Not allowed in the room, whoever it was that stuck her bare arm through the slightly parted door to get his luggage was heard to say, “That’s really classy, Lipensky!” Because Mitchell’s “luggage” consisted of the then-empty plastic bag from the tuxedo rental shop and a brown-paper A&P shopping bag containing his shaving kit, jacket, shoes and one complete change of clothing.
The First Day of Their Lives: Pennies
December 18, 1955: 9:58 a.m.
Dressed in jeans, a corduroy shirt, white socks and brown loafers, “Almost ready?”
“Yeah, Mitch. Be out in a second.”
Her makeup and toilet articles back in the plastic bag, with yesterday’s underwear in a second plastic bag, Marsha removed a fresh brassiere and panties from the case, along with what she had worn to the hotel yesterday, that she’d folded neatly and put into the case: jeans, blue cotton blouse, bobby socks and black penny loafers…. Through dressing, everything packed inside, she closed the square lid and snapped the brass catch closed.
Dressed well before Marsha, dialing “O,” Mitchell gave the hotel operator the Goldman phone number. While waiting for the connection to be made, laying on the bed with his back propped against the headboard, thumbing through the stack of cards that came with the cash and checks that Myra and Rhea had noted the amounts on as they’d opened each envelope, looking up as Marsha came from the bathroom, “We’re supposed to take these with us and send thank-you notes?”
“Yes. We got thank-you cards and envelopes with the invitations.”
Speaking into the phone, “Oh, hi!” Liking Eli, he found it easy to address him. “Dad. It’s me, Mitchell.”
“Morning, Mitch,” feeling ill at ease talking to him today. “You kids, uh, out of bed and dressed?” Not quite sure of what to say, “How’d everything… uh, how’s Marcie? You going to be leaving soon?”
“She’s fine, Dad. Yeah, we’ll be leaving in a minute. You want to call Skokie and tell them we’re on our way?”
“Sure, Mitch. See you in a little while… Bye.”
“So, Marcie, you ready?”
“Just about. You got all your stuff packed?”
“Yeah. All the tuxedo stuff’s in the tuxedo bag, and all my other stuff’s in the bag there.” pointing to the A&P shopping bag.
“I’ve got to hand it to you, Mitchell; you sure travel in style… You know I’m not a snob, but if you don’t mind, I’d rather not walk out of the Palmer House carrying a shopping bag. Why don’t you see if it’ll fit in my case? I left it in the toilet.”
“Oh, yeah,” getting off the bed, “sure you’re not a snob!” Going into the bathroom, coming out carrying the overnight case, “Jesus, Marcie,” swinging the case up, letting its own weight slam it onto the bed, “what in the hell you got in here?”
She had brought it to the hotel, knowing full well how much it weighed, “Pennies.”
“Pennies?” Popping the catch lock, lifting the hinged lid, he looked under Marsha’s pajamas and the plastic bags… prompting the question, “Why?” because the square bottom was buried beneath layers of pennies.
“It’s my bank. For years, whenever I had pennies I threw them in, and I’d take daddy’s whenever he had some. When I was packing yesterday, I didn’t know what to do with them, so I figured we might as well take ’em with us, and they’ll be the start of our saving account.”
Getting the A&P bag, “How many you think you got there?”
“I don’t know. A thousand, maybe twelve hundred.”
Actually, there were 2,397pennies in the green, imitation lizard case.
Putting his kit into the case, “Wow!” Teasing her, “What’s that, then? Ten, twelve bucks.”
“Hey, big mouth! How much you got saved?”
“Not sure.” Leaving yesterday’s underwear and pajamas in the A&P bag, folding it in half, he put the bag into the case. “Last time I talked to my broker…” Slightly overloaded now, Mitchell forced the top closed, “we figured…” but, not noticing, a bit of one of the paper-string handles caught between the lid and case. “oh, ’bout a few million.”
“Yeah! How come now’s the first time I’ve heard about it? Where’z’at, huh?”
“All tied up.” Yawning, buffing his fingernails on the front of his shirt, “You know how it is with us really rich guys.”
“Yeah, sure I know how it is with your really rich guys.” Looking about the room to see if they’d forgotten anything. “Looks like we’ve got everything.”
“Yup!” Hefting Marsha’s case off the bed, going to the closet, putting the case down, he helped Marsha on with her jacket, then put his on. Holding the tuxedo bag by the hanger, laying it across his shoulder, opening the door, he again lifted the green, imitation lizard case.
Attempting to hold the long gown folded across one arm, Marsha found that the crinoline undergarment had a mind of its own and wanted to go where it wanted to go, so instead, the bulky gown had to be held folded in half, in both arms.
Not thinking of leaving the key, taking one last look about, stepping into the hall, the door to room 1812 was pulled shut.
The elevator door opening, the seven people inside looked knowingly at the cumbersome wedding gown in Marsha’s arms and the bulky tuxedo bag slung over Mitchell’s shoulder and, knowing that the young couple were newlyweds and knowing, so they thought, what they had done last night, nodding, smiling, making room for Marsha and Mitchell, the seven moved to the rear of the elevator.
Four stops and five additional people later, “Whew!” Mitchell whispered as the door opened and they finally stepped out of the elevator into the lobby. “Felt kind’a like their eyes were digging into my back.”
“You felt it too? Yeah!”
Stopping a moment to get their bearings, looking about the huge, richly appointed lobby, feeling extremely conspicuous due to the highly noticeable, dead giveaway wedding gown in her arms and the oversized tuxedo bag held over his shoulder, wanting to return the key and officially check out of their room, Marsha followed Mitchell across the mirror-like marble-floored lobby to the front desk.
In addition to the people milling about the front desk, there were also knots of people awaiting the announcement of the start of the Palmer House’s well-publicized Sunday morning brunch.
Many of the people standing about had noticed the couple as they got off the elevator, and having nothing better to do—many of the men envious of Mitchell and the beautiful young woman at his side, and many of the women envious of Marsha and the handsome young man at her side, but mostly, jealous of their youth and the excitement of this, the first day of their lives together—watched the young couple as they crossed the lobby.
“Marcie,” said from the corner of his mouth, “do you have the feeling that all of these people are staring at us?”
Looking straight ahead, “God, yes!” Slipping out of her arms, catching the train, having a hard time holding onto the unruly wedding gown, “I can’t wait to get out of here!”
At the desk, Marsha stood next to Mitchell as he handed the key across and officially checked out of room 1812.
Still sensing eyes on their backs, they angled across the lobby, heading, as quickly as possible, to the five wide steps leading to the lower foyer, the three revolving doors, and the freedom of Wabash Avenue, when, suddenly…
Because the top was not securely shut due to the caught paper-string handle of Mitchell’s A&P shopping bag, to say nothing of the excessive weight of 2,397pennies…
The clasp of Marsha’s green, imitation lizard overnight case popped open and the A&P shopping bag, his shaving kit, her pajamas, two plastic bags and…
“Oh, my God!”
All two thousand, three hundred and ninety-seven pennies fell to the mirror-like marble-floored lobby with a loud, oh, so loud…
“Oh, my God!”
The people that had not been looking before were looking now as…
Two thousand, three hundred and ninety-seven pennies—the perfect little copper wheels they are—skittled and scattled under the feet of those milling about, or checking into or out of the hotel… that hopped and hurdled around the feet of those waiting for the Palmer House’s well publicized Sunday morning brunch… that bounded and bounced down the five wide steps leading to the lower foyer and into the triangles of the three revolving doors, and…
“Oh, my God!”
Marsha, with her highly conspicuous wedding gown with its unruly crinoline under-garment, and Mitchell, with the oversized plastic bag in one hand and the handle of the open-mouthed lid of now empty, green, imitation lizard overnight case in the other hand, stood, turning helplessly in circles watching the rolling progression of two thousand, three hundred and ninety-seven pennies, and…
“Oh, my God!”
Dropping to his knees, Mitchell stuffed Marsha’s plastic cosmetic bag, her plastic dirty underwear bag, her pajamas, his kit and the A&P shopping bag back into the green, imitation lizard overnight case as…
“OH, MY GOD!”
Well-meaning men, children, and even a few women throughout the lobby were on their knees picking up pennies with the intent of…
“OH, MY, GOD, they’re going to bring the damned things back!” And…
Embarrassment in the past was as a wisp of a cloud to a mountain, a pea to the earth, a pee in the ocean, and…
Closing the lid, snapping the catch shut, standing, he looked at the kneeling, stooping, misguided, albeit well-meaning people, and, “Lets get the hell out of here!”
Grabbing Marsha’s hand, he pulled her—with the train of wedding dress fluttering behind as a flag in a wind—across the lobby, down the five marble steps, towards the revolving doors… But somehow having enough presence of mind to realize that the trailing wedding gown would never make it through a revolving door, he swerved, dragging Marsha to the right, through the stationary doorway, onto the street and the freedom of Wabash Avenue, where…
Breathing deeply, trying to catch their breath, frosty vapor coming from mouths and nostrils, Marsha and Mitchell stood at the curb looking into the lobby, then, realizing the humor in the situation, looking at each other, as though on cue, exploding into laughter…
“Remember…” barely able to speak, “when you called when the lid was stuck in the frying pan and I said this was going to be fun! Remember?”
“Yeah, Marcie…” Stopping to catch his breath, handing the bewildered doorman the ticket for the car, who handed it to car hop.
Unable to stop laughing, “I can’t believe it!” she gasped, “Seemed like there was a million of ’em!”
“Yeah, no shit! Believe it! At least a million!”
“Hey, Mitch, know what?”
“I love you!”
“Yeah, and I love you, too! And so much for our savings account.”
“Nah.” Reaching into her coat pocket, bringing her hand out, she opened it, and there, in her palm were three pennies. “Here, we’ll start again.”