by Ellie Reimer from Winkler, MB
I have long wanted to write to you to tell you about the Moneyman. The Moneyman was not his real name. And, for all I know, my son was the only person in Winkler, the only person in the world, to call him the Moneyman. It was not a nickname that would have sprung easily to mind when you saw him. And for good reason.
The Moneyman had scruffy, salt and pepper whiskers that sprouted on his wrinkled, weather-beaten face. His red eyes squinted, as though he needed glasses. His unkempt hair matched his messy beard. He wore flannel shirts summer and winter, and heavy, baggy woolen pants held up with frayed suspenders. His ripped pant seams were sewn together unevenly with huge stitches of white store string. On his feet, he wore scuffed bedroom slippers. He was probably the closest thing Winkler had to a hobo, at least after the war years. But my son called him the Moneyman. And this is how it happened.
Every time we went downtown for groceries, I would try to forestall my two-year-old’s begging for a treat by stopping at the gumball machine at the store entrance and buying him a gumball. One day, before I could get out my penny, a wrinkled hand reached out and put a penny into my son’s hand. I looked behind me, and saw this man with toothless grin lighting up his face.
That set the pattern. We came shopping. He gave my son a penny for his treat. No words, just a gentle, tentative smile, a twinkle in his eyes... and a coin. And if he didn’t have a penny, he would offer a nickel.
After a while, my son came to expect this. And as soon as my son saw the man he would shout, “The Moneyman!” and run toward his friend with hands outstretched. The Moneyman would beam with pride as he shakily extracted a coin from his pocket.
But, like little Jackie Paper and ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’, one day, my son “came no more”. He had started Kindergarten. The first time I went shopping without my son, the Moneyman shuffled over to me and said shyly, where’s the boy?
I can still see the look of disappointment on his face when I told him his little buddy was in school. He looked as if he had lost his best friend. Maybe he had. Certainly, he had lost, perhaps, the only little boy to whom he was the Moneyman.
The Moneyman has long since gone on to his reward. And I hope there’s at least one little cherub there who goes running up to him regularly with hands outstretched, whooping, “Look! It’s the Moneyman!”