In the middle of Rome, an Irish teenager tosses a coin into a fountain. Ripples emerge from where it lands, ripples that reach much further than the walls of the fountain ...
“We are of the going water, and the gone
We are of water, in the holy land of water”
Jig of Life – Kate Bush
An Bonn Cuid I (The Coin Part I)
Roma, Italia (Rome, Italy)
The coins glittered under the surface of the Fontana di Trevi in Rome. Pretty little things, of all different currencies: euro, sterling, dollars of all nations, even some old Italian lira. But they were nothing like what Turlough Corley had found in his pocket, seven days previous, on the plane from Dublin.
The snores of the overweight Italian beside him had been close to driving him to insanity. He had decided to take out his iPod. As he had done so, he’d felt something drop. Reaching down, he’d found an old Irish pound coin, shining like it was brand new. Which was odd, seeing as they had stopped circulation almost ten years previous. On one side, the pound showed the symbolic Irish harp and its year of mint, 1994; on the other, a proud stag.
There was something very disquieting about the coin, Turlough thought. It simply shouldn’t have been there. The seventeen year-old was not particularly sentimental, and he considered coin-collecting a waste of time, and more importantly, money. So how it got there made no sense whatsoever.
All the same, he had kept it in his pocket. If he didn’t lose it, he’d exchange it for some Euro when he got back home.
But for now, he was bored. Very, very bored.
He sat on the edge of the fountain while the midday sun blazed down upon numerous crowds of tourists, tour guides, pilgrims and policemen who surrounded the fountain. The noises of all of them washed over Turlough. On both wings of the fountain, were a small force of police, blowing their whistles every now and then to stop people clambering into the pool. The mixture of dialects and languages, voices both angry and happy and everything in between. A philosopher could have called it the perfect blend of human emotion and culture. Turlough called it a headache waiting to happen.
He looked at the giant statues that decorated the Fontana di Trevi. The fountain was built into the side of a massive building, in the middle of the Piazza di Trevi. In the middle of the piece stood the Greek and Roman god of the ocean, Oceanus. Below him were two Tritons taming hippocamps. Two robed women stood in alcoves on either side, representing Abundance and Health. Not that Turlough knew what any of it meant. To him it looked like an angry half-naked guy standing on mermaids, who were wrestling some weird fish-horses.
The light brought a glare to the water’s surface that Turlough found hard to bear, but bear it he did, simply because there was nothing better to do. He had spent a whole week in Rome with his parents, and had yet to find a single moment which piqued his interest since he had gotten off the plane. The coin didn’t count, Turlough figured, as that had happened while he was on the plane.
His parents of course, found the city fascinating. Both of them were obsessed with history; his father even taught it at the local secondary school, which Turlough thankfully didn’t attend. Neither of them understood why their son was so bored. For the first week they had tried everything to get him to show some sign of curiousity, but by now had given up. His mother put it down to him being a teenager. His father said he was an ungrateful brat. Turlough hadn’t argued.
Glancing lazily around, he spotted a gaggle of tourists, college students by the looks of them, facing away from the fountain, and tossing coins over their shoulders. Supposedly doing this meant you were destined to return to Rome. Why anyone would want to made no sense in Turlough’s mind, unless it was for the weather.
Actually, Turlough then considered, coming back for the weather made perfect sense. The midday sun beat high overhead, the skies cloudless. Definitely the complete antithesis of Irish weather. From what Turlough had experienced, Ireland had yet to realise that it was summer this year. Since school had ended over a month ago, it had rained relentlessly, the sun being a rare sight.
Suddenly a lot more pleased with where he was, Turlough took the pound out of his pocket, and examined it closely. No matter what he wore, it was always in his pocket, even when he hadn’t deliberately put it there.
“Guess this is the perfect time to get rid of it,” he whispered to himself. He took a careful check to make sure his parents didn’t spot him. God only knew what they’d make him do next if they caught him embracing some small part of culture.
He decided he’d make a wish, just to defy the whole tradition of returning to Rome. And there was only one wish on his mind at that moment.
“Make this day interesting,” he breathed, closing his eyes. The pound flipped over his shoulder. As his eyelids shut, all the noise seemed to fade away. The only sound Turlough could hear was gentle rotation of the coin, which seemed to fall very slowly.
Then several things happened at once.
The coin broke the surface of the water.
The bells in the Vatican rang out, declaring the Angelus.
Turlogh heard a voice that both boomed and whispered the word “Bene.”
And as the £1 coin hit the water, ripples emerged. Ripples that reached far further than the confines of the fountain. Ripples that made it, in fact, a very interesting day.