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“What the hell?”
“What is it?” Millie began walking over with that smooth gait she had to have spent years perfecting to magnetize the eyes of every man she passed by to her butt.
“There’s a quarter in my foot. But how did it get there?”
“A quarter. I must have stepped down on it perfectly.” I pinched it between thumb and forefinger, ready to yank it out.
“Well don’t pull it,” she said, kneeling and examining it. “It could be lacerating an artery.”
“I can’t walk around with it there.” I was fuming inside that I was in a position to be helped by her of all people. She had to have been enjoying my being crippled. I could imagine everyone laughing back at the office tomorrow.
She flashed those large hazel eyes at me with a face full of phony concern. If I could have figured how, I would have accused her of doing it.
“It looks like it’s really in deep. Aren’t you in pain?”
“No,” I said, gritting my teeth. “A little bit. It’s all right.”
“Look, I’ll stay with you, but I’m going to call an ambulance.” She pulled out her phone, but dropped it before dialing.
“What?” I looked at her and she was just standing there with her mouth open, looking past me.
“Ch-ch-change!” She backed away. I turned, not seeing what she was talking about until it was too late.
The first one caught the heel of my shoe, making me lose my balance and place my full weight down on my injured foot. I felt the quarter dig deeper and this time I did scream.
It had to have been something large, like a fifty-cent piece, but it sliced through all my toes, leaving the big toe hanging on by a thin piece of skin. I fell to the ground on my knees, already in shock and that’s when I saw them rolling toward me.
Quarters, nickels, dimes, pennies and any manner of coin from several foreign countries rolled my way. Unidentifiable at the time from their high rate of speed until they killed me.
And it didn’t take long. Millie screamed as dimes and pennies raced beneath my hands, barely slowing as they sliced through flesh. I reared back on my knees, leaving the tip of my left pinky on the sidewalk. Blood coursed down my arms, soaking my shirt to the chest. Lucky for me I was wearing my suit jacket so Millie couldn’t see anything past the shirt cuffs.
I hugged my arms to my chest as the white hot burning of coins through the bones of my knees forced me onto my side. They were all over me then; slicing and stabbing me. One industrious nickel had found its way inside my chest cavity and did major damage. I felt it tearing things inside and I coughed it up, spitting it out onto the side of my face before it sliced off a sliver of my tongue. I lay there, being dissected by forty dollars and eighty-two cents in change as Millie pressed herself up against the nearest wall, screaming uselessly.
The quarter that popped out of my eye socket signaled they were done with me. It turned, pointing its knurled edge at her before rolling off my forehead and onto the pavement. Millie fled, turning into the alley and running as fast she could.
Her gait had lost all of the grace it had had at its lower speed. I would have laughed at how pathetic she looked stumbling down the alley, her expensive shoes flopping off her feet if I had lungs and vocal chords left.
The change followed her, cutting around, through and over my body in an unending, ringing chorus. She must have clung to her Chinese on instinct, but she ran with that bag, clutching the General Tso’s chicken until the sauce smeared and ran down her shirt.
They picked up speed, slowly gaining on her, averting things they couldn’t go through, punching through everything else, living and not. I don’t know how she couldn’t have seen the brick wall before she did, but she didn’t. She ran like she would actually get away, like she wouldn’t be as dead as me if she just kept her feet moving as long as possible. Maybe she couldn’t see from the tears in her eyes—whatever it was, it was pathetic.
When she finally did trip she skidded into a puddle pothole filled with filthy water. One knee and both hands were thoroughly scraped and bleeding. Instead of getting up and running when she heard the coins, she flipped onto her back and scuttled halfway out of the pothole.
“Please,” she pleaded. The tattered remnants of her skirt were hiked up to her hips. “I didn’t do anything—I just work with him. Whatever he did, it wasn’t me. I don’t even use hard cash. I have a debit card!”
They had her. She was soaked to the skin, winded and helpless. They could have done anything. But instead of ripping into her as they had done to me, they turned their respective knurled and unknurled edges and rolled away. They spared her. They spared her.