May 22, 2008
By Julia Carlaw, Bethesda, MD

The boy sits quietly, his hands shoved into his pockets. He slouches down on the worn bench, staring at the shoppers coming and going.

His friend watches him, a faint smile settled across her lips. They all look so sad, he had told her. All the busy people, restless and unsmiling and without expression. Sad, sad, sad. Indeed, they all were walking in the same hurried manner, with their thoughts somewhere else and their eyes focused far away.

“Depressing.” He sighs. Without any further words, he pulls a hand out of his pocket, a coin pinched between his fingers. Holding it up, he inspects it. A small penny, dull in color, worthless in value. He flicks it onto the sidewalk, the cling of it against the cement unheard.

They sit. Quiet and waiting.

The music from one of the noisier restaurants fills the air, humming along with the growl of cars and shuffle of footsteps. The warm smell of fried food weaves its way through the whisper of music and the crowds emerging from the Chicken Out. The penny goes ignored.

“Do you think it’s easy to make someone happy?”

“Depends on the person.”

The two of them watch, eyes bright, as a young woman pauses in the middle of the sidewalk. Her friend tugs impatiently on her arm, muttering something about being late. The woman stoops and picks up the penny. She smiles. “It’s good luck,” she explains. She rubs the penny between her fingers, eyes thoughtful. Then she walks away, the smile still upon her lips.

The boy reaches into his pocket once more. Another penny falls to the cement, the clink unheard over the noise of the city.

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