Justin was peeking through the streaked living room window at his son, who was playing with bubbles in the courtyard. A tail stuck out from the back of Thomas’s pants and jiggled when he lunged at the bubbles.
   Justin’s wife Patricia poked her head into the living room. “Come look,” Justin chuckled, motioning Patricia over to the window. “Thomas has made himself a toilet paper tail. He’s playing with bubbles. I think I’d like to paint a picture of that.”
   Patricia’s mouth barely formed a smile. “You need to fix your bicycle tire instead so you can go looking for work.”
   Justin stared at the carpet, “But I told you the tire is all worn out. I have to get a new one.”
   “We don’t have enough money to buy a new tire. The rent is coming due and we don’t have enough money for that!”
   “I’m sorry,” Justin grimaced. “I’ve been looking for work. I really have, but no one is hiring right now.”
   “Then you’ll have to sell your bicycle so that we can eat, and maybe we’ll have enough money for rent.”
   Justin gazed sadly at the bicycle leaning against the wall near the door. The ten-speed had been a Christmas present from his parents many years before.
   “We need cash right now. You need to see if you can find someone who’ll buy that old thing from you.”
   “It may be old, but it’s still in good shape,” Justin groaned.
   “Good, then maybe we’ll get decent money for it.” Patricia retreated to the bedroom and closed the door.

The Madding Crowd

   Thomas pushed open the door and rushed to his room, so Justin wheeled the bike out to the courtyard and walked it down the street. The sidewalk swirled with currents of people. For a moment, when Justin squinted, the people seemed to snake around in one harmonious motion. Justin suddenly envisioned the composition of a painting.

Ten of Pentacles

   Justin suddenly noticed a strange man in a robe of many colors lounging on a bench. As Justin approached, he saw large golden coins hovering next to the old man. No one else appeared to notice the golden coins. Justin blinked, unable to believe his eyes. When he opened his eyes, the golden coins were still there.
   Justin gathered his courage and stepped toward the old man. “Pardon me, sir. I need to sell this bicycle so that my family can eat. I noticed your golden coins and thought you might like my bicycle.”
   The old man looked surprised. “So you noticed my coins?”
   “Yes, sir. It’s in really good shape, but the tire is flat and I can’t afford to buy another tire right now. Please, sir, my family really needs the money.”
   The old man squinted at Justin. “Well, son, I don’t have golden coins to spare, but I do have magic seeds. If you plant one, soon you’ll have a tree with golden coins just like mine.” The old man motioned toward the floating coins.
   Justin could not see a tree, but he could see that the coins hovered in a kind of pattern. “So this is a tree? I don’t see any branches.”
   The old man just smiled.
   “This bicycle is all I have,” Justin muttered. “You’re sure these seeds will grow?”
   “That depends on you,” he smiled.
   “Well, okay, but what if they don’t?”
   “I’ll be right here,” the old man stated, his eyes sparkling.
   “Well, all right.” Justin leaned the bike next to the bench. The old man handed him a small bag. Inside the bag were three golden seeds.
   “Thank you very much,” Justin grinned as he turned and headed home.
   Before he got home, Justin realized that his wife would not understand, so he slid the bag into his pocket and came up with a different story.

Take the next path.
Return to the meadow.