The old banker
walked up the stairs to his dark and gloomy study, where stacks of coins
piled up neatly on his redwood
desk. He sighed as he sat in his large chair and started counting the gold. He remembered the days of his youth when he was still a poor clerk
with only few light copper
pennies in his pocket and a heart just as light.
Those coins were a small fire, lit in the middle of a deep and cold winter forest – a silly little feeling of security and confidence among the endless trees and chilling wind. The banker thought about his first job, acquiring those coins, building the fire. Cold, alone and yet so full of hope, a man rearranges the dry branches and tries to light a fire with a few damp matches. Seeing the dull glow of the coins, the first glow of the burning wood, made him smile. How happy these pennies made him, he thought. The soft smell of smoke and the sound of the first branches beginning to crackle as the flames spread to them puts a sense of victory in the man’s heart, and finally sets him at ease as he is no longer in danger. The fire warms the heart and revives the soul, giving the man will to live, will to struggle on and survive.
The banker remembered the first time he thought that his money was not enough for him. The man can only sit in front of a small fire for so long before he finally realizes how insignificant his little piece of warmth is in contrast to the dreadful cold of the forest. He forgets that this fire saved him from the cold, and begins asking for more. He rises from his seat and strides back into the cold forest, searching for larger pieces of wood to burn. Abandoning the happiness that the small fire provides but remembering that it is all an investment that is soon to be repaid by a warmer fire.
The banker remembers the first moment of true confidence he ever felt. A moment well earned, he thought, after so many years of hard work in which he deprived himself of all forms of joy. As the man gathers more wood in the cold, he builds his fire to be taller and taller, getting warmer and warmer until bullets of greasy sweat begin to drip from the face. He stands and, looking at the fire, smiles with satisfaction. The ever-moving and swirling flames are reflected in his watery eyeballs, blocking the window to the soul. And yet the large fire has to be maintained and closely watched. He no longer has time to enjoy himself, having to keep the fire high, tall and strong. As the fire is growing, he has to quickly run to the forest and gather more wood.
The banker’s eyes became slightly damp as he thought back and realized how empty his life had been all those years. The bigger the fire, the more maintenance it requires, and one always wants a bigger fire. Wood is being tossed violently into the flames in an attempt to recreate that feeling of genuine happiness in newfound warmth. As the fire becomes larger and larger, it refuses to die out. Confidence is once again found and he feels invincible.
As the minutes pass, the fire grows until the entire forest is set ablaze. While watching the defeated forest burn, the victorious smile is wiped of the face and is replaced by bitter tears of regret. The man then realizes that there is no satisfaction in defeating the forest and the feeling of happiness will never be found again.