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A dollar's worth

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It's been years since The Observer — heathen that we are — has cracked the onionskin pages of the Bible, but our Momma raised us right, learning us the Good Book from an early age and prodding us out of bed and to church on Sunday mornings with the toe of her good pumps on occasion.

It says something about Yours Truly that the only things we remember from the Bible are the terrible parts: Ol' Sampson with his eyes gouged out, asking the slave boy to let him rest against the posts of the temple and then bringing the whole kit and kaboodle down on the Philistines, smusherizing them but good; God flushing the Pharaoh's armies away with a billion gallons of Red Sea; Revelations, so full of smoke and brimstone.

Our favorite passage of the passage of the Bible, though, is the one that never fails to give us a little flush of goose bumps: Job 2:1-2, the part where the Devil party-crashes what appears to be Heaven's annual companywide meeting, then gives God a non-answer worthy of any teenager — one that also happens to be one of the creepiest in the whole book:

"Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before God, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan: 'From whence comest thou?' And Satan answered God, saying: 'From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.' "

Yep, still creepy. We were an imaginative child, and once we learned from Ma that "The sons of God" probably meant angels, we were struck with a singular image that has never left us, even now: The obedient ranks of angels, standing row on row like soldiers before The Almighty on the parade ground of Heaven. Then comes ol' Splitfoot, wings belt black, more beautiful than all, smirking, winding like a snake among them and trailing his long fingernails over their feathers. "Hello, boys," he whispers. "Did ya miss me?"

From then on out, when The Boy Observer imagined Bad Things deep down in the night, that's what they looked like: the red-eyed Devil, preening his dark wings just behind our closet door while he waited for sleep to take us, fresh from going to and fro in the earth. Took us awhile to get to sleep on those nights, friends.

Speaking of impressionable young 'uns: We were rushing into Office Depot in North Little Rock for some envelopes over the weekend when we saw him: a boy, maybe 7, sitting alone in the back of a minivan in the parking lot. As we got out of The Mobile Observatory, the boy turned and smiled big, then held up a rumpled dollar bill to the glass. The message was clear: "Look what I got!" We gave him a thumbs up. When a kid under the age of 10 wants to brag on himself, that's the proper response, whether you want to respond or not.

The Observer remembers what it was to be that kid once, living in the bubble of childhood, safe from the cold rain of responsibility, all matters of finance studiously kept from us and whispered about only when the kiddies were asleep. And then, to get a dollar! To suddenly be a part of the world of commerce! To have near-infinite possibilities laid out before you like a smorgasboard! Should I get the Juicy Fruit gum or the balsa wood glider? Should I buy a comic book or a Wonka Bar? Slushie or parachute man? There was nothing like it in the whole world: that delicious feeling of having choices and trying to decide.

We make a lot more than a dollar a week these days, but the bloom is off the rose between The Observer and George. The older we get, the more we find that we hate money. Hate's a strong word, but it's the right one in this case. We hate spending money. We hate needing it. We hate writing tiny numbers in orderly columns, to be added and subtracted. We hate that some people have none, even though others have too much. We hate that it's a way of keeping score these days.

If only we could all go back there to where that kid is: so happy to have just a little, a dollar's worth of the world spread out before him like an overflowing table. That would be just fine by your Ol' Pal.

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