Loose Change On Saturdays when I was ten, I fished through my mother’s dirty work pants pockets and between the sofa cushions for change. When she went to sleep, I’d slip out to the market on the corner of 125th & St. Nicholas—spend all of it on penny shortbread cookies with the jelly center. Mr. Stewart expected me each week. He handed me a little brown paper bag and said, How many today, honey? With my own hands, he let me count the cookies out of the huge plastic jar. If I had enough for one hundred, he always gave me A dozen more for free. Grinning, I grabbed the overflowing top of the greasy brown bag and skip out stuffing cookies two by two into my mouth. This time, when I got to the apartment door I found my mother standing there, face flushed—a mix of fury and fear. The greasy bag fell from my hand onto the floor like a heavy burden I’d been carrying my whole life. She hustled me into the door cussing and questioning me about where I had been and whose money I’d stolen. I couldn’t answer— mouth overflowing with loose change cookies I could no longer chew or swallow.
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