The travelling cent
“Hello”, little magpie, said the shiny bright new cent, as the baby chick emerged from its egg. “I am a cent, and you have just been born, like me”. The chick opened his eyes, looked around the nest, so neatly made of little bits of wood, straw, and soft leaves, and saw the cent. “Who are you and why are you here?” asked the chick. “Where is my mother?”
“Your mother has gone off to find you some food, and I am here because your mother brought me to your nest. Magpies love shiny things and I happened to be around and caught your mother’s eye. She popped me in her beak and brought me here – that is how I came here.”
The chick fluffed out his wings, looked around hungrily for something to nibble on. He was a bit wobbly, as his legs were still very weak. “Can I eat you, Cent? I cannot wait till my mother comes back!” “Oh, no, you cannot eat me, you will be ill – rather let me tell you a story about my life, and by the time I am finished, your mother should be back with something good for you to eat.” “All right then,” whispered the chick, snuggling up in the warm straw.
“I was made at the Federal Mint in Washington DC. From there, I was transported in a van with many dollars, quarters and dimes, to a big bank. I was kept with my friends for some days. One day, a pretty lady, who was an artist, came to the bank and took me away with a crowd of my friends. She looked at ME and said aloud, “This shiny new, beautiful cent, is going to bring me luck and will come with me on all my travels. I hope I never lose you.” “So, there was I, very proud and excited that I was going to be kept by her. Most of her exhibitions were in San Francisco, which is very hilly, as it is built on forty-two hills.
My owner travelled all over the United States, showing her paintings at many different galleries, but lived most of the time in San Francisco. I went with her on all her travels. What I loved most, was the Cable Car, one of which was called ‘The California Line’. I always held my breath and was nervous because I thought the car belt might snap, but I need not have been anxious because of the very many safety precautions that were taken. The signalmen were so careful. The view from the top of the hill is so beautiful, I felt so high up, I almost felt as if I was floating on cotton wool – we were so close to the clouds. Do you know, little chick, that on top of that hill, you can see one of the best and ‘safest’ landlocked harbours in the whole world. There are nearly 400 square miles of San Francisco Bay, filled with so many boats and ships, all different colours, sizes and shapes. I once went on a strange boat called a yacht but did not like it because I was so seasick. My mistress told me she would not take me again, because I was obviously not a sea traveller. Do you know, the fishermen sell all kinds of things on the harbour, like lobsters, prawns, crabs, and all kinds of strange fish. My mistress bought a crab to eat. It was so big and so funny-looking, I nearly ran away. I thought the crab might eat me. I watched her with fascination as she ate this ‘strange sea-creature’ which she enjoyed so much.”
“Another one of my favourite trips was crossing the bay on the very long and high ‘Golden Gate Bridge’, to and from her many exhibitions.”
“My mistress took me many times to The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Here, there are thousands of different trees. It is so beautiful there and there are many different colours of green and so many different coloured pretty flowers, you cannot believe it, you just have to see it. One day, my mistress was painting in this lovely garden, and I was so excited by all the gorgeous colours of nature that I leaned out of her purse to see more and I landed in a smudge of bright red paint on her palate. I shouted ‘help’ and, luckily, she heard me and took me out carefully with her brush and cleaned me up. That was luck, or I might have ended up bright red!”
“Now, little chick, I’ll tell you how I got here. There are many flower-sellers in San Francisco, found on most street corners. One day, my owner bought some flowers and whilst choosing them, she bent forward. I was so ‘nosey’ that I leaned out of her purse and fell right into the middle of a bunch of lovely Californian poppies. There was I, again in trouble and called to her to lift me out. But my mistress did not hear me, because I had fallen so deeply into the bunch. Here it was so soft, and I found that I really did not mind because everything was so beautiful, and all the colours there, reminded me of a rainbow.
I must have fallen asleep and the next thing I knew, was that I was flying through the air – in your mother’s beak. So, little chick, that is how I came to be here, lying next to you. I do not know what will happen to me now and where I will be soon, but for the moment, I am warm and snug – so who cares!”
But the little chick was fast asleep, probably dreaming of the little cent’s many exciting adventures!
Barbara Louise Gillman