Make a Wish
I watch the coin slowly sink to the bottom of the fountain. Its silver colour seems to fit in beautifully with different shades of blue tiles. I wonder what the young woman wished for. She looks at it for a moment, then leaves. That’s what normally happens. The mall will be closing soon and no one likes it when I shoo them away.
It’s a habit for many to toss their change into this fountain as they leave the dollar store even though it has been years since the water has been raised from this stagnant pool. I remember the joy the fountain would bring me as a child when its middle stream would almost reach the third floor. It must’ve realized that it would never reach anything, and so it lays silent.
A mother tells her child to make a wish. He beams up at her with a gap-toothed smile about to reveal the secret when she hushes him. He mustn’t tell or else it won’t come true. He closes his mouth before asking for a second coin.
This mall used to be my hang-out spot when I was a teenager. I remember how free I felt being allowed to roam free even though my mom would pick me up at eight. Funny how things change, even the pasture can become a prison for the horse. I exhale and wait with my cart for the announcement that tells the patrons to leave so I can begin my nightly round.
But where does it all go? The children often wonder gazing down into the bottom littered with silver coins and the occasional penny, though those are seldom seen these days. Charity is often the answer and I guess it’s kind of true. But if it’s for charity, why don’t I ever see the flicker of gold from a loonie or toonie?
Three dollars worth of change is not worth it to donate. No charity will take it, But I certainly will. It’s enough for a bus ride yet, the charities turn it down. It all ends up in the same place it always will. My reward for disturbing the motionless crystal surface every night.
The speaker fizzles and cracks and a monotone voice thanks the shoppers for visiting and hopes to see them tomorrow. As is said every day. The shoppers may be bustling but this world around me is more lifeless than the fountain I am guarding. They stare straight ahead as they file toward the only working escalator. Occasionally, a shopper will toss their change into the fountain out of the convenience of not placing it in their wallet.
The last coin of the day, I don’t know who threw it. They rush away not wanting to be the last one here. Alone with me. They only notice me when I push my cart closer to the fountain. They know to leave. I wonder if anyone remembers that I was just like them. The air is stale as the last of them leaves. I reach into the water and watch the ripples flow away from my hand as I try to gather all of the coins. It looks like I’m going to have to climb in again.
The water is up to my knees and it feels almost slimy even through my coveralls. I had dreamed of swimming in a fountain many times but never did I imagine it would feel as disappointing as this. Never did I imagine any of this to be the way it is. Thirty years in this city, same job, same apartment, my life as stagnant as the water of this fountain. I look down at the spout, it doesn’t look broken or clogged but there is no jet of water all the same. I continue through the fountain wishing they had given me a net or a pole or anything to let me stay on dry land.
I trudge through the water collecting the usual dimes and nickels when I see it. I stand up straight and wade over. A ring. It must’ve slipped off someone’s finger. Maybe they didn’t notice. It looks to be gold with diamonds. I could make a fortune off this. I know I should give it to Lost & Found but I can’t. I need to get out of here. I could sell this ring and take the train out of this godforsaken town. I climb out of the fountain and look around. No one saw me. The security camera for the fountain has been broken for months. I look around one final time and run.
Patter patter patter patter patter.
Just before I leave the building, I hear the fountain jets coming back to life once more.
Photo by Robert Brasil