Steward of wishes

by Erik Beerbower

Every once and a while life pauses. Reflection sets in. The reality of the moment smacks you over the head and humbles you. In my case, I have been brought to my knees and humbled by pond scum.

My morning started out under the crawl space of a house on Lakewood Drive replacing a pump on a fountain I built. The pump still worked but my client wanted to eliminate the hum that echoed through the stainless steel water basin and a slight vibration in the floor. The fountain was also in need of a filter; it produced a lot of algae and needed to be cleaned a lot, as most fountains do. This was not glamorous work, but it was important work.

The thing about fountains is, everybody loves to watch and hear them, but they have no idea of the amount of effort it takes to maintain them. If you have a fountain, you will always be working on it, especially if you want it to run right. For me, the more I work on them, the more I appreciate and respect them.

Fountains are powerful places; when you build fountains you build vessels for wishes. Your fountain becomes a wish keeper, a sacred place for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Fountains don’t judge or discriminate. They provide a place where, no matter what your age, race, gender, religion or affliction is, your wish is as valid and equal as the next. Fountains may be the single best use for a penny. Where else can you make a wish for a penny?

After replacing the pump in the crawl space on Lakewood I jetted over to my fountain on Elm Street, dubbed “Beerbower’s River” by Brian Clarey, editor of this paper. The pump on that fountain burned out a week before and the reservoir was drained most of the way. Without the pump working I couldn’t drain it fully so it had a good week to stagnate. It was ripe with green stinky algae, discarded cigarette butts, remnants of downtown takeout, miscellaneous debris and, underneath all that, lots of wishes. In order to replace the pump I needed to clean out the water basin so I could work in there. That would require a small pump and garden hose to remove the bulk of the water and a wet-vac to suck up the rest.

It was during the waning moments of my vacuuming when I had a profound thought. If I accidentally sucked up some change with the vacuum, would that damage the potential outcome of someone’s wish. I tried to rationalize it by wondering if it was just karmic justice. Maybe that person whose wish that I just sucked up was not worthy. But then I remembered that fountains should not judge and discriminate. Then I started feeling guilty.

This was not the first time I have cleaned this fountain, but it was the first time it moved me spiritually. In the past I have swept and shoveled up the change into Styrofoam takeout containers that always seemed to find their way into the fountain. I would store them under the sidewalk in front of the fountain not quite sure what to do with them. If I had to guess how much money was scooped up each cleaning I would have to say around $15 in change. I didn’t feel right keeping it for myself. So there the coins stayed, wishes in limbo waiting for closure.

Still feeling guilty about my careless vacuuming, I vowed to give away all the money I collected. That would surely put me right with the fountain gods. Feeling good about my decision I plugged in my mp3 player and rocked out to G. Love and Special Sauce. About 10 minutes later I heard, “Hey mister, hey mister.” I looked up and there was a young boy about 11 or 12. He was asking me if I had any spare change to catch a bus. He told me that he had taken a bus downtown to meet his cousin and his cousin never showed, and now he needed bus fare home. I quizzed him to make sure his story was legit. Then I told him that today was his lucky day, and gave him one of my to-go containers full of change and told him that it was his.

He opened up the box and saw all that change. He closed it quickly and held it tight. He asked, “I can have all of this?”

I said, “You sure can.”

I could tell that he was fired up, because he was about to take off running like a football player trying to make it to the end zone. I yelled out, “Hey, wait.” He came back to see what I wanted, I told him, “This is no ordinary money – those are wishes. Spend them wisely”. He nodded his head, and off he went.