The Devil’s Golden Handcuffs (Genre: Allegory)

The Devil’s Golden Handcuffs (Genre: Allegory)

In a sleepy hamlet just over the hill, a man named Jim put an ad in the paper for a day-laborer to dig him a hole. Three townsfolk, being down on their luck, answered the ad.

The first, a man well past his prime, spent half a day digging before Jim offered him a glass of water. The older man thanked Jim and drank, though it tasted tinny and stale. The man continued to dig at Jim’s direction, until he had a hole that was three feet wide, eight feet long, and six feet deep. Then the man keeled over dead from a heart attack.

The second, a single mother of three, spent considerably longer digging. Jim paid less than she’d have liked but a fair market wage for digging. She was immeasurably strong and had babies to feed, so she returned, day after day, until the hole got hotter and the screams got louder and she could no longer see the opening at the top. Despite all her good intentions, she never saw her children again.

The third, a young man with more debt than opportunity, took the job because he thought he was supposed to. But after the first shovelful, he became suspicious.

When he hit three feet down, he asked, “What’s this hole for anyway?”

Surprised, Jim responded, “No one’s ever asked me that.”

The young man suddenly noticed scores of other patches nearby, covered in loose earth.

“I’ve hit a rock,” the man told Jim. “I can’t go any further.”

“Nonsense,” said Jim, hopping into the hole to prove there was no rock.

But once Jim started digging, the spell holding the young man transferred to Jim. The young man then scrambled out of the hole and away, leaving Jim to dig the same shovelful of dirt, over and over, for the rest of eternity.

Mary Elizabeth Summer is the author of the young-adult Trust Me mystery series. She lives in Beaverton with her wife, their daughter, their dog, and their evil overlor—er, cats.