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  • Writer's pictureEric James

“Diamonds are Nickels”

Updated: Mar 16

Nate, a typical teenager, learns a valuable lesson about life from his dad. His dad suddenly parts leaving a gift only Nate can receive.

“Do you have a lesson in mind? Whether you prefer teaching it through modeling or providing a real-world experience - I can always offer guidance."

Eric James, October 2021, @DistilleXinc2021


“Okay Dad, I’ll write the president and tell him you are his number one voter! Geesh… Ha-ha, dad I love you!”

“Hey son, Nathaniel, I’m sorry… I love you too!”

I am at the hospital in the ICU with the greatest man in the world. Too bad I never thought of this until now. Like they say, you don’t know how much a person means to you until they are gone. My dad is attached to every machine and cord in the freaking hospital it seems. I haven’t spoken to him since three days ago when I first visited him. All is I know is, my mother told me he was here after collapsing from a ladder and falling to the floor.

My dad wasn’t the most interactive dad in the world. He was barely around for my achievements. No he wasn’t a drunk or a drug addict. He was just a man of circumstance. I am eighteen years old.

My younger brother, Danny, is asleep in the chair. Our mom left out a couple hours ago to pick-up my even younger half-sister Lonny from her dad. Oh sorry, my sister. My dad discussed this with me before. I was talking to a girl at the movie theatre. We were in line waiting to buy our tickets when she asked me a question…

“Excuse me, is this the line to see the new Stars Wars movie or Ghost Rider?”

“Yes and no. You can buy tickets to either one in this line,” I replied.

“Thanks! I thought I heard someone say they split the lines to speed things up.”

“You’re welcome. Who are you here with?”

“I’m here with my goofy little brother Mikey. He’s into this wired sci-fi stuff. I would rather not go the movies, too expensive for me.”

“That’s cool. I’m here with my dad and half-sister Lonny. We’re seeing Ghost Rider…”

When we got into the theatre my dad got on me. But why would he care? Lonny isn’t his daughter. Why would he care if I refer to her as my half-sister…

“Nate, I heard what you told that girl. There is no such thing as a half-sibling. She’s your sister.”

“What! Dad, I don’t see the problem. She is my half-sister.”

“Look boy, both of you share the same blood from your mother. I don’t want you to address her like that,” he demanded. “If you call her a half-sister, you’ll end up treating her like one. Don’t view her that way.”

“What do you know about treating someone. You only show up to say you are sorry. That’s why we are here because you missed my band recital…”

My dad missed a lot of my personal accomplishments. However, he has perfect attendance when apologizing for something. My mom fired him because of his consistent tardiness and absences in our life. How the hell can he give me a lesson. Practice what you preach!

The nurse comes in to check my dad’s vitals. She asks for my mother but I inform her she is on her way back. She needs to speak with my mom immediately upon her return. My mom is his power of attorney, despite their split. He made the decision a year ago. He came into our home in the early evening while I was gearing up for band practice. He had lost his keys a month before, but from a closer observation, he lost his razor too. The jeans he wore lost its value because his right leg revealed itself below the knee. The jacket that covered his sweatshirt suggested he ran out of detergent.

“Hey Nate, Hey Danny. Hi you doing Sarah. Can we talk?” he said.

“Sure Caleb,” said my mother taking a seat on our sofa.

“Where are you headed Nate?”

“I am going to band practice. I have a show coming up in a week, are you probably coming?”

“Yeah, I’ll make it. Give me the information later.”

“Nate and his band are playing at the school’s charity event to raise money for their high school’s football team coaching search!” said my mom.

“Wow!” chuckled my dad. “I have a good boy growing up here!”

“No mom. It is to raise money for uniforms for the football team. They are searching for a band coach. Do you ever listen!”

“Oh, sorry Nate. I was cooking while you were talking,” replied my mom.

“Are you guys any good?”

“Yeah dad, they are paying us, so…”

“Donate all the money you make to the charity,” suggested my dad.

“I’m donating 10 bucks, which I did already.”

“No son, donate it all. It’ll be great for your growth. It’ll teach you how to care for others.”

“What! Most of the football team are jerks, plus, the cornerback mom drives a Jaguar. He should pay for it all.”

“That doesn’t matter son, do it for you and the people who are not jerks.”

“That’s like what, two people!”

“It doesn’t matter if it’s one person. Lead by example. Think off all the other boys who will eventually get on the football team and get to play in those new uni’s. Everyone would love you because people love good gestures,” said my dad checking his jacket pocket for something.

I picked up my vibrating phone, “This isn’t the hippy days dad!”

My phone got answered in the kitchen. My conversation ended with my mom and dad in the middle of theirs. He was asking her to take care of his finances. My mom was hesitant at first but then he convinced her by saying to do it for the boys. He has things he wants us to have. He told her to talk to his lawyer to sign some sheets to confirm it. Now, I am guessing he told her he was sick that night because here at the hospital, my mom has been very calm and collected.

What is going on with my dad exactly is still a mystery, to me at least. My mom said she would tell me once everyone is here. Who is everyone? We were all here. My dad, her, Danny, and I. Lonny isn’t his daughter. I doubt my mom’s boyfriend wants or should be here. Maybe she is referring to our dad’s mother. We’re in Nebraska. She lives in Washington. So unless she is related to Flash Gordon, she might be a while. I leave the room to enter the waiting area to use the phone to call my mom. There she is sitting in a chair on the phone.

“Mom, how long have you been back?”

“Shush,” she whispers waving me off with her hand.

I sit next to her. Right now, it is unclear who she is conversing with. She is doing most of the listening as she eventually tells someone, “He’s giving it to his sons.” She sits back in the seat, sighs, then pulls me in for a kiss.

“Give who what mom?”

“I’ll tell you later when I get off the phone. How is Danny doing?”

“He is sleep now but he doesn’t know how severe it is. I don’t even know. I’m just guessing its bad based on the facial expressions of the nurses.”

Lonny, who was sitting on the other side of the room, comes over to use my phone to play games. I recommend she to go to the car to get the charger so the battery doesn’t die. As I hand her the car keys, my mom asks her to bring back a notebook. Lonny wonders where. Mom reminds Lonny of the great day at school she had so her back-pack should be fully loaded.

She restarts her conversation on the phone. She continues to sigh and negotiate in her responses. Whomever is on the other side of the call is clearly not a friend. She makes a comment about wood and cement in my dad’s garage. My dad is a handyman. A carpenter to be exact. He works side jobs by rehabbing buildings. I wonder if he got hurt working. I remember when I worked with him to rehab a hallway about nine months ago. We dry-walled the hallway then painted it along with the stairs. That’s the day when my decision on having a career undertaking physical work was as imminent as hell freezing over.

“Nate, pass me the hammer,” he said standing atop of a ladder.

I handed him the hammer, “Dad, what is that thing that is used to find planks in the wall?”

“Why? Did you measure both the wall and the dry wall to find the cut? Do you have a razor?”

“No, but I need…”

“You’re looking for the stud finder. That is foolish if you haven’t measured the wall or cut out a piece of drywall to hang,” he said removing the piece of wood he was jerking.

“How about you do that. I’ll just screw in the screws.”

“No, you won’t learn anything if I do everything for you, now would you?” he said with a chuckle.

I slouched against the wall, “Come on, I’m not made for this.”

“You won’t know unless you try. Boy, I tell you about you millennial’s. The only hardware you can use is a cell phone,” he said as he cautiously climbed down the ladder.

“I’m not a carpenter.”

“You’re not a chemist and I’m not an athlete but I can still hang drywall. Now go over there and grab that sheet of drywall so it can be measured and cut,” he commanded.

“Ugh… Here, but I am not cutting it.”

“Okay then. Go home,” my dad lips formed a sly smile, “I am not going to pay you the $700 you would have earned.”

I jolted straight up nearly knocking over a bucket of nails and screws.

“Yeah, I’m getting $2200 for the complete job, but I am sure your little brother would love to earn it,” my dad combed the tool bucket for a razor. “I wonder how many Xbox games he would buy with that money.”

“Okay fine, I’ll stay, but I can’t promise results,” I patted my dad on his shoulder, “Oh, how about you drywall. I paint.”

“No, how about you paint AND drywall! You need to learn so you can build your little brother a treehouse,” he said massaging his side.

“How much will I get paid for that?”

He responded quickly, “nothing.”

I folded my arms then looked straight at my dad, “I have to do it for free?”

“Yes, you don’t need money to motivate everything you do in life. The biggest reward in life is someone else’s happiness,” my dad nudged me on the arm. “That’s a value that can always be paid in full.”

“Then why didn’t you do this gig for free?”

“Because you exist!” he laughed. “You still have standard living expenses, but outside of that, it’s nothing wrong with giving someone an early Christmas present. It will be one your little brother will never forget. He’ll always remember his big brother building him a treehouse.”

“Danny is too old for a treehouse,” I told my dad holding the drywall as he cut it.

“Sketch out the line then take this razor and cut it. Don’t let money always be your motivator and reward. It can you bring you and others together quickly and it can tear you apart even faster…”

Lonny comes in and hands my mother, who is going over numbers, a notebook. The person on the other end of the line is quite loud. I can’t quite make out everything but I do hear the other person say, “We deserve some too!” A few minutes later, my mom hangs up the phone with a giant sigh of relief.

“One down one more to go,” she says.

“What is going on mom?”

Just as she was about to respond, a doctor comes in then pulls up a chair in the center of the room. My mom tells him to wait until she gets Danny. The doctor resembles the neighbor my dad got into an argument with when he wanted to build a new walkway down the side of house. The walkway had deteriorated. Some of the concrete squares had morphed to triangles mixed with random debris.

The guy was mad because it would inconvenience him. He wanted my dad to pay him for the inconvenience. Really! This is a job people usually pay for someone in general to do. He was doing the guy a favor. My dad just ended up redoing the walkway from the backdoor that he made interconnect to the garage and alley…

“I don’t want you to ever be like that,” said my dad pouring concrete in a wheelbarrow.

“Yeah man, he is a piece of work,” I began to pour water from the hose. “He benefits. He gets a new walkway for free.”

“Yeah, that’s a $1200 job. He wants me to pay him! Can you believe it?” my dad said with a chuckle.

“Right, he can’t just... Not walk down the walkway! He acts as if it’s an integral part of his life, which I doubt.”

“Money is the root of much evil. Pay attention to how much water you add to this mixer. You don’t want too much or too less. You can build your little brother a walkway to his treehouse,” he said pouring in more mixture.

I bent the water hose, “Whatever dad.”

“If you are going to be the successful man I hope for you to be, you will need to know how to operate with money. A lot of money will bring a lot of enemies,” my dad began to push the wheelbarrow. “I am here to tell you. You are happier having your family and friends than you are with too much money.”

I began following my dad kicking rocks along the way, “I know money can’t buy happiness but a lot of money is nice.”

“I mean, yeah, in the short term. But if you have problems with money, like people fighting for it, then it’s not worth it. You just need enough money to survive without malice. People can be greedy and selfish. People will die your best friend and be reborn your enemy when it comes to money,” he said with a chuckle.

“I’ll just let those people go. Not the money,” we bent the wheelbarrow over then poured cement onto the walkway. “I wish I would.”

“Money may bring on more enemies. I am not saying give in to your enemy, but if you have money or even material possessions they want and their harshness is causing you stress, give it to them. Let it be THIER burden,” my dad struggled to lift up the wheelbarrow. “Just take what you need…”

My mom comes back in with Danny. She asks Lonny if she wants to stay or not for the bad news. She nods yes. A lady comes in with a guy. Her identity is hidden due to the bright yellow scarf fashionably wrapped around her face. She removes her scarf and jacket which reveals her pregnancy. My mom doesn’t like her because when they came in, she sighed, then placed her hand over her head. Just as the doctor was beginning to speak, my dad’s sister Leslie arrives. Leslie and my mom don’t get along due to a beef that was started before I was born. The doctor changes his seating position to accommodate everyone.

“I hope you all are having a good holiday despite the condition of yours truly Mr. Caleb Orlovsky,” he looks over to my mom. “Ms. Orlovsky, you wanted to speak first.”

“Sure. Okay… Danny, Nate, that is Clara. She is 8 months pregnant with your little brother Isaac. The guy with her is Joseph, your dad’s lawyer. You know your Aunt Leslie.”

“Whoa!” shrieks Danny.

I push up in my seat, “I have a new brother. This is the…” my mom interjects me.

“Sorry boys your father wanted to wait because of relationship complications with Clara. Your father has stage 4 terminal stomach cancer. He also has tumors on his head and kidney,” she grabs Danny who runs to her crying. “He has been battling this for the last year or so.”

I am balling.

“Dad!” I grab my mom. “I want my dad! I miss him already.”

My aunt Leslie places both her hands on the sides of her face. She and Clara must have known already because they are as calm as the environment in a yoga class. Heck, Clara looked annoyed like she didn’t care.

“It is possible he can survive another month but he has given up. Right now he is on pace of going blind within the next two weeks,” says Dr. Wright. “He rejected Chemo. He also needs a kidney. He is bleeding internally. His stomach can’t process any food. He is also paralyzed due to damaging his spine from jumping off of the ladder…”

My screaming and loud cries interrupts the doctor.

“I want to see my dad. DAD! I’M COMING!”

My mom grabs me. I jerk for a couple minutes until the floor and my knees are touching. While sobbing, my mom holds me tighter than a cork in a bottle of wine. Danny wants to say good-bye.

“You can’t say good-bye yet. Your father requested that you two don’t see him until it’s over,” says my mom.

“What is over?” asks Danny.

“Your father didn’t want to suffer nor did he want the two of you to see him leave,” my mom chokes up. “That’s why he wanted all of us here in the room while they take him off life support.”

“NO!” I scream. “I WANT MY DAD! I WANT HIM NOW!”

My mom rocks me, “I’m sorry baby.”

Doctor Wright stands up, “I’ll be back.”

My nose is red and burning from sniffling so much. My head is aching and my back has a crook in it from stooping over. About twenty minutes pass until the doctor comes back to pronounce him dead. I cry again for about thirty minutes before deciding to go into his room to see him one last time. Approaching the room took patience and will. My body and the room felt like two magnets opposing each other. The sight of his still body led to me crying again for another twenty minutes or so.

Danny is more mature than me because he only cried for about ten minutes altogether. He is patting me on the back comforting me. The nurse gave us an hour to be with our dad until they moved him downstairs. After my dad is escorted out, I stay in the room for about another hour processing it all. This room doesn’t feel the same as it did before my dad left. Everything seems new. I head to the waiting room nearly collapsing due to my spinning head. Commotion echoes into the hall. I tread right into an argument.

“Look, I’m having his son, I deserve some money too,” shouts Clara.

My mom is pacing the floor shaking her head. Lonnie is sitting on the floor directly in front of her chair playing on the phone as if no one else is in the room.

“And Sarah, who the heck made you in charge,” challenges Leslie.

“Caleb!” my mom shouts. She points directly at her chest. “He made ME his power of attorney.”

Clara tosses her scarf to the floor, “Bull...”

“Tell them,” my mom is talking to the lawyer.

“It is true, Clara, Leslie. Caleb made Sarah power of attorney,” states Joseph standing in the middle of the floor as if he just broke up a fight.

“How? He probably was sick and out of his mind, “Clara stands up knocking her purse to the floor. “Why the heck would he give her control. I am pregnant with his child!” Clara claps her hands. “Sarah kids are taking care of. Mine isn’t. He must have been out of his mind.”

“He wasn’t out of his mind. I was there when he did. What’s the problem? He probably left stuff for all of us. My dad might have been in and out of our lives but he was never selfish. It’s not like he has anything valuable. He was a carpenter for god sakes,” I say to them all.

“Well, Nate, that’s not all to it. Your father saved a lot of money. He also wanted you to have everything in his garage,” my mom goes into her bag then takes out a sheet of paper. “He saved up $210,000 dollars. That includes the money from his insurance policy.”

“Right. And you want to give it all to your kids. What about mines?” says Clara throwing her hands up in the air. “What about mines.”

“Yours! Clara, what about my family?” Leslie stands up, “We deserve some too. You are just some woman. Sorry you are pregnant.”

Clara rushes toward Leslie, “What!”

Joseph wraps his arm around Clara who is pushing him off. Joseph reminds Clara she is pregnant and needs to calm down. Nine times out of ten, it was one of these two who were on the phone talking to my mother earlier.

“Why are you two acting a fool? You know Caleb just died,” my mom says. “Can you give him time to rest.”

“Sarah, why don’t you rest!” Clara points at my mom. “Stop runnin’ your mouth. You want me to be quiet so you can get all of that money.”

“I don’t want the money. Not like that. Don’t worry, everyone is getting something. Most of it is going to his children.”

“That money isn’t for your kids. I am his girlfriend,” says Clara.

“Actually you’re not anymore, have you not been paying attention to why we are here in this hospital tonight!” replies my mom.

“Oh you want to be funny!” Clara picks up her bag and throws it at my mom nearly hitting her in the face.

My cheeks feel up with air as I shake my head and bald up my fist. A nurse comes in the room.

“Can you all quiet down. We can’t allow all of this ruckus in the hospital. Unless you are taking care of paperwork with the hospital, you only have fifteen minutes left before you have to leave. Thank you.”

“I plan on giving all the money to his kids. He gave the rest of his belongings to his kids, why wouldn’t he the money. Oh here is a shocker for you all, he told me to let Nathaniel decide where the money goes,” declares my mom.

“Well, he has other family,” says a defensive Leslie. “I am his sister.”

“And I am his ex-wife! What does all of that have to do with this?”

“Is it in writing?” asks Clara taking a seat.

“No, but he told me a few days ago. It really doesn’t matter because I am the power of attorney so what I say goes.”

I take a couple steps toward my mom, “He wants me to do it?”


“What do he know, he is what, 19 or 20 years old,” says Leslie.

“Don’t listen to them Nate, you have time to make your decision. I was there when Caleb made this request. If it is too much of a burden, I will work with you,” declares Joseph.

“You know what; my dad told me his will already. That’s probably why he didn’t have one. Aunt Leslie, Clara you can have all the money. All I need is the items he left me in his garage,” I say.

My mom comes over to give me a hug, “You don’t have to. You deserve some of the money also.”

“Nope, my dad left the materials I need in his garage. I know what he wants me do…”


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