The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - FIDELMA COOK cook­fi­delma@hot­ Twit­ter: @fi­del­ma­cook

ONCE upon a time in a land far away lived a woman who had a magic touch when it came to find­ing money. From an early age she found the locks on the por­tals of the money palaces opened at her glance and the guardians smil­ingly filled her cof­fers with coins.

When the cof­fers emp­tied, as hap­pened fre­quently, she would open an­other lock and lo, that guardian would quickly re­plen­ish the empty cof­fer and even give her more coins to fill an­other cof­fer.

For many, many years she skipped from money palace to money palace hap­pily pay­ing the for­feit they asked – coins back when she had them plus a lit­tle, well a lot, more.

In time she no longer had to magic open the locks for the guardians sent her small plas­tic cards she could use any­where and ev­ery­where up to enor­mous amounts.

Up to and, be­cause of her magic touch, far be­yond the orig­i­nal sum.

And the more she used these to­kens, the more other guardians came to of­fer more and more coins and more and more to­kens.

How she ac­cepted them all and danced around the globe scat­ter­ing them to spread their good­ness to less for­tu­nate mor­tals.

There were a few un­set­tling mo­ments when a stern guardian would call her to his palace and tell her this couldn’t go on.

That al­ways came as a sur­prise as she was so un­used to such hard words from these kindly bene­fac­tors and so squeezed tears into her eyes. They couldn’t bear her sor­row and they dried her eyes with the promise of fur­ther coins.

And she, in re­turn, promised to “sort her­self out” and “learn pru­dence”, what­ever that meant, and off she went to spread her coins fur­ther.

One day the nice peo­ple who gave her load­sacoins for writ­ing for them said there would be no more. But af­ter a lot of se­ri­ous money talk they handed her a bag of gold.

The guardians queued up for their share and she felt fresh tears of sor­row pay­ing them all off, know­ing that never again would her magic work, and they would never more come to her call.

So she ban­ished her­self to a coun­try across the sea and a house in a field where no temp­ta­tions would ever come knock­ing.

There she met an­other guardian; a fierce queen who could not be ca­joled by a smile and a promise. This guardian told her the only coins she could take from this palace would be the ones she put in.

(The woman had never been in such a palace be­fore and it fright­ened her.)

If she used the book of pa­pers called cheques to give more than she had, she would be cast out and could even face the dun­geon.

And the plas­tic keys? The fierce queen laughed in her face.

The woman knew then she had re­verted to be­ing a mere mor­tal and for a long time fever­ishly counted and re-counted her hand­ful of coins to make sure she used only what she had.

She sorely missed her old guardians on her brief for­ays into the big towns and could only press her nose against the Max Mara win­dows – glass be­tween her and the cash­mere beige of a mid-calf coat she didn’t need.

Rarely would she re­turn to the land far away, for no longer could she meet her old friends who had the same magic as she once had. She could no longer use the plas­tic key that bought the bot­tles that fizzed on open­ing or pay for the din­ners as she al­ways did.

And her pride would not al­low her to sit there, a poor rel­a­tive at the feast. So in time she stopped go­ing and used her coins to buy only the great­est magic of all – books and more books.

And in time too, as her writ­ing brought more coins to the cof­fer she now fully con­trolled, she grew to quite like this fis­cal life where real grown-ups sat be­hind the locked doors she could no longer magic open.

Of course there were times she raged and ranted in her empty house as un­fore­seen prob­lems de­manded coins or had to be ig­nored.

But in gen­eral it was a bet­ter fi­nan­cial sys­tem, she con­vinced her­self.

Then, one day, a big tem­pete huffed and puffed and blew part of her house down. She phoned the in­sur­ance guardians who will­ingly agreed to pay and sent work­men to look at the dam­age.

The re­pair would cost close to €3000 but they would meet it as they had done the last time the big wind came. When a cheque came for al­most €1800 for first pay­ment to the work­men who still have not come, the woman was dis­con­certed for nor­mally she never saw the money.

So she put it in her bank and tried to for­get about it.

One day she re­alised with hor­ror that a de­mon must have stolen and spent it and so she spends her days avoid­ing the call that will tell her the work­men are on their way.

And be­rates her­self for re­vert­ing to her old magic be­liefs that “some­thing will turn up”.

In a real fairy­tale, of course, some­thing will.

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