by Anna Negrean
Once upon a time, there was a nickel that through a series of misfortunes ended up on a porcelain bottom. No, not on the china bottom of a fine teacup nor on the bottom of a porcelain piggy bank but on the bottom of a toilet bowl.
For a few days no matter how many times the horrendous contents of the bowl was flushed down into the sewage, the coin would not go with the flow but it got stuck to its place until it started to get rusty around its edge. True, the nickel was worth just five cents but wouldn’t it have been nice if it ended up somewhere else, not on the bottom of a toilet bowl?
Some of you probably wished something could have been done about it. Not because the rusty mark started to get imprinted on the immaculate porcelain of the toilet like a fiery, angry circle, although that surely is not such a pretty sight to see but because it is quite pathetic for anybody or anything, even of a little value, to find itself in such a miserable situation. No one should have anything against nickels that hit rock bottom on a sidewalk, but the thought of even a tiny little thing like a nickel ending up in a toilet should be too much to bear for anyone who cares for all things be them of little value.
After awhile the janitor of the supermarket in which the said toilet and the said nickel happened to be, noticed the rusty coin and fearing the unhappy event of being scolded by the manager for not doing his job well enough, took the nickel out of the toilet and washing it a little put it in his pocket thinking of keeping it. He thought that he most certainly won’t be able to buy anything with it alone, but who knows when he needed just five more cents to get a snack or maybe a drink.
Soon, the nickel was forgotten in the pocket and the jacket with the pocket in which the nickel was placed got cleaned in the washing machine and the coin with it. While being hauled that way and the other in the drying machine, the nickel sounded desperate jingling its clink. "Clink, clink," it went over and over again.
The janitor’s wife couldn’t take the noise anymore and grabbed it out fearing it will get stuck and break the machine. She put it on the dining room table and forgot all about it. The nickel was now all clean and dry. It almost had a glint, a mysterious one, like the aura of laundered money that previously had gone through many shady adventures, but in certain circumstances, like this one, they looked innocent and almost new.
Attracted by the glint, the cat started playing with it trying to catch it in her paw. But the nickel was too thin and cunning and the paw was too big and clumsy. Pushed around, it eventually fell on the ground, on the soft striped carpet in the room. It got right next to a piece of white string and a cookie crumb. It was hard to be seen since it fell on the grey stripe.
The smell of the cookie crumb enticed a little ant from its hiding place. Finding its way to it over the little grey coin, the ant started breaking pieces as big as her own body from the crumb. Then, loaded with the trophy, it went to give a shout out to her friends about the find. The ants marching in line towards the crumb tickled the coin, but it didn’t move and truth to be told, it couldn’t.
Soon a strong wind sucked in the chaos of ants and crumbs and strings and dust together with the clean, shiny nickel. The coin must have stayed for a long time in the dark, stuffy bowels of the vacuum cleaner. From time to time, more things were shoved inside through a tunnel and it got more crowded than ever. The nickel was all tangled up in hair and dust. Then, the deafening sound stopped altogether and there was a great silence.
The nickel felt stuck for a long time. It could not clink, it could not glint, it couldn’t be handed over to buy things, it couldn’t be played with. What went on in its head or tail nobody knew, really.
One day, the dusty tomb in which it was trapped was opened wide by a black, sturdy beak and the light of the day got to it again brighter than ever. But the coin was all covered in dust and couldn’t reflect the light. Oh well, so much for being out in the open again. In the company of trash, one becomes trash, there’s no way around it.
The sky started crying big drops of tears out of the blue. They fell down washing the dirty green leaves, the sticky stains on the sidewalk, the dusty nickel. The clouds mourned that whole day pouring their misery in small puddles across the world. Then, the next morning the puddles were looking up with blue eyes to the blue above them. The coin glinted again, to its own misfortune. The big, black beak stroke again gulping it down into darkness.
Now, at this point in the story, some probably think how is it possible that so many nickels in this world could go on such predictable, long, respectable journeys being handled and put into places where money normally go, while this nickel, which was just an ordinary one, was hurled by destiny into such unusual, extraordinary circumstances.
This is a mystery one can only wonder at like all the mysteries we are surrounded by each day. But wondering makes the mystery even more fascinating to chase, not necessarily to discover how and why it works the way it does (although that is a perfectly valid curiosity worth satisfying) but to see to what end.
Did this ordinary nickel go through so many adventures by mistake? A skeptic would say, yes, all is random. Some of us, though, know better.
Not a long time passed and the bird carrying the nickel inside it died being shot down by a hired bird hunter.
There were way too many crows in the little Romanian town where this bird found its refuge. The rubber bullet hit the poor bird in the wing, making it fall to the ground quite unable to get back in the air.
A dog got her and ripped her open and the nickel fell on the ground hitting the rock bottom of the sidewalk for the second time.
Nobody knows for how long it stayed there until it was found by an 8 years old collector of coins. The boy was quite amazed at his find, it was such an unusual coin. It was an American nickel, after all, a foreign coin in that part of the world.
The boy took out his magnifier and peered at the head on one side of the coin and then at the building on the other side.
He tried his English reading the inscription on the head side. “IN GOD WE TRUST,” he read. Then, the next word was “LIBERTY” and next to it, the inscription of the year, 2003.
“Wow,” he thought “I need to look up these words in the dictionary to see what they mean”. And so he did, upon arriving at home.
Thoughtfully he looked at those words over and over again. They said that some people who lived in a faraway country, over a stormy ocean, trusted in God. What a wonderful thing, because he also trusted in God and was glad to be reminded of that now that his little brother broke his arm that day and cried a lot and couldn’t eat very well and was giving everybody a hard time. He felt so sorry for the poor baby and when he tried doing something to cheer him up, he didn’t succeed.
Now his little brother was asleep and all was calm but soon he will wake up again. “In God we trust.” The boy said a quick prayer for his little brother to get better and for himself to cheer up and as he did so, he waited to see if anything happened.
Nothing spectacular happened; his brother didn’t wake up with a healed arm, the clouds didn’t part to let the sun come out suddenly accompanied by the singing of a thousand birds and the perfume of a thousand exotic flowers.
There was only silence and the boy felt his worries flurrying away like a flock of panicked gulls. The sea of his soul became calm and serene, little waves breaking in the rhythm of his heart. He felt “liberty” taking over as if some imaginary shackles were removed from his hands and feet.
He knew what he will do when his little brother wakes up. He will show him his precious American nickel and the message it carried all the way from that faraway country. And if he wanted it, the little brother can have it. Joy overcame sadness and peace drove away worry.
The nickel got to have a very special place among the other rare coins in the collection of the two Romanian boys.
The two boys grew up and became men who loved to travel around the world. The younger one never parted with the old nickel, even though he had many nickels now. He even threw a few in the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome and not only there, but in all the famous fountains across the world, secretly hoping that those who needed them the most will find them and with them the message they carried: Trusting in God is liberty.