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Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Whilst jogging this morning, I found a five-dollar bill. It was neatly folded in half, then half again, and resting comfortably on the sidewalk in front of a fairly posh property in the neighborhood where I take exercise. (My own neighborhood is jogger-unfriendly and I’m as likely to get run down by a speeding beer truck as gain cardiovascular health.) Having been a Girl Scout for many years, I looked around for a possible owner so I could return the bill. There was none in sight. The fiver was damp from dew; it had obviously lain on the walk all night. I pocketed it (no easy task in stretch capris and a sports bra), and jogged away.

I bought a coffee with it on my way home, which should have been The End. But being the sort of person who dwells on things (and writes about them, a sort of formulaic dwelling), I didn’t stop thinking about found money and what, if anything, it means.

As a child, I had an uncanny gift for finding money. Unlike the ability to see fairies (different day, different blog post), it did not disappear at puberty. I still (not as often as I’d like) find money. I hasten to qualify the gift by saying the money that throws itself at me is always disconnected from endeavor. Whenever I’ve been actually trying to come up with it, currency of any denomination and country is mysteriously Teflon-coated; it slides away from my grasp the second I reach for it.

Where do I find money? Here and there. Lawns, curbs, streets, vacant buildings, taxicabs, dressing rooms in stores and theaters, café lavatories, train stations, old, unopened letters, abandoned crossroads on windswept hilltops.

When I was very small, I thought my mother’s insistence I go with her on every outing was due to her just not being able to live without her darling daughter for an hour. After I found a twenty-dollar bill on a shelf in an Italian grocery and she promptly whisked it out of my hand (“I’ll look after that for you, you don’t know where it’s been”), I began to suspect I was her version of a metal detector, one that located both coins and cash.

Before you think I’m a terrible person for not trying to return found money, I’ll hasten to say that if I ever found, oh, a paper bag with $10K in it, I’d definitely go to the police with it. And my finds, luckily for me, have always been in places where locating whomever had the money before it struck out on its own would be like finding the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s plane.

In fact, my money-finding often has a fated-to-happen aura to it. I was once at a beach on the Gulf of Mexico, wading in hip-deep water. Balmy breezes, sea water the temperature of a tepid bath, golden sun above, the tang of salt in the air. Feeling the brush of something against my thigh, I twitched so violently I almost plunged under the waves. The Gulf is full of jellyfish, most of them the stinging variety and some lethal. But when I looked down, a twenty-dollar bill was clinging coyly to my suntanned skin a few inches below my bikini bottom. Amazed, I looked across the green waves stretching to the horizon. What were the chances?   

Another strange incident took place when I lived in Majorca. I’d inadvisedly taken a late day bus to a coastal town where some friends lived, not realizing the bus would put me out in the town and not on the other side of a low mountain where my friends’ house was. No hay problema, I thought (having lived in Spain long enough that I thought in Spanish), and set off across the mountain by the skinniest of goat paths.

An hour later, I was still hiking, the crest of the mountain was still above me, and I was beginning to think I’d have to make a shelter for the night out of fallen tree limbs. That’s when I saw a cien peseta note lying in the path a few yards away. The exchange rate being vastly different then than now, that was a C-spot, readers, a Benjamin, a hundred dollars.

I was still another hour of twilight hiking from my friends, but who cared? I was rich. At least, rich by the standards of a chronically funds-deficient dancer living abroad.

Until I found the five-dollar bill this morning on my jog, I thought perhaps I’d outlived my money-finding phase, since I hadn’t found anything more impressive than a few loose coins on the floor of my car in years. Now, hope is restored.

It’s a small gift, I admit it. I don’t have an eidetic memory or perfect pitch. I can’t count cards in my head or predict a Derby winner. But once in a great while, a quirky little fairy assigned to me waves a wand in my direction and my funds are increased by just enough that I keep believing in magic.

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