In the underground tunnel which connects both sides of the city road. Laid beggar with his sick dog, begging change with his metal mug. The old man had no one to ask for help in his dire situation. Most people who passed by him ignored him, some even smiled on him and still passed by. Day by day passed nightmarish for an old man. He would scrap for a piece of bread after each day; from coins, he collected during the day. Time didn’t have a meaning for him because each day slid into the same purpose – survive.
The tunnel is inhabited by an old man and his dog; the same tunnel which stench of piss and beer. A place which gets vandalized each Friday. No one cares about the old man lying there during the nights. Teenagers usually pass him by; there are some who offer him beer can, but the old man refuses. He knows drinking will make it even worse. Denial for booze keeps him fed because people barely throw coins in his mug. The old man kept shaking his mug for coins or paper cash. Until a stranger in his forties stopped by the old man. In a slick grey coat, a pair of genuine leather shoes and enthusiastic face.
“Shaking mug just to get a piece of bread at the end of the day.” He looked down on the old man, smiling through his mustache.
“It is what it is.” The old man answered evasively.
“I have a favor for you old man.” The stranger pulled out from his pocket a golden coin “If you could hold on to this coin for a week for me. I’ll back for it, and you look like a trustworthy guy.”
They exchanged smiles and stranger flipped a coin with his thumb into the air. The old man watched it fly into his hands, after which he glanced around him, and the stranger wasn’t there anymore. Old man’s cup stood in front of him, at the end of his hands reach. The fact of cup falling sideways and rolling away from recent accidental human boot kick didn’t bother the old man. Old man’s attention was on the gold coin, which laid in his hands. He heard stories about their value in the shops which bought gold. Examining the coin he came up with the idea to sell it, but he wasn’t sure. The old man thought about it for hours. He thought about the things the stranger said and he couldn’t understand why him. Why stranger in his forties, looking like an old school pornstar, choose the old man who barely can feed himself. ‘Could this be faith or god is showing me a sign’ old man muttered under his nose. He got up after his cup, who got rolled away while old man admired the gold coin. Placed the cup back where it was, pet his sick dog and resumed what he did before the stranger came – begging.
People passed by him like he wasn’t there, but the old man was used to being alone. He didn’t bother if people didn’t speak to him, or simply passed by. Some people chatted with him for a few minutes, hearing his stories and sorrows. Most of the people who crossed that tunnel were in the rush to something or somewhere. Only a few walked through with slow pace, no worries and word ‘happy’ written all over them. The old was unfortunate, but he sure knew almost everyone who went through that tunnel. In early mornings he could see the same people who would go opposite direction at evening. Sometimes, when people came down from the surface to greet the old man and show empathy, at those times he felt faith in humanity. The old man was an army veteran, who after the war got left with nothing. Now all he has left is himself, the dog who is getting sicker day by day, and faith in humanity.
Flipping strangers gold coin through his fingers. Being stuck in the endless dilemma about what he should do with it. The desire to sell the coin raised as he stared in his mug, where laid a couple of coins. Once he looked at his dog, he wanted to keep on going with the coin, thinking that this is gods plan; thinking that it would all be better at the end. His mind finally settled to hold onto the coin and struggle through the days like he used to do. Quickly minutes slid into hours and the old man was already in the evening, looking into the mug. The mug was filled with a few coins – like always. Enough to go for a piece of bread and a few sausages for a dog.
Next day came and the old man decided that he could go like this. Trying to completely ignore the coin in his pocket and hope that it will bring him a fortune in the end. He turned his head towards his dog and muttered under his nose:
“It’s gonna be an alright boy.”
The old man grabbed the mug and raised it higher for people to see it clearer. With his mug in right hand, and left hand petting his dog – he began shouting.
“Change, please. Mister, do you have some change.”
The old man often did that and never enjoyed it. Now he felt more motivated that people will drop some coins in the cup because he’s following the god’s plan – holding on to gold coin. Despite old men trying, people just wouldn’t stop, they completely began ignoring him, and the old man began feeling like in the worst day of his life. Felling down about the empty cup. The old man stared into it and could see only two coins worth half euro. With the cold look, he looked at his dog.
“Guess we’re not having dinner today boy.”
Soon the days turned into the same days as before. The old man felt like he skipped three days of this ‘week’ he had to go through. On the fifth day, he felt happy because it’s coming to the end, and in the end, he could know what it’s all about. He thought that the last days were easy, too easy. The old man couldn’t act like this is any other ordinary day, all because of the gold coin in his pocket. Laid in the underground tunnel which connects two passages, the old man felt ease. He knew that the day when a stranger comes is just around the corner. That there are only two days left. It was Thursday afternoon and old man raised a smile which hasn’t been raised in weeks – he was happy.
Feeling easy about an ongoing situation, when suddenly his dog’s ears raised and he stormed out of the tunnel. The old man got up and rushed above the surface, but the dog was nowhere around. He could turn his head left and right, above and underneath, but the dog was nowhere to be found. Making a tiny circle around that tunnel entrance just to find out he lost him – the dog was gone. Sadness drew on his face. The smile faded away with the dog and old man felt the urge to drip into alcohol – pursue his darkest tendencies.
Without money in his pocket, except for golden coin he got from a stranger, he emerged to a local shop where they bought gold. On the way there he could swear about everything bad that happened, and sink into sorrow about losing his dog. Nothing was there to change his mind about trading the coin – not even the god this time. Once he arrived at the store, the sign ‘we’re closed’ made him angrier. He knew that there is an antique shop half an hour walk away. Gathering his might and strength he ventured off. The nex store, the next chance to forget this loss. On the way there he thought about his dog coming back.
“Perhaps he just smelled food and ran for it. He is an animal after all.” Old man muttered under his nose. “Should I go back? I think I’m making a mistake by this. The stranger trusted me with this, I should keep that promise.”
Old man snapped out of talking with himself and stood in front of the store’s door. Wondering about the gold coin, he made a decision. His back turned towards the store and he began walking back. Back at the tunnel, where he laid onto his torn blanked and tried to fall asleep, but couldn’t. Thought about his dog couldn’t leave his mind.
On the next day, he gathered all his strength and promised himself that he will get through this. With tear sliding across his cheek because of a missing friend, he held his cup. Bravely he tried to gather coins during the day, shaking his mug and greeting every one of them with a smile. Last day before week ending felt strangely calm for the old man. There were no people in hurry. Hell, there was barely anyone on Friday, which was weird. Stuff like that never happened on Fridays, and old man knew that because he spent most of his days in that tunnel. If parks have historical monuments about an important person from the country they represent, then he was that tunnels monument. The old man wasn’t important to the tunnel, but he was always there. When evening came, an old man came to conclusion about the stranger. Something in his mind told him that he’s a test. Test for the old man to see important things in life. ‘But what would be the important things for a homeless old man like me?’ he thought.
Finally, the day was here. The day when he could get rid of this gold coin, which brought him only misfortune and false hopes. He thought that, but the other part of him thought that this is the last day of his test and he should wear a smile on that. He doesn’t have to go get a shower or get dressed for work like ordinary people. All he has to do is to get up and start holding his mug with a smile on his face, and that’s exactly what he did. With a smile on his face, he held his mug through this last day – Saturday.
Surprisingly, people were dropping coins into his mug – one after the other. The old man couldn’t believe it. All this week was full of the unfortunate, and now, now it was completely the opposite. The smile didn’t disappear from his face until his mug got half full. He couldn’t believe it, it was the most generous day from people. At the moment like this old man understood why he trusted him with the coin, but he didn’t understand why the week.
In the crowd full of people he saw a dog approaching, but he wasn’t alone. Old man with happiness on his face rose up and began staring towards him. Quickly he realized that it’s the same stranger walking his dog back to him, all well and taken care of. The dog wasn’t sick anymore, at least he didn’t appear sick to old man anymore. Their smiles aligned and a stranger came close to the old man. Shaking from happiness old man pulled out the gold coin and handed it to a stranger.
“Here, I held onto it like you said.” He passed the coin to a stranger
“I knew I could count on you, but this coin is for you.”
“I don’t understand. Why you just didn’t give me that in the first place? Why I had to sit through the week with it?”
“I think you wouldn’t understand the meaning behind this if I haven’t done that.” The stranger looked into his eyes and everything was clear for the old man.
“I think I know who you are.” The old man stared back at him, right into his eyes.
The stranger put a finger against old man’s lip and whispered in his ear. Old man staggered, and without the word sat down on his blanket, raised a cup and continued begging for coins. The stranger turned away from the old man, and none of them saw each other again.