Zero

The glass counter too tall, she leans in, maneuvering the pen painstakingly over the yellow withdrawal slip, her lips mimicking each slow syllable, trying to wring correct spelling from memory: "O-N-E T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D." Her whisper stirs the bank-quiet air. Finished with one slip, she begins another, ten thousand dollars this time - a seven-year-old intent at her task, the studied severity on her face befitting the occasion. Zero after zero, she gets carried away, her pen cartwheeling lazily until her wobbly 0s crowd the line like a lifetime of full moons riding the straight-ruled horizon. "With enough money, you could buy the moon," she whispers. To me? To whoever is listening? "The moon could be your pri-vate prop-erty" she says, pronouncing carefully the grown-up terminology. I scan the empty bank for the little girl's guardian. There - her father - in a glass cubicle marked Mortgages, a word as inscrutable to a seven-year-old as the look in her father's tired eyes.

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