Nine Tenths a Nickel
Richard Ozanne c. 2009
They say everyone what they earn in life, that honesty and valor (being true to oneself) always pays off in the end, but what of a nickel that was the only reward for a heavy life of work and perception left unpaid...and this only 9/10's worth.
Benishim was an old man. His eyes worn by the perspectives of live and his brow furled as if the care of anticipation for that one glorious day which his work would be appreciated would come, and come today. This old man looked the same as others. He looked like other old men because life in someway had reduced his looks to just be "rather the same" than have the glory and honor of a spark of the trappings of wealth and a three piece attire of smug retirement. Benishim was worn. There was nothing about him that was not worn. His hair was disheveled and his shirt wrinkled, the starch worn out years hence to leave it loose fitting and unbecoming. His shoes were worn down to antiquity. There was a look of sadness that was permanently displayed on his face, a look so sad as to make one tear at first impact if one was sensitive. Of course society, being exactly the opposite in most cases, shoved him around to make a mockery, a big mistake and grand carelessness, of what current society seems to be about anyway.
Benishim was a Noble Laureate, a few among the very very uncommon, but seemingly the most humble of the humblest beings on the planet. He walked alone, sat with journal open alone sipping his coffee which often leached out of his cup and onto the thick leather spine which was sometimes drenched.
He was a Noble Laureate in very kind words and upstanding deeds as was told in legend on polished marble columns long time ago in the theater of sciences, arts and tabernacles of wisdom begotten writings. Bemishim received laurels, but he insisted not, but did as the end game, now years and years past, he became a shadow of his former stature and greatness. The time had come...and it had gone. Great money had gone from his fingers to some extinguished school for the benefit of writing, scholarship and pursuit of wisdom. The funds went right through his hands right where he wanted them to be...out there for the saving grace of some young model to reap a internal reward, and make better the world which Benishim had inherited.
There was the power to make happen, and this was Benishim at the age of 50, bright, encouraged and full of vigor for his conquests had come to fruition...outside his philanthropy which made him at 85 a white haired spectacle that sat in a chair and still wrote regardless of publication, his wallet nearly bare to all that capital that man call his god and servant Ariel. His face was still wise, but his name unknown despite the placards and books and medals of testament that great men have to bare to even assume a work called genius, that Magnum Opus.
Benishim passed the corner and went up the street. He traveled widely upon scope and further scope of lecture tours that wound down as the next great inspiration was announced.. and repeated, and Benishim found himself alone.
That chair at the coffee house belonged to him. When he would arrive some people greeted him..scarcely knew who Bensiham was, but greeted him nevertheless. Benisham had become a remote creature filled with kindness still and furrowed brow of intellectuality still far beyond his years, yet sometimes so simple as to be laughable. And when he went home still the cars would honk at that old fellow who crosses at the light so slowly turning, smiling and raising his cane while people cursed his presence...they wanted to go..after all it was their light.
Benisham had a nickel. He seemed to always had a nickel to his name, but one time long ago this was not the case. He remembered the palace that his post at the Great University had provided for him...and also the sadness when he left, his pension cut because of new budget regulations, and then cut again to nothing...a life without pension, civil survival.
"I am so thankful that we are not as he is..we have to take pride in ourselves to be practical and upstanding individuals that know when where were are at and our boundaries and limits are" said one criticism from the crowd in silence to Punishment ear...which would remark in bitter sadness to the perpetrator.
"Thank goodness we are not that aged" remarked another, "wise is one thing, aged and slow...my gosh one has to stop for him at the light when he waves to us.." remarked another anxious soul.
"The fellow is not normal...he thinks too much. Those who think make very strange conversations..its better to just be silent instead, silence being golden...all these intellectuals have no purpose what so ever!
Remarked a third enlightened individual, pressing down the gas and roaring the engine as if to scare Benisham.
Noble Laureates stand once to rest somewhere..and if not on their wisdom and skill on their own life's task. Benisham would additively remark.
Mr Benisham is 8o; and so alone now.. is he real or a figment of our imagination...or any old man who crosses the street. Maybe we are him in the final analysis,,,Father Time. But we cant be as far away as he is...because we have progress to consider and our daily bout with society that underlies each second and motion of our day...we have to be mercenary soldiers to business and the army of profit keepers...to want, and want again
Said inside some head about the coffee shop pondering over Benisham.
"Benishim has given away all his wants, why? , and was famous to boot, why" is he a figment of our struggle of identity ..real or imaginary?...that poor prophet known as St. John, aged among men, upon rocks of great understandings....misgiving, he should have taken the money!
Said some conspirators pious and religious, dressed well among others..sipping their French Chocolate Lattes
Bernisam reached into his pocket and found a button where there had been a quarter. Coffee refills were 50 cents. He shrugged and went back into the deepest chasms of his journal as people spied him...
"You see! You see the old man hasn't a quarter to his name..." the disorder continued "He must not be the "Great Bernisam" but an imposter, and liar...any righteous soul who is a Noble Laureate should still have the money if he hadn't squandered it.....huh maybe Ill flick him a buck to make him know whose in charge...." Said one mind from the peering corner of conspiracy.
And gradually Bernisam drew his pocket open to find 45 cents and placed each piece on the table while the onlookers, secret conspirators looked on.
"45 cents" is that all he had? "Poor old soul!'
His ancient hands trembled and resumed to write his journal..the subject barely imperceptible in a maze of writing script. Yet if we as onlookers, persevere to look over his shoulder were to read the tongue of beauty we would be enhanced...but this remained script, old and placed on a shelf for a want and publication...
He thought to himself...and these thoughts good things, scripted well along the lines of his journals.
Another old gentleman passed and gave attention to the day that was outside and asked of Bernisiams life..
"Yes..today the senior center is having a lunch, will you be there? Its Beef Stew Friday with potatoes and gravy, green beans..." the gentleman explained.
Bernisam looked up with concerned eyes and smiled recollecting it was the same every Friday..ah yes!
As he turned..ever so slowly the resolve of years expanded as he spied another fellow walking in the door. It was Swayley, an old time friend who had known of the past and a fondly remembered friend from the meeting in Sweden.
"Swayley!.." his voice shouted out, in a muffled tone barely heard over the fog of background noise encountered at the cafe. He repeated upping his focus until the old man encroached with a walker finally saw Bensisham sitting at the chair alone, his eyes perking up and a contact made between eyes that had been not known for years.
"How is it going...old man!"Swayley smiled breaking the contrast of the ordinary dull and drab background chatter. A kind emotion came across his face with the graceful commemoration of age which daunted his clear and lasting respectful gleam. "Age of Honorers we are..Bernisham! Age of Honours!"
Two young people caught glimpse of the meeting and made snide comment..
"How long has it been..old fellow?" Swayley continued as he approached the table, the two greeting hands. "Many a year, must have been thirty!...A meeting of the Stockholm Collection here" Benisham raised his finger in conquest and greeted Swayley to sit down. "Dammed if you still look the same Benisham!" Swayley exclaimed. "Only the years have taken their way..that way!" Bensiham replied. "Two Noble Prize winners at one table!" Swayley replied and Benisham blushed putting his finger to his temple. "My god...old man, don't let the Truth be known too loud..they will think were crazy here" Benisham exclaimed. "Oh, dammed crazy!..two ol men sitting here recollecting stories...just all!" Swayley marked thought.
"Modern Medicine!!" Benisham exclaimed. "See its kept you together a lasting year friend", "Dynamics of Geriatrics and the Adult Child...still intact...still notes" Bernisham humorously commented. "Noble...Prize?" Marked Swayley in a doubting fashion. Bernisham commented,"Senior Adult Children must be seen and not heard.." Bernisham laughed, "One must pay particular attention to ones own gall bladder and urinary tract as well as the lasting complications of Beef Stew Friday.." The two laughed out loud as to make comment from the next table of suited gentlemen. "Hush...please..please, keep some order here...were having a business meeting.
The two, Benisham and Swayley leaned together in a conversing fashion like two Cambridge collegiate.
"Damn if they knew" Swayley exclaimed, "Physics and Medicine awaking at a coffee shop in a youthful fashion...some contempt here...Sir Issac Newton would have a smitten stomach with the Stew"
A lady in her 50's with a nurses uniform beckoned from across the room and waddled across smacking a table with her hip..."Sorry she exclaimed as she passed. "Mr. Benisham its now time" she exclaimed.."Now time for your medicine and to go back home.." Her modality was with strict precision to the medicinally purposeful and authenticated practice of Senior care. "Oh...just a minute.." barked Benisham in an annoyed tone as she grabbed in a rather coarse manner his arm. "Your jail keeper?" Smacked Swayley, whispering beyond reach of her ear.."Most damned annoying" Benisham whispered. "Come'on...lets not take all day, say goodby to your friend, we will see him again tomorrow..." the nurse exclaimed, toughing his arm in a masculine manner and most cold response. "Dont say shes your lover ol boy, tough as a bit of ol shoe leather..." Swayley whispered. "Ok..Ok!" Benisham remarked at his nurses demands.."One second!
Other tables turned around at the commotion. "Its Beef Stew Friday.." the Nurse exclaimed in a harsh cold tone.."Now we wouldn't want to miss that!"
Bernisham dropped his coffee and spilled it across the table in a muscular response to the nurses tagging "Now look there, its time to go now...we have to take our medicine too..." She insisted with no reply as Swayly reared back and pulled away from the table in almost an embarrassment.
“Look Here” we have to keep our coffee from being messy...you ought not to be so much time scribbling in that journal of your instead of rest!” She inclined, raising her finger as a teacher would a child.
Bernisam's journal layed on the table positively soaked by the coffee as that drizzle, like a little river, went over and trickled off the edge onto the floor right to the left of Swayly. No words were spoken as Bernsiam was helped to his cane and walked off with his nurse...
Swayly gave a slight wave goodby, but initially didn't spot his journal still layed on the table.
There was a commotion out front, just behind the doors of the coffee shop, almost out of ear range to most. People rushed out, and then in again.
Then a few seconds passed and he saw it there and picked it up out of the puddle which still remained of the split coffee. Bernisham had just passed through the main door and was now out of sight.
The commotion grew as the sound of an ambulance was heard screeching outside, its flashing lights blaring echos of red through the window. There was a scurry...
Swayleys attention was caught by the disturbance. A police officer came through the coffee shop and was attempting to gather information at the cashier who pointed directly at the table of Swayley.
Swayley stood up as though some stern electric force captured him and told him to raise as the officer came to him...
“Were you seated with another fellow...here?” He questioned.
“Why yes...what is this?” Swayley questioned
“Can we have his name or the name of a family member who we can contact?”
“Why...Hum” Swayley was nervous.”What happened? His name was Bernisham, IB Bernisham and he was a good friend”
The officer took off his hat “I'm sorry to report he died seconds ago after leaving the premises...I must ask for details on contacts you may know..”
Swayley sweated and his face grew pale. Like that he was gone! “Look...he left his book” Swayly answered...”Thats not the question...I need details of his family contacts” the officer ordered.
Swayley sweated and sat down as his mind grew to remember. “He resided at the Clearfield Nursing...home..”
Another officer came in and queued the first officer to come on back outside to talk to his nurse.
They left without further comment.
Swayly startled sat down and took a deep breath as tears began to pour from his eyes welling up as though bags had been held for years. Across the room a couple watched the situation unfold and a small girl brought a glass of water to Swayley as he sat there in sudden grief. Swayly looked up to see the smiling and sad young girl who said..” I just thought you could use this...” as he looked across at the parents who apparently sent her to him as comfort. The little girl sat for a moment as Swayley buried his hands in his face. She then said..”If there is anything I can do mister...I might try...and I'm sorry”. Some other faces questioned from the next table as Swayley took the young girls hand and persisted with thanks for her gift of the water. Tearful eyed Swayley sat almost motionless staring straight ahead at the scene in front of him.
Swayly put his ancient hand and lifted the book as to call to his old colleague and friend. He too must have forgotten it, and now of all things it was in his possession..this record of his life, this book as a last testament.
He put it down and looked at it studying the writing that was scrawled on the front. I.A Bernisham Nobel Prize 1952 Sweden. Ahhh Swayley remarked to himself, the old man looking at that books cover and reminding himself of that great almost distant episode of his life. “How times had changed...Bernisam, once a virile and stoic man...Hes an ol Hero...for some I guess? I say...Oh my, what am I talking about, were all old at one point or another, and so the hardship ended quickly.....Wonder whats in the book?” He thought to himself...”What is in the Book?” His hand touched it with his fingertip and brought it a quarter way around very slowly...”If I just peeked...Bernisham wouldn't mind...Ill get it back to him, yes”
He cautiously looked around and placed his hand over the book and began to open it to the first few pages which were a biography. “Oh...nonsense...Swayly inclined, Biography..any old fool has a biography...but his was a living testament...a record of achievement.” Swayley thought and flicked to the first pages of the content:
“The Cure for Cancer and Obvious Ailments of the Human Condition”
I.B Bernisam Petition for Nobel Prize..
Dear Sirs; In the event of my death I pass before you the greatest and most profound cure for the ailing of mankind's greatest plague...Upon my death do I pass this secret for the uplifting of the sick to be healed within two days of treatment....
“My god!” Swayley gasped and an astounded look came across his face. “Bernisam, you've held the secret for all these years!...” he remarked to himself, shocked and smiling.
Suddenly the Barista came stomping out from behind the counter and came quickly to the table with a large heavy cloth and began to clear the table and sop up the split coffee...with a sudden jerk, he grabbed away the old coffee cups and little creamers. “Hey, your friend still owes...he didn't pay for his coffee.., were not running a charity here” he sparked with abrupt coldness, while Swayly sat aghast looking up. He took the small journal and put it aside and went to his coat pocket to bring out some change...quarter...quarter..two dimes and a...a nickle...he counted. “Whats that's only 75 cents, coffee he had was two dollars...quickly I have customers..sorry ol guy, life goes on” the Barista abruptly demanded. “Wait. Just a minute” Swayly fumbled for more change...
“You got nine-tenths a nickle here...that'sss ok...sorry to hear about the ol guys passing, like dont worry about it” and then stormed off.
A kind young face from across the room, the young girl with hopes and a smile on her face looked over and her reaffirming parents reinforcing kind acts smiled kindly from behind. In someways this was the future that was seen there, and in ways those hopes and dreams in this..as Swayly lifted from his seat, positioned his cane and departed...leaving his seat behind.