Richard Connor, corporate accountant, age 43. Date of
death: August 5th. Cause of death: run over by a truck on 37th
Street near the Park Avenue intersection. Time of death: 12:45
PM on a Wednesday. Sympathy from bystanders: nowhere to be
found. Not in the Big Apple. Jackhammers continued to drone
in the background, and vehicle horns honked in frustration at
the hold-up caused by the body in the middle of a busy Manhattan
street. Other than the truck driver panicking about possible
litigation, the NYPD officer writing up a report, the Emergency
Medical Technicians hauling him away, and a few gawkers on the
sidewalk, the huddled masses yearning for another month’s rent
money are indifferent to the scene, hardened by big city life.
EMT Carlos Hernandez recognized Connor, as he’d broken
his leg after slipping on ice the previous winter. He’d spent
the entire ambulance ride complaining about how high a copay
at the hospital he anticipated, with not even a “thank you” for the
ambulance crew. The few eyewitnesses willing to stick around and
talk to the police all had the same story to tell: jaywalking across
the street during a rare break in traffic, the tall, wiry man stopped
mid-stride to pick up something small, like a coin. At this point,
he halted in the middle of the street and never noticed the truck
rounding the corner, coming straight at him a little too quickly.
What no one noticed was that this was no ordinary
penny. Entirely too shiny and new-looking for a 1972 coin,
the specimen from the Denver mint also carried a defect: a
botched mint mark reading “DD” instead of the proper single
D. Screw-ups like this are highly valued by coin collectors, but
this one’s managed to stay in circulation for forty plus years.
This is probably because no one managed to hold onto it for
long. I’m sure you know the old adage: “find a penny, pick it
up, and all day you’ll have good luck.” But you’d do well to
remember the addendum that it’s only good luck if it’s heads
up. The particularly frugal Richard Connor would’ve done well
to remember this before greedily snatching up a shiny Abraham
Lincoln in the street. The penny didn’t stay put for long, however,
as Chuck, always a man of minute superstitions, picked up the pretty
penny. He had no way of knowing, however, that this penny was
worth more than he bargained for.
Isabella De La Rosa, cleaning lady, age 75. Date of
death: June 26th. Cause of death: massive heart attack on a 37th
Street sidewalk, shortly after crossing the street around 3:30
PM. Circumstances were similar to those which would befall
Richard Connor several weeks later: an uncaring city went on
with business as usual as the woman lay dead. Some good samaritan
actually cared enough to call an ambulance upon seeing
the older lady collapse on the sidewalk, but it was too late
by the time Chuck Martinez’s ambulance reached the scene.
He’d seen enough in his near decade on the job not to get
broken up about much, but this one hit him particularly hard.
Ms. De La Rosa was like family to him. A good friend of his
mother’s, she lived a floor above him in the Spanish Harlem
apartment building where he grew up. As a teenager, he used
to take out her garbage. Chuck couldn’t fathom how a heart
attack could’ve befallen her; she was always a health fanatic,
never smoked, only drank a glass of wine a day, and vigorously
walked anywhere she headed; she’d often brag about
never needing a MetroCard. Little did he know, though, that
she’d also been stealing money from her employer, Hernandez
Funeral Home on 109th Street, for years. So what difference
was a penny lying tails up in the embalming room one day? It
was a penny that rode in her coin purse for about a month, a
penny that was accidentally dropped as she fiddled with her
coin purse while crossing the street, moments before she died.
A penny with a botched mint mark reading “DD ”
Timothy “T-Money” Henderson, drug dealer, age 30.
Date of death: April 16th. Cause of death: gunshot wounds.
Chuck Martinez had a feeling he’d get a call like this. He’d
worked for years to finally get daylight shifts on the ambulance
crew, but, team player that he was, he agreed to pull
night shifts for a couple of weeks until the new guys were
trained, ending the work shortage at his dispatch and putting
the out of whack schedule back in order. He didn’t miss
graveyard shift in the least bit because violent crime calls
like these were the norm. He’d seen shootings, stabbings,
and overdoses, and learned through his first eight years on
the job that getting used to seeing these things night in and
night out wasn’t the same as accepting it as a fact of life.
They tried their best to save Henderson as they
rushed to the nearest hospital, but the blood loss was too
severe. Another senseless killing, probably from a rival
gangster or dealer. As Henderson was pronounced dead on
arrival, Chuck took a hard look at his face and realized why
he’d seemed familiar. They’d attended P.S. 135 together.
Chuck recalled he’d had a nickname, “Dollar” or something
ridiculous like that, and they’d worked on an 11th grade
history project together. Well, if the term “together” is used
loosely — honor roll student Chuck did all the work while
T-Something-or-other was chronically absent from school but
managed to show up on presentation day. The pairing was
assigned, but Chuck had taken it in stride because at least the
hoodlum never actively gave him any trouble. He thought it a
strange coincidence to see the guy like this all these years later.
Police cleared Timothy Henderson’s pockets in search of ID
and confiscated the rest as evidence, but they’d missed a penny
he’d picked up face down earlier that day just for shits and
giggles, a penny that found its way onto the embalming room
floor as the body was dressed for his funeral.
Carlos “Chuck” Martinez never realized how many near
misses he’d had with the ominous DD penny, nor the power
of the seemingly mundane object. He accidentally threw the
penny in the garbage that night along with a convenience store
receipt for a bottled Pepsi and a lottery ticket he’d bought on
a whim — the Powerball jackpot winner. Model citizen Chuck
Martinez invested most of this into community betterment and
continued to live a fairly normal lifestyle as an EMT. Why did
the death dealer coin spare him? Some might say it’s because
the dark, shiny penny only went after those guilty of the sin of
greed, while others would say he was the lucky one who found
the penny heads up. We’ll never know.
August 9th: Die-hard sports gambler and garbageman Fred
Carlson just can’t get a break lately. He lost $200 on a Yankees
game, got a horrible night’s sleep because the already-late game went
into extra innings, and just had a trash bag break open. But on the
bright side, there’s a good-looking penny shining through the debris.