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The Last Dominican Dollar This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

The smell of the rice and beans cooking together and the warm, humid air still bring back the same memory every time. My grandfather and I playing the same game we always played when we went to my great grandmother’s house up in the rolling green hills. As soon as you went up her long narrow driveway surrounded by rainforest like trees, you could hear the family at her house making a ruckus in the kitchen, everyone trying to help my great-grandmother cook her famous orange rice. As tradition in our family, the women would cook and set up for dinner while the males would sit out under the improvised porch, made of posts and a long metal sheet as the roof. This is where the dice were played, the cards were shuffled, and where my grandfather and I started the tradition that I will always remember. At 5’8 and only 55 years old, many didn’t think he had much knowledge, but as his grandson I knew the vast experiences and knowledge held within that balding head of his. “You have in money in your pocket?” he asked. I replied, “Of course. I’m always loaded.” He chuckled and made me a deal. “I’ll give you whatever I have any one pocket of mine of your choosing and I’ll do the same to you.” I hesitated. What if he didn’t have anything? I knew my grandfather wouldn’t cheat me out of anything though. I let him pick first, and of course, being the grandfather that he is, he chose the pocket opposite of the one that he knew all of my money was in. He got away with my newly purchased pack of “red” gum. The cinnamon hot one you know? Well it was my turn. I saw his wallet but didn’t go for it. I went for what seemed to be the empty pocket. He smiled and pulled out what looked like a beat up piece of paper. “You know they don’t make these anymore?” he said. I didn’t know what it was, much less when they stopped making it. It was a Dominican dollar with the old president on it. They had stopped making it 10 years before my grandfather gave it to me. When he previously went on a trip to the Dominican Republic to visit his parents, he brought it back and carried it on him every single day since. On that day, he passed this treasure on to me, which I now carry everywhere I go. I knew so little but wanted to find out so much more. “Come on boys” yelled my 98 year old grandmother in the frailest of a voice. “Let’s get something to eat and we’ll finish this after.” I was nothing but smiled at the dinner table. Although the adults couldn’t see me as I just barely peaked over the table at 8 years old, my grandfather knew exactly what I was ecstatic about. I barely ate that dinner, although it was my favorite. I kept reaching into my pocket and feeling the silky, yet hole ridden Dominican dollar. Now as I think back to that day, I image driving up that driveway in my grandparents maroon Mitsubishi Montero, and seeing all of the cars parked outside of the house, hearing the women enjoying making a meal together, and sitting on the couch between my grandfather and great grandfather. My great-grandfather reading the newspaper with his legs crossed as always. Greeting me with the same words that he always has. “My god. You guys grow up so fast without me.” The smell of the rice my mother makes brings the memory back every time, and every time the memory comes back, I make sure to check the zip-up pocket behind my driver’s license in my wallet. Even though it seems weaker and weaker every time, it’s always there.

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