Remember when I used to write and post flash fiction? Maybe you don’t, because it’s been that long since I’ve done it. But I found a challenge that looked like a lot of fun and gave it a go.
This flash fiction challenge comes courtesy of Dan Alatorre. We were to generate six titles using a random title generator and pick one to use for our story. Ergo, I bring you Final Theft.
I stand on the blackened patch at the center of the crumbling structure, eyeing the fluttering gold aspen leaves through the hole in the roof. The gap has grown since I last saw it, and a few new windows to the forest outside have formed in the walls. I guess things change when you ignore them for so many years.
The dirt crunches under my shoes as I step outside. The cool October wind meets my naked arms. I’d forgotten a jacket was required around here this time of year. I stuff my hands into the pockets of my jeans, but that doesn’t keep goosebumps from forming on my prison tats. I glance back at the old building – Manny thought it was a church at one point. By the time we found it, it was good for little more than building a fire in the middle of the floor and smoking pot. That, and anything else we could find to smoke. It was the only time we didn’t feel like crap.
Come on, man, this isn’t cool. She’s our grandma.
I shake my head at the memory of my cousin’s words as the cabin comes into view.
It looks like shit. I guess that happens after five years of neglect. No one bothered to clean out the place when Nana died. If I hadn’t been locked up at the time, I would have done it. But only because I know there’s something inside worth finding.
How could you?
I’m sorry, Nana. I needed it.
My grandmother gave me that necklace. It was priceless.
Her words sounded different through that phone they put on the other side of the plastic divider.
If she knew how many priceless items I’d pilfered, she wouldn’t have visited me.
I kick the door, and it opens into the darkened front room. The couch is still there – a pink relic of the 1950s. It was old when I visited as a teenager – a young man, really. Legally old enough to be charged as an adult.
A coating of dirt obscures the cushions.
I guess the broken window above it didn’t protect like it once did.
Promise me something.
Don’t steal again, and give up the drugs, and I’ll request leniency in your sentencing. Manny’s been so sick. I don’t need this stress.
I did promise, but burglarizing her place was only part of the picture.
Besides, it’s not like she’ll miss what I plan to take. Is it stealing if the victim is dead?
I enter her bedroom and wiggle the floorboards. Which one was it?
Nana, what are you doing? What’s in that box?
I’d left it when I pulled the job. Thought she wouldn’t suspect me, since she knew I’d seen her hide it.
Oh, it’s nothing, dear. Just some personal treasures.
The fifth board I try gives, and I lift it.
The space beneath is empty. I reach in and wave my arm under the floor.
The back of my hand bumps something.
I grasp it and pull it through the hole. It’s a small white box, held closed by a metal clasp, like the jewelry box my sister had in her room.
I look closer. This is Marcella’s box.
If I’m right, all that will be inside is a ballerina that twirls, not the treasures Nana said she kept.
Marcella died when I was twelve, around the same time I found Nana hiding this under the floor. Maybe she just wanted something personal, something her granddaughter loved. Maybe I should let it be.
I stare at it, then flick open the latch and lift the lid.
The ballerina is buried by a cloth. I remove it, and a small glass bottle with no label tumbles out and onto the floor, rolling across the wood. It looks like medicine. Makes sense. Marcella, Manny and I seemed to always be sick when we visited. Bad luck, Nana would say. Just like my dad when he was little. Sick all the time.
But why would Nana hide it?
I open the bottle and sniff. The acrid smell turns my stomach. It reminds me of lying in bed, wishing I could hike through the woods to the cave, like the kids down the road.
I cover the bottle’s opening and tip it. A coating of clear liquid covers my finger. I bring it to my mouth as a lump forms in my throat.
I wipe the liquid on my jeans. I can’t taste it. That shit made me sick for years. All the food and drink Nana prepared smelled like this. She’d said my taste was off from my illness.
The illness Manny and Marcella also suffered. The same one that ended up taking Marcella’s life.
I stare at the bottle in one hand and the cloth in the other.
Nana didn’t hide treasure. She hid evidence.
I replace the bottle and the box, leaving everything as I’d found them.
I guess I should keep my promises.