The children ran through the woods, on their way to the house. It was autumn, and the trees were dropping leaves. As they ran, they picked up the brightest.
“I found red,” they yelled.
“Yellow, look at this yellow!”
“This one’s green and orange!”
They had handfuls, and kept collecting. One boy moved a leaf and stopped–there was a gold coin under it. He dropped his leaves and pick it up, holding it tightly with both hands. He kept running.
“What are you doing?” the other kids asked. “You don’t have any leaves!”
“I got my coin,” he said. “I’m not letting go.”
“You’re going to miss out!” They said. “Look!” They held up their piles and piles of beautiful leaves.
“I’m carrying this to the house.” He said.
“You’re crazy!” they scoffed. “Leaves are the best thing in the world! Get them while you can before they’re gone!” And away they ran, grabbing more and more leaves.
The journey was longer than they all thought. They ran through the Fall, and deep into Winter. One by one, every leaf the children had collected lost its beauty–browning, growing brittle and dry, then crackling, then turning to dust. Just as spring was breaking, they came to the river. At its edge they stood, all the children with arms full of dusty leaf remains–all except the boy with one gold coin. He held it in both hands.
They all crossed the river. Emerging wet, the boy held his coin. The other children emerged too, but the river had washed away their leaf remains. Finally, they all stood before the gate.
The sign hung across it read, “Price of admission–one gold coin. Enter, all those who held on through the river.”