David admired the lush, green beauty of the woods as he trailed down a well-worn path. The cocoa-complected fellow raised his arm and checked the time as he held his suitcase.
The forest teemed with life as birds chirped their mating calls and playful squirrels scampered about the forest floor. He hoisted his briefcase over his shoulder and whistled a merry tune, taking in the spring vibe the forests generously provided.
Man, I’m glad it’s spring. No more shut-in days during winter that ran my utility bills sky-high. I swear with all this technology becoming more advanced and cheaper, you’d think they would make energy just as cheap around here. I bet they know how but don’t wanna. Greedy turds.
He shook his head in disapproval, but threw away the negative thoughts in favor of the beautiful day.
Have to be at work for nine, but I want to take in this nice air before I sit inside a cubicle all day. Wish I was traveling. Nothing beats just going to new places and seeing new sights. I remember going to Africa when I was a kid. Seeing the zebras and giraffes prance across the savanna is what inspired me to want to be a traveler. Got to have money for it though and I don’t get paid enough. Well, that’s Life I guess.
As he trailed past a coast redwood tree, he stopped and saw something in the distance. As he diverted from the trail, his black tennis shoes crunched loose twigs as he passed through. When he arrived at a sycamore tree, his eyes widened in elation when he noticed a hundred-dollar bill resting on some shrubs.
Wow! A hundred-dollar bill! Is this for real? Man, I can pay my bills and grab me some designer tennis shoes.
He looked to his left and right to see if anyone was near and stooped to pick it up.
“Alright Benjamin! Come to daddy”
SNAP! Then, a rope sprung from beneath the leaves and snagged his feet together.
“WHOAH!” He shouted as his head smacked the dirt. He dropped his suitcase and bill while he is hoisted high in the air. Upside down, he grew dizzy as blood rushed to his head and his coat dangled from his swaying torso.
“What the hell!? He shouted as he flailed his arms in panic. His pen and phone fell from his pocket and plummeted into a pile of leaves. Looking up, his stomach crunched as he reached for his bound feet; however, years of neglect and laziness towards his body caused him flop to his original position.
Ok, I’m hanging upside down in the middle of the forest caught in one of the most ancient traps ever known to man. And what makes it worse is that I can’t escape. God, I hope the guys at work don’t see me like this. I’ll never hear the end of it.
Weak, dizzy and helpless, David did the one thing he knew would help him in this situation.
“HELP! HELP! ANYONE HERE?”
The birds answered with chirps and a swarm of bees flew past his feet.
“HELP!” He shouted again as he dangled from the rope.
“You stuck?” An innocent voice spoke from behind.
David spun around and saw a brown-skinned teenage girl with long braids, wearing a brown shirt, jeans and sandals. She kicked her feet as she sat on top a thick branch and planted her elbows on her thighs. Amused at his predicament, she cupped her chin in her palms and smiled as she swayed her head to the tune she hummed.
“Thank God.” David said as a wave of relief rushed over him. “Can you help me? Some idiot just played a prank on me.”
“Idiots?” she said as she stopped kicking her feet.
“Who’s the idiot here? The one who planted the trap or the one who’s too stupid to notice the obvious? Hasn’t anyone taught you that if it’s too good to be true, it normally is? It’s good advice if you listen.”
“What? Who in their right mind sets traps in the middle of the forest in this day and age?” He asked as he slowly spun. His crunched a little to ease the blood rushing to his head.
“The kind who knows it still works. You weren’t the only one who got caught in this genius device. I’ve made quite a killing.”
“Oh, so you’re the one who’s responsible for this.” He said, slightly annoyed.
The girl smiled and bobbed her head.
“Do you have any idea what kind of trouble you’re in, young lady?” he barked.
“Not really. Though it pales in comparison to what’ll happen to you. Judging by the suit you’re wearing, you must work for some fancy company.”
“OH no, I’m going to be late!” He says, running his hand through his well-groomed bush. “I’m going to get fired if I don’t contact them. This is your fault!”
“My fault?” the girl said with a raised eyebrow. “Think about that statement for a few moments. You were on your way to work, you saw the money, walked off the path and went for the cash. How is any of that my fault?”
“You were the one who set the trap!?” David said, outraged.
“You’re just blaming me for your misfortune, sir.” She chuckled. “It’s obvious you prioritize money over your responsibilities.”
“Girl!” He shouts, “You just said that you caught other people with the same trap, didn’t you? It’s just stupid to just walk past it and leave it there.”
“Thinking like that is what caused your predicament, sir.” She said as she extended her legs and pointed her toes at him. “A hundred dollar bill is about to cost you more than it’s actually worth. I’m sure you’re regretting ever going for the cash now, aren’t you?”
David hung in silence as his body swayed. He cursed himself the minute he got caught and hoped to wake up from this nightmare. He was about to lose his job and everything he worked so hard for.
“Is this how you live your life, sir?” She asked as she leaned closer. “Setting aside your goals and dreams just so you can have an extra dollar? How’s that worked out for you? I bet you were going to spend that money on something stupid, weren’t you?”
Her words stung deeper than anything he ever felt.
“Pathetic,” she said and pulled away from him.
“Look,” he said stumbling over what to say. “It’s hard, okay? I don’t know what’ll happen tomorrow when I barely have enough for today.”
“All the more reason not to get distracted, don’t you think?” She says, pointing to her brain. “Don’t let material wealth throw away the only gift that’s precious to you. If you lose that, then you can’t buy it back no matter how much money you have.”
“I understand” David said with a slight nod.
“Now.” She says with a gentle clap as she stood on the branch in perfect balance and clasped her hands behind her back. “I am willing to negotiate for your freedom.”
“My freedom?” David asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Freedom isn’t free, sir. Surprising I know,” she chuckled. “You have to start using your money wisely, starting today. Spending money on junk will bring you where you are now.”
“How much?” David said while he rolled his eyes.
“How much got you into this predicament?”
“You want a hundred dollars?”
“Fine” He says.
After he fiddled around his blazer, he managed to pull out his wallet and remove a crisp bill. When he held it out, the young woman snatched it and shoved it deep into her pocket.
“Thank you.” She said with a sly grin.
“You know I probably lost my job by now because of you.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll do fine.” She replied as she grabbed a machete from the back of her jeans. “There are plenty jobs out there; including ones that allow you to travel and see the world.”
“How did you know I wanted to travel?” David asked with a perplexed look on his face.
The girl didn’t respond but smiled as she swung the blade and cut him loose.
“WHOAH!” He shouted as he hit the leafy ground in a grunt.
He quickly rose and patted the leaves, feeling for his cell. After a brief moment, he finally retrieved it from the bottom of the pile.He turned it on, tapped the screen and went directly to his messages.
Don’t bother coming in for work today. You’re fired.
David sighed in disappointment as his arms dropped to his side.
But, he cracked a smile after he recalled the advice given to him.
“Well, guess I need to find another job.” He said as he shoved his phone into his pocket. He dusted the leaves off his suit, picked up his brief case and walked away. “Maybe I can be a tour guide or something.”
As he left, the girl from behind the tree stepped on the trail and folded her arms. She smiled and gave an approving nod after watching David leave. She walked back to the place where he dropped the bill, scooped it up, and placed it back in its position. She dusted her clothes and clapped her hands.
“Looks like my job is done, for now”
Putting her hands in her pockets, she walked away and a brilliant set of angelic wings sprouted from her back before she vanished into thin air.