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Chester Takes a Trip

Chester was an angel, but he was a little naughty sometimes. In fact, once he was no naughty that he lost his wings. They just fell off and wouldn't stay on him anymore, no matter how he tried. Chester could win his wings back, They said, by helping children who were unhappy. He had to bring back a tear and a laugh from each of ten children he had helped. So Chester spent his days staring down from a cloud at the earth below, looking for children who needed him.

One day, Chester saw a boy in his room, crying. In a flash he was at the boy's side. He whipped out a tiny crystal bottle and caught one of the boy's tears. The boy looked up.

"What's the matter?" Chester asked.

"I needed a special coin for my collection," the boy explained, "and I sent away for it to a coin dealer. But he just sent back my money and said it's out of stock."

"Why don't you get it from some other dealer?" Chester asked.

"I'd never be able to afford it," the boy sighed. "This was a special sale."

Chester bent down to look at the coins spread out on the boy's desk. "Hey, these are neat," he said. "I used to have a coin collection, myself. But we don't have any money up in Heaven."

The boy looked at him curiously. "Are you really an angel?" Chester nodded.

The boy stared at him. "How come you're carrying your wings? Aren't they supposed to be on your back?"

"Uh, which coin did you say you need?" Chester asked quickly.

"A gold denarius from Rome," said the boy, "with a picture of Caesar on it."

"That shouldn't be any problem," said Chester. "I'm allowed to work one miracle for each unhappy child.

"You mean, you could just snap your fingers, and a gold denarius would appear?"

"Yea," Chester nodded, "but that wouldn't be much fun. I've got a better way. Now, quiet a minute. I've got to get this exactly right." He closed his eyes for a minute. Then he took the boy's arm. "Hold on tight," he said.

And in a flash, Chester and the boy were standing in the middle of ancient Rome! People wearing togas were busily walking past them. Street peddlers ware calling their wares. The boy stared at Chester. "Hey. I can understand what they're saying. I can speak Latin!"

Chester beamed. "This is the best miracle I've done yet."

A burly centurion was coming toward them. The boy stepped up to meet him. "Sir," he began in his best Latin, "will you sell me a gold denarius?" He pulled out several coins from his pocket and held them out to the centurion.

The man picked up one of the coins and looked at it suspiciously. "What kind of metals are these?" he said. He put the coin in his mouth and bit down on it. Then he tossed it back into the boy's hand. "I think this must be worth very little," he said, and walked on down the street.

A scribe came by next. He looked at the boy's coin: with interest. 'What land could these be from?" he asked. "'E pluribus unum' makes sense of a sort, but what do 'United States of America' and 'quarter dollar' mean? I will take them as a curiosity, but they are only worth a silver denarius." And he scooped up the coins from the boy's hand, placed a silver Roman coin in his palm, and hurried off down the street before the boy could protest.

The boy turned to Chester. "What am I going to do now? I don't have any more money with me!"

Chester shrugged. "I'm only allowed one miracle. Don't you have anything else in your pockets that you could trade?"

The boy reached into his pockets and then grinned. He pulled out a pocket knife, a comb, a ballpoint pen, three marbles, and a tiny flashlight. "Say," he called to a boy passing by, "would you like a good pocket knife?"

The Roman boy stared at all the blades of the pocket knife. Then he reached into a small leather bag and pulled out a handful of coins. "Will this be enough?" he asked worriedly.

Soon the young coin collector had traded all the things from his pockets for Roman coins. He jingled them and laughed happily. Quickly Chester took out a tiny bag and caught the boy's laugh.

"Okay," said the boy. "I've got my gold denarius. Let's go back home now."

Chester grinned and snapped his fingers. But nothing happened. They stared at each other.

"Oh, heavens!" Chester exclaimed. "I forgot to make it a round-trip miracle!"

"You mean we're stuck here?" cried the boy.

"We might be," said Chester, "unless --" He thought for a moment. "Maybe, if you started crying again, I could ..." He looked up at the Heavens and shook his head. "No, I guess they wouldn't allow that. I guess we are stuck here unless I can find another child who needs help. And I'd have to be able to help that child with a miracle that would take us back to the twenty-first century."

"Sounds pretty helpless," said the boy.

But Chester had another idea. "Are you an only child?" he asked. The boy nodded. "My parents have been trying to adopt a baby. But there aren't enough babies to go around. They've been waiting more than two years now."

"Great!" shouted Chester. "I've got it! You stay right here. I'll be back soon." And he swooped off.

From his little cloud, Chester searched the city of Rome. Finally he spotted what he was looking for. In a poor house at the edge of the city, a baby lay crying on a pallet of straw. An old woman looked down at him, shaking her head.

"Poor baby," she was saying. "His parents are both dead now, and there is no one to take care of him."

Chester swooped down, caught one of the baby's tears in another tiny crystal bottle, and then picked up the baby. In a moment he was with the young coin collector again. "Meet your new baby brother," Chester announced. As he handed the wriggling baby to the boy, he did not notice the tiny crystal bottle that slipped out of his pocket and smashed on the stones at his feet.

The boy looked down at his new little brother. The baby looked up at him and laughed. Chester quickly caught the laugh in a little bag. Then, in an instant, they were back in the boy's home in the twenty-first century.

A few minutes later, the boy was trying to explain to his parents where the strange baby had come from. Chester, up in the clouds, was staring at the two bags and one bottle in his hand. "Two laughs and one tear," he was thinking. "Now, how are They going to count that?"



©1973, 2013 The Silversteins