by Ellie Reimer from Winkler, MB
I have long wanted to write and tell you about the Moneyman. The Moneyman was not his real name. And, for all I know, my son was the only person here Winkler, the only person in the world in fact, to call him that. It was not a nickname that would have sprung 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 string. He wore scuffed bedroom slippers on his feet. He was the closest thing Winkler had to a hobo, at least in the years after the war. But my son called him the Moneyman. 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, his face lit up with a toothless grin.
So began our tradition.
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. If he didn’t have a penny, he would offer a nickel.
After a while, my son came to look forward to the little tranaction. As soon as he saw the man he would shout, “The Moneyman!” and run toward his friend with hands outstretched. The Moneyman would beam with pride and shakily extract a coin from his pocket.
But, like little Jackie Paper in ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’, one day, my son “came no more”. He had started Kindergarten. The first time I went shopping without him, 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, the only person to whom he was the Moneyman.
The Moneyman has long since gone to his reward. I hope there’s at least one little cherub there who goes running to him, regularly, with hands outstretched, whooping, “Look! It’s the Moneyman!”