When I was 9 years old I found a 20 dollar bill on the floor in the local dime store. It was a week before Christmas, and I was trying to find gifts for my mom and dad that wouldn’t cost more than 90 cents.
I had started out with a dollar, but Finch’s soda fountain had beckoned to me on the way, so I treated to myself to a double-dip chocolate ice cream cone. I figured something nourishing might help me focus on finding the appropriate gifts.
Now, however, I was faced with a quandary. I was suddenly rich beyond my wildest dreams, and that was the problem. Everyone in town knew our family circumstances and could say for certain that there was no way I could ever have a twenty-dollar bill. After all, a world war was raging just beyond our shores, and if anyone had extra money, they were admonished to “Buy War Bonds!”
If I tried to use the 20 to buy something at the dime store, the clerk was sure to ask me where I got it. She might even call my mother, which would have all but ruined my Christmas shopping excursion.
So, I stuffed it in my pocket and spent 29 cents on a packet of sewing needles that included a tiny wire needle threader. I had noticed my mother squinting to thread needles for some time, and thought the threader would be a perfect gift. Besides, it left me 61 cents to buy something for my dad.
Ultimately, I bought him a bottle of aftershave for 49 cents, which, with sales tax and all, left me with 10 cents in change. On my way home I stopped again at the drug store and spent the dime on the latest Superman comic book. I thought the Man of Steel’s exploits might provide inspiration to deal with my newfound circumstances.
Back home I sneaked the gifts into my room and hid them under my bed until I could wrap them for Christmas. The 20 I stuffed into the bottom of the tin box that held my marble collection. I figured it would be safe there until I could figure out what to do with it.
For some reason I forgot it until Christmas had come and gone, and I accidently spilled the box in the middle of the living room floor in full view of both my mom and dad.
After I had painfully explained how I came to have so much money, they pointed out that 20 dollars was probably all the person who lost it had for Christmas shopping.
Thus shamed, I laboriously took the 20 and bought a war bond with it.