about writing and life and God

For the journey

on January 6, 2013

The queue snaked almost to the door of the bank. Mel craned his neck to see. The place was jammed solid. There were harassed mothers with fractious toddlers. Groups of gossiping girls laden with designer bags. Impatient businessfolk checking watches and drumming fingers. Frail elderly leaning against shopping trolleys. And the three members of staff were struggling to cope.

Mel took his place at the end of the queue, grateful for a place inside. Outside, the sky was heavy and dark, and rain was falling in great fat drops. No wonder the Foreign Exchange counter was so busy. Everybody wanted to get away.

With snail-like slowness the queue crawled forward taking Mel with it. At its tip, it split like a many-headed Hydra as people broke off to transact their business when a staff member became available.

At last, Mel found himself at the front. The old man ahead of him at the Foreign Exchange counter seemed to be doing something very complicated. Little bags of coins were mounding up in front of him and finally an enormous heap of notes. He stuffed the money into a large satchel, then turned, a satisfied smile on his face. Then his face hardened and his black eyes snapped. Two strapping youths stepped forward and escorted him out of the bank.

‘I’m not surprised,’ Mel thought as he took as his place at the recently vacated counter.

‘Yes, sir?’ the assistant enquired, a trifle wearily.

‘Dollars and euros,’ Mel began.

‘I’m terribly sorry.’ The assistant waved his hands apologetically. ‘We were running low but now that last customer has completely cleaned us out. ‘

‘No dollars or euros?’ Mel repeated incredulously. ‘But you can’t. I need them. I’m travelling tomorrow.’

‘I’m sorry, sir,’ the assistant repeated. ‘At this time of year, it can be difficult and we won’t have any more delivered for around a week.’

‘A week!’ Mel was appalled. ‘That’s no good to me. I need them today.’

‘Perhaps we could find you some other currency instead,’ the assistant offered.

‘That wouldn’t do,’ Mel told him. ‘The thing is, I wasn’t sure what I would need. I thought I’d be safe enough with dollars and euros.’

The young man’s tired face brightened with interest. ‘A mystery tour?’ he asked.

‘Something like that.’

‘Well, I’m sorry we can’t help.’

‘Thank you,’ Mel said. He turned and left, aware of the impatience of the queue at his back.

Back out into the grey rainy night. Shop lights glittered, selling food and party clothes, wine and jewellery, watches and gold chains…

Mel paused. Gold. That was an international currency. He looked up. The star still shone brightly. Melchior plunged into the jewellery store to change his life savings into gold for the journey, gold for the king.



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