Miser

By Rachael Z. Ikins 

 Every few days she threw loose change 
 from her purse into a collection 
 of 8 lb. coffee cans 
 she stored under her bed.
 Every few years she spent 
 a winter session on the floor 
 in front of TV separating coins 
 and sleeving them. She'd always done this,
 she told me. When her son 
 was in his teens he stole $400
 from one of the cans. He was desperate. 
 He did not imagine she knew 
 how much money each can contained. 
 The first word that popped into my head 
 when I saw her spread out on the floor, 
 sleeves and cans of coins between her knees—
 "miser." I had never seen such a spectacle 
 nor hefted an 8 lb. coffee can 
 filled with coins. Too heavy to lift.
 I wondered why she never took them 
 to the bank to add to a savings account. 
 There were at least six cans, 
 maybe eight.
 All the months we lived together, 
 after I'd sleeved 
 my own coins from one, lump-sum 
 piggy bank shaped like a basketball, 
 I never touched a coin from her collection 
 though I knew she checked 
 when I wasn't home, 
 counting, stroking, 
 whispers--numbers, 
 amounts, balances
 under her breath. I don't know 
 if she made her son 
 pay her 
 back but 
 nothing 
 would 
 surprise 
 me. 

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