Some kind of light seemed to be coming from the bottom of the box. Bernie checked on David again, and his condition seemed worse than just a few minutes before. Bernie realized that he was dying. Something in this room was killing him. He returned to the box and began emptying it of its books. At the bottom he saw the money, green and neatly arranged in tidy rows.
David felt raindrops hitting his face. He opened his eyes slowly and saw hundreds of droplets of icy water clinging to the ceiling of his room. Drops were falling casually like rain off the leaves of the ficus tree at the park after an afternoon shower. He turned his head slowly towards the kitchen and saw Bernie kneeling down at the fireplace. David wanted to speak but couldn’t make his mouth form the words, so he laid there helplessly watching Bernie burning each pack of one hundred dollar bills, one by one at first but then all at once. The flames rose higher and higher and soon Bernie backed away from the heat.
Bernie watched the flames rise and wondered if he had been a fool. It was more money than he had ever seen before, more than he or David would ever see again, and there it was going up in smoke. First a fire had taken away David’s family and now it was destroying his fortune. Bernie had decided the whole business in a flash, in response to an unspoken assurance in his soul that it was this money that was killing his friend. He had grabbed the matches and lit the fire in a flurry without giving himself the chance to second guess himself, and now it was too late. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the flames.
David began to feel the warmth, then the feeling in his arms and legs returning, and then the strength of his voice. He threw back the covers and sat on the edge of the bed. By the time he stood to his feet, he had lost the anger. Bernie turned to him and didn’t seem surprised at his transformation. “It was killing you Davey. The money was killing you. I’m sorry”, Bernie slumped back into the kitchen chair.
David watched the last of the money curl up and disappear. “ But what will I do now? I have nothing.”
“Nothing? You’re alive, and you have the rest of your life.” Bernie reached into his jacket and removed the small cardboard box and tossed it on the table. “And you’ve got this. It’s the only part of that money that was redeemed because you gave it away. Well, now I’m giving it back to you. I don’t need it, but it might help you start over.”
A couple of weeks later Bernie drove David to the bus station. David headed back east to start fresh. Bernie would never see David again. Fifty miles into the trip, David removed his jacket to use it as a pillow against the cold window. A note fell out of his pocket. It was written in Calligraphy…Isaiah 42:16. David smiled and removed the white canvas bag of books in the overhead compartment and found his bible.
“ ..and I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. “
David laid his head against his jacket and closed his eyes. Sleep came quickly, gentle and soft.