by m. james moore

  Gary Snyder received a package one day from his friend in Pensacola. It was flat, rigid, and didn’t appear especially useful even unwrapped. Gary called his friend about it.

  "Rand! Thanks for the... umm... gift."

  "You’re welcome, Gary! Have you tried it out yet?"

  "Tried it out? It’s a door, Rand, and only about a foot tall. How could I possibly try it out?"

  "No, no, silly. You set it on your coffee table in front of the couch, or whatever. If you’re ever in some sort of bind or trouble, knock on it a few times and expect your need to be granted!"

  "Then what, Rand? Is this some joke of yours? You know I don’t buy into any of that voodoo-superstition-hubbub."

  "Just try it, and you’ll see. It doesn’t matter whether you’re superstitious or not Gary, because it will work. Just try it!"

  Gary wasn’t the least bit convinced. But then again, he was a few hundred dollars shy of paying off some major bills. After speaking with Rand, Gary did decided to give it a try.

  He sat down on the living room couch and gazed at the object once more. It appeared to be an ordinary door at first glance, proportionate to any door he’d ever seen. However, there were two particular peculiarities to this one.

  First there were the carved-out letters "Opportunity" near the top, and just below the center were seven squares, arranged in a hexagon shape -- two on the top row, three in the middle, and two on the last.

  "So what do I do?" Gary said to himself, unsure. "Do I just say I need money help, or do I wish it to myself?" He then simply rapped a few times on the little door sitting there flat on his coffee table, and sat back waiting.

  Nothing happened for about ten minutes, so Gary got up to get a drink. When he returned from the kitchen, he saw the door standing open on its end. It fell back closed as he neared it. He stood there for quite some time before finally moving again. There beside the door lied a coin.

  He picked up the coin, noting its foreign appearance and weird lettering. He picked up the door, but there was nothing underneath. Gary looked back at the dull-goldish coin and had an idea.

  He took it to an appraiser, who was astonished to see such a rarity in Arizona, of all places.

  "This is simply magnificent! Where did you get this coin?"

  "A friend mailed it to me," Gary said, reasoning to himself that his friend Rand must have known somehow of his money trouble and sent him the door with some sort of compartment that released it after knocking.

  "A friend in Indianapolis told me about receiving a similar coin in his shop. You wouldn’t perhaps know anyone there, would you?"

  Now that he thought about it, the package’s return address had been Indiana, not Florida where Rand was supposed to have been living. "I don’t think so," he replied.

  "Well this is simply amazing. I will give you three thousand dollars for it right this moment. Sound good?"

  "Three grand? For that?"

  "OK, four thousand."

  Gary stared at him wide-eyed.

  "All right, fine. Five thousand but that’s my limit. This coin is simply... extraordinary!"

  "It’s a deal," Gary smiled, still taken aback. He took the check, deposited it and paid off his bill.

  He arrived home to find the door still there on the coffee table, but the first square had been darkened in. This left six squares still undarkened.

  He sat down and picked it up. There wasn’t any way the coin could have come out -- it looked as wooden as could be. Gary could see no possible way there could have been any internal mechanism. Perhaps if he wished for something that couldn’t be given to him, he’d prove it was just a trick.

  Over then next few weeks, Gary tried to think of problems he’d had, but could only come up with a few. All of them, though, could be remedied with money.

  Just as the last of the money drained away, paying back old debts, Gary was struck by another car resulting in a shattered leg. He probably wouldn’t have been the accident, he reasoned, had he not been dwindling away the last of the money from the coin on various toys and gadgets. The surgery alone was a new source of financial trouble, plus the fact he’d have to take time off from his job would almost certainly ruin him. Then again, there was the door.

  When he finally got home after weeks of care for his injuries and therapy to begin walking again, he sat down carefully on his couch, gazing at the door, still right where he’d left it.

  "Well, here we are again. I’ve got some really steep medical bills, plus the house is falling apart from me not being here," Gary said, rapping a few times upon the door. He laid down and slowly drifted off to sleep, with a sense of loneliness in the back of his mind.

  He was awakened by the doorbell, and as he sat up, the door on the coffee table fell closed. He looked at it for a moment before getting up. The doorbell rang again.

  His ex-girlfriend had come, both to see how he was doing and to ask for help. She’d lost her job, couldn’t scrape up enough dough for rent and didn’t have anywhere else to turn. He reluctantly agree to let her move in as long as she would take care of the housekeeping, to which she excitedly agreed. Then the phone rang.

  "Would you rather me mail you this check, or do you prefer to come and get it?" the coin appraiser asked.


  "Yes, for your coin. I’d agreed to give you a hundred and fifty thousand, but I could pay you but with five thousand per month, don’t you recall?"

  "Why yes, of course," Gary said, not eager to admit that he knew that wasn’t the original plan, nor was willing to argue with the new plan. Barely able to drive, he picked up the check that day, deposited it and paid off a significant portion of this medical expense.

  Upon returning, he sat down at the couch to notice three more squares had been blackened in on the little door -- the second on the top row, the last on the middle row, and the last on the bottom row, as if being filled in counterclockwise around the hexagon shape. This left three more squares open.

  Instead of trying to reason this out again, it dawned on him that he was going too fast with his wishes and that there might actually be something useful about this door after all.

  Gary was able to return to work the next week, and the bills were getting paid. Susan, the ex-girlfriend, was no longer an ex and prospects of marriage began appearing in Gary’s mind. All seemed very well -- until one day.

  At work that day, Gary was startled to be called in for a discussion with his boss. His boss, Leonard, revealed Gary had been doing lesser quality work since receiving the money from the coin, wanted to know what change had come over him, aside from the injury, which wasn’t a factor. Leonard ended up giving him the formal pink slip, letting him know he needed to begin looking for a new gig.

  His live-in girlfriend was a comfort to his worries, but as she was out getting groceries that afternoon, he turned once again to the little door on his coffee table.

  "That job was my life! How could I have lost control over that? I don’t know what to do. If only that tyrant Leonard were out of the picture." He knocked on the door yet again.

  Gary got up to turn on the heater. He again saw the little door fall closed as he re-entered the room. The phone rang.

  His boss, Leonard, had been killed in an on-site accident, and Gary was the most qualified replacement they knew, so he would need to be at work again next morning. "Not so rough, door," he thought.

  Before his very eyes, seated at the couch again to thank the door for its help, the two of the three remaining squares filled in black, as if from some invisible wood-burning tool. He sat there, dumbfounded.

  In the coming weeks, everything fell into place. There were no troubles. Everything seemed to be in perfect order. There wasn’t a day for an entire month that Gary needed help from the little door on his coffee table.

  The months flew by, when Gary found himself looking at the little door trying to think of something, nothing coming to mind. He was perfectly happy!

  Then, Gary heard a knock.

  He got up and checked the front door, but no one was there. The knock came again as he was still standing at the front, but it sounded as if from the living room. He walked back and tried to listen for it again. The knock came a third time -- the door on the coffee table rattled.

  Taken aback, Gary approached the little door, opened it slowly, revealing a small room as if he’d just opened its ceiling. There was a little bed, a refrigerator, a book and a telephone. Green and white checkered tile lined the floor. There was also a little man standing there, looking up at him -- who looked remarkably like Rand. Gary fainted.

  Gary woke up lying in a bed in a small room. There was a refrigerator in the corner. A large book lied at his feet. Sitting, he noticed the green and white checkered tile. Recalling the little man under the door, he stopped silent when he looked up. The ceiling was a giant version of the little door he’d wished to all those times.

  Or, was he now little himself?

  A message was written on one wall:

  Dear Gary,

  I was once trapped here as you are now, caught by the mystery of the door of opportunity. I now live your life as you, in your house, with your girlfriend -- and with your appearance and voice. The door is being sent to one of your friends that I choose, and in order to get free from this place you must grant him the six wishes he desires. If you do not, I fear the fellow may throw the door away and you would be lost forever. The spell book at the end of the bed will tell you all you need to know about granting wishes.

  If you have any love for your friend, you must grant him those so that he may take your place here, and send him, inside the door, to another person, so you both may be set free.

  Good luck, friend.

  - Rand