It was five past six and I had to get home fast--very fast. My mum warned me that if I arrived home later than six she would ground me. I was frequently late from school, as I usually hung out at the West Street provision store to read “Heroes in Action.” I had been saving up to buy the latest edition which was displayed in a highly-secured locked glass cupboard.
“Five, ten, fifteen, seventeen, seventeen-fifty, nineteen, twenty. Yes! Exactly twenty dollars!
This was months of saving up and tomorrow I am going to get my hands on my long-awaited latest edition of “Heroes in Action.” I zipped through backstreet alleys and lanes, my usual shortcut home. Having lived in Westborough district for eleven years, I knew the place well. The clock struck on the half-hour and I was prepared to face my mum’s bloodcurdling, volcanic eruption and her usual one-hour diatribe about being late.
Ding dong. The wide oak door opened with a creaking sound.
“Please forgive me! Have mercy on me, Mum! I will never be late ever again! I promise!”
“You always break your promises. Why do you always tell lies! God, please send someone to teach this lad a lesson!”
Burning silence followed. My mum was so outraged; she did not say anything else to me. There was temper-management pills scattered on the khaki coffee table. I slowly trudged up to my room. I felt guilty. My mum was mad at me, and I still had a whole pile of homework which was due the next day. I never cried in my life, but this time tears started trickling from my eyes.
All of a sudden, a mystical shroud of light floated in front of me. The mysterious shadow turned into a transparent figure, then into a solid figure.
“Do you have a problem, child? I can solve any problem for just twenty dollars.”
“I have piles of homework and all of them are due tomorrow. My mom is mad at me because I’m late. I will give anything you want to help me complete all my homework.”
“Then twenty dollars is the deal. By the way, my name is Snake-Man, the King of Snakes.”
He was half man and half snake. He had a pale face, green eyes and a pointed nose. His body seemed stretched because of his extreme thinness. Snake-Man was holding a long and fat pipe with Indian patterns hand-painted on it. Snake-man started blowing his pipe. The pipe summoned thousands of snakes: rattlesnakes, boa constrictors, vine snakes, king snakes, queen snakes, all types of snakes. I felt terrified. I almost fainted. I could not believe what I was seeing.
I woke up and gently flipped over my homework. To my amazement they were all finished! Questions ran though my head. How did Snake-Man appear? Who sent him to me? I still owed him twenty dollars. That would mean I could not buy the latest comic. Perhaps Snake-Man was imaginary. If he reappeared, perhaps I could use my toy gun to scare him away. I locked the doors and windows.
As time passed, I laid on my bed, thinking about how I should reconcile with my mum. I thought and thought, thought and thought and thought until I lost track of time. I stared at the clock and it was already nine. All of a sudden, Snake-Man reappeared. I tried to grab hold of my toy gun but he grabbed my hands resolutely.
“Where are my twenty dollars? You broke your promise,” Snake-Man asked soberly.
I refused to give him my money. The comic was more important. Betrayed, his sobriety morphed into anger and he pronounced,
“I cast the Punishment of Lie on you. And you shall crawl like a snake on your tummy for the rest of your life.”
Snake-man started to blow his pipe. Before, I witnessed his pipe do miracles, but now I dreaded that curses would come forth. Before he could finish blowing the East Asian strains, I interjected.
“Please, I will give you my twenty dollars. Here, twenty dollars! Forgive me!”
“I’ve had enough of your lies. You have already lied seventy multiplied by seven times! But you are forgiven if you say sorry to everyone you lied to and broke promises to.”
Quickly, I dashed downstairs without remembering how angry my mum was.
“Mum! Mum! I’m sorry for lying. I shall take any punishment from you. Please forgive me. If I ever lie and break promises again, I will crawl on my tummy for the rest of my life!”
Shocked, and touched at the same time, she said softly,
It’s a good thing you’ve learned your lesson. Now, go do your homework.”
As I turned, I thought I saw my mum smiling at Snake-Man….