An alchemist is a man with the knowledge and the means to turn any object into pure gold armed with nothing but scientific engineering and maybe a little bit of black magic. Such was the conundrum of Alfred’s profession. He had plunged headfirst into the practice thinking he could turn bathroom mops and silverware into dazzling blocks of literally cold hard cash. Alfred was a single man who had nothing but a degree in rock climbing and a determination that rivaled even the paparazzi.
One day Alfred sat in his study as usual, feeding bits of moldy bread to his mouse. The mouse had no name, the bread had been taken from his own trash can, and he was bored-but this was all he could do. Layers of dust had long since formed on all of the laboratory equipment and Alfred had forgotten even what many of the vials and Bunsen burners were used for.
A knock jolted him awake. Glancing at his mouse, he smiled and went to answer it.
“Good afternoon sir,” proclaimed a smiling delivery boy, “I have something you need to sign for.”
Tiredly Alfred took note of the lad’s bleached white teeth and the array of optimistic buttons pinned to his blue button up work shirt. He hadn’t ordered anything in years but he wasn’t about to question anything. Perhaps there was food in the incoming package and even if there wasn’t then perhaps there was something he could make a bit of money off of in order to buy food. He was terribly hungry lately.
“Where do I sign?” Alfred said as pleasantly as he could, shaking out the dust that had built up in his throat from years of disuse. A clipboard was shoved in front of him and he scribbled arbitrary gibberish on the black line, knowing that his name held no real importance.
The delivery boy fumbled around a moment after pocketing the clipboard. Alfred noticed the inexperience of a fresh employee surrounding this boy and he was deeply amused. Thankfully the kid wasn’t pursuing anything foolish like alchemy.
“It’s, uh, right here sir,” the boy said. As he procured the package from his bag he lost his grip, juggled the box, and almost let it fall to the ground. With a red face he placed the box into Alfred’s open hand saying, “Sorry about that sir.”
“You don’t need to call me that. I’m nothing of the sort, I’m just a simple man,” Alfred corrected him.
He waited for the lad to walk down the unkempt cement mess that was the walkway to his house before closing the door. Ravenously he scurried to his workstation and ripped the brown paper away from the box like an Alaskan Tiger.
What he found was a gray stone about the size of his fist suspended inside a transparent plastic box. There were no labels, no figures, not even advertisements imploring him to buy a rock pick or a geology manual. Hesitantly he retrieved a stick from the floor, opened the box, and touched the stone with his new apparatus. It turned immediately into gold.
At first Alfred swung the stick back in bewilderment. He shuffled backwards with wild eyes and goose bumps popping up all over his skin. Once safely away from the rock he stared at the golden stick in front of him. He turned to his mouse and smiled. “We’re in business,” he whispered. Alfred took a step back towards the rock. He yelled at the top of his lungs, “We’re in business!”