Authors: Antara Mann
The Wishing Coin
by Antara Mann
Copyright © Antara Mann (2014).All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the author. Reviewers may quote brief passages in reviews.
This novella is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover art by Tanya von Ness
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The Wishing Coin
What would you do if you possessed a magical coin that could fulfill all your darkest wishes?
This heartwarming and witty modern fairy tale follows an ambitious young woman who finds an easy way to fulfill all her selfish desires.
TV reporter Julia Preston is having a bad day. First, a promised promotion is given instead to ambitious newcomer Bailey – then Julia finds out Bailey is also dating her ex. Walking home, seething with anger, Julia encounters a street vendor selling wishing coins. Skeptical, she's not interested until he offers an old tarnished coin with some geometrical figures that intrigue her. It soon becomes clear that she has come into possession of a miraculous weapon to use against those who have wronged her. When Julia's wishes begin to come true she believes her life has taken a turn for the amazing. But a dark secret behind her TV success is revealed and Julia’s conscience is put on a trial.
Would you be happy if all your wishes had come true?
Would you be still you?
I sat back on my chair and closed my eyes. The words of the vendor were echoing in my mind. “Ma’am, I could sell you this coin but I won’t take responsibility for the consequences. Remember that what now looks like a gift might very soon turn into a curse.”
Several months before, while I had been walking down West 54th Street after work, I had seen a stranger selling wishing coins. It had been the first time I had seen such a thing. At first I had thought he was some mad person, and yet I had bought one of his coins. According to him, it was able to make all wishes come true, no matter what they were. I reached for my wallet and took it out. A small coin tarnished by the time – on one of its sides there was a depiction of a deity and on the other, some geometrical figures. Who could imagine, watching this miserable little thing, that it was so powerful it could fulfill all their wishes? Thanks to this coin I got my own show, made up with my ex, drove the despicable Jennifer away from New York and even transformed Lewis’s mother, which was as funny as it was incredible. However, my wishes had begun to cross the reasonable line. With limitless power came huge responsibilities. The street vendor’s warning was beginning to come true. I stared through my office window. I felt overcome by strange excitement. How could I possibly live with the thought of having changed Jackie or intentionally made three teenagers disappear? No, it was too much. I couldn’t even remember anymore why I had made these wishes in first place. I had to talk to the vendor.
I quickly went out of AEC’s office and aimed for West 54th Street. On the way I remembered how it had all begun.
“Are you ready?”
I nodded at the cameraman and began:
“Good afternoon from Broadway 317; we’re at the headquarters of New Software Solutions, more commonly known as NSS. Today I am honored to be talking with its founder and CEO Mike Greenberg. Hello, Mike.”
“Hello, everyone.” Greenberg waved warmly at the video camera lens.
“A year ago you launched the free software app Synthesis and soon after followed its premium version. The companies using the application have already surpassed two million and even Microsoft has revealed its intention to buy its rights. Do you think you’re living the American Dream?”
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘the American Dream’ but I’d like to tell everyone who’s watching that I believe in hard work. If one has any goals and dreams, they must pursue them tirelessly, even if the whole world’s against them. That’s exactly what Damien, my partner and co-founder of NSS, and I’ve just been discussing. If anyone thinks Damien and I have had some privilege then they can’t be further from the truth. In the beginning we were just a couple of poor young students who relied solely on New York University’s scholarships.”
“Mike, could you tell our viewers how your idea was conceived and how Damien and you founded New Software Solutions? What was your goal?”
After some fifteen minutes there was hardly a viewer who had failed to learn in detail the life story of Mike Greenberg and Damien Nash.
“Thank you, Mike.” I turned back to him. “It was a delight to be able to talk with you about your business startup and your future plans. I am Julia Preston and you watched Good Morning USA’s feature Miracle – How I Did It.”
“Cut! Well done!” The cameraman took the camera off his shoulder.
I was preparing to leave when Mike asked me:
“Are you free for lunch? There’s an Italian restaurant not far from here, if you don’t mind, of course. The owner is a friend of mine. He makes delicious Neapolitan pizza.”
“Is that a date?” I asked innocently and he blushed. He was acting freely and his energy appealed to me. I would’ve loved to have lunch with him. Suddenly I remembered that at two o’clock I had to talk to AEC’s program director at the company’s corporate office and I had to be there on time. I glanced at my watch – it was past 12.30.
“Okay, but let’s hurry. I have a very important meeting at two o’clock.”
“So how did you come up with the idea behind Miracle – How I Did It?” Mike asked casually, voraciously swallowing the pesto pasta he’d ordered.
We were already at Mario’s – a cozy Italian restaurant cuddled up in one of Tribeca’s backstreets. Over the pizzeria’s entrance there was a big sign saying “Delicious Neapolitan pizza”.
“Well, it happened somewhat spontaneously. I was in my final year at the University of Florida when a friend of mine read in the student paper about a California man who had earned ten thousand dollars for a children’s center by selling paintings on the street for a year.”
“You mean he was an artist?”
“No, painting had been just a hobby for him; he’d never done it professionally and that’s what’s interesting about the story. They said he’d been surprised people bought his paintings himself.”
“Perhaps he really painted well?” Mike suggested, chewing intently.
“I’ve no idea. Never mind; the article intrigued me and I went to talk to him. He turned out to be quite a down-to-earth guy, with a warm and nice personality. He thinks that each of us has some potential that can do wonders, but only if it’s aimed at benefiting others around us. In that moment I felt my mission was to bring similar cases into the open and show them to society.”
“A very generous goal.” Mike took a sip of wine. “I’ve always thought that one’s intentions are good until they become rich and successful. Once we get a touch of money in excess, however, it begins to ruin us. That’s the reason why I explained to Damien that right after we’ve negotiated the sale of Synthesis to Microsoft, I’m out of the game. At the time Damien and I developed the application the only money I got was my scholarship, which barely covered my rent, and we would often have dinner for free here at Mario’s restaurant, developing and maintaining his website in return.”
“Is that why you said you didn’t really get the idea of the American Dream? That’s interesting, because I think you actually made it come true.”
“I did? Just because NSS has earned one million dollars this past year and Microsoft is ready to pay three more to buy it? Is that why you think I made the American Dream come true?”
“I don’t see anything wrong with that; what’s bothering you?”
“Look, Julia, let me tell this to you as a friend – there’s no such thing as the American Dream. In fact, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the myth of this famed American Dream originates from a 60s mortgage commercial…”
“Buongiorno, signora!” The owner of the restaurant came to our table and interrupted Mike. “You are charming! A tender flower in the garden of GMU. Is Mike annoying you with his theories?” He poked Mike in the ribs. “If he’s bothering you, just let me know. I’ll serve him some sauce that’s so spicy it will zip his mouth.” Mario patted Mike warmly and we all burst out laughing. “I really like your stories, senorita. I’m a big fan of yours.”
“Yes, my mom is your fan, too,” Mike added. “She follows your features. I even think you’re the reason she watches Good Morning USA.”
“Is that so? I didn’t know I had such true fans.”
“I’m honored to have stars dining at my restaurant!”
“I wouldn’t call myself a star…” I objected, but the owner’s powerful baritone interrupted me mid-sentence.
“Senorita, it’s on the house! You’re always welcome here. Now excuse me, I’ll be back in a second.” Mario went to the adjacent table to take the orders of the newly arrived customers who had their eyes fixed on us.
Mike and Mario’s praise made me think. It was already my fifth year of working for AEC’s news bulletins and the third of being part of Good Morning USA. My television glory was narrowed down to some fifteen-twenty minutes of airtime – that’s how long my weekly feature for the talk show took. I wasn’t really complaining, since GMU was one of the most viewed morning TV shows, but I was always in the shadow of the real stars – the hosts. For almost a year I’d been in talks for my own show with Carter Phillips, the Program Director. I’d have liked to host The Screw because there I would’ve gone on with my feature. Carter could’ve also made me a James Miller Live’s reporter, but only if I changed my stories. I’d been waiting a year for an opportunity to come and there, The Screw’s host Diana McCarthy’s contract was expiring and the show’s producers were planning changes. I was praying for Carter to be generous to me and give me a chance to make my dream come true.
“Is anything wrong, Julia?” Mike leaned toward me with a slightly worried expression. “You’ve been thinking about something. Did I say anything wrong?”
I shook my head and smiled at him.
“Could you go back to explaining to me where the phrase ‘the American Dream’ comes from?”