Samantha knelt in front of the stack of cardboard boxes that had taken up residence in her favorite part of the house, the attic. To most adults it was just a typical unfinished space found in many similar houses in many similar developments across the country. But to most children, it was the hull of a pirate ship and a frontier fort and a great hall of a castle and, why not, the cabin of a spaceship. And dozens of more things that had yet to be thought of by the blonde haired seven year old.
She attempted to use x-ray vision. Failure. What was that other thing? Oh yeah, remote viewing. Nothing. Well, her mom had called that one, “a big steaming pile of bullshit don’t repeat that in front of your dad.” But the x-ray thing could still work, maybe. Who had time to practice that, though? The boxes were right there, mocking her.
She ran her hand across the black marker block letters on the cardboard. “Ma Nance,” Samantha said aloud. Her father’s grandmother. Samantha had never met her, passed away before Samantha was born. But her father had told many stories about her and the summers he spent on her farm. “Why in the wide, wide, world was there no longer anyone in this family that had a farm?” Samantha wondered with a sigh. “I would rock in a rural type place. Me and Gorshin would rule there.” Without looking she reached behind her to pat the white and black and furry canid lump behind her.
Samantha turned to her side and laid down on the plywood floor, using Gorshin as a pillow. He raised an eyebrow, about his usual amount of enthusiasm. The most excited state anyone ever saw him in was when he watched his girl walking down the sidewalk, coming home from school. It involved two minutes of frantic tail wagging and a vigorous belly rub by Samantha. Only the need to go outside to do what dogs do outside would put him more than two feet away from the girl until she next left for school.
Samantha tried to come up with a scenario that would justify opening the boxes. A trapped wild animal? Nope, that might lead to unneeded rabies shots. Sleep walking? Nope. They hadn’t bought that one in like, forever. An accidental nudge, knocking one over to spill out its contents? Too risky, could break something. She let out an “uugh” and turned belly down and wrapped an arm around Gorshin’s neck. She said the dog’s name aloud a few times to little reaction. She wasn’t trying to get a response from her fuzzy friend, she just liked saying his name, changing inflections and syllable emphasis.
She thought back to when they got him a little over a year ago. Just a little ball, half white and half black split length-wise almost right down the center of his pudgy little body.
“Left side white, right black. We gotta name him Gorshin,” her dad said.
“Oh we do, do we?” Samantha’s mom had replied.
“Well, we can’t very well call him Antonio, can we? That would just be silly.”
Samantha held the puppy close to her chest and watched as her mom leaned in towards her husband.
“You know I love you,” she kissed him on the cheek, “but you are such a nerd,” and patted the other side of his face.
“I don’t have any idea what you two are talking about,” Samantha said.
But back to the problem at hand. The seven-year old twirled her hair with her left hand, Gorshin’s fur with her right. Abruptly she sat up. A familiar grin crossed her face, the grin her father called her “expression of obvious bad-assery don’t repeat that in front of your mom.” It was so obvious! She could just ask!
Downstairs her parents and her great-aunt Liza sat at the kitchen table. She liked Liza a lot, but had yet to figure out what made her “great”. Liza had brought the boxes over to store at their house because she was selling hers, buying a RV and getting ready to “enjoy my god-damned retirement don’t repeat that to your folks.”
“Here to see me off, kiddo?” Liza said.
Samantha grinned and nodded.
“Well, come on and give me a hug then.”
She ran over to Liza and the two embraced. Liza blew a razz berry on Samantha’s check. Giggles ensued.
“Is it ok if I look in Ma Nance’s stuff?”
“Fine by me, as long as you are careful, okay?”
Samantha grinned and nodded again.
Final goodbyes were exchanged and Liza went on her usual merry way. Time to get to snooping, Samantha thought as she headed for the stairs, Gorshin not far behind.
The next several hours were spent in curious seven year old bliss. Old clothes, magazines, books, weird little tools and as yet to be identified things were separated into piles. The feather boa and oversized shoes alone accounted for a good chunk of the afternoon. Gorshin didn’t seem impressed.
Samantha stood and surveyed her work. Not bad, but she had hoped for that one big find. The big treasure she was sure was in there. She hung her head and slumped her shoulders as she heard her mom call her down to eat.
She hollered a “be right down,” figuring it bought her at least five more minutes. Better hustle.
Before she knew it, another call came from downstairs. A call with obviously increased irritation. Samantha tilted her head back, leaned forward and hung limp arms in front of her. She plodded steps toward the stairs.
The casserole had no time to be identified by the little girl’s taste buds. Both parents watched with a touch of awe at their daughter’s newfound speed eating prowess.
“Are you trying to make wolves feel better about their eating habits?” her father asked.
“Maybe she is gearing up for this year’s hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s?” asked her mother. “How about you slow down before somebody has to administer the Heimlich maneuver, eh?”
Samantha stopped mid-chew and crinkled up her brow. Heimlich?
The parental glare was too much. She stared to chew again, slower and without such urgency. Oh, it was chicken and broccoli!
Plates were cleaned off, dessert offered and declined. The adults looked at each other and grinned in amazement. A plea was made and granted. A blonde streak zoomed to the attic. A not so much streak of black and white followed.
Samantha did a quick mental inventory of what she had dug out so far. Three boxes down, two to go.
Box four was boring. A bunch of stuff like they had in their junk drawer. Didn’t seem important to store, but Samantha thought she should dig in just in case. It was the right decision. At the bottom of the box under a zip lock bag full of screws, there it was. The grin flashed again and her blue eyes gleamed. Treasure.
Mom and Dad still sat at kitchen table, side by side, talking. Samantha’s normal reaction to seeing her parent’s affectionate touches and hearing their affectionate tones would be to roll her eyes and say, “Mush” just loud enough for them to hear. But this was not the time for such things.
She stood beside her dad, hands behind her back, even bigger grin on her face.
Both parents looked at their child, gave smiles and in unison said, “What’s up?”
“I,” Samantha said in her best seven year old serious tone, “have found something of great interest and possible import.”
The adults looked at each other in amusement.
“Where is she learning to talk like that?” her dad said.
“I blame you,” answered her mom with a chuckle.
Samantha brought her hand from behind her back and placed an object on the table.
Before them was a small wooden box with lid, about six by four by four inches in measurement. The dark sides had small celtic-knot type carvings and were joined together with dovetails. A brass hinge could be seen in the back and a small brass lock on front. The lid had been painted to look like it had a marble inlay. Not the work of a master, but done with obvious care.
Samantha’s dad picked up the box and turned it in his hands. He tilted it away from him to look at the bottom. On it were burnt in letters. It said NANCE.
“Oh, wow. Look at this, Deb. Ma Nance made this.” Samantha’s dad said.
“You always said she was pretty handy,” said Deb. She slid her arm around her husband’s. “Nice work. Wish I had met her, Art.” She kissed him on the cheek.
Art gave the box a little shake. A small tapping noise came from inside.
“Wonder what is in there?” Art said. “Oh well, I’m not going to break it open just to see what is inside. Too nice.”
Samantha cleared her throat to get their attention. Her grin had reached Cheshire level.
“I,” she paused for dramatic effect, “have the key.” She brought up her hand.
Art and Deb looked at each other again with unspoken amusement at their daughter.
Art took the key from the small hand. “Let’s open this sucker up.”
The family pulled in tight around the box as Sam inserted the key and turned.
The sound of the latch popping open seemed much louder than it should have.
“Am I the only one that has the ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ theme running through their head right now?” Deb said, giving her husband’s arm a little squeeze.
Art put his hand on the box lid, preparing to lift it open.
“Nope,” he said.
Samantha glanced up at her parents, trying not to let out an excited giggle.
He opened the box.
Art saw the contents and brought a hand up to his mouth. He stopped breathing for a moment.
“Oh my, God, Art. Is that it?”
He nodded his head, unable to speak.
Inside the box was a small dime-store novelty ring. Cheap tin painted yellow to look like gold. Without taking it out, Art knew it was in the shape of a “c” so it could be bent open or closed for different sized fingers. The front of the ring was the face of a lion. A mane crowned its head, its eyes dots of green paint and its mouth a bright red.
Samantha looked up at her dad and mom. She didn’t know why, but she knew this was more important than she had imagined, and the weight of it kept her from speaking. She looked back at the ring and then back to her father when he began to speak.
“When I was a little younger than you, I bought a package of five tin rings at a Ben Franklin store. I probably paid fifty cents for the whole shebang. Four of the rings ended up like a lot of childhood baubles, buried in a yard somewhere, stolen by some other kid, left at a rest stop during a family vacation, what have you. But this ring here,” Art picked it up and held it out for all to see, “this ring, I gave to my Grandmother Nance. Now, she was the type of woman that never, and I mean never, would go out in public without looking spiffy. Nice clothes, hair done and some fine pieces of jewelry. But in amongst all here fancier stuff, she would wear this ring I gave her. This silly little tin ring. And she would always tell me when someone would complement her on it, asking if it was a family crest or an heirloom of some kind. And let me tell you, little Samantha, there was never a prouder kid than me when she told me those things.”
Deb put her head on Art’s shoulder and held on to his arm with both of hers. Both adults had tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces.
“When she died, I didn’t think to look for it until after we auctioned off her stuff, so I thought it was gone forever. Thank you finding it, Samantha. Thank you.”
Samantha looked up at her father’s face smiled. She placed her hand on top of his free one on the table.
She would wear the ring on her wedding day.
Born and bred on the plains of South Dakota, William DeGeest inherited a voracious appetite for reading. After many years away from the creative process, he recently started writing again and is enjoying every minute of it. More of his work can be seen at www.williamdegeest.com and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org