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January 12, 2010

Lucky Penny

Alexandria (Alex to her friends) gathered her new coat about her, her breath fogging in the frigid air and she shoved her hands deep into the pockets where she found an “inspected by #13” tag and a small pouch of silica. She stood outside the restaurant she was just about to enter and looked up into the sky. The sky was that dark winter blue just starting to fade to black. She was as new to town as the jacket was new to her body and she felt as fresh and as crisp as the air pressing to her face.

She wanted to savor the moment. Had it always been like this? This excitement that felt as if her stomach and heart had traded places for a few moments, it was intoxicating.

Alex looked at her car; it had been her steady companion over the long months to get where she was going. She didn’t know until today that she was already here. She had found a place to call her hometown. The word felt different in her head, like there was already more weight to it, knowing that she would stay. Knowing that this wouldn’t be just another place to rest her head and stay with friends while she worked at meaningless jobs and smiled over the dim roar of wherever fate was taking her.

In the past few months she had been in Dallas where she waited tables at an all night truck stop out on Interstate 20. She stayed with friends in their incomprehensible normal home with their perfect decorations, their perfect children, the perfect dog and the perfect lives they seemed to lead.

She had been in Las Cruces where the heat and long days working in a small retail shop off of the main town square made her feel boneless and weary. There she had rented a small one bedroom efficiency apartment above the garage of an older woman who seemed to collect things; cats, china tea cups, TV Guide magazines and Alex felt she needed to leave before the kind widow decided to collect her.

Alex moved north through Las Vegas where the bright lights and loud noises in the casino where she worked the second shift never seemed to lift the sad lifeless spirit of the town during the day. She had stayed with an old friend from college, Casey. Casey had sworn she would never grow up, never grow old, she would come skidding to a breathless stop at the end of her life never having regrets. Casey would never be like their friend in Dallas who had all of those responsibilities, a husband, kids, a home and a job. When Alex packed up her bags in to her trusty car Casey had just accepted an engagement ring from her long term boyfriend.

Through Denver and the fall perfect weather Alex stopped in Boulder and bartended at a low key (very environmentally friendly) pub near the college. She watched as the college kids seemed to get younger and younger before her very eyes. She stayed with one of her oldest friends from high school, Gary and his partner Kyle. They doted on her, they adored her, they tried to fix her. Alex packed her bags once again and started out as she always did, with a flip of a coin.

Right or left.
The same thumb worn penny that was normally in her right front pocket slipped between the gear shift and the floor matt sticking straight up on its’ end. North it is, Alex thought.

Alex travelled north through Colorado and at a gas side fill up in Cheyenne, she noticed the coin had come out of its’ perpendicular hiding spot and was resting on the floor mat, heads up. At the next major interstate she took a right and travelled across Interstate 80 heading east. She felt as though something was pulling her forward. She flew through Nebraska, couldn’t even remember the drive through Iowa and the only time she slowed down in Illinois was when she got pulled over for doing seventy-two in a fifty-five. She stopped in small motels, showered in teeny bathrooms the size of airplane restrooms, slept the sleep of the restless and kept moving toward where she thought she should be. When she finally hit Chicago and Lake Michigan, she thought to herself, “Well, is this it?” She couldn’t find her coin in her pocket so she stayed one night in Chicago and in the morning when she went to get in her car, there was her penny, in the middle of the driver seat. She rubbed the coin to get it warm then flipped it. Tails.

She turned left on Interstate 43 and headed north.

At a small intersection in Milwaukee she realized she needed a coat. Winter was coming and a winter coat was not included in her meager belongings. She eased her foot off the gas and pulled into the next shopping center she found. She bought a basic black wool pea coat. The coat was perfect. For the first time since she left Boulder she felt like she needed to stick around a while. She picked up a newspaper at the market, got a pint of milk, a trio of bananas, some cheese crackers and stopped at the next motel she saw. In the motel office was a sign, “Help Wanted”. Alex had been everything from a mechanic to a farmer, she figured she could do whatever needed to be done at the motel if she could barter for a room.

The manager, Marty, was leaving because his mother was ill and the owner of the hotel didn’t live in state. Marty jumped at Alex’s offer as the manager’s position came with a small apartment attached to the office. He took three days and gave her a run down on all the employees from housemaids to laundry service to the window washer. The manager gave her the number to the repairman, called and introduced Alex to the owner over the phone and the hurried to his mother’s side.

Alex took all of it in stride.

She worked the hotel like it was a home she never had. She made friends with the transient customers who used the hotel as a stopover and made sure that all of the rooms were tidy and clean. She stocked the small refrigerator inside her apartment with a few basics and was overjoyed to find a full sized washer and dryer that was hers to use whenever she wanted.

One evening a few of the employees from the restaurant adjacent to her little motel asked her to come over afterhours for a few drinks and to get to know everyone better. Alex finished her days’ work, turned off the vacancy sign for the motel and headed over to the little grill.

She walked into the greasy spoon with shouts of “Alex! Glad you made it!”, “Alex, over here!” “High five, girl!” And “Hey Alex, there is someone over here I want you to meet.” She pushed her way through the crowd to the head cook, Randy. Randy was standing at the edge of the bar next to someone she felt immediately drawn to. Randy said, “Hey, Alex, this is my old friend,” “Jeff.” Alex finished for him. Randy blinked then stood back and said, “Hey, you two know one another?” Jeff nodded with a glint to his mischievous eyes.

Jeff stepped away from leaning on the counter and reached out to shake Alex’s hand. She reached out and took his familiar hand in her own and said, “It’s nice to meet you Jeff.” Jeff grinned and asked her if she would step outside with her. She nodded and let him pull her gently out to the waiting night.

Standing in the parking lot, Jeff turned to her and said, “What took you so long?” She had so many questions. How did he find her, how did he know where she would end up when she didn’t even know herself and most importantly, did he still want her? She smiled up at him, his dark hair and dark eyes glittering in the night. He was really standing in front of her. She slipped her hands underneath the parting of his jacket and felt the warmth of him against her, as she stepped forward he cupped her back in his arms and rested his chin on top of her head.

The snow began to fall in beautiful fat flakes. It rested on her new coat and in her hair. Jeff cupped her chin in his hand and turned her face up so he could see her eyes. She answered his question, “The penny you gave me is very fickle.” He leaned his head down and kissed her gently at first then pressed his mouth to hers harshly then leaned his head back and laughed a full throated masculine laughter. She couldn’t help but laugh with him. He said, “Tag, you’re it,” then walked back into the restaurant.

She stood in the crisp winter air, with the snow falling on her shoulders and in her hair. She shoved her hands deep into the pockets of her new coat and found an “inspected by #13” tag and a small pouch of silica… she reached into the right pocket of her jeans, found the penny that had brought her this far and pitched it into the night.

She never heard it fall.

About January 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Suzanna Danna in January 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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