From his perch, Loukas could see trawlers and tall ships moving to and from the harbor. Flocks of squawking gulls soared and plummeted above the boats’ misty wakes, their webbed feet barely touching the sea’s churning surface.
As was his habit, Loukas soon began playing a cheerful tune on his flute. He slowed or quickened the rhythm to keep pace with the gulls’ sweeping movements. Just when he started mounting a rapid series of high notes, out of the corner of his eye he spotted a snake weaving its way toward him.
Loukas played on, slowly turning to catch a glimpse of his visitor. This snake looked just like the snakes Loukas and his friends came upon in the island’s rocky hillsides. From the snake’s markings, Loukas could tell it was a leopard snake.
Islanders welcomed leopard snakes into their gardens. From ancient tales came the belief that leopard snakes brought good luck to households. Because their fangs dripped no venom, leopard snakes were favored as pets throughout the island.
In the bright sunlight, the snake’s silver scales glowed with a trail of dark-edged, reddish-brown stripes. Close to each of these marks was a black splotch that made Loukas think of little shields protecting the snake from its enemies.
Of all the snake’s features Loukas could see at first glance, it was the snake’s eyes that held the boy spellbound. The eyes—large, round, and black—stared so intently into Loukas’s own eyes he wondered if the snake was trying to search his thoughts.
The snake came to a sudden stop at Loukas’s feet and slowly raised its thick body to its full height. It stood on its wiry tail and swayed from side to side in harmony with the changing pulse of Loukas’s surging rhythms.
Loukas slowed the tempo and brought the song through its final measures. At once, the snake sank to the ground and slithered across the same stony path that had led it to the boy and the delightful sounds of his flute. Before retreating to its shelter, it twisted its head around and peered at Loukas, its tongue flickering a steady beat.
Once the snake had slipped away, Loukas drew in a deep breath at what he saw on the path before him. In its wake, the snake had left behind a gift of not one, not two, but three gold coins that shimmered in the sun’s brilliant light.
Loukas called out a “thank you” to the snake.
“My prayers have been answered,” Loukas said aloud while making the sign of the cross. Like his mother and father, he often prayed for an end to the suffering the family was made to endure with only a few pennies to see them through each and every day.
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