Money for Nothing

Just a fun holiday story

Ohio Mall Scene circa 1975-ish

Our moms were shopping together at the mall. It was the mid-1970’s, and a time when most kids roamed free. Today, we call them free-range kids. Back then, they were just called kids.

Eddie and I were tired and didn’t want to go to another store. Our moms said we could wait by the fountain. Bored out of our minds, we sat and just stared at the water.

“Look at alllll that money,” I said, dreamily.

“People just give it away so I think, if we wanted, we could just take it,” Eddie reasoned with his early grade-school mind.

“I don’t know. Something doesn’t sound right about that,” I whispered.

Looking for a reason we couldn’t, I came up empty.

“It’s just going to sit there …forever… so why not use it?” Eddie wondered out loud.

We looked around, rolled up our sleeves, and stretched as far as our little bodies could go without getting wet. That is, except for our rolled-up sleeves which were wedged as high up on our biceps as we could push them.  We raked in some coins. Cupped in our little hands, we compared booty to see who had the bigger score. We smiled, looked around, shrugged, and went fishing again.

Before long, it just made sense to kick off our shoes, roll up our plaid pants, and wade into the fountain pool to reach that which we couldn’t before. Nobody said or did a thing. Granted, it was not very crowded. Once we filled every pocket we had, we put our shoes back on and stood to look at each other.

That’s when we realized that what we did probably wasn’t right.

Instinct kicked in. It was time to flee the scene and fetch our moms. We casually squeaked away.

Standing in the doorway of the last store we knew they had entered, we got on tippy toes and looked around. But they were nowhere to be found. When we turned to exit, a security guard stood in our way, arms crossed, frowning upon us.

“Boys, boys, boys, what are we going to do here?” the guard said with what was a straight face. Although something seemed off like he wanted to smile but couldn’t.

“Do about what, sir?” I asked, innocently.

“We didn’t do anything …except take some of that free money out of the fountain,” Eddie said, already singing like a canary.

“Oh, is that all?” security said back.

His eyes were drawn to our pants. It sounded like he snorted something back.

Water dripped from our saturated and bulging pants’ pockets. The wet money weighed them down a bit lower than where we were accustomed to wearing them.

“That’s considered stealing. The mall owns that. You’ll have to put it back,” the guard sounded off sternly.

So, we left a puddle where we had been standing. A trail of water became evident where we backtracked across the mall floor to the fountain. Moments later, maintenance, mops, and caution signs appeared in our wake.

To the security guard’s chagrin, we didn’t just dump the money back into the fountain. Instead, we pulled one coin out at a time, said a little wish, and then tossed it into the fountain.  Eventually, the security guard wandered away. I caught a glimpse of him in the distance, laughing with someone else.

Not long after this, our moms approached us, cautiously. They looked at us, looked around, and back at us.

One slowly mouthed, “Whyyyy are youuuu soooo wet?”

The other quickly interjected with a sense of alarm, “Where did you get all of those coins?”

They looked from us to the fountain and back. Then, as if ice-cold water splashed their faces,  they gasped and their eyes popped wide open!

Excerpt from the memoir book, Here I Thought I Was Normal,
by Frank Rocco Satullo

Share this with: