birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Shaped Like as Serpent

I've often thought that money, not an apple, caused the fall of humankind from Eden. Not that I'm all that religious, but I did grow up going to church a sufficient amount to have read my share of Bible stories about Adam and Eve and I have come to believe that the serpent in the tree was the real problem, not Eve or the apple. After all, what is a dollar sign shaped like? It's serpentine of course.

For most of my life, money has been the root of much consternation, if not evil. I've never been poor in the true sense, but always struggled, especially those years when I was a single mother raising three children on a single income. There were many times when I would run out of money before the month ended and I had to ration toilet paper and other paper products so that I could afford food staples. There were many times when I was not sure how I was going to pay for Christmas, which led me one year to the pawn shop where I borrowed $500 against my paid-for Mazda Protege.

The man who ran the pawn shop was a grizzled guy who was missing the little finger on his right hand, a fact that I could not help but notice when he tallied up my payment each month--the money I would scrounge together as a reminder of the the toys and Christmas nothings that loan had bought for my children. His name was Mr. Lee and he was not friendly, but I later realized he was kind--at least to me--and the experience of going in every month to pay just enough to keep my interest from ballooning or my car from being lost was humbling and great material for short stories. But it was also life-changing when Mr. Lee said to me on the day that I paid off the bill "I don't want to see you back in here. It's no way to live."

I left the pawn shop that day and went straight to a florist, bought a big bouquet of sunflowers with the measly change I had left over from my last pawnshop loan payment and took them back to Mr. Lee. When I laid them on the counter, Mr. Lee raised his right hand to his forehead and rubbed it with his four remaining fingers, an act of puzzlement I suppose. I doubt anyone had ever brought him flowers before. I just said "thank you" and walked away, never to darken his door again. Perhaps such whimsical purchases of sunflowers for a grizzled pawnshop owner were long the reasons I often had trouble making ends meet...not necessarily good budgeting protocol. But I think those few dollars may have been some of the best money I've ever spent, and the least serpent-like as well.

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