Joy filled voices flew across the Mogollon Rim. “There she is!” cried loudest, Miss Mona Prudence, who was leading the search. A flush-faced Mr. Mike came ambling up from the rear. Huffing and puffing after a rather spirited hike, Mr. Mike plopped himself down on the remains of and old oak log. The elated band of rescuers simultaneously smothered little Ella Claire. Roxanne Paige gently wrapped the quilt, which she grabbed when they darted from the ‘’Lone Pine Cabin for Abandoned Children,” around little Ella Claire for added warmth.
Toys fell out of his back pack as EJ retrieved Reffus (Little Ella Clair’s stuffed bear) and presented him too the relieved rescuee. Proudly, EJ announced that he had repaired the missing button-eye with a penny, by sticking it in place with a wad of, “ABC gum” (already been chewed).
“I found him on the other side of that stump,” kindly declared EJ. His eye was gone so I stuck it back on for you.” EJ pointed to the penny which now occupied the place where a button-eye used to be.
“You must have lost him when you fell over the stump,” he further deduced. Ella Claire’s little hands and little knees displayed mud stains that matched the imprints in the mud next to the log just as EJ said. Xylee brought that to everyone’s attention as she opened a container of moist towelettes to wipe clean Ella Clair’s mud smudged face. “Strangest thing, though,” EJ shrugged, “I found the penny on the ground next to Reffus.”
“Aha!” offered Mr. Mike, shaking his head up and down in a very agreeable kind of motion. “A penny from heaven,” Mr. Mike exclaimed!
“Penny from heaven?” quizzed Ethan Jaxon.
“Indeed, my little friend, ‘Pennies from Heaven.’ It is an old country fable.”
Mr. Mike was now holding the stuffed pal, and examining the penny. Mr. Mike explained, “A penny found in an obscure place is a sign from Heaven. It is a sacred token, from someone who crossed over, strategically placed, to remind you that they are thinking of you, and that all will be well.”
The children listened intently; all eyes now fixed on the stuffed animal’s new penny eye.
“Yes, yes,” Mr. Mike protected his thought, “now my collection is complete.” What had been a rather mundane hobby (collecting rare pennies) had turned into a full blown search for the impossible-a penny from heaven. Mr. Mike had always encouraged the group of orphans, who occupied the ‘Abandoned’, to consider this, his hobby, as a hobby of their own. “After all,” he would prompt, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” None of the children gave much thought to the “nerdy hobby”, but now they were believers.
A hope-filled Roxanne Paige chimed in, “Wow!” She exuberantly added, “Everything is gonna be okay. Just like when little Ella Claire got lost, we never lost hope,” she insisted. “Miss Mona presented a plan of action, and we all stuck to it!”
“But now, how do we get little Ella Claire home?” quizzed Miss Mona. “She’s too little to walk all the way back, and the sun is beginning to go down. Mr. Mike thought again about the penny, “Well, friend, it’s up to you!” Situated firmly in both hands, he held the blue, little toy teddy bear, toward the heavens.”
Flames seemed to fill the eyes of the twins as the sun faded under the horizon. They put their heads together once again boldly displaying the now glistening letters ‘MAGA’ (Make the Abandoned Great Again)! “We have a plan,” the twins trumpeted! Together, with a superhero-like proclamation, they made a kazoo-like sound, “Dot-da-da-da!” as they prepared to announce the strategy. Quite proud of themselves for having a suitable suggestion, they took turns whispering into each other’s ear.
“We know how to get little Ella Claire back to the Abandoned. She can ride piggy back on me.” demanded Logan Michael.
“Oh! No! On me,” shouted Jaden Lee.
Swiftly, Mr. Mike stepped in between the boys. Not wanting to dampen the flames of enthusiasm, he advised, “You must take turns. After all, we have a bit of a rugged way to go.”
The boys growled in agreement, “We got this!”
Without hesitation, the two, now like minded rescuers, hoisted their exhausted little friend up by the by the seat of her britches. Each instructed little Ella Clair to put her little arms around their respective necks, while slipping her dampened tiny feet into the front pockets of their parachute pants. Smiling from ear to ear, the boys were quite proud of their compromise. Mr. Mike was delighted, Little Ella Claire was found; they were on their way home. With a wink to the heavens above, as a sign of gratitude, Mr. Mike mouthed, “Thank you.”
The long trek home got even longer when the batteries from Miss Mona’s flashlight grew dim. The entourage was forced to continue by the light of the full moon. Mr. Mike drew the children’s attention; once again, to how fortunate they were for yet another, heavenly display of the penny’s power.
“The penny, it’s working,” Mr. Mike proudly declared.
The night loomed long; it didn’t seem like they were making any real progress. The twins were tiring, carrying their little friend, who now didn’t seem so little was taking a toll. Mr. Mike was huffing and puffing again; the others were doing their best to keep up. The once dependable moonlight was waning as clouds intermittently began to gather. Still hours before daylight, there was no suitable place to camp.
“We must keep moving,” Mr. Mike encouraged.
Though doing his best to remain positive and hopeful, the kindly old gentle soul was struggling to keep up. None of the children noticed him clutching his chest, and how very profusely he was sweating; he began to stagger. Suddenly, without warning, Mr. Mike stumbled and collapsed to the ground. He lay unconscious as the children hurried to him. Attentively, Miss Mona knelt down by his side; she placed her index and middle finger against his neck... his pulse was faint. As the eldest of the orphaned children, she began giving out instructions; she took charge, like one who understood what to do, and how to survive. Miss Mona was brilliant, but dispute her best efforts, and after what seemed hours, Mr. Mike was dead. Maintaining her composure, Miss Mona explained to the children, as best as she could, what most likely had happened to Mr. Mike. While all was being said, Little Ella Clair ran and grabbed Reffus, who was lying on the ground next to Mr. Mike. The twins knelt beside her as she began to cry; they all cried. Magically, the familiar sound of a trickling stream broke through the children’s sobs. As one, they looked toward the soothing sound; day light was just peeking through the trees. A ray of comfort warmed each of them when they noticed where they were; the Abandoned, was just across the stream. They were home; they made it! As Miss Mona hoisted Ella Clair on her shoulders to carry her rest of the way, the toy bear fell again to the ground. One of the other children noticed and picked it up; the penny was missing.
Several days after the harrowing ordeal, many of the townsfolk gathered at the Lone Pine Cabin, and offered each of the children a new place to call home. One Deputy Sheriff, Officer Wayne, along with his wife, helped Little Ella Clair gather her belongings.
“Don’t forget Reffus,” he said, “he might need this.”
The kindly officer laid hold of the missing penny from his pocket.
“The Search and Rescue Team found this clutched in Mr. Mike’s hand when they took him to his new home,” he proudly announced.
When officer Wayne brought the stuffed animal out from under the little girl’s pillow, he noticed something truly fantastic... the missing penny was perfectly fitted back in place. He took a closer look and chuckled, “ABC gum.” As the three of them walked hand in hand from the Abandoned, Wayne pulled the penny from his pocket, looked at Reffus, then toward the sky and declared, “A penny from heaven.”