FROM READERS: A tale based on the idiom 'never look a gift horse in the mouth'

Thursday, June 27, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:52 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 27, 2013

Margaret Prezioso-Frye is a single mother of two children who moved to Columbia in 1987. She often writes poems and stories and shares them with the Columbia Missourian.

A foreboding tale based on the proverb that exhorts "never look a gift horse in the mouth." It's wise not to take advantage.


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The Gift Horse

Did you ever wish the ATM would spew out 20s above and beyond your withdrawal like you read about in the paper? What gets me is the number of people who return the money to the bank. I don’t see the harm in keeping it; it’s more of a stroke of good luck as far as I’m concerned. You’ve heard, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth”? I wouldn’t.

Pipe dreams aside, I went out to window shop one gorgeous warm day caught between those cooler spring-might-be-coming-but-winter-doesn’t-want-to-give-up days, my way of seizing my gift horse to get outside. As I sauntered along the sidewalk a newly opened electronics store caught my eye, advertising sinful discounts on everything but the door and glass front. I made an immediate left and entered into a gadgets wonderland. I readily succumbed tossing several items into the mini cart. Registers were bountiful with cashiers and baggers; mine a very pleasantly muscled young man. As I carried on conversation with the woman in line ahead of me, then pleasantly muscled and my cashier, he loaded my cart and I floated back out to the car. As I was loading the hatch I remember thinking there seemed to be too many bags for my order, but I slammed it shut anyway and drove home.

I pulled into the driveway, stopped, got the mail and began thumbing through the envelopes. There was something there from the government. I thought, “What could this be” as I got back into the car, parked and went inside. I threw the mail on the table and began unpacking. One bag wasn’t mine at all. It had an expensive DVD player in it and a bank envelope with cash and a receipt showing a balance I could only wish were mine. I realized it must’ve belonged to the woman whom I was talking to in line, knew I wouldn’t want to be her, which didn’t stop me from gleefully thinking to myself, “It can happen” as I took out and counted the cash, put it in my wallet, put the envelope and receipt in the paper trash, set up the player, then took boxes and paper trash to the empty drum in the backyard for “burnables” and lit the fire. After it had burned down enough that the fire didn’t reach over the rim, I walked back inside.

I put a DVD in the player, sat down and with one of my favorite childhood movies as background, opened the mail. The government had sent a social security check. I was stumped. I wasn’t old enough for social security just yet. I looked at the name on the check and realized it wasn’t mine. The check itself was for just over two grand so I decided to see whom it belonged to. With my movie still going on in the background I grabbed my laptop and began the search. The woman was recently deceased. I couldn’t believe my luck! I’d figured I’d have to give it back because it’d be too risky to deposit and hope no one’d realize it; her being dead changes things. I couldn’t help but muse about keeping the name alive for a while. Anyway, I stopped what I was doing and drove to the ATM. Looking over my receipt I thought, “Well, it’s not as much as that other person had but I can live with it. This turned out to be such a great day!”

That night I dreamt I was in pain that kept intensifying, I wanted to jump up but I was trapped. My body jerked awake tingling; I opened my eyes realizing it was morning. Throwing back the covers I saw a large brown mark on my right shin. I hadn’t bumped into anything that I could remember. I staggered into the living room and glanced down at the laptop that’d been left on. There was my newly deceased friend’s obituary. As I was skimming through, sighing a “thanks” for her contribution, I saw she’d been cremated. I didn’t remember reading that the first time. As I moved my hand over the cursor to close the window I glanced down at her picture. The eyes seemed to be looking straight at me.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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