One rainy day, you will find a paperback copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at the Free Tiny Library on South Street in Jamaica Plain…
You will take it, and carry it around in your backpack for a few days before you start to read it. It will have a bookmark in it, and a couple of other pieces of paper that you won’t pay much attention to, until…
You start to get into the book, and one day, reading as the baby is napping, you will idly skim to where the papers are wedged in the pages, and find another bookmark, and…a twenty dollar bill. Folded demurely in half, and sitting there as if it were a perfectly natural place for a twenty dollar bill to be.
You will wonder whether it was left there on purpose or by accident. You will decide that on purpose makes for a much better story, and feel an exciting affinity to the person who left the bill there as, perhaps, some kind of psychological experiment. How intriguing! How many other bills did this extravagantly experimental person place in used paperbacks, in Boston and beyond? Or, even more fascinating a thought, is the experiment limited to used, paperback copies of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? What if there are copies of the book spread out in yard sales and used book stores nation-wide, each with its silently enigmatic, tousel-haired Andrew Jackson looking vaguely over the finder’s right shoulder? A wild fantasy, for sure, but it might be worth tracking down another copy or two, just to check.
Meanwhile, as you are entertaining these fantasies, the practical part of your brain will have made the observation that a freshly made sandwich from City Feed and Supply, previously outside of your food budget for the week, could now be purchased on the way home from work.
And the moral part of your brain will have just piped up, mentioning that, whether this is or isn’t some kind of social experiment, still, shouldn’t there be some element of paying it forward at work here? — but this is the point at which the baby will wake up from her nap, and the money and its ramifications will be forgotten for the next few hours…
Until the walk home after work, when hunger and the proximity of City Feed will bring the matter back to your mind, and you will somewhat fumblingly make a deal with God to buy your sandwich and give the change away. In the confusion of whether this is an acceptable arrangement with God, karma, and/or the person who placed the money in the book in the first place, you will walk right past an elderly man begging for money.
After you buy your sandwich, however, you will walk back and give the man a handful of ones.
There will still be a five dollar bill in your wallet, and you will decide to give that to the next person to ask you for money. This will turn out be a woman with two children in a parking lot in Connecticut several days later, who you drive past with your brother while looking for a movie theater. You will ask your brother to wait while you walk back to hand her the five dollar bill. While you are walking over, however, another woman will pull up and start handing the woman and her children bags full of groceries that she has just purchased for them, which will make your donation seem somewhat small and anti-climactic. But you will consider your duty done, and go back to your normal life in which money comes into your possession through means which you, for the most part, understand.