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.
The snake’s gift means there will be enough food on the table and an end to our aching stomachs, Loukas thought.
It meant his mother could repair her stall at the village market where she sold fish and herbs.
It meant his father could buy supplies to overhaul his row boat and replace the worn oars.
It meant his family could mend the chinks in the cottage walls and patch the cottage’s crumbling foundation.
It meant they could return the kindness of neighbors who had come to the family’s rescue when their pantry had gone empty and only a few fish had made it into their baskets. Now they could reach out to neighbors who needed their help to survive. It could be his family’s mission.
In less time than it takes to blink an eye, Loukas wrapped the coins in the cloth he used for wiping down his flute. He then grabbed his things and sped down the trail to the dock where he waited for his father’s return.
Loukas’s heart was nearly bursting with excitement from anticipating his parents’ surprise when they would first lay eyes on the snake’s precious offering.
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