Sabrina Y.

Mondays were always slow days, especially in the morning.  I was busy placing our new shipment of dolls onto their shelves when I heard a man walking into the store.  He was a man of business, one of those rich old guys who walked around in a suit all day and carried around a cane, not because he needed it but because it made him look wealthy.  He was proud of his opulence.

Good afternoon, Sir.  Welcome to Johnson and Sons toy store.  Is there anything I could help you find?

Yes. Im looking for a set of Jacks.

Let me show you where they are.

I walked to the back of the store where the classicaltoys were displayed.  The man noticed this and said, Classical toys, huh?  I guess this is where the old geezers like me shop, right?He chuckled to himself, and I gave a half-hearted laugh as well.

I handed him a little pouch, and inside was a red bouncy ball and 10 silver jacks.

Here you go, Sir.

Thank you, young man. I look forward to playing this with my grand daughter.  You know, the other day I asked her if she wanted to play Jacks and she had no idea what I was talking about! Then, she wanted me to play the My Little Pony Rainbow Magic Game with her.  I mean, what is that? Why do horses need rainbow magic anyway?

I laughed again then led him to the checkout counter, but even then, he didnt stop talking.

So, Johnson and Son.  Would you beand son?’”  He asked.

No sir. and son is my friend, Jackson Johnson.  Hes on vacation right now, so he left me in charge since Im the assistant manager.

I see.  Youre a hard worker,he said while squinting at my name tag then finished, yes, a very hard worker, Mr. Daniels.  Only seventeen, and already you are the assistant manager of a fine establishment.  It is quite an accomplishment.

Thank you Sir, I appreciate it.  (I was nineteen, but I wasnt about to correct him. I didnt think he was interested in my life story.)

I scanned the little bag of Jacks at the cash register then stated, Your total for today is $1.07.

Yes, Yes.He responded as he pulled out his wallet.  He had a credit card in his hand, but he decided to put it back into his wallet.  Wrong one, I guess.  However, instead of grabbing a different credit card, he turned his attention towards me then asked, Son, how much do you like this job?  Honestly.

Um, well, I like it.  I like it a lot actually.

But would you work here forever?

There was a short pause before I answered, No.  No, Sir.

Why was this guy asking me so many questions? Couldnt he just give me the money like any other customer?  Yet, he continued, asking another personal question. The persistence of this man was unbelievable.

So, what do you want to do for a living Mr. Daniels?

I, Im not exactly sure, Sir.

Oh, come on.  A young man like you must have some sort of dream to live for.

Well, Sir. . . I would like to create my own business some day.

Good for you, my boy.  So, whats holding you back?

Inside my head, I laughed at this question.  Hmm.  Let me think for a second.  Maybe, just maybe, it had to do with the fact that I dont know. . . my dad left me when I was eight, my mom has been stuck in a state of depression for the past eleven years forcing me to take care of myself and my younger sister, and (shocker) were broke.

I looked up at the old man and lied, I love my home town, and I could never leave it. 

Mmm, I thought the same thing when I was younger,the man said and then dropped a handful of change onto the counter.  No, it wasnt just change because change would have been a variety of coins; nickels, dimes, and quarters.  Every single coin on my counter was bronze of color.  Only a few of them were shiny, but most of them were dirty and tarnished.  Had this man really just paid in pennies?  I was shocked, so I just kept staring at the pile of pennies sitting in front of me.  I hadnt even noticed that the man made his way to the door.

With a tip of the hat he said with a smirk, Thank you, and keep the change.Then, he made his way out of the store.

I stared at the door, still with a bewildered expression on my face. Suddenly, that bewilderment turned into anger and I threw a stuffed animal at the door where the old man was standing moments ago.  It wasnt just him that made me upset, but it was people in general.  They always insisted on making my life more difficult.  I sighed, and looked at the pile once more.  It took me two minutes, but I counted 107 pennies.

Other than that, it was a normal workday.  Time went on, and I spent two more years in that toyshop.  Honestly, I probably would have spent my whole life in that toyshop too if it not for that fateful call.

Hello? I answered.

Is this Mr. Daniels?

Yes.  Who is this?

I am Steve McClair, Mr. Don Franklins lawyer and good friend.  I am sure you are aware of his passing, and I send out my condolences as we are all hurt by his loss.  I called you to let you know that he wanted you to have something.

Im sorry Sir, but I dont know a Mr. Franklin.  I think you have the wrong number.

Oh. Well, are you not the young man who sold him a set of jacks a couple years back?

I froze.

I stayed in that frozen state until I heard Mr. McClair ask, Hello? Are you still there, Mr. Daniels?

What did he want to give me?I managed to ask in a whisper.

Later that day, I went over Mr. McClairs office to pick up the letter.  For some reason, I couldnt find myself to open it until I was at the toy store.

I flipped the open sign so that it read closed.The last light of day shone through the shop windows. I slowly made my way to the cashier counter, and sat down.

Why me?I wondered before opening up the letter.

Mr. Daniels,

You are a hard worker, and it wasnt very hard to see.  You reminded me of a younger self when I was your age.  You see, at your age, I was stuck working long hours at a shoe store of all places.  I had to work because my dad had an accident in work and was no longer capable of doing the things that he used to, and we needed money.  This was what was holding me back from following my dreams of becoming something in this world.  I thought for all of my life I would be stuck in this town because I needed to take care of my family.  Now, I dont know your story, but the first thing I need you to please know is that it isnt our problems or situations that make us who we are.  The second thing I need you to know is why I gave you all of those pennies that day.  I am not the crazy old man that you may think me to be.

One day after work, my mom gave me my allowance.  It was one penny.  Mind you, I was nineteen.  I was confused and angry with her because I had worked hard for that money and I felt I deserved more.  However, she told me that every penny counts if I wanted to get out of this town.  She was right.  Had my mother not had said anything nor given me that penny, I would not have had the hope or courage to work even harder to follow my dreams and make something of my life.  That is why I paid you in pennies, son.  Although it was a little harder and it took you a little longer to count up all of that money, you still did it.  You still did it, son. And, I know you lied to me when you said that you loved your town and that you could never leave it. While there may be truth in that statement, I know you want to leave, so go. Time might be running out for me, but you have your whole life ahead of you.

Remember, YOU are the only person holding yourself back.


Mr. Franklin

Thank you, Sir,I managed to whisper. I sat there in the dark, desolate toy store staring into the eyes of the lifeless toys as I reflected on what I had just read.  No one had ever cared for me before, or at least not like that.

I carefully folded the letter, and was about to put it back into the envelope when I saw something else inside the envelope.  After realizing what it was, I held it tight in my sweaty palm, pulled it close to my heart, and closed my eyes, just for a moment. In that moment, I could hear his voice saying, Heres a little something to get you started with your life, my boy.

Not 107 pennies, but in the end, this man- no! This benefactor gave me 108 pennies.  My God, he gave me 108 pennies.

Later that day, I went to the cemetery.  Dew from the flowers I bought dripped onto my hand.  I placed them along with a teddy bear I named Jacks by his gravestone.  I never did say a proper good bye to the man.

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