Chapter Description: The last chapter of Caper of a Lifetime..(finally finished). Fabricio and Nola find a way to unload the necklace and leave their life of crime behind them. (Reviews would be appreciated)
It wasn’t just desire. It wasn’t just want. It was NEED! NEED! NEED! It was like a heady beat thrumming through every fiber of his being. He awkwardly lifted his head away from the soft cotton landscape to gain a better view. There, the object beckoned him like a siren, a mere matter of feet away. His eyes latched upon the object of his desire with an intensity usually found in warfare. It was a mere matter of a few feet away. Using his entire meager allowance of strength, he leveraged the top of his body over his elbows that he held in front of his chest. His body lurched forward in a gigantic effort that only afforded him mere inches in crossing the faded and creamy soft quilt. His face crashed into the cottony fabric as he grunted with the effort. Each little bit of progress took intense concentration and effort just to move his awkward and lumbering body forward. Air snorted out of his nose as he pushed forward to see that he was almost upon it. With a giant heave, he moved forward what he felt was the final distance.
There it was! Lying flat on his front, he pushed out his chest, his neck arched to hold up his heavy head, he extended his arm. At first the arm wavered and fell just to the right of the object. Finally, with extreme concentration, he managed to maneuver hand toward the prize. It hovered shakily over it and just when he was about to take hold of it, a larger dimpled hand inserted itself in his hand’s path. The hand quickly enveloped the rattle and snatched away. In response, he did the only thing he could do, he began to wail as tragedy struck at his core.
Nine days earlier, it was the sound of a burning piece of charcoal falling from the glowing log in the fireplace broke Fabricio out of his stupor. He was laying on his good side sucking on the three fingers stuffed in his mouth as he had been slowly sucking on them. In the last few days, the bruises on the side of his face had begun to turn yellow and brown under the care of the unfamiliar woman. From listening intently to the conversations of his hosts, he discovered that he was in the home of Carson and Bonnie Gluckman.
For the first few days at the Gluckman home, all he could think about was Nola and how he was to get out of this predicament. His current life as baby, “Johnny” seemed to be a constant thorn in his side. Even the simple task to walk across the room was a far cry from the realm of his current capabilities. Hell, he couldn’t even sit up without assistance. Along with the frustration was the anxiety of where and what had happened to his partner, this combination made him irritable. There was an occasional mention of his partner by the Gluckmans but nothing he could piece together that made any sense. He began to imagine Nola somehow being unable to rescue him from this situation. Questions swirled in his mind: What would happen to him if she died? Would he become just another ward of the state while he waited for his body to grow? Would all his skills, reputation and accumulated assets that he had earned be for naught? Would he be resigned to grow up all over again in this backwater? Then the most dreadful thought occurred to him: What if she decided to cut her losses and leave him here? That was preposterous, he told himself. They were a team and had come out of some pretty hard pinches before. They only had each other in this world. Nola would never abandon him, he decided. Right?
Days seemed to crawl by for Fabricio. What irked him the most about being trapped in an infant’s body was that he had always been so strong, so independent and now he was helpless and dependent on others. In response to any gesture, he had yelled and struggled in protest of any gesture from these people. The adults had used any method they could think of to placate the upset infant, including pacing the floor, rocking and patting did no good. It wasn’t until they brought a certain blue rattle in front of his face that he miraculously quieted. Fabricio froze in mid scream once his eyes landed on the rattle containing the necklace from the bus. The specific sound of the rattle told Fabricio that the treasure still lay inside the plastic orb. He immediately reached for the toy like a life savior in a stormy sea and hugged it close.
Once the rattle was back in his hands, he relaxed quite a bit and even began to not mind the indulgent treatment he received from the hands of the Gluckmans. As the days began to add up, he resigned himself to the gentle and thoughtful care that his hosts were showing him. He settled into a routine with the couple who seemed to dote on his every whim. Every morning in the deep blue darkness of morning just before dawn, he would wake to find soft murmurs being whispered to quell his complaints as the soiled cloth around his torso was exchanged for a dry clean one. He was kept warm and comfortable he was rocked to sleep each evening. What he had put up with Nola was only for the purpose of escaping with the necklace from the authorities now structured his daily life. The bottles of formula with their chemically scented bouquet he at first found repellent and pulled away from the bottle being pressed to his face, now seem to contain a particular charm. His body welcomed the liquid and soon he found the sensual satisfaction with every swallow of the concoction intensely satisfying.
Now, situated on a faded and soft quilt about five feet from the fire, so he could feel the heat emanating from it as the wind blew pellets of icy rain against the windows. He felt the resounding thump of large feet approaching the quilt as he wrapped his hand around the handle of the rattle.
“I wonder who it could be. Let’s see who it is. Shall we?” Bonnie’s overly animated voice sing-songed as she walked past the quilt on the floor to the door.
As Bonnie opened the door, a huge gust of icy wind pushed past the door and into the room. The chill reminded Fabricio of the icy road and why the bus crashed. He looked toward the door with a sense of curiosity of who it might be. On the other side, stood a battered and bandaged Nola being gently supported by Carson, who was holding the small suitcase in his hand.
“Welcome, welcome. Won’t you please come in before you get frostbite.” Bonnie stated as she hovered behind the door to escape the wind. “Carson, please help her.”
Nola gingerly and slowly entered the house, leaning on Carson’s arm with a grateful look to Bonnie. Carson escorted Nola into the living room, being careful of her arm in the sling. Once at the sofa, Nola carefully and slowly sat down on the well-used piece of furniture while Carson set down the suitcase.
“I just want to thank both of you for taking us in. It is a lot more than anyone could be expected to do.” Nola said gratefully to the couple.
“You’re more than welcome. Please stay until you feel better, Miss Erma. We just moved here, so we’re grateful for the company.” Carson responded as he adjusted the sofa’s decorative pillows around Nola, making sure that the injured arm was supported.
Bonnie suddenly appeared at Nola’s feet. “Here’s someone who really missed you.” As she placed Fabricio in Nola’s lap.
Although Fabricio normally maintained a cool exterior as a master criminal, this infant’s body could not contain his joy at seeing his longedfored colleague again. He bounced and babbled at Nola while waving his arms. He was so glad to see his partner after so many days when anxiety and worry had weighed heavy upon his mind.
“I hope he wasn’t too much trouble.” Nola said as she settled the jubilant child in her lap.
“No, he was a complete angel, but he obviously missed his grandma.” Bonnie replied as she and Carson looked upon the happy reunion with broad smiles.
For the sake of her audience, Nola began to gently play with the baby on her lap, making faces and asking silly questions to the infant who gleefully responded in burbles and bouncing.
“Well, we’ll leave you two alone for a little bit.” Carson stated as he hooked his arm around his wife’s waist to guide her toward the kitchen.
“I’ll make you some tea while Carson takes your bag to the guest room.” Nola added as she smiled and turned with Carson. “Just call out, if you need anything.”
Once they were alone, the two partners in crime dropped their act. Although Fabricio could not voice his sentiment, it was apparent that he was extremely glad to see Nola. Nola, for her part, sighed in relief as she tightened her grip around her partner as he calmly focused his attention on her.
“Are you okay?” Nola asked in a hushed voice as her eyes darted toward the door. “Are you still in there?” It took an odd moment for the question to sink through the fog of joy that enveloped him but then Fabricio nodded slowly and deliberately in response.
“Thank God. I was worried that the regression would start to work on your mind. My godmother had warned me about that, but I thought we would only be in Canada long before we would have to worry about that.“ Nola hurriedly whispered and then sighed. “I can’t believe that after a score that was going to set us up for good got screwed up by a stupid bus crash! You were stuck here and I thought I would never get out of that hospital, so we missed the scheduled rendezvous in Canada with the buyer for the necklace.”
In response to Nola’s complaint, Fabricio began to point vigorously over to the quilt where he had been lying. There on the center of the worn fabric was the rattle that contained the necklace. Fabricio reached up to pull on Nola’s collar to direct her attention. When her eyes finally landed on the sky blue colored object, they lit up.
“You don’t mean…..That’s the same! I can’t believe it!” Nola announced as her mouth fell open as she realized that the necklace had not been lost in the crash. Gathering her composure once again with a quick look to the doorway, Nora whispered in Fabricio’s ear. “Okay, Okay. Let’s try to stick to our original plan. We’ll get up to Canada, unload that necklace and get our old bodies back. For the time being, we’re stuck here until I see the doctor at the end of this week. Once I get this cast off, we will get out of here. I’ll call my godmother to send more of the serum to us here, so we can change back once we get into Canada. Sound good?”
Fabricio nodded in agreement, content in the knowledge that his partner had everything in hand. Nothing could stop him and Nola once they were together.
It had been two days since Nola arrived from the hospital. Thanks to Bonnie and Carson’s hospitality, she became quite comfortable in her hosts’ home while she recuperated. She would watch her partner being more and more amiable with Bonnie and Carson since she arrived. It seemed that Fabricio began enjoy the attention and care he received from his hosts. He began to smile and jabber at them as they praised his every activity and comforted any affront to his infantile being. He would lay back in seemingly indifference as the clothes were pushed up exposing his lower half to the chillier air. He would continue to suck on his fingers as his damp diaper pulled away from his body. He exuded a sense of nonchalance about the whole ceremony of cleaning him on the kitchen table. He seemed to take delight when Bonnie gave him a bath in the kitchen sink. The freedom from the constraint of the bulky cloth from around his body made it kick and wiggle in the new found freedom. As she supported his head and back, the water would flow from the faucet churning the water around him like fabulous Jacuzzi. Then it was on to the patting dry with the soft flannel towel when Bonnie blew raspberries on the soles of his feet which made him chortle in response.
Seeing the happy domestic scene in front of her, Nola took another sip of tea as a thought crossed her mind. She planned to call her godmother later that night for more of the serum. Considering her partner’s new found blissful existence, it seemed that only one bottle would be needed.
The next day, an overnight shipment for Nola arrived as the women were sitting at the table while Fabricio was down for his afternoon nap. Nola had kept up their act of grandmother and grandbaby very well. Carson and Bonnie had no idea that there was anything suspicious going on in regards to their two guests.
Coming in from outside, Carson shook the snow off his coat and dropped the box on at the table where the women were seated.
“The postman stopped me outside. It seems you have a package, Erma. Funny, there’s no return address on it.” Carson told Nola.
“What’s that, Erma?” Bonnie asked Nola using the name from the bus as they looked at the small box curiously. “Ooh, the postmark says it’s all the way from New Orleans. Ooh, what could it be?”
“Oh, it is some family cure for pain that a family friend sent me.” Nola replied, proud of her quick response. She moved slowly forward to take hold of the box but her bruised ribs hindered her progress.
“Well, here. Let’s get it open.” Carson announced as he pulled the box out of Nola’s limited reach.
“Really, you don’t have to….” Nola protested but as she sat forward to stop him, she jostled her arm which made her give a small hiss of pain.
“It’s no trouble and seeing that your arm is still out of commission, it will just take a minute.” Carson responded as he pulled out a pocket knife and cut the tap on the corner and center of the box. He folded the flaps back and as a flurry of small fragments of straw sprang in to the air. He dug one of his hands into the straw. At last, his hand emerged holding a small blue bottle. “Hmm. It seems that is a lot of packaging for only one bottle. They must have really wanted to make sure it didn’t break.”
“Yes, it’s an all-natural pain reliever that my family has been using for years. It does wonders.” Nola sat back, but her eyes never left the small bottle as Carson set it on the table.
“Do you want to take some now?” Bonnie asked, tilting her head as she peered at the small bottle.
“No. I don’t think I should mix my medicines. I’ll just keep it for later.” Nola responded. “If you would put it up so Johnny doesn’t see it….”
“Sure, I will just put it up on the cabinet by the sink. You just let me know when you want some.” Bonnie stood, picked up the bottle and whisked it over to the upper cabinet by the sink.
While the women talked, Carson casually picked up the box and tossed it into the trash, never noticing the piece of paper in the bottom of the box. It seemed Nola’s godmother warned that this batch was double potent and to be careful with the dosage. It stated that Nola should start out with only taking half a bottle to get back to her original age.
“Johnny seems to have taken up with you quite well.” Nola said as she brought up her cup for another sip of tea.
“Yes, it is a blessing to have a little one back in the house again” Bonnie said with a grateful look in her eyes.
“Again? Do you have other children?” Nola asked. A gleam developed in her eye but she quickly looked down at the table to hide it. The color drained from Bonnie’s face and she became very quiet.
Carson came to the table and leaned over Bonnie and spoke quietly.
“We did. We just lost our little girl, Erin. She would have been two, last month. She passed away quite suddenly due to an undetected heart defect.” Carson added as Bonnie wrapped her arm around his waist, hiding her face. “That’s why we have all the baby supplies. We found out that we can’t have any more children. You see, having little Johnny in the house has lightened our hearts so much. We’ll be terribly sad to see you both go.”
As the grieving parents went on to tell that they had just moved to town to start over and get past the tragedy of their little girl dying at the small town several states over. As she toyed with the blue rattle on the table and hearing the necklace shift inside it, Nola slyly inserted that her own situation with her grandson was less than ideal. It was perhaps, providence that brought them together she asserted.
That Friday, Fabricio was propped up on Bonnie’s lap as she watched some television. Carson had taken Erma into town for her doctor’s appointment. Although he was very comfortable n Bonnie’s lap, Fabricio continued to look toward the door. His mind was in a shambles. More and more, his attention was centered on his immediate comfort. He enjoyed the affection and attention being shown him by Gluckmans. However, the remnants of his adult mind held fast to the importance of the older woman. Her name was escaping him…N…N..Nowaa was coming to get him. Then, they could do…something. Something was very important as he chewed on the blue rattle in his hands. He liked the rattle as it caught his attention. He patted it with the flat of his hand before putting it back in his mouth. He lay back against Bonnie’s comfortably soft body as she stroked his curls on his head or occasionally pressed a kiss to his temple. At times, he would be filled with a sense of fulfillment that would overwhelm the dwindling nagging adults thoughts bouncing in his head.
The door opened with a cracking sound as Carson and Erma walked in. The first thing that Bonnie noticed was the Erma’s arm was no longer in a sling. Looking beyond their matronly houseguest, Bonnie could see Carson nodded emphatically, clearly intimating something had been accomplished. Bonnie stood up in response with Fabricio in her arms. Becoming quite emotional, she placed her hand on Fabricio’s head as she hugged him to her and placed multiple kisses on his head. After closing the door, Carson immediately crossed the room and embraced the pair. Nola stood there, with a simpering smile on her face as she watched the familial scene.
Carson and Bonnie thanked Nola profusely as they continued to pet “Johnny”. Fabricio was not sure what was going on. He looked questioningly at the woman who had arrived. She suddenly did not seem so important as she was. He was confused at why everyone was standing around. On top of that, the affection he was receiving seemed to leave his mind in upheaval. In one of his only avenues of release of tension, he began to squeal and flail his arms in response, causing the rattle to fall from his grasp. Nola quietly picked it up and held it in her hand behind her back.
During their trip into town, Nola had continued her charade as “Erma” and had stopped by a lawyer’s office with Carson just after her last doctor’s visit to remove her cast. She had signed papers giving custody of her “grandson” to the Gluckmans. She knew that it would just be a short time till her partner, Fabricio would lose all memory of being an adult. She was sure that his mind could not even encompass the memory of stealing the necklace. From what she had witnessed in the last few day, he would soon be, if not already, little Johnny Gluckman, the cherished child of Bonnie and Carson Gluckman.
While in town, Nola also bought another bus ticket for herself to leave the following morning. She would continue on to Canada with the necklace. Once there, she would take the antidote that her godmother had sent her. She would sell the necklace and all the money would be all hers. It was too bad about her partner, but there was always a certain amount of risk in their business. It was better to move on and not get too sentimental about these things she reasoned.
The next morning, making sure that the blue rattle was sitting on her nightstand table, Nola went to get ready for her last day as a senior citizen. By the end of the day, she would be across the border into Canada. Tonight, she would reclaim her youth, thanks to the bottle of potion that her godmother had sent and begin her fabulous new life. As Nola was distracted by dreams of the fabulous future that was just hours away, she leaned out to reach for a towel. Suddenly, her foot slipped in the tub and she came crashing down. As she fell she grabbed for the counter, knocking several objects off including the open bottle of her pain pills into the toilet. Her bruised ribs slammed into the side of the tub sending lightning bolts of pain through her body. Her immediate moan of pain brought Bonnie to the bathroom door who knocked furiously.
“Are you alright?” Bonnie called, worriedly to which Nola could only moan as the pain in her ribs caused breathing to be especially painful.
After calling Carson, the Gluckmans managed to get the bathroom door open to find Nola laying in pain on the bathroom floor. The pair managed to get Nola back to her bed in the guestroom. Her face was white with pain as they lowered her to the mattress.
“Do you want us to call a doctor?” Carson asked as he gently placed a pillow under her head.
“Oh no. Just….Just let me rest here for a while.” Nola replied as she closed her eyes and willed her body to heal itself. “I think I could use something for the pain. Bonnie, would you mind checking to see if there are any pain pills left in the bathroom?”
“Sure. I’ll also bring you a nice cup of tea to settle your nerves.” Bonnie answered as she spun to leave the room.
Bonnie checked the bathroom for Nola’s prescription pills. She found and upended the medicine bottle into her hand. It was empty. She looked down to see that all the pills had fallen into the toilet. Turning the light off as she exited the bathroom.
Bonnie’s face was frowning as to what she could do to relieve Nola’s pain. She entered the kitchen to make the tea she had promised. Picking up the tea kettle from the stove, she walked over to the sink to fill it. As the kettle was filling, her eyes landed on the cabinet and she remembered the Erma’s home remedy for pain.
It was three hours later, that Carson was sitting in the kitchen, with Johnny on his knee. He was holding the bottle as Johnny was furiously gulping the formula. The sounds of the smacking and swallowing filled the kitchen. Bonnie was placing the last few dishes in the dishwasher on the other side of the room.
Carson looked up from Johnny who was obviously enjoying his bottle and looked at the kitchen clock on the wall.
“Honey, do you think Erma is doing alright? Her bus is supposed to leave just after lunch. Maybe, you should go check on her?” Carson asked as he used part of the terry bib to wipe Johnny’s chin.
“I think she is still sleeping. I gave her that tea with the home remedy in it. I put the whole bottle of that remedy in her cup of tea. I don’t know what was in it but it certainly made her sleepy. She passed out as soon as she finished the tea. I think the sleep would be the best thing for her.” Bonnie answered as she walked back to the table, wiping her hands on a dish towel.
“Well, maybe you should go see if she’s awake. If she isn’t up for traveling today, I can always go in to town and exchange the bus ticket for another day.” Carson said as he draped a small towel over his shoulder to burp Johnny.
Bonnie nodded as she left the kitchen to check on “Erma”. Carson could hear the bedroom door make a whooshing sound against the carpeting as Bonnie slowly opened it.
“Carson!” Bonnie appeared at the door of the kitchen, a shocked expression on her face. She urgently beckoned her husband and whispered. “Come see!”
A week later, the sheriff knocked on the door of the Gluckman house. A friendly tall man opened the door with an infant in his arm. The child was dressed in a terry sleeper and leaned against his father’s shoulder but seemed interested in the man in the sheriff’s uniform. He was contentedly chewing on a blue rattle as he seemed fascinated by the stranger at the door.
“Hello. I’m Sheriff Eanes. I understand that you folks just moved to our community a few weeks ago.” The sheriff announced from the bitterly cold front porch.
“Yes. We did. I’m Carson Gluckman and this is my son, Johnny. Won’t you come in?” Carson stated and moved aside.
“Nice to meet you. Welcome to our community.” Sheriff Eanes responded as he walked through the door. Carson closed the door behind him and motioned the sheriff toward the furniture.
The sheriff took a seat and leaned forward, denoting the seriousness of the issue.
“Unfortunately, I am here on official business. I need to speak to an Erma Fields. According to my reports, she was in the bus crash about two weeks ago.” He pulled out a notepad. Pulling back the cover, the sheriff trailed his finger of the page and said. “It says that she was staying with you folks after she was released from the hospital.”
“Yes. She was.” Carson answered. Resettling the baby against his chest, he tilted his head as he asked. “Is there a problem?”
“No. It just seems that the hospital bill wasn’t paid. Upon investigation, it seems to have brought up some irregularities about her identity.” The official stated as he looked up suspiciously from his notepad.
“Oh. I don’t know anything about that.” Carson looked appropriately shocked and explained. “She left on a bus about a week ago. She seemed like a nice lady.”
“Have you heard from her? Did she say where she was going?” The sheriff drilled the questions one after the other.
Carson thought for a moment before answering. “I think she said something about Canada, but we haven’t heard from her.”
“Well, let me know if you do hear from her.” The sheriff closed the notepad with a grim expression.
Suddenly, a very wet and naked toddler ran into the room. A screech of a woman’s voice could be heard from another part of the house.
“Catch her!” A woman’s voice carried into the room.
The little girl could not be more than two years old and naked as the day she was born. She had obviously been in a bath recently, as her skin shone and water droplets hung from the short dark locks on the top of her head. She froze as she saw the two men sitting there. One of the men was wearing a brown outfit with a big star on his chest. There was a tall hat on his head. He sat there with a look of authority about him. Both men stopped their conversation to look at this new arrival in the room.
The little girl stared at the man in fright. There was something scary about this man. He made her feel that she had done something bad. He would take her to some place bad. Some place where they put bad people. However, she did not want to go back to the woman who was trying to wrap her in a towel. She would be rubbed dry, powdered and dressed in her nighttime diaper and pajamas. She was tired of that bossy woman, pulling her this way and that. She was having the hardest time with that woman’s name. It was Bu…No, that’s not right. It made her head hurt to think. It was so confusing. She was so small now and everything was so big. Nothing was right. She had to go to kn-da. Maybe…but that would mean leaving here. How was she to do that? There was supposed to be something else…but she couldn’t remember. It was slipping away, making her irritable. To top everything, no one was letting her have her way. Everyone loved that baby. She was supposed to be loved, not that baby. Did not anyone understand that she must have her way? She wanted that blue rattle. Every time she got it, Mommy would take it away from her. It didn’t matter if she screamed, fell on the floor and kicked. Daddy said that Mommy’s in charge. Mommy …. Mommy was the bossy woman… Wait, that couldn’t be right. No one was supposed to tell her what to do. She didn’t want a bath. She didn’t want to go to bed. She didn’t want to share. She didn’t want time outs. It was all so wrong! It made her want to scream but then the strange man would take her to the bad place. Mommy would stop him! Mommy was in charge! She only had to call her and Mommy would swoop in and save her. But if she made a sound, the the scary man would notice her and take her away before Mommy got here, so she stood still staring at the man
“Hello, there.” Sheriff Eanes leaned forward and kindly addressed the child. “Who are you, young lady?”
Nola’s feet stood frozen to the spot but her body reared back with large eyes at the strange man. Something from the very back of her mind was telling her that this was trouble. Not knowing what else to do, she stuck her fingers in her mouth and stared at the strange man.
“This is Erin, my daughter. It seems that she got away from Mommy.” Carson stated as he sighed at the common occurrence. He shifted Johnny in his arms and added in explanation. “She’s two.”
“Did you catch her? She is slippery as a wet eel out of that tub.” Bonnie asked as she trotted into the room, the front of her clothes slightly damp. She was carrying a bath towel in her hands. “Oh, excuse me. I didn’t know we had company.”
“Sweetheart, this is Sheriff Eanes. My wife, Bonnie. He’s here asking about Miss Erma.” Carson carefully prodded. “I was just telling him that we hadn’t heard from her.”
“Nice to meet you, Sheriff. If you would excuse me, I need to deal with my little nudist here.” Bonnie stated as she made her way over the motionless little girl in the center of the living room. She opened the towel and scooped the child up in it. She turned to leave the room, giving her husband a knowing look as she walked out of the room.
“Certainly, Mam.” Sheriff brought his finger to the brim of hat. “You two are quite busy with the little ones, so I’ll get out of your hair. Let me know if you hear and find anything.”
“Of course.” Carson stood and escorted the sheriff to the door.
After closing the door, Carson smiled at Johnny who was perched on the crook of his arm and stated. “Let’s me and you go see what the girls are up to. Okay?”,
Twenty-six years later.
The young woman went to the door of the bedroom and yelled down the hall.
“Johnny! Get in here! Mom says we have to get our stuff out of here before the new owners close on the house next week.” Erin complained as she waited for her brother to appear.
As she waited, she pulled some cardboard boxes out of the bedroom closet and into the middle of the bedroom.
A minute later, a dark haired man appeared at the door. Seeing his older sister already at work at the task, his automatic impulse was to slouch against the door frame.
“I can’t believe Mom and Dad are moving to Florida and selling the old house.” Cocking his head to the side, he groaned. “Oh come on, Sis. You know Mom will pack it up.”
“Maybe for you, you spoiled brat!” Erin put down one box and brushed the dust off her jeans. “I didn’t drive all the way out here to watch you evade doing the one thing you promised Mom you would do.”
“Come on, Sis. You don’t want all those baton twirling trophies any more than I want those scrapbooks Mom made about my middle school hockey team.” The young man rubbed the back of his neck as he looked at his sister guiltily.
“Look, I wouldn’t want to be you when Mom and Dad come back from Florida for a visit and she wants to see those scrapbooks.” She musically warned her brother. “I can just imagine the disappointment wafting off her.”
“Okay, okay.” Admitting defeat with his hands up, Johnny answered and pushed away from the door frame. “Is this all there is? Are there anymore cardboard boxes in the closet?”
“I think there’s a big box on the highest shelf in the back. I couldn’t reach it.” Squatting behind a box, Erin stood and pointed over her shoulder at the closet. “Maybe you can stretch out some of those old hockey muscles and bring it down.”
“Oh, you’re funny!” John stated as he walked past his sister and into the closet.
There on the third shelf, he saw the box. It had obviously been there a while because it was flush against the wall. Standing on his toes, his fingers could just brush the cardboard. Teasing the box forward, the box began to move forward to the edge of the shelf slowly. After a few moments of work, the box fell into his waiting arms. John coughed as the thick layer of dust that was sitting on the top of the box flew into the air around his head.
“What do we got in here? Look, it’s got stuff from when we were really little.” Johnny sat on the floor, as he began to pull items from the box. He exclaimed a moment later as he looked at the photographs in his hand. Each photograph gaining a comment.
“Man! Mom kept everything. Here’s the typically embarrassing picture of us in the bathtub together. And this one is from one of our birthday parties, we are sitting at the table mashing cake in our faces. Oh, it’s your first day at preschool. Aren’t you cute with your pigtails?” John sniggered and waggled the photo in front of his sister.
“Here’s one where you’re a little lamb at the kindergarten Christmas play.” Taking some of the more photographs from the box, Erin laughed as she held up one in front of her brother. “Look at all the cotton balls on your head!”
“Yeah. Yeah. What do want from me? I was five.” John griped and then announced as he found another discovery. “Oh wow! Here’s an early photo. I think it must be Easter. Look at the way Mom got us dolled up! I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in so many ruffles.”
“Well, Look at you.” Erin said as she leaned over her brother’s shoulder. “You don’t exactly look like a brain trust with that vacant expression on your face while sucking on your fingers. I’ll say one thing. I never noticed how pastels flatter you.”
“Geez! It’s like Disney puked all over me. I will say I was rocking that outfit.” John said as he pulled the picture from his sister’s grasp. He pointed to little girl on the blanket in the picture. “Look at your face! What a scowl!”
“Ha. Mom said I was a terror when I was two and I look it.” Erin laughed and shook her head. “She said I was so jealous of you that I was always taking your toys away from you.”
“What you didn’t instantly fall in love with me? I’m crushed!” John stated aghast as he placed a hand to his chest in a stricken posture.
“Get over it! A lot of kids go through that. A new baby takes a lot of attention. See there!” Erin pointed at an object on the quilt. “There’s that blue rattle that Mom said I was always taking away from you. You loved it and would scream bloody murder every time I took it. I don’t know why I thought it was so attractive. It looks like a regular baby rattle.” Erin cocked her head, studying the photo and then shrugged. “I probably just wanted to make you cry.”
“Hey, speaking of which, look what I found at the bottom of the box. It’s that rattle! What do you think of that?” John stated happily as he rattled the toy at his sister. The rattle made a shushing sound as if it had something heavier than normal beads inside it.
“I’m so happy for you two.” Erin rolled her eyes and sighed as she turned to dig in another box. “Now put it down and help me get through these boxes. Mom said to put anything we wanted to donate to charity in that laundry basket by the door.”
“Okay, you know this rattle seems a little weird.” He studied the blue rattle that lay in the palm of his hand. He then held it up and shook it by his ear. “I wonder why I liked it so much. It doesn’t even rattle right.”
“Come on, put it down and get to work!” Erin badgered her brother. “I want to get out of here today.”
“Tell you what. For old time’s sake, I’ll make a present of it to you. No hard feelings.” He held it out and shook it inviting at his sister. The rattle was suspended in front of her face, making the odd shushing sound that echoed around the room.
“Hmm, tempting…No thanks, you keep it. It’s yours.” Erin said as she turned back to the box she was digging through.
“Well, I don’t want it.” John stated as he lowered the rattle.
“What do you think I should do with it?”
Over her shoulder, Erin responded. “Toss it in the basket for donations. Maybe, it can do some good out for somebody else.”