One Hundred Dollars

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Lauren

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Jeremy Gold could not find any of the toys his young daughter Marie had requested for her sixth birthday. He had stumbled through just about every store in the city, and they were nowhere to be found. It was the end of the day and he stood, exhausted, at a crossroads. He could stay out looking and miss dinner and bedtime stories, or he could go home empty-handed and disappoint his child and wife. Neither option was preferable. Instead, in a rare flash of intuition, Jeremy purchased a glitter-doused card, hunted down an ATM, and withdrew a one hundred dollar bill. He slipped the bill into the card, and as he headed proudly toward his car, the bill slipped out the other side.

The bill fluttered through the air and landed flat against the sidewalk. It sat there for about fifteen minutes before May Smith passed by, almost so tired from working such long hours that she didn’t spot it.

She gasped and plucked the bill from the ground, elated. This was exactly the blessing she needed! May sprinted her way to the parking deck and up several flights of stairs. It broke her heart that she couldn’t have been there for her niece’s birth, but with this money for tolls and gas, maybe she could make it to the hospital tonight after all! She skidded to a stop by her car and rummaged around in her purse for her keys, the bill pressed between her fingers. But the wind howled through the building at just the wrong time, tugging the money out from between the surprised woman’s fingers and into a sky of clouds gilded by the sunset.

The bill soared over a block before it was drawn back down to the earth, ferried half a block by the rush of cars until it finally landed at the heel of Jenna Johnson.

Jenna hungrily seized the bill as soon as she noticed it, tears of relief in her eyes. This was at least two days of meals, maybe four if she stretched it. Or maybe it was new clothes? She looked down at the four-year-old she was toting home and his scuffed shoes. Those weren’t going to last him until her next paycheck, that was certain. Whatever this hundred dollar bill would turn into, she was thoroughly grateful for whichever rich fool had lost it. She wondered what they were missing out on. A new purse for their collection? A third smartphone, perhaps?

Jenna pressed the money into her pocket and dragged her son along, moving faster than before. Curious, Brendon Johnson’s pudgy little fingers drew the bill out, and he marveled at it.

Brendon knew this thing was called “money,” and that money could get you other things, like the things in stores. He had never seen this type of money before—it had a number he didn’t know printed all over it, and a picture of a man who kind of looked like his Pop-Pop, but with funny hair. There was a building on the other side, as well as that number again. He played with it as he stumbled along behind his mommy, balling it in his fist and tearing its edges. It looked like all the other types of money, but it made his mommy very excited, so maybe this type of money was important. Could he get candy with this money, too? Or maybe some new toys?

Brendon’s mommy grabbed him by the hand and urged him to walk faster, unintentionally making him trip on the craggy sidewalk and lose his grip on the bill.

The dollar bill flew from little Brendon’s hand and into the bushes by the side of the road. A squirrel darted into this bush and hid in the innermost branches, frightened by the sudden cry of a little human. The squirrel panted and twitched, watching the two humans until they left. Then he sniffed and noticed the strange leaf tangled up in the twigs. He crawled up to it and gave it a nibble, but quickly decided that this was not like the tasty treats humans sometimes lost. Whatever this was, though, it was very soft—perfect nesting material to protect him from the harsh cold of the coming months. The squirrel gathered his discovery in his mouth and bounded out of the bush, toward his nest.

As the squirrel ran across the grassy lawn, it caught the eye of a massive brown dog, who gave chase. The squirrel, unable to see past the bill it carried, made the tactical decision to drop it and flee.

The brown dog almost dove into the bushes after the squirrel, but his owner, Cameron Strong, called him off. Cameron knelt to pick up what the squirrel had dropped, surprised to find it was not trash, but rather a hundred dollar bill! He whistled for Rex and clipped the leash back onto his dog’s collar, making his way home with his new prize. Cameron decided that this money would make a good night out—he’d invite his friends out, buy a few drinks and burgers, watch the game and finally catch up with his high school buddies. Maybe a wiser man would save it, but Cameron had been feeling overworked and isolated at his job and in his college classes, so some time to relax was worth even more to him than getting a jump start on next month’s rent.

Cameron tucked the money into the pocket of his jacket, but by the time he rounded the block, it had already fallen out and back onto the street, landing in a fresh wad of gum.

Before Maurice Russo’s eyes, more money than he had held in four years fell out of a young man’s pocket and onto the sidewalk like trash. The kid hadn’t even given him and his cardboard sign a glance, so Maurice felt no remorse snatching it from the ground and keeping it to himself. He saw in that bill a reason to keep going. For once, he could eat something that didn’t come out of a can or a vat. He could get bandages. He could get a toothbrush. He could get socks—finally, socks! Maurice hadn’t had good socks on his feet since he was in combat. But that wasn’t a price he was willing to pay again, not even for a bed, a hot meal and all the socks in the world. He stood and shuffled his way toward his favorite local diner, blessing whatever luck had led him to this lost bill.

As Maurice Russo made his way toward a nice cup of coffee and a bowl of hot chowder, he passed a black SUV parked on the side of the road. Behind its shiny finish and tinted windows sat a father of two, swearing softly with his head bowed as his wife berated him for losing one hundred dollars within three minutes of withdrawing it.

“Why would you give a hundred dollars to a six-year-old? What were you thinking, Jeremy?”

Truthfully, not very much, but Jeremy knew better than to admit this while his wife was furious.

“I can’t believe this! One hundred dollars! Someone’s going to waste our money on drugs or booze or worse, and it’s all your fault! Get home right now before you do something even stupider!”

Jeremy Gold sighed and obediently started up his car, agonizing over the thought of so much money lost and rotting in a gutter somewhere because of his mistake, going entirely to waste.

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