head tilted back and his mouth wide open. Lindsey and I looked at one another without words. We were both wondering if he was alive. “Is he breathing?” I asked. Lindsey forms two O’s with her hands and looks out of her binoculars. “ I don’t think so,” she replied. We were still in character and our concern for his well being was only for the suspense it added to our pretend mission. We slowly crawled down out of the window and tip-toed over to him. He smelled of cheap beer and the aluminum can it belonged in. We wouldn’t touch him so we just watched quietly for his bare chest to rise. As I was staring at him, I grew angry. I knew he had kids, and I knew he was here passed out in a car affecting our already boring day. I also knew somewhere deep in me that I was suppose to help him in some way. You could drape a towel over the door for shade at least Jacklyn; you could close their car doors to save the battery. You could have mercy. My dad was doing well, and I wanted trouble to stay away.
I left him to cook in the sun.

Lindsey was still on mission, and I had forgotten about our game. I half-heartedly crawled back with her to the window, her crouching down and me up right, distracted by my thoughts. Back in the room, she kept asking me why I wasn’t playing. “Pretend” had floated right out of the screen-less window. “What now?” she asked. I shrugged and looked at the man. “Hold on,” I said. I unlocked the bedroom door, quietly snuck down the hall and grabbed a full jar of pennies I had in my bedroom. When I returned, it was obvious Lindsey was disappointed. I sat the jar on the window sill, grabbed a handful of pennies, and one by one aimed them for his cavernous mouth. Lindsey snickered, and I handed her some pennies. The pennies landed on his forehead, rested on his cheeks and his chest collected all our other attempts. We emptied the jar. I’m not sure we ever stopped to consider that he was a man. Just two young girls tossing pennies into the clown’s mouth just like we had played so many times at the bowling alley arcade.



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