This week's story was prompted by a randomly chosen scenario:
You've bought an old chest of drawers and discover a piece of paper stuck inside. What is written on that piece of paper?
I had the idea fairly easily, but the execution was a challenge. I had my grandson here during the days this week so got distracted. But we had fun. Here's my story, at about 840 words.
Just Some Paper
"Jeez Dad, this weighs a ton"
"Just a few more steps, Noel."
Tom's son was right, the battered old chest of drawers was solid wood and heavy. Better it be in here though, than in the garden shed. It would look great in his new office, to store supplies in. It would fit right in with the decor of the old house. Their new home needed work, but would have plenty of room for him and his new wife, as well as Noel and, hopefully, a second child.
"Here Noel, set it down against this wall. Careful!"
There was a crash. "Sorry Dad, it slipped." He was only eleven, but tried hard.
"That’s okay. I’m sure it’s fine." As Tom pulled open a drawer, a piece of paper fluttered to the floor. "What’s this? Must have been stuck to the underside."
It was a very yellowed sheet of paper, with writing on it. "You’ve seen the end, but you need help to find the start," he read, "Perhaps a glass of Merlot will help to make the connection more obvious."
"Dad, Is it a treasure? Maybe a secret room?"
"I don’t know. This sheet is marked 'Page 2’'so I suppose the other one had more information."
Noel had already started pulling out all the drawers, examining the inside of the dresser. "Nope, nothing."
Tom peered at the paper. Not a lot of writing for a full page. Maybe there was something in invisible ink, like the old lemon juice trick.
Noel, run into the kitchen and get me a candle and matches? Look in the second drawer."
Unfortunately, all the candle flame did was set the corner of the paper on fire.
"Maybe I’ll follow the advice," Tom said. "Let me get some Merlot and think about it."
He sipped some wine then set the glass down on his desk. "I don’t think it’s a room. A start and end, with connection, sounds like a passageway. But we’ve explored the basement—nooks and crannies filled with junk but that’s it."
"I’ll check for other ways to do secret writing," said Noel. He took out his phone and started typing..
Hmmm, connections. Had to be a tunnel or something. He was reaching for his wine when Noel yelled and poked his dad. "Found it!"
"Damn." He grabbed some Kleenex to blot up the wine from the paper.
"Dad, it’s baking soda and water for writing it. Then you use wine."
He smiled. "Yes you do, son, look." There was now a crude map, in deep red, outlining a passageway from the east side of the house to something off the page. The other end he assumed.
Noel was already at the door. "Awesome. Let's go find it."
They found the start easily, once they knew where to look. The real estate agent had said the old steel door led to the former coal chute, but now they knew different. With a few squirts of WD-40 the latch and hinges loosened, and the door easily swung open.
Yes, there was a passageway. He sniffed. Musty, but not damp.
"Wow, let’s go," said Noel.
He followed his son in and was feeling for a light switch when the door closed behind him, with a solid clunk. He flicked the light switch. Nothing. Just darkness, in a cramped tunnel.
"Noel?" He tried to keep his voice steady.
"Right here Dad. Why did you close the door? Turn on the lights, okay?"
"They don’t work. We’re blind in here."
"Just a sec Dad, let me get my phone out "
Thankfully, there was now a bright beam of light. With its help, he found the latch for the door. On the floor, where it had fallen.
"I can’t get it to fit back in." Damn. He pounded on the door.
"Mom’s out, Dad, remember? Come on, let’s explore." Noel grabbed his hand.
After only a few minutes walking they passed a pair of doors, Locked.
"Dad, can we--?"
"No, Noel. Keep walking."
After what seemed like half an hour, but was more likely five minutes, they reached the end of the corridor. A short flight of stairs led up to a solid-looking trap door. He climbed the few steps and pushed.
He tried with his shoulder.
Still didn't budge. They were trapped.
Noel squirmed past. "Here Dad. there’s a sliding bolt. Let me get it."
His son climbed out, then looked back down, grinning. "Dad, it’s the garden shed. How cool is that? Can I have this for a playroom once you tidy it up?
Tom dad climbed out and slumped in an old lawn chair. "Give me a minute, son." He took a few calming breaths.
"Yes, you can use this. We’ll go back around and fix that other door in a minute. Just promise me you’ll leave those other doors alone, okay?"
Noel nodded."Promise. Cross my heart."
He smiled at his son. "And don’t tell your mother. Let me figure out how to break this to her."