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by Melissa Martin
10/31/2011 / Short Stories
"What is it Dad?" Joshua curiously asked as Mike pushed the dirt away from the large square object.
"I don't know but it looks like a box or a chest," Mike replied as he continued to dig.
"It's a treasure chest!" Joshua squealed and whirled in circles when he saw the huge metal container. "We're rich! We're rich! It's full of buried treasure and gold coins!" Joshua jumped up and down as he shouted. Joshua's younger sister, Tina, modeled his behavior by dancing and shouting along with him.
Mike pounded the lock with his hammer but it wouldn't break. "Let's go home and eat. I'll use the blowtorch to open it next weekend," Mike responded with fatigue in his voice.
Joshua argued, "But Dad, its gold and someone will steal it!"
Rita laughed, "No one would want that old piece of junk. Besides it's late and time for dinner." Rita, a stay-at-home mom, loved to cook for her family.
On the ride home, Joshua and Tina chattered about the contents of the treasure chest.
Rita chattered about the new house they were building. "I'm so excited. The Hudson family will finally have a new home with lots of room and we can plant our own apple trees!"
Two days later, Samantha, the church secretary called and inquired about the treasure chest. "Joshua told Mark who told my son, David. Did you really find gold coins?"
Rita laughed. Samantha, the town gossip, was always the first to know any newsy tidbits. The small town would be buzzing with tall tales very soon.
"No, Samantha, we found an old chest and there is no gold," Rita explained with irritation. Rita adored country living but sometimes the nosey neighbors bothered her.
The news about the contents of the chest spread quickly and the story became more exaggerated each day. The grocery store clerk asked if the diamonds in the chest were real. Joshua's baseball team requested some of the gold coins to buy new uniforms.
Rita became annoyed but Mike laughed with good humor. "It's summer and there's nothing else to do in a small town. Everyone is just dreaming and having some fun!"
"Mike, Mr. Keens called and asked if he could stop by tonight."
Mike glanced up from his dinner plate with a puzzled look. "What does he want?" Mr. Keens wasn't the visiting type.
At eight, o'clock the doorbell rang. 'Come in Mr. Keens, would you like some iced tea or coffee?" Rita politely offered, "I made an apple pie for dessert." She knew Mr. Keens, a widower, would welcome a homemade goody.
"I don't want coffee or pie. I want my share of the gold, silver, and diamonds that you found in the treasure chest on my land!" His face turned fiery red with anger.
"There isn't any gold or diamonds!" Rita shouted, "And it's not your land anymore. We bought it!"
Mike interrupted, "Honey, calm down. Mr. Keens, please sit down and we'll explain."
Quiet and gentle Mike, Kate knew he disliked conflict. "Mr. Keens, we haven't even opened the chest. I found it last weekend when I was digging a foundation for our new house," Mike stated matter-of-factly.
"Well, I'm calling my attorney, the judge, and the police chief. You're not going to cheat me out of my gold and silver!" Mr. Keens shouted as he raced down the front porch steps.
Rita and Mike stood silently for a few minutes with perplexed expressions.
By Wednesday evening, the church congregation seemed to be in an uproar when the Hudson family arrived. The women's mission committee voted and wanted the treasure equally split with Mr. Keens. The men's prayer group wanted the gold coins donated to the church for a new roof and parking lot. The school teachers wanted a new library for the town.
"Rev. Moore, we haven't even opened the chest yet!" Mike persisted.
"Mom and Dad, come quick. Joshua and Jeff are fist fighting in the hall!" Tina yelled. Half the congregation sprinted to the main hallway.
"What's going on?" Mike demanded.
"Josh won't share the treasure!" Jeff screamed as blood poured from his lower lip. Chaos erupted as everyone tried to give his or her opinion about the treasure chest.
"There isn't any treasure!" Rita yelled as she hurried Joshua out the side door and headed for the car. Mike and Tina followed. They drove home in a confused silence.
"Let's spend time in family prayer tonight," Mike suggested.
Nine o'clock the next morning, Sargent Baker served them a subpoena. Rita burst into tears. The town judge ordered the chest to be confiscated and opened on Saturday with all parties present. Mike slumped in a chair. Their eyes met and held. Laughter bubbled up and spilled into the tiny living room.
"This situation is preposterous," Mike commented.
"It's our treasure!" Joshua muttered as he rubbed his black eye.
"There isn't any treasure," Rita repeated.
"But is there any apple pie left?" Sargent Baker grinned.
Saturday morning blazed hot and sunny. Rev. Moore and his wife stopped by for coffee and pie. "Folks, greed is working overtime in our church and community," he sadly admitted.
Joshua and Tina sat at the kitchen table making a sign that read, The Hudson's Treasure Chest. Each had a long list of items they would buy with the gold and silver coins.
Mike shook his head and commented, "If you do your chores you can earn enough money to buy the things on your list."
The parking lot at the police station was roped off and the huge chest was displayed on a large table. Samantha organized the event. Sides were drawn. People who believed the gold, silver, and diamonds belonged to the Hudson family stood on the right and people who believed the contents belonged to Mr. Keens stood on the left. A small group of elderly church members wanted the contents donated to the church and community for renovations. Sargent Baker fired up the blowtorch. The judge and police chief stood behind the chest. The rusty old lock slowly came apart and fell to the ground.
Judge Adkins stepped forward and made a speech. "I'm not sure what all the fuss is about but the whole town is acting wild. I want order and I want the bickering to stop!" All eyes were glued to the chest.
"Did you hear the judge?" Rev. Moore echoed the reprimand.
"Just open the chest," Mr. Keens and his attorney demanded.
The lid squeaked loudly as it was raised. A hush fell over the crowd as Judge Adkins peered into the mysterious chest. He dug through the mildewed newspapers and musty wrappings. He turned the chest over and spilled out its dusty contents.
The crowd slowly walked away in disappointment with their heads hung and shoulders hunched after critically viewing the items. Mr. Keens and his attorney slithered away unnoticed.
"Mom, you were right. There isn't any gold, diamonds, or silver," Joshua whispered.
"I know what my sermon is going to be about tomorrow," Rev. Moore commented with a sigh.
"Who wants to come to our house for apple pie and cider? Rita shouted to the small group.
"I do," echoed multiple times. Rita was well known for her homemade apple pie and hospitality.
Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.
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