Alchemy

It sounds ridiculous, right? The ability to turn objects to gold. That’s what I thought until I watched it happen in front of my eyes.

I still have a hard time believing that what I saw actually happened. It’s as if I can’t trust my own senses. But it was plain as day. The old man held the lead pipe in his hand and I watched it transform. The dirty gray color gave way to a bright and shiny gold. But even as he showed me, my practical mind told me that it was simply a trick of light. It had to be an illusion. I’m sure David Copperfield had done this sort of thing dozens of times on the stage, right?

I don’t know much about precious metals. I don’t know much about any kinds of metal. But he handed the gold pipe to me and it felt real. It felt as real as any gold I had ever touched in my life. He invited me to test it, seeing the disbelief that was apparent on my face. So I reached for my pocketknife. I scraped at the surface of the pipe, figuring that I would scratch off flecks of gold paint. Nothing came off.

“How did you do that?” I asked, trying to hold back my shock.

“Trade secret, my boy!” he said with a laugh. “That there is enough gold to get you through the next year.”

I assumed he was right. I really didn’t know much about the cost of gold, only what those commercials for the gold buyers kept saying, that the price of gold had never been higher. But was he just giving me this gold pipe?

“That’s right, you can keep it.” I looked at him with suspicion. I’m young, but I know enough about the world that you can’t just get something for nothing. He seemed to read my mind yet again. “I have no use for it. With the things I can do, gold holds no value for me. I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve learned the hard way that the things that have true value in this world, you can’t put a price on.”

“So when you say you’ve been around for a long time…?” My curiosity about this man was getting stronger.

“I’m afraid that’s another trade secret,” he said as he winked in my direction.

“Oh, right… your elixir of longevity. I almost forgot about that.”

“Boy, I know you’re wondering about price for that pipe,” he said, “maybe even wondering about a price for seeing the things that I’ve just shown you.” I just stood in silence, looking at the old timer. “I only ask for your confidentiality.”

“But…”

“No buts. What do you think would happen to me if the general public knew about the things that I could do?” he asked with genuine concern in his voice. “Did you ever hear the story about the goose that laid the golden egg? Didn’t turn out too good for the goose, did it?”

“I just don’t understand how you can keep all of this a secret.” I understood where the man was coming from, but at the same time, if I had this kind of ability, I’d want some fame to go along with it.

“Had you ever heard of me before we met yesterday?”

“No, sir… but…”

“And that’s the way it will be for the next young man or woman that comes to me for help. That’s the way it’s been done for many years. That’s the way it was done long before I was around and it’s the way it’ll be done long after I’ve gone.”

I looked at the heavy gold pipe resting in my hand. The money that this thing represented was going to solve a number of my financial problems, maybe all of them. Until more came around, that is. But I couldn’t get past the idea that he wanted nothing but secrecy from me.

“Cheer up, boy! You’ve got a great deal of money in your hands there!” He smiled and patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t spend it all in one place!” He laughed again, the laugh of an old man without a care in the world.

He walked me to his front door and showed me the way out. “I don’t expect I’ll be seeing you again in this life, unless you fail to keep your word. So I’ll leave you with this advice: Be smart with what you’ve just received and you’ll land on your feet. And you’ll stay on your feet for years to come.”

And with that, he closed his door. I didn’t even have a chance to properly say thank you. He was right about the pipe. It was solid gold and I was pretty much able to write my own ticket. And I kept my word to the old man. I never spoke a word to anyone about what I saw him do that day. Writing about it on a blog seems okay, though. I don’t think a man that old would have much to do with the internet. What are the odds that he’d find my blog and know who I am or that it was him that I’m writing about?

Still, I can’t help but wonder what that goose would have done if it could have taken revenge on the greedy king that cut her open.

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