by Vanessa Kristovich
Three dollars. That is all I have left.
After a long period of being disabled I have exhausted my savings, borrowed my 401(k), and have almost exhausted my disability benefit. I will get a check in about two weeks, but until then, this is it.
I place the one dollar bills neatly in a row on top of the counter.
I pick the dollars up one at a time and examine them with interest. I decide that they are an amazing work of art. The drawing of George Washington is a masterpiece. Look at the magnificent detail! I examine the writing. It says Federal Reserve Note. The United States of America. One Dollar. I turn it over, and I wonder at the intricate design on the back. The all seeing eye at the top of the pyramid on the left stares at me. I’m sure it must know who I am. And the seal of the United States on the right side shows the fearsome Eagle with the weapons of war in one claw and the offer of peace in the other. This represents the awesome power this piece of paper has to buy me anything I want. Anything, that is, that doesn’t cost more than a dollar. And lucky me, I have three of them!
Then I come to my dilemma. I know for a fact that I will receive another payment in about two weeks. The problem is this: I need insulin, I have very little food to carry me until then, and even when that payment comes it will need to go mostly toward the debts I have accumulated during my illness. It is still several weeks before I will be healthy enough to return to work. So what should I do with my three dollars?
I figure that the first thing I should do is inventory the cabinets in the kitchen as well as the refrigerator and freezer to see what I have on hand to eat. I know there’s not much.
I go to the kitchen and opened the two cabinet doors where I keep the food. I find six cans of beans, one can of crushed tomatoes, a box of macaroni, two cans of tuna, and one bottle of hot sauce. Okay, I can make that work, even though it’s not the best menu for a diabetic. I check out what’s in the refrigerator next. I have a half a gallon of fat-free milk, a half a head of lettuce, and three eggs. That’s not great either, but it could be worse. I know I won’t get thirsty, because the city hasn’t turned off the water yet.
Then there is the problem of obtaining my insulin. I have two pens left, and each of them will last about three days. I can’t buy them separately, so my three dollars won’t help me there. I will have to ask the doctor if he’s willing to give me some sample needles, and if that doesn’t work I can ask my sister if she’s willing to break the law and give me one or two of hers. since she uses the same medicine as me. I can always reimburse her when my check comes in and I renew my prescription. It is illegal though, and somewhat dangerous, so I don’t know she’ll do it. But that’s okay. If she can’t help me, and the doctor won’t help me, I’ll just go without. With the way things are around here, sometimes that’s all you can do.
Now that I have considered my options, the last thing left for me to do is to go through my coupons and see if there’s anything that will help. Coupons are almost as good as those amazing dollar bills. They can take that power that that dollar has and make it go just a little bit farther. I see I have $.60 off three bars of soap, $2.00 off the price of a whole turkey, and a breakfast coupon for the local deli that says I can get a medium coffee and two breakfast sandwiches for three dollars.
Hallelujah! That’s it!
I have decided to go with my three dollars and the breakfast coupon. A cup of deli coffee would be a luxury on a day like today, and the two breakfast sandwiches would mean I’d have one for today and another for tomorrow. Then I wouldn’t have to worry for two more days about whether or not I would have something to eat. Perfect!
I am very excited. I look in the mirror and I realize that in my down-sided mood I had not gotten dressed to go out. The shorter hairs on my head are sticking straight up, I am in my pajamas, and I haven’t waxed my chin for several days. I quietly thank God that I can’t smell my own breath. This just isn’t going to do, so I lay my most precious coupon next to my most precious dollar bills and commence to grooming.
I take a shower, wash my hair, wax my chin, and put on a nice shirt and a good pair of shorts. I put on my one shoe and squeeze my other foot into the surgical boot that is my protector until I heal. I scoop up my treasure and stuff it in my wallet. Then I grab my keys and I am off to the store.
The lines will be long today. This store is always very busy during the lunch hour, and that’s what time it is right now. There aren’t even any parking spaces left. I have to circle two times around the parking lot until I finally see someone pulling out, and I grab his parking space. I am very blessed that he just happened to be in a spot fairly close to the door. During my disability I have often cursed myself for not asking for a handicap tag for my car, but that was because I truly believe that those things should be reserved for people with more permanent or more debilitating problems than mine. I jump excitedly out of the car and practically run to the door, taking care to watch the traffic.
Once inside I notice that most of the breakfast sandwiches are gone, so I eagerly order two ham, egg and cheese sandwiches at the ordering kiosk. I then go to get my coffee. I choose a medium-sized Colombian, because I like the really strong flavor, and I put the Irish cream in it because it’s sweet and I won’t have to add any sugar. I stand grinning from pure joy as I wait in line. Normally lines bother me, but not today!
As it got to be my turn at the cashier, I proudly present my order along with the three dollars and the coupon. I feel like a conquering hero, right up until the cashier tells me I need $.21 for the tax. What a deflator! I have forgotten about the tax. I unzip my wallet and fumble around in there. I am hoping that some change will magically appear, but it does not. I pretend to search my pockets as I start to panic. The man behind me must’ve realized my problem, or maybe he is just in a hurry, but he slaps the quarter down and says, “There you go, Hon.” I smile at him and thank him profusely. He has become the conquering hero in my eyes.
As I walk to the car, I am in an almost euphoric state. The coffee smells so good, and the aroma of the freshly toasted croissants is almost orgasmic. I am going home happy. But as so often happens, there is an obstacle in my way.
This is one of the poorest counties in the country, and there are way too many homeless people living here. Even in my dire state, I cannot help feeling some pain for them. On a day like today, when I was so looking forward to my last piece of happiness before a dark time in my life, I was bound to run into someone that I knew was suffering way more than I. And then the old internal struggle begins.
Should I give my food to the homeless man standing next to the trashcan? Or should I treat myself to what very well might be my last enjoyment for the next two weeks?
I stop in my tracks. Wheels start turning, and my eyes can’t look away. You see, I believe in God, and I took his words to heart. This homeless man is a representation of Him in the form of one of His children. Here I am, hungry and afraid, but I am also aware that this man is suffering much more than I ever will. Maybe I only had three dollars and a coupon, but I have a home to go to and water that’s running and people who will be interested in my well-being. I also have reason to believe that my current level of discomfort is only going to last for two weeks.
So, somewhere between the joy of giving and the sorrow of giving up, I hand the guy my two breakfast sandwiches. I contemplate keeping the coffee, since that’s something I will sorely miss, but in the end I give him that as well.
I feel that it’s a little bit strange, but I am not that sad. After all, I do believe in God, and I trust him to make something good come out of this.
As I am walking, my eyes are to the ground, and my thoughts are far away. Because of this, I don’t see a man that is walking in my direction, and I walk right into him. As I look up, I realize that this is my old friend John. He moved away two years ago and I haven’t seen him since. He looks good to me. He is healthy with this blue eyes glistening and his teeth a brilliant white against the suntan on his face. He hasn’t changed that much. I have missed him; he is very much like a son to me. Seeing him, my happiness returns.
“How have you been,” he asks.
“Not too bad,” I tell him. I don’t want to burden him with my trouble, especially since I am so glad that he is here for the moment.
“You know what?” He asked me.” I just finished up work, and I’m free for the rest of the afternoon. Would you come and have dinner with me? I’m famished, and I would love to have the opportunity to catch up with you.”
“I’m sorry.” I said, “but I am a little financially challenged right now.”
“It’s okay. I want to go inside the deli and grab a newspaper, but if you will meet me at the Golden Moon it will be my treat.”
“Thank you,” I say to him. “I will wait for you there.”
I heart is warm and happy. I am thrilled to be able to chat with John about all the adventures he had since he left town. I am also grateful that I will get to have a nice dinner today, even though I gave up my three dollars. And I thank God for something that I, at least, am certain was not a coincidence.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student