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I was walking down the sidewalk of Harper Road, weary and famished, when out of the corner or my eye, I saw a glimmer in the gutter. I bent down and spied an old quarter, wet and unnoticed. I grabbed the 25-cent piece with my chapped hand and observed it closely. I rolled it around in my palm. Excitement swooped over me. This quarter could be a great help to my family. It could be the difference between having one meal and going a whole day without nourishment.
I ran down the road, weaving through passerby, to get to the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Pine Street, where my older brother John would be begging for change outside the butcher’s. Seeing him there on the street corner, dismal and gray, saddened me. I approached John with a bounce in my step.
“John, I found a quarter!” I exclaimed.
His face brightened a tad. “Really? Where?”
I opened my clenched fist and showed my brother the coin. “In the gutter.”
“Wow, I cannot believe it. You found 25 cents!” John uttered in amazement.
“I know, it is wonderful. How much have you gotten?”
John sighed with disappointment. “Three pennies,” was his answer.
“That’s okay,” I said. “We now have 28 cents in total.”
John and I went to find the rest of our family. We all sleep in a small, grassy yard behind a deserted office building, and we found everyone right in that spot.
“Hello,” I greeted Mama, Papa, Kirsten, and Abigail.
“Hello, Maddie,” Mama said. The dark bags under her eyes had grown since that morning. I could not believe how much misery was in her face. It was awful.
“Did you get any money?” Papa asked. His gray, sparse hair framed his forlorn face, and it too was an awful sight.
“I found a quarter in the gutter,” I said.
“Oh my lord, that is great!” Mama told me. “A quarter!”
“I received three cents,” John said, wanting his share of praise. Mama said “great” to him, also.
“Kirsten and I stayed outside the post office and we got 21 cents all together,” Abigail added.
“So that’s 49 cents in one day. Pretty good.” Papa collected the money and put it in the little pouch that hung around his neck under his shirt.
I wanted to ask if we were to have any supper, but I knew the answer. We had gotten a bit of breakfast, and that was better than sometimes. No supper, I was sure.
The next morning, I was walking down Harper Road. I looked in the gutter, hoping with all my might to find a quarter. And I did. A shiny quarter came into my view. It looked almost brand new. But then, about ten meters down the sidewalk, there was another one. I picked it up. A few seconds later, there was another coin! This continued until I had twelve quarters, and the street ended. I did quick arithmetic in my head. Twelve quarters was three dollars! I felt rich.
As fast as my legs could go, I zoomed to around the city to find someone in my family. The first person I came to was Mama.
Out of breath, I sputtered, “Mama, I have three dollars!” I produced a handful of quarters.
Mama’s thin mouth became a wide grin. “Three dollars! This is incredible.” She counted the money to make sure it was indeed three whole dollars. Mama almost cried tears of joy. “We shall have lunch AND supper today!” she proclaimed.
After the whole family was gathered together and informed of my discovery, we went to the bakery and bought a fresh loaf of bread for 50 cents. That was our lunch and dinner, and the bread filled me up and I went to bed with a content stomach.
The next morning, I went down Harper Road. I found thirteen quarters in the gutter, and I began to become suspicious. How was all this money getting here? It could not be a mistake. Was it that someone left them on purpose? But why?
The whole family went to the store and bought a hat and two pairs of fuzzy gloves for $2.85 in total. I wore the gloves proudly. My chapped hands were away from the fierce, cold air for the first time in months.
Early the next morning, when it was still dark, I set off down Harper Road. I found a few quarters, and then up the road, I saw a girl about my age. She wore a warm, wool coat, a fur scarf, thick mittens, and adequate boots. She walked quickly, but every few meters, stooped down and placed a quarter at the edge of the road. I watched the girl silently. She did not see me.
I hurried forward to the girl, “Excuse me,” I said.
She turned. “Umm . . . uh . . .,” she stammered, “Please don’t tell my father.”
“He doesn’t know I’m doing this,” the girl said nervously. Her face was pretty but pale from the cold.
“I’m putting quarters out by the sidewalk, for the homeless people.”
“Because I’m rich and I want to help.” The girl seemed extremely kind. She did not cringe at my filthiness or my tattered clothes.
“Well, thank you very much,” I told her. “I am homeless. I have found your coins for the past few days, and they give my family so much hope.”
“You’re welcome. I shall keep doing it.” She girl smiled. “I’m Catherine, by the way.”
“I’m Maddie. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Catherine and I stood there in the cold for a moment, and then she said, “I’d better get inside before my parents or my nanny wakes up. Goodbye.”
Catherine ran up the street, and entered a large, wealthy house. I smiled and continued to collect quarters.