Small Change

Yehia Samir Lababidi

She totters in, frail and formidable. Her entire frame rocking, like a pendulum coming to a steady stop, or the final tremors of a dropped coin. Hair thinning and smile spreading, the little old lady makes her way to the pharmacy counter.

“Let me tell you a story to make you laugh,” she offers, eyes dimmed, but gleaming still with an irrepressible mischief.

Two men by the counter turn to take her in, one with the impatient insolence of youth, the other with the mindful amusement of middle age. The pharmacist is transfixed, mid-sentence.

“Once I thought I was going to die,” she begins. There are sharp intakes of breath. “So, I asked to take a look at some coffins. I was shown two: one for LE80, the other for LE120.” She speaks matter-of-factly, with the ennobling dignity that comes of courage in old age.

“And, what’s the difference between them, I asked?” she exclaims. “Well, they told me, the one for 80 is shorter, but you can stretch out your legs in the one for 120.”

The pharmacy is silent as the grave, faces deadly serious. Then, she cackles. A big booming sound, with a sharp quality to it, as though her throat were clapping.

She laughs heartily, defiantly, at death, at life, at herself—as only she can. The men seem to shrink in size, diminished, while she looms larger than life, a Laughing Goddess. They grimace and nervously smile.

She nods to herself wistfully, shrugs, and totters towards the door, a little old lady once more.


“My name is Yehia Samir Lababidi (Yehia[at], I am 29 years old, Lebanese-Egyptian, and work as Editor for UNESCO Cairo Office. I write aphorisms, poetry, and fiction.”

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