There was a time in my youth where I was given half a dollar. The sun was shining on my face, beating against my skin, melting it like ice. I could feel every fabric of my being waiting to be washed away in the heat. And so, I decided, with my youthful discretion, to make my way to the coldest place in the town, the ice cream store. However, just being in the mere presence of the cold air that sifted in that building would not suffice my youthful nature. I had to buy something. But I didn’t have allowance, and carried with me only a single dollar. I wasn’t so far off that I needed to start a charity, but the cheapest thing I could buy was a popsicle at a dollar fifty. I wasn’t one to be frugal, but I just didn’t have money. I’m convinced now that being poor was a novelty of youth.
I asked my grandmother if I could have fifty cents. I held out my hands with the largest smile I could muster, and my grandmother complied.
“Here you go,” she said as she placed the coin in my open hand. It wasn’t until I was half way down the street that I realized what she gave me.
“Half a dollar,” I said to myself in the scorching heat. She had given me half a dollar. In what I could only imagine as my brain melting from heat, I pinched myself, and looked in my hand again. There it was. Half a dollar coin. She had given me half a loonie. Quite literally, when I had asked her for fifty cents, she had complied in the strangest of ways. Half a loonie would amount to fifty cents, after all, that was what half a dollar meant, half its value, fifty cents. But, I wasn’t too sure, even as a kid, if giving the counter a full dollar and half a dollar coin would work. Surely only a child would think up that arcane logic, and surely only a child would attempt it. However, I was already half way down the street towards the ice cream store, and I surmised it would take more out of me to walk up the hill then just continue down towards an already cold building. My home suffered, for lack of better word, a curse that didn’t allow it to be cooled under the summer heat. Or so that was what I convinced myself.
It was a work of marvel, that half-loonie. It was nothing I had ever seen, and still nothing I have ever seen. It was half a coin so finely cut in the middle that I would beg to wonder if that meant its value was also cut in half. I wondered if that half a dollar was actually a work of a time long past the one I lived in. My childish demeanor traveled to all sorts of leaps of fancy as I began envisioning a place where half coins existed all over the world. Where if a man needed two dollars and fifty cents, he would produce a five dollar bill cut perfectly in half.
I began to live in that old timey world, a world I knew nothing about, still know nothing about, but dote at the idea of. This is a story of a time I received half a dollar.
The streets began to lose its luster. I imagined the world a generation past, to be a world of rust. And so, as I was half way down the street towards the ice cream store, the streets became ragged. Cracks and unfilled cement began pouring out of the ground. The trees began to wilt, and the grass was a muddy brown. I had some sense in me to know that the past, in all of its history books and pictures, weren’t a place devoid of color.
When I looked up into the sky, the azure that covered the planet became grey to match the dirty walkway. Eventually, the cars that passed me by turned into the old cars I saw in pictures. Carriages. They turned into carriages with horses drawing them. I imagined the wheels turning on the street, and the engines turned into the top of factories. The streets became my own paradise of half a dollar.
I imagined the bustle of newspaper boys yelling into the heart of the street, of a group of shoe shiners by the barber and of the peddlers with long coats. Even as the townsfolk began pouring out to watch their lawns or bask in the heat of the sun, I imagined them to have frilly dresses and suits and I answered them in a strange accent that I can only recall in retrospect to be absolutely horrid.
“ello ol’chap,” I would say to the man who lived in 23. He would laugh and pat my head, “Let me guess. Today, you’re in old time London.” Back then, I was fixated with the accents of Britain. Though, being a kid, I didn’t know whether I was accurate or not. At least, people didn’t seem to mind, since I was a kid.
“G’day to you mate!” I would say to the man who lived in 34. He wasn’t much of a talker, and so he just waved. I’m sure everyone in the street was in on my antics from a mile away. I was just that kind of kid. Or maybe, that was the kind of insurance everyone understood. I was just a kid.
“Hey what’re you doing Aid?” I hated that nickname. Or at least, I hate it now. Though, I guess for childish nicknames, it was a valiant effort. I wonder how I would have shortened Adrian.
“I’m makin my way to the parlor, care to join me mate?” His confused look was well granted. He didn’t end up coming, he had plans with the other kids that day.
When I had finally gotten to the ice cream store and opened the door, signaling the chimes to resound, I was taken aback to the present. Everything gained its color. I lost my accent. And I clutched my dollar and half, wondering if it was going to work. The lady at the counter smiled when I looked up, barely being able to stretch my arms to the counter. I asked her for a popsicle. Strawberry. She got one from the freezer, and when she handed it to me, I took a deep breath and placed the two coins onto the counter. I closed my eyes, as if that would hide my presence and likewise, the fact that I had given her half a coin. Closing my eyes was a novelty.
When she said nothing and simply smiled at me, I was astounded. I had given the counter a dollar and a half, half a coin, half a loonie. My childish demeanor became like a light bulb and I stormed out of the store with the popsicle in hand, washing away the heat with my energy as I bolted up towards my home.
I was half way back home, with half my popsicle finished, when I began to wonder about why the half dollar coin was decommissioned. I began formulating all kinds of whimsical situations and questions for my grandmother. My world began shaping, into a time long past, in a time when the half dollar began to fade out, when people wanted currency uncut. This was a story of a time my grandmother gave me half a dollar.