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Boot-Camp Prompt: Dollar Message
Objective: You’re at your favorite department store buying a birthday present for a friend. As the cashier gives you change, you notice a message with specific instructions scribbled on one of the bills. What do the instructions say? Do you carry them out and, if so, how?


Change of Heart by Maura D.

“Have a good day.”

“You too,” Amber replied with a genuine smile that only the holidays could bring about.

The cashier handed over the change due as she gave the drilled in parting. Amber didn’t care. She not only got to visit her favorite store to buy a pick me up gift for herself but also a birthday gift for her partner in crime. The birthday of her best friend trumped the need to get roped in with the rest of the bustling Christmas shoppers.

Stepping off to the side, she counted the money before she left the store behind. It was one of her favorite places to shop but they still had an occasional counting problem. “Ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, seventeen…” she switched the bills over to her other hand so she could sift through the coins. “Seventeen forty-seven.” Satisfied, she pulled out her wallet and started putting both bills and coins away till she noticed pen ink on the top margin of one of the one dollar bills.

She moved closer to the wall and further out-of-the-way of the foot traffic. It had been a while since she saw a message written on a dollar bill. Her eyes squinted and she mentally cursed her genetics; she was doomed with poor eyesight but she was determined to read the message that wrapped around the edges without putting on her reading glasses.

“One, evenly fold and unfold horizontally and vertically. Two, fold bottom edge up to meet centered-horizontal line…” she mumbled to herself, adjusting the distance periodically to make out the small handwriting. By the third step she put it together; it was origami instructions.

Amber turned and headed back into the store. They had a quaint café on their lower level that was perfect for origami experimentation. She ordered a cup of Chai tea while she read over the instructions a second and third time. She sat back, twisting her puckered lips to one side and staring at the bill that rested on the circular table top. There was no way she could fold and see the instructions at the same time; not even if she turned it over to the unmarked side.

She took out her pocket notepad along with the matching black and purple paisley pen and got to work rewriting the steps. They didn’t give much of a hint away to what type of shape all the folding would lead to. Still, she smiled in determination and practically bounced in her seat. As a kid, one of the things she always wanted to do was find a secret note or treasure map. Origami steps on a dollar bill wasn’t a treasure map but it was a fun secret nobody else had done yet. The thing had a few wrinkles but there were no worn folds.

The steam that rose from the Chai tea thinned and lowered till it was gone. Absently Amber picked it up, drank the luke-warm liquid, and set it down without noticing how the fluffy whipped topping sunk down to make the rich dark brown tea a creamy tan color.

She hunched over diligently, folding and refolding when the lines seemed crooked. The most time was spent constantly redoing the corners that were supposed to make the top look rounded. Every time she did it, they came out looking pointed or lopsided but finally, on the fifth try, she got each side even and as close to round as folding could get.

“I did it!” She held up the palm sized heart in excitement.

“That’s so cool,” a passing group of girls exclaimed.

Amber glanced over to them then back to her hard work. There was one last part of the instructions she had yet to complete. “Here,” she handed the money heart to the girl who had spoken up first and was still asking questions about it, “spread the love.”

“Oh cool, thanks.” The girl held the heart in her cupped hands.

She went off with her group who were all clamoring about the weirdness of it but Amber didn’t care, she followed the instructions to the last letter. “Seven, turn over and share the love.” She repeated the last step to herself and smiled. Hopefully the heart would continue in its journey and bring a burst of happiness to every person that saw it.


In the spirit of the Holidays, I took a more festive, upbeat turn for this prompt. The instructions for a simple money heart can be found here. Try your hand at it and “spread the love.”