Pauly winced at the memory. He had just finished a spelling test early and was bored, so he took the hall pass to go to the bathroom and kill some time. When he came back Jack Morder was sitting in a chair outside one of the classroom doors. The hall seemed to stretch for miles with Jack standing between Pauly and his class at the other end. Pauly decided to keep walking, hoping Jack didn't want any more trouble than he was already in, but by the time he'd reached the middle of the hall Jack jumped up and stood in his way.
"Give me your lunch money," he said, puffing out his chest so it bumped Pauly backward. Pauly wasn't a small kid but Jack was a sixth grader and rumor had it he'd been held back a year or two, making him a foot taller and wider than most the kids at school. Pauly understood that to go forward meant that he would have had to fight Jack, so instead, he decided to go backwards. He raced out the double doors behind him to cut through the playground and come in at the other side of the hall, but Jack had understood his plan and had blocked the other doors. The recess bell finally ended the standoff but when Miss Winfred saw Pauly already on the playground she sent him to the office for skipping class.
Pauly leaned forward, putting his head in his hands, remembering that Principal Borden wasn't a very good listener. A shimmer just under his foot caught his eye, a shiny golden penny. He picked it up turning it over in his palm. It looked brand new but the picture was the same as one of the old fashioned pennies, the kind with the profile of an Indian Chief on one side and the words Once Cent on the other.
"Someone dropped this," Pauly said, holding up the penny and
going to the front desk. If it was a typical old penny, he would have
left it there or put it in his pocket to throw in the fountain later,
but this penny looked different, like a collectible or something. Ms.
Shyvly looked over the glasses, hanging off the end of her nose.