Digest>Archives> August 2002

A Dime in Time

By Carl Hose


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Will Jenkins had been a sea captain for more than forty years. He’d spent his life sailing the ocean, forsaking the love and comfort of a family in favor of the ocean’s raging glory. He was respected and loved by everyone who sailed with him. His crew affectionately referred to him as Willie.

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Today was Willie’s last day at sea. He was due in port in less than an hour, where he would set foot on dry land and leave the sea behind forever. It pained him to think about it, but sometimes a man just had to let things go.

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Besides, it wasn’t like he would never see the ocean again. Willie planned to return to Rock Point and spend the remaining days of his life repairing the lighthouse that had been so much a part of his childhood. His parent’s had devoted their lives to Rock Point. Willie had been born there, at the base of the lighthouse, and it was at Rock Point where he learned to love and respect the sea.

Willie patted his helmsman on the back and went for one last tour of the ship. While he was at it, he thought he might as well pay a visit to the special passenger in cabin number 10 on the lower deck.

Willie didn’t know much about the man, except that he was down on his luck and in desperate need to get home. He’d been aboard Willie’s ship ever since the last port of call. Willie had found him huddled in a corner, hungry and shivering. The man told Willie he was trying to get back home to see his mother, who was dying in a hospital, but that he’d been robbed and could no longer afford the fare. Willie allowed the man to sail with him free of charge.

It dawned on Willie that he didn’t know the man’s name. He knocked on the door to cabin number 10. The man answered, smiling when he saw Willie. “We should be docking soon,” Willie said.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to repay you. I wasn’t honest with you earlier. No one robbed me. I’m nothing more than a bum. My mother is dying. That part is the truth. Had you not come along, she would have died without me by her side. I’ve been a bum all my life, and I’ve never done anything to make her proud. At least I’ll be there to tell her that my failure isn’t her fault.”

“There are no failures in this life, young man. Some of us simply have better luck than others.”

“I was lucky to find you,” the man said. “This brought me my luck.” The man dug into his pocket and produced a shiny dime. “I want you to have it. It was given to me just before you came along. The old man who gave it to me promised it would bring me luck, and indeed it did. Maybe it will do the same for you.”

“Thank you,” Willie said. He slipped the dime into his pocket. “I’ll leave you to enjoy the rest of the trip now. This is my last time at sea. I’d like to spend a little time saying goodbye.”

Willie left the man, whose name he never did learn, and it was the last time Willie ever saw him. Willie disembarked when he reached port. He returned to Rock Point and found it in a worse state than he had imagined. The lighthouse was nonfunctional, vandals had spray painted everything in sight, and the tiny cottage had been broken into and wrecked. There was nothing left that even resembled what Willie remembered from his childhood.

Willie knew he could never restore the lighthouse to her former glory without going through his life savings and then some. As much as he loved Rock Point, he could see no future for her, and if there was no future for Rock Point, then there would be no future for Willie Jenkins. Returning to the lighthouse had been his lifelong dream, and now that the dream seemed out of reach, Willie felt he might just as well retire for good, right up to that big lighthouse in the sky.

Willie shook his head sadly as he looked over the decaying lighthouse. He walked beyond the lighthouse and stood on the point, staring out at the ocean. He reached into his pocket and felt something. He rubbed it between his fingers. It was the dime from the ship. He took the coin from his pocket and studied it for a moment. Willie believed in luck, but the sort of luck he needed right now wasn’t going to come from a dime.

He shrugged and threw the coin into the ocean.

Willie went into town and bought a few supplies. He would have to abandon the lighthouse, that much was certain, but before he let her go for good, he intended to spend a few nights recalling childhood memories. What time had taken away from Rock Point, Willie’s fond memories could restore, at least for the time being.

It was beginning to storm when Willie got back from town. He lit a fire in the fireplace, made a pot of coffee, and filled his pipe with tobacco. He sat in an old wooden rocker by the fire and started reading Moby Dick. It was still his favorite novel of all time. He’d read it more than a hundred times for sure, but he could never get enough of it. A good book didn’t go bad just because a man read it once. A good book kept right on being good, and by God, Moby Dick was a good book all the way around.

Willie was getting into the story when there was a knock at the door. Willie couldn’t imagine who would be knocking on the door this time of night, especially in the middle of a storm. He went to the door and opened it. There was no one there, but just before willie shut the door, he saw a canvas bag sitting on the porch. He picked the bag up and carried it inside. He walked over to the little wooden table where he used to eat his meals as a child. He dumped the bag out on the table. Hundreds of shiny dimes spilled everywhere.

Willie couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He ran his fingers through the dimes and came up with a slip of paper. On the slip of paper was a handwritten message. It read: Give this money to someone who needs it.

Willie put the dimes back in the bag. He counted $30.00, which he took into town the next morning and gave to a shelter for the homeless. The next night there were two more canvas bags delivered to Willie in the same fashion as the first, and again, a note that read: Give this money to someone who needs it.

Willie took the money into town and gave it to the same homeless shelter as he had the previous day.

On the third night, Willie found a trunk sitting on his porch. The trunk contained stacks of $100 dollar bills. Willie counted the money. It was $50,000. A note attached to the trunk read: Give this money to someone who needs it.

Willie took the money into town and split it between the church and the homeless shelter. When the pastor of the church asked Willie why he hadn’t used the money himself, Willie said that he had considered it, but that he could not have done it in good conscience.

The pastor told the local paper about the donations Willie Jenkins had made to the church and to the shelter. A reporter for the paper went and interviewed Willie. The interview was picked up on a national level.

Willie became a living legend. He got visits from reporters all over the country. They wrote about Willie and his last voyage. They wrote about the mysterious stranger and the dime. They wrote about Rock Point. They wrote about the money Willie had donated to the church and to the shelter.

One morning, Willie woke up to the sound of dump trucks in his yard. He counted half a dozen.

“Where do you want us to dump ‘em?” one of the drivers called out to Willie.

“Dump what?” Willie asked.

“The dimes?”


“All of these trucks, they’re full of dimes,” the driver called out. “And there’s another hundred trucks just like this one waiting their turn.”

Dump trucks came and went all day and all night for a week. A hundred trucks became two hundred, two hundred became three hundred. Rock Point became a dumping ground for dimes. The dimes piled up faster than Willie and the local bank could get them turned into bills and deposited. Willie had never imagined so many dimes in his life. Nearly the whole town donated their time to help count them.

The dimes soon became $10.00 bills, and in a month’s time, the $10.00 bills became $100 dollar bills. Within six months Willie had half a million dollars set aside for the restoration of Rock Point.

One night after Rock Point was back to her former glory and in full service, Willie was sitting beside the fireplace, smoking his pipe and looking through a book on sea disasters. He thumbed through the picture section and suddenly lost his breath. One of the photos was of a man Willie recognized. He studied it thoroughly, and sure enough, the photo was of the man who had given Willie the dime on his final day at sea. Only thing was, the man had died in his early thirties, fifty years before Willie received the dime.

There was a knock on Willie’s door. He set his book down and went to answer it. There was no one there, but lying on the porch at Willie’s feet was a shiny dime. Willie picked the dime up and held it. He looked out toward the ocean and saw that a storm was brewing. Thick fog had begun to cloak the night, and somewhere in the distance, just beyond the salty mist, Willie saw someone he recognized-someone who had been dead for fifty years.

Willie closed his fingers around the shiny dime and closed his door. It was time to get up top and turn on the beacon. There would be a lot of ships depending on Rock Point’s light tonight. . . .

This story appeared in the August 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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