The pink streaks across the morning sky matched George's red, bleary eyes. Wishing he'd had more sleep, he stumbled to
his car with travel mug in one hand, lunch tote balanced in the other, and his keys clenched between his teeth. Trying not
to slop his coffee, he delicately retrieved the keys and opened the door. With contortions reminiscent of Houdini, he managed
to get himself and everything else into the car and headed down the road.
The picturesque sunrise was now an annoyance, and George felt on the seat beside him for sunglasses. The radio traffic
and weather report called for a hot humid day, but the roads were clear. He estimated he would be at work fifteen minutes
early, giving him an uneventful start to his day. The shop would be cool when he arrived, but would soon heat up when the
machinery starting running.
After a productive morning and late lunch, George geared up for another run. With earplugs in place, he felt more than
heard the machine's slow hum turn into a high pitched whine as the belt began to move. Then the lights dimmed and went out.
The machine chugged to a stop, and so did the productive day. George pulled out his earplugs, but it was as silent as if he
were still wearing them. A dull thump sounded through the building. Dim emergency lighting clicked on, and isolated islands
of light appeared. Minutes ago George was surrounded by industrial machinery, but now the equipment lurked in shadows like
There was no standing around idle. The boss sent everyone to the stock room to clean out old storage bins and cabinets.
Two small fans plugged into emergency outlets turned the hot air into currents that rippled sluggishly around the stuffy room.
Even doing light cleanup proved too much for most of the men. One by one they punched out and went home early, but George
stayed. He needed the money. He longed to be sitting in his air conditioned car even stuck in traffic, but there was still
another hour left on his shift. He mopped the sweat from his forehead and picked up a rusty coffee can full of odds and ends.
"What do you want me to do with this stuff?" he called out.
"That's old junk," the boss called over his shoulder. "Throw everything out that can't be used on the current jobs."
"Everything! Throw it out or take it home. I want this room squeaky clean for inspection tomorrow when the new clients
come through for a tour."
"Ooookay." Nails, bolts, pencil stubs, and washers went into the trash as George chanted to himself, "Out, out, out..."
Then he stopped. "What's this?" he mumbled.
In his hand was a piece of copper about the size and shape of one of the old silver dollars he had seen at the flea market.
"Too bad it's not silver," he thought. Still there was something attractive about it, and he slipped it into his pocket.
Exhausted from the heat, George tossed the copper piece into his own junk drawer at home that evening and forgot it. Several
months later he was fumbling through the drawer looking for a cough drop. He had been home sick for two days with flu. His
hand closed around the round piece of metal.
A wave of nausea hit him and he clutched the counter with his free hand taking deep breaths. When it passed, he studied
the undistinguished metal piece wondering why he had kept it. He rummaged around the drawer and found throat lozenges and
a magnifying glass, and shuffled back to the couch and his box of Kleenex.
He sank into the cushions and tried to concentrate, but the room was moving a little. He closed his eyes for a moment.
When he focused again, the sun poured through the open window above him and glinted off the dull copper. He tilted it this
way and that and used the magnifying glass to inspect it. A wide flat rim on the outer edge ran all the way around. No lettering
or numbers, but he caught the faint outline of something in the center. Maybe a head or figure of some sort. George flipped
it over and rotated it back and forth on the palm of his hand. Sunlight fell on the surface hinting of another ghostly image
that might be a lady or someone sitting down. Over one shoulder were three scratches that could be the prongs of a trident.
He was sure now that it was a coin of some sort. Could the outline be an American Liberty figure? He couldn't remember
a United States copper coin with a sitting Liberty. Britannia? It was too large for a British penny. Again he looked for lettering
or numbers that might give a clue, but it had passed through so many hands that no writing had survived.
George slept for several hours. When he woke up he was feeling stronger. Fortified with cold medicine, chicken soup, and
saltines, he went online with his laptop. He landed on Ebay where he found plenty of examples of the mystery coin. They came
in all stages of wear. One looked like new with distinct details that made the images look three dimensional. Another was
so smooth and featureless it was almost as worn as his own. He was sure now that the nondescript metal he held, though worthless
to a collector, was a 1797 two pence coin from England. How did it journey across the pond, and what history had it seen?
Exhausted from the exertion, he lay back on the couch and closed his eyes. His palm tingled as he calculated its age. It
was minted 214 years ago in the time of George III. George Washington was still alive when it began its travels through the
pockets and purses of British citizens. For now it belonged to George.
The coin slipped out of his fingers, and he drifted off to sleep with the faint image of Britannia on his chest. In his
dream he walked on cobblestones past the cottages and shoppes of a country village with a two pence piece in his pocket.