The Fountain of Youth

            The wishing wells of the world will forever captivate people with their offers of hope and fortune in exchange for pocket change.  But what of those who live next door to the fountain, who see it collecting the money every day, but do not see any wishes granted?  For them it is in a different way that it offers them a happier future.

            Outside Nice France are several little hilltop villages to which tourists go year after year.  These communities live by the money the tourists bring, and they preserve the look of their homes and township for all to enjoy.  The cobblestone streets invite pedestrians rather than cars, and the floral arrangements in the stone work offer a Kodak moment every few steps.

            The stores are full of pretty postcards and everything a good tourist knows they must buy, and yet the daily necessities seem missing, as if the locals run these shops that sell things they have no need of.  They chat with those who pass by, curious what they have to say about the small village, and the world beyond... their safe sheltered world is just how they like it. 

            Our tour guide laid out the brave history of the region, and spent the day telling us in great detail about the rulers of Monaco, the next stop on our all day tour.  As she spoke I tried to get a feel for the place we were exploring, and yet it felt as if they creating an image for our benefit, rather than letting us see the world they loved.  Try as I might, I could not see through to the real village and the life of these people.

            We quickly passed a fountain outside an old hotel on the main pedestrian walk way as our guide led us to another of her favorite photo opportunities, but the fountain kept my attention which she had long since lost.  I watched as a small five year old boy crept around the edge of the fountain, staring into it in search of something great.  The stone wall was a foot wide, and offered him plenty of space as he finally found the perfect location and knelt down on his perch. 

            His back was to me as I reached for my camera and took a quick picture of him.  I walked around until I could see him better and realized that while I had been playing with my camera he had been playing with a piece of white string that he was now dancing about in the water.  I took another picture, and the sound of my camera caught his attention.  But the string won out as he played with it a few seconds more, before yanking it out of the water and running off.  Behind him, a coin flittered in the air, stuck to a piece of bubble gum at the end of the string.

            On the way back to the bus we passed the fountain again, and the boy was gone, but this time the tour guide explained that for years people had thrown coins into the fountain and wished for a better future full of good will and fortune.  As I tossed some of my pocket change in I knew that even if it did not bring me fortune, there was at least one youth who found his fortune in the fountain.  

(C) Copyright Kay Kellam, 2000
All Rights Reserved
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