At the Flea Market

It was Sunday. The sunless Roman sky looked like a soiled doormat. ``Sono genuine,'' the merchant said, stirring the heap of coins on his counter with a black knuckle. His pork sandwich steamed in the early morning cold. He smacked his lips and gulped a cappuccino. Cocoa and cinnamon dappled the creamy foam. He had shown me a lopsided sestertium, deeply nicked. The brass was red, and as slippery as glycerine soap. Millions of thumbs had worn the head of Augustus Caesar flat. The eye had fallen from its socket, and his ear was a hole. Had he journeyed, palm by palm and pocket by pocket from the imperial mint to Galilee and back? This coin in Jesus' hand? Even Pascal, done with doubting and ready to die, would have shrugged at the odds.

I bought it.

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