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The Tire Iron

Editor’s note:  This article previously appeared in Peter Muilenburg’s book, “Adrift on a Sea of Blue Light.”

It’s a funny thing about  coincidence…the  dictionary defines it as something remarkable happening by chance… yet the greater the coincidence, the less likely it seems to be by chance.  I experienced a "coincidence" once that really made me wonder—was it just a fluke?  Maybe, but you’ll never convince me.   

Some years ago my family and I were living on St. John, the smallest and least developed of the US Virgin Islands.  The old house we inhabited sat all by itself on a beautiful cove at the end of a long unpaved road. Beautiful…but when we needed something it was a long way into town.

One morning I discovered that not only did my old VW bug have a flat tire, its tire iron was missing too.  I searched all through my shop, and the house, asked the boys and my wife, to no avail.   Finally I had to trudge up the hill to see if any of my neighbors happened to have a lug wrench that would fit a VW bug.  No one did.

I was going to have to walk and hitch hike into town to buy one. Then I remembered it was a Sunday—and everything was closed.

My life was on hold till Monday.

My mood had rapidly deteriorated when I noticed a boat entering our cove.  My good friend Bob came close to shore and called out, "Hey Peter, want to go diving?"

"I can’t—I’ve been searching half the morning for my tire iron."

"Well if you haven’t found it by now, you might as well dive up some lobster instead.”

He was right.  I got my mask and fins and lobster snare, jumped into the boat and off we went, bouncing over the water, feeling the wind in my face and the sun on my back.  My mood started to lift.  I let myself go with the flow.

We anchored off a bold peninsula that juts almost a mile into the sea, put on our masks and fins, and entered the water, so clear it was like falling into liquid air.    Beauty flooded our eyes as we dove down to explore promising coral heads and came back to the surface, gasping for air. 
The diving felt good, the exercise and the deep breathing, the blue water, the loveliness of the coral.  Relaxed now, absorbed in the sport, I took a deep breath and glided towards a large brain coral that had a cave at its base. Putting my cheek close to the sand I looked into the gloom.   A red spotted rock hind peered back, and a platoon of glassy eyed sweepers patrolled restlessly back and forth, but no lobster. 

Yet there was something resting on the sand.   It was man-made, heavily overgrown with coral, and it looked a lot like a tire iron.

Intrigued, I brought it back to the boat.  With a diving knife I started scraping off the coral.  I could see it was steel.  Bob emerged and watched it take shape—one end was like a pry bar and the other was curved and had a socket. No question…It was a tire iron. 

Amazed, consumed with curiosity, we forgot about lobster, pulled up the anchor and Bob fired the boat full throttle over the water back to my place.  By the time we got there I had scraped the steel perfectly clean.  Handling my find with a certain awe, I took it ashore, called my wife and my sons, showed them what I had found…and tried it  on  one of the VW’s lug nuts. 

It fit.  A snug, perfect fit.  Stunned, I changed the tire.

Coincidence…?  Some would call it a miracle!  Whatever, it left me wondering whether more is going on in this world than meets the eye.

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