Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Buried Treasure Flash Fiction Friday Entry

Buried Treasure

They all lay on their stomachs, close to the cellar door.

            “What do we do now?” Jimmy said, his voice low, but cracking at the end.

            Billy stared at him.  “We open the door, stupid.  That’s why we’re here.”

            “But what if he hears us?”

            The “he” was Mr. Wilson, who owned the house.

            “He’s at work,” Noah said.  He flipped open the small spiral bound pad.  “Left for work at seven thirty four this morning.”  He flipped the pad closed.  Noah was ten, like all of the boys, and wanted to be a policeman.  He had noticed that policeman wrote their information on small spiral notebooks, and he made sure that he always had one with him.

            “We’re going in,” Billy said.

            The back yard of the Wilson property was shielded from the neighbors by a high fence and trees.  There was a chance that someone could see them, but it was small.  Billy stood and tried to lift the door, but it was heavy.

            “I need some help here.”

            The other boys stood and grabbed various parts of the door.  Billy was on the other side of the door, pulling on the handle.  Noah was at the base, and Jimmy had the tie rope in his hands.

            “On three.  One, two, three, PULL!”

            They all grunted as the heavy, green wooden door loosened slightly and then started to lift up.

            “Keep pulling,” he groaned.

            They nearly drowned out the sounds of the rusted, screeching hinges of the door.  It continued to lift and Jimmy nearly lost his balance as the edge of the door rushed up towards him.  He leaned back, and then shoved at the door as it passed him.  The two other boys continued to lift until the door pointed skyward.  It hovered for an instant, and then fell open, the wood making a thud as it hit the ground.

            “What a stink,” Jimmy said. 

            Standing at the top of the opening, he was the first too catch the strong odor from the basement.  It smelled wet, and heavy, and a little sweet.  Jimmy fanned his hand in front of his nose.

            Noah turned and coughed.  “Smells like something dead down there,” he said.

            “How do you know?” Billy said.

            “I know what something dead smells like.”

            “Do not.”

            “Do too.”

            “It’s just wet down there,” Billy said.

“My dog found a dead raccoon at the park.  Smelled just like that.”    Noah took out his notebook and looked at his watch.  He wrote the time in the book and tried to describe the smell.

            “Maybe he killed something.  Like Mrs. Wilson,” Jimmy said.

            Noah looked at his notes.  “He doesn’t have a wife.”

            “Everybody has a wife.  Our fathers have wives.  All my uncles have wives.  So maybe he killed her and buried her in the cellar,” Jimmy said.

            “He didn’t kill anything,” Billy said.  He didn’t think that Mr. Wilson would kill something and then leave it in his cellar, but he was not a hundred percent sure.  “Well, you go first then.”  

            “I’m not going first.”

            “This was all your idea.”        

            It had been Jimmy’s  idea.  The Wilson house was the oldest one in town.  During a history project he discovered that in 1935 a bank had been robbed of nine thousand dollars and the bank robber Lee Williams had escaped to the Wilson house.    He was seriously wounded in a shoot out with the police.  The money was never found.  Billy thought the money was still in the house.

            “Well, it was my idea, but I’m not going in first.”

            “Chicken. “

“Am not.”

“Too chicken to go in a dark room.”

“That smells like something really dead,” Noah added.  He wrote in his notebook.

“Give me the flash light.  And when I find the money, it’ll be all mine,” Jimmy said.

“No, we’re splitting it,” Billy said.

Noah looked up from his note book.  “Yeah, that was the deal.”

“But I found it and if I go in first, then it’s mine,” Jimmy said.

            “Wuss, I’ll go first,” Billy said.  “Gimmeee the light.”

            The beam of light cut through the darkness but illuminated little at the end of the stairs.  Billy turned and started walking down the stairs backwards, holding onto the small rail.  The stairs creaked as he stepped, it sounded like someone yelling “e-e-e-e-e-e”.    He stopped for a moment, shifted his feet, the stair groaned.  He was trying to stall for a moment, get his courage up.  The air in the cellar was cool and it rushed past him, making goose bumps on his arms.

            “Keep going,” Jimmy said.

            “I will.  I will.”

            His foot landed on the floor and he turned, sending the light beam in a broad arc around the room.  It was staring into the bottom of the ocean.  Darkness loomed all around him.

            “What do you see?” Noah asked, pen in hand, ready to record his response.


            Billy reached the end of the stairs, carefully extending his left foot to the ground.  He nervously stomped it twice to make sure that it was solid.  It was.  He stepped down with the other foot and took a few nervous steps away from the stairs.  He was now away from the light from the open door and was in the dark with only the small flash light to light the way.

            “What now?” Noah asked, poking his head into the stairwell.

            “It’s just dark.”

            “No dead bodies?”

            Billy froze, suddenly remembering the bad smell and the talk of something dead in the cellar.  He sniffed the air, raising his nose like a rabbit trying to get the scent of a predator.  The air was cool, damp, stale.  And there it was again, the smell of something dead.  He shivered.

            “N-N-N-Nothing,” he said, but his voice lacked conviction. 

            “Is there a light down there?” Jimmy asked.

            “Come and find one,” Billy said.

            “You’re already down there, and you’ve got the light.”

            “Here, I’ll shine it on the stairs.”

            Jimmy saw the light swing and illuminate the stairs.  He had to make a decision.  Billy was already down in the cellar, but he had found out about the robbery and tracked it to Mr. Wilson’s house.  It was his idea for them to be in his yard on the first day of their summer vacation.  He did not want Billy to be the one that found the money and take all of the credit.

            “I’m coming down.”

            He turned and faced toward Noah and started walking down the stairs.  There was not a hand rail, so he touched the door jam and the stairs as he descended into the cellar.  The wood stairs creaked and moaned and as he put his left foot down the board sagged and he lost his balance.  He started to fall backwards, swinging his arms in the air wildly like a log roller, trying to get his balance, but he fell to the ground and landed on his butt.

            “You okay?” Billy asked.

            “Yeah.  It was only the last step.”

            He walked toward Billy and the light.  Billy swung it around the room, looking for a light switch or a pull chain.  They saw the door at the end of the room and a set of stairs, probably into the house.  It looked like there was a light switch near the stairs.

            “Over there,” Billy said, dancing the light against the wall.

            Jimmy started walking to the wall and the light beam went from white to yellow to off.  Both of the boys were suddenly in the dark.

            “Hey, stop messing around.”

            “I didn’t do it.  Battery must have died.”  Billy smacked the flashlight against his hand like he had seen his father do when the flashlight stopped working.  There was a brief flash and then no light.  “Walk over to the light switch and turn it on.”

            Jimmy knew roughly where the wall had been.  He stuck his hands out in front of him as he shuffled his feet toward the wall.

            Noah stepped down the first three stairs and yelled “The police are here.  They’re in the drive way.”

            Jimmy turned suddenly and his feet hit something on the ground and he fell down onto the long mass.  He felt it.  It was hard and wrapped in plastic.  He wanted to run, but he felt the object, a round ball at one end, a tube or log, and then two poles at the end of the log. 

            “Dead body,” he yelled, crawling on his hands and knees and then standing and running toward the light at the stairs.


            “T-T-T-There,” Jimmy said, as he ran past Billy.  He ran up the stairs. 

            Billy followed him and the three of the boys lifted the heavy door and it slammed shut.  They started to walk away from the door.

            “Not so fast.  Where are you boys going?”

            They turned and saw Officer Jackson standing at the entrance to the cellar.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Starting Over

Starting Over
My contribution to Flash Fiction Friday for June 8, 2012.  From the novel "Getting Off", by Lawrence Block, writing as Jill Jamison.
                I looked at him.  He looked back, his Red Sox ball cap slightly off center, the bill with a hard crease in it and a dark stain on the underside where he gripped it to adjust it.  He smiled, or tried to, a subtle lift of his lip to go with the “okay”, an audiovisual presentation to get me to agree with him.  He was cute, too cute, and that was the problem.  The azure blue eyes, the half smile, the askew cap.  I was supposed to agree, no argument, and let him make the decisions again.
                “No.  It’s not okay.  Not again.”
                The smile was gone and he looked away, down the street, maybe at the hotdog vendor at the corner, maybe the boy across the street, trying to balance on the fire hydrant, maybe at the young woman, my age, in the yellow sundress walking out of the bakery with a white bag.  He paused for a moment more, and then turned toward me, the smile back, a little bigger this time.
                “Come on, Karen.  You know it will be fun.  I promise.”
                “There’s nothing fun about visiting your parents.”
                “They really like you.  And it’s my mom’s birthday.  It’ll mean a lot to her if we come.”
                “Save it.  You can sell that shit to someone else.”  I felt my body tense as I drew my arms across my chest.
“But they do.”
                “They tolerate me.  So they can see you.  They don’t like me.  Not them.  Not your brother.  Not any of them.”
                “But …”
                “And if you really believe that, then we’ve got a real problem.”
                I was the problem.  A biracial woman who loved their son.  The son of very traditional Italian Americans.  There was no like when I saw them.  There were questions, and sideways glances.
                “They’ll come to love you like I do.”
                “Yeah, when the dinosaurs roam the earth again.  There’s no love when we visit them.”
                “Yes there is.  I can tell.  And they ask about you every time I call …”
                “’Are you still dating whatshername?’”
                He paused, stuck in mid sentence.  Long enough to know that I was close.
                “They always say to say ‘hello’.  That’s a start.”
                “Or a no starter.”


"I’m taking a survey.  May I ask you a few questions?”
Karen looked up from her book and saw the tall, thin man standing over her.

“It will only take a minute.”  He smiled at her, arching his eyebrows.
She stared at him for a moment, long enough to make him uncomfortable.

“I’m Justin, and you are …”

“What’s the survey about?”

He paused again.  “It’s a class assignment.”

“What class?”

“Sociology.  What’s the worst pick up line that you’ve ever heard?”

“Right now, this may be it.”

She watched Justin’s face go pale.

“Sit down.”  She pushed her book bag to the side.  “Ask your questions.”

He was tentative, sliding into the seat in the booth. 


“Oh, yeah.  So, what’s the worst pick up line you’ve heard?”

“Aren’t you going to write this down?”

Karen watched him fumble for a piece of paper from his jeans, and then started patting the same pockets again.  He blushed.  She slid a pen across the table.


“It helps to be prepared,” Karen said.  She tried to suppress her smile.

“Well, you’re my first subject.’

“Or the first that’s been willing to talk to you tonight?”

The semester had just begun and the library was quiet.  People were still easing into the routines after the holiday break.  Karen had skipped the holidays with her parents, she had made a quick weekend visit to them, but preferred to stay at her apartment and read and study, and in her words “get a leg up on the next semester.”

“Okay, let’s quit with the bullshit Jason.”

“Justin.”  He paused, looking hurt that she had forgotten his name.  “Justin Gabarini.”  He paused.  “And you’re …?”

“Karen.  So, if you were a vegetable, which one would you be?”


“It’s an easy question.  Answer it.”

“Well, I like artichokes, especially the way my mother fixes them, and then there’s …”

“Vegetable.  You.  If you were a vegetable, which one would you be?”  She looked at her watch.  “You’ve got ten seconds.”

He frowned again.  “Zucchini.  Very versatile, sweet or savory, happy to be by itself.  Or in a group.  Inexpensive.  Available year round.  Tough, stores well.”  He looked pleased.  “You?”

“Eggplant.  Tough on the outside, and you never know what you’ll find on the inside.  Adaptable to anything, versatile, dismissed at times, disrespected at times.  But always comes through at the end.”

“Sounds like you’ve thought about that one for a while.”

That’s my pick up line.”  She smiled.  “Works all of the time.”

“I’d buy it.”

“You would?  That little line?”


She reached over and took her pen out of his hands.  “I’ll meet you for coffee, tomorrow, say seven thirty at the Coffee Shack, off the quad.  Date?”

She stood and slung her book bag over her left shoulder.

“See you then.”

“Yeah.  Date.”

Justin sat at the booth until the library closed rerunning the conversation through his mind.

I sipped the dark roast, nearly tan with milk, and savored the flavor.  Justin sat across from me, his thin fingers wrapped around the white coffee cup.  He brought the cup to his lips and took a sip.  A few bubbles of foam stayed on his upper lip.  I wanted to reach across the table and wipe them away, to feel my finger rub against the stubble of beard on his face, to touch his face, to hold it in my hands.

“I don’t know if this is going to work,” I said, looking away, over his shoulder, to the barista at the back of the room.

“It’s been working fine.  Or it has been.  Until now.  Right?”

His eyes searched mine, finely oscillating back and forth over my face.  His face looked suddenly older, and worn, as if it had borne too many hardships.

“I think we need a break,” I said.  I was surprised when the words came from my mouth.  It wasn’t what I wanted to say, but what needed to be said.  For once, maybe, my brain spoke instead of my heart.

“Look, Karen, we don’t need to decide right now.  We’ll skip the trip to my parents.  I’ll tell them something’s up, and we, I can’t make it.”

“Don’t start lying.”

“You’re more important to me.”

“Don’t say that.”

I stood and took a step toward him, resting a hand on his shoulder to prevent him from standing.  I leaned over and hugged his neck, resting my cheek on the top of his head for a second.

I walked across the street and started home.