The Silver Box

I was offered a job recently, writing. I think I could have made over $3 an hour. Possibly $6. I was going to take a lot of time due to needing to provide legal images to go with the articles.

Sigh. I could sure use the extra money. I’d like to be able to continue heating my home to the low 50s. It’s so fun to have it that warm, and my plants appear to like it.

My workbench in our London flat in the derelict building on Goswell Road
My workbench in our London flat in the derelict building on Goswell Road

But. I’m reminded of when I lived in London and was a silversmith, on my own. I had made little bars of silver to wear as pendants, reminding me of when a fellow had given me a small, actual bar of silver because, he said, I was the purest person he knew. I think what he meant was that my thinking was very directed.

At the time I was working at Rancho Encantado, a high end guest ranch. I was the evening front desk clerk. It was delightful to meet people like Vincent Price, Mrs. Maytag, the Johnson and Johnson kids. Though I had only small chats with them, I learned a lot.

When the maids hadn’t made up a room in time for an arriving guest, I didn’t hesitate to tell the son of the owner that he had a duty to make up the bed for the guest. And, he would do it. I never thought that I was giving him orders, I simply thought about how the bed was going to be made in time for the guest. That’s what I think the fellow meant when he said I was pure.

Okay, so having made the solid silver pendants, I wanted to try making something the opposite, which was as far as I could see, a silver box ~ silver with nothing in the middle, rather than solid.

I made two. They were not spectacular in any way, just simple boxes with covers.

I decided to sell one and chose the Seven Dials area of the West End to give selling a try. There were several silver and jewelry shops there.

I tried shop after shop, till finally I went into one that was less shiny. Inside I could smell spaghetti cooking, indicating that the shop was most likely family run, and the family lived upstairs.

The man who waited on me listened as I asked him about buying the silver box I’d made. I had it in a small bag that I withdrew from my purse. I took the small, silver box out its protective bag and handed it to the man.

The man tossed the little box in the air, not high in the air, just enough to have it rise and then land in his palm. He did it several times. He looked at me and asked, “Are you hungry?” I thought about how I needed to sell the little box in order to buy food for my little son, and me. I can’t remember whether I answered, “yes,”or “no.” But in any case, the man offered me the value of the silver, nothing for my work.

If I took the money I could buy food. I had to feed my son. If I took the money, there was nothing for my work. And, to do more work, I’d need to buy more silver.

I said, “No.” I took back my silver box, replaced it in its protective bag and went outside where the chill London wind cut through my sweater and made me shiver. I didn’t have 5p for the bus home. I didn’t have any money.

I knew that if I took a cab, the driver would accept a check when we arrived at the destination, since there was no other option. And, I knew that by the time the check went through the bank, I’d have some money. I didn’t know how I’d have money, but I was sure that I would.

The derelict building, defined by being able to see the sky through a hole in the ceiling in our bathroom. On Friend Street. Really, it was perfectly lovely.
The derelict building, defined by having a hole in the ceiling in our bathroom, through which you could see the sky. On Friend Street. Really, it was perfectly lovely. And, it’s hard to see in the picture, but there were daffodils lining the balcony. I could step out one of the tall, Georgian windows and tend the tubs of daffodils. Long before we moved into the flat, I’d loved the daffodils every time we passed the building when they were in bloom.

So I took a taxi to the Christians’, where my son was having tea and a play date with their son. They asked us to stay for supper. Afterwards Mr. Christian, whom as I remember it taught ethics or philosophy in some university in Canada, took us home, to the derelict building where we lived.

I may have told them the story at dinner, I don’t remember, but next day they gave me a check for 25 pounds, which would be about $60 at the going rate of exchange.

They said not to pay them back till I won the lottery. So, I bought some fine, i.e. thin, gold chain and strung one of my pre-Columbian beads on it, with some Aleutian Island beads I had that were beautifully crazed from having been buried. They had an opalized look to them. And, I gave it to Mrs. Christian. I forget their first names.

In order to buy the gold, I’d had to restrict our diet to the pasta things the Christians had given us as they packed to go home. I felt rather like an Alchemist, changing durum wheat into gold.

I like this story. It’s true, a true story. It’s a much better story than if I’d sold the silver box for the value of the silver and given away my work.

Sometime later a friend told her friend, a solicitor for, or The solicitor for, the Actors Guild, about my box and he bought it for his mother. He paid me almost as much as the Christians had given us, my son and me.




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