512 Words

Grandfather Change

M. Stanley Bubien

"Grandfather change!" the counter-lady exclaimed to the man who held my hand.

"'Scuse me?" my grandfather asked, jangling a pocketful of loose coins with his other hand.

"Grandfather change," she repeated, pointing to his pocket.

"Hmmm." He nodded, "of course," and flashed his natural, closed-lipped smile as he used that change to pay for a coffee and hot chocolate.

At our table, I slurped a pile of whipped cream from the steaming cup. My grandfather reclined in his chair and took successive sips of coffee while, as usual, clinking those quarters.

"Grandpa," I licked a sugary tuft from my mouth. "You always have change. Ever since I was a little kid"---he grinned with protruding cheeks---"doesn't it bug you? You know? All that extra weight and stuff?"

He stared at me---his cheerful expression unchanged---but it was like he was looking at something else. Soon, he sniffed and sat up. "No bother at all. You see, it's for your grandmother."

"Um," I mumbled. My grandmother had died ten years ago, when I was around two. But my grandfather always talked about her, waving fingers over whichever picture he had handy, telling so many stories, he made me feel like I knew her after all.

Yet I'd never heard this before.

"I don't get it."

"Well, son, it's sorta how we met."

"You gave her a bunch of money?"

He blew air through his nostrils, his chest heaved and his stomach shook---his way of laughing. "Not exactly. It was during the Great Depression."

Having finished the whipped cream, I began work on the cocoa while my grandfather spoke.

"I was lucky, see, I had a job at a coffee shop---not like this one, understand, because we served pancakes and such. One day, I came out and saw her standing by-the-by..." He closed his eyes. "Oh, there's a vision."

He sighed, "I was terrible shy, I tell you! But it must've been love-at-first-sight because I up and walked right over.

"'Excuse me,' I says, 'could I buy you a coffee?' But before she answers, I stuffed my hands into my pockets and---lo and behold---I didn't have any money---not one red cent!"

My grandfather's stomach quaked once more, "I must've turned five shades myself---and when she asks what's wrong, I just shook my head and told the truth, sure she'd brush me off with a laugh.

"Yesiree, laugh she did! But when she's finished, she says she's never been so flattered in her life!---that I must've thought she's somethin' if I didn't even think how to pay for our date!"

He grasped his cup with both palms. "Yep, it was love, all right. And ever since, I vowed to always keep change in my pocket."

"But Grandpa!" I blurted. "If you did have money, she'd never've gone out with you!"

"Smart boy," he smiled. "Yesiree, I ain't been out with another woman since."

He reached out to mess my hair and his coins jangled again, though this time it was caused by his gently shaking stomach.

Copyright ©1998 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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December, 1998
Issue #32

512 Words