Grandfather ChangeM. 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. "Don't all grandfathers carry change wherever they go?"
"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.
But I'd never heard this before!
"I don't get it."
"Well, son, it's 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 first 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."
He reached out to mess my hair and his coins jangled again, though this time it was caused by his gently shaking stomach.
Originally appeared online in Story Bytes, December 1998.
Copyright ©2003 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.
Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.