“My pennies are missing!” said nine-year-old Coral Graf to her father as he ate pastrami on rye for lunch.
Her usual collection of pennies that came from The Man Upstairs through the ceiling’s heating vent had disappeared. The tin that she set out for the collection underneath the vent was emptied and turned on its side.
“There must be a thief in the building stealing my coins,” she said, scrunching her eyebrows together.
“It’s probably The Man Downstairs. He’s stingy,” Mr. Graf said, chomping away on his sandwich.
“The Man Downstairs?” Coral asked. “Do you think he knows The Man Upstairs has been giving me money?”
“He probably does,” Mr. Graf said, savoring a potato knish with mashed potato and caramelized onions.
“At night, he could have stuck his hand through the floor vent and stole the money from the tin can. There’s nobody else who could have taken the coins,” Mr. Graf said. “The Man Next Door can’t put his hand through the wall, unless he jumped the ledge and broke in through the fire escape, but I doubt it.”
“I’m calling Mom,” Coral said, dialing her mother, a telephone operator at the Empire State Building.
As the phone rang in Coral’s ear, she grew more and more anxious at the thought of her stolen pennies. She had promised The Man Upstairs to give his pennies away for the common good; now they were swiped.
“Mom, yes I know you’re at work, but Dad thinks The Man Downstairs stole my pennies,” Coral said. “Can you call him and ask him to give them back? I don’t want to ask him. What if he’s nasty to me?”
“I’ll call him, but you’re going to have to knock on his door and talk to him,” Mrs. Graf said, hanging up.
“I’m going to talk with The Man Downstairs. If I don’t come back, please come save me,” Coral said to her dad.
“Just get the pennies and tell him not to rob from The Man Upstairs again,” Mr. Graf said, finishing his cheese blintz.
Coral tiptoed down the flight of stairs with her tin can, clenching tight to the railing and holding her breath. When she reached the apartment door of The Man Downstairs, she knocked once and stepped back.
“Give me my pennies! And give them back now!” Coral said, sounding more like an adult than a child.
Slowly, the door cracked open, and an ugly hand dropped a pile of pennies in the hallway and slammed the door shut.
“Don’t ever do such a mean thing again! Or The Man Upstairs will come looking for you!” Coral said.
Coral filled the tin can with the pennies and headed outside to the streets of New York City, sharing her small fortune. She knew that every generous penny she gave away would come back to her one day, and so did The Man Upstairs.
Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters
Sequel to "The Man Upstairs: The Story of Coral Graf and Pennies from a Tin Can" (1/3/15).
Dedicated to my grandmother, Augusta Renner Graf Waters.