I didn’t get a chance to play along with last week’s writing sprints, but after reading Kay’s story (The Scarf) on Friday and Jilly’s story (The Great Escape) on Sunday I was motivated to belatedly join in the fun today.
So, without further ado, here’s a short story featuring a character who lost something important, including (most of) the words proud, plaid, thief, viper, whisper, drawer, crazy, disguised, deceit, fictional, ideal, sibling, insecure, nerve, garden, and squirrel.
The Family Legacy
Ricki surveyed the scene in front of her with thinly disguised revulsion.
She didn’t want to speak ill of the dead and call Granny Graves crazy, but the overflowing drawers, overloaded shelves, and overpowering effluvia hardly pointed to a well-balanced mind.
Granny had been house-proud once upon a time, with slipcovers to protect the upholstery and plastic runners to protect the floors; everything arranged just so. You took your life in your hands if you tracked in mud or left anything lying around.
Oh, how the mighty had fallen.
Ricki was pretty sure Cousin Vinny, the deceitful thieving viper, was to blame. He’d been taking care of Granny Graves ever since she had that stroke last fall, probably hoping to cement his place in her will and, more importantly, get his hands on the family legacy.
Executor of the estate had sounded glamorous and exciting when Ricki heard it at the reading of the will but now, seeing the estate in all its glory, she had her doubts.
Her friend Mabel hovered just inside the doorway, hesitant to take that next step. “Is that a squirrel over there?” she asked in a whisper, pointing to something furry looking by the fireplace.
“Stuffed,” Ricky threw over her shoulder as she advanced further into what was once a formal living room, stopping just in time to avoid barking her shin on a garden gnome buried beneath a tidal wave of old newspapers.
She surveyed the room, looking for a logical place to start her search. As executor of the estate, there was only one thing she was after – the legacy. Granny’s deathbed words echoed in her head, “Ricki don’t lose that number.” It would have been helpful had Granny been more explicit about where to find the number, instead of just cryptically adding the “truth will find itself.”
As a child, Ricki found her grandmother’s tendency to talk in song titles amusing but now it was just plain annoying.
She pulled a voluminous plaid apron from her tote bag and wrapped it around herself in what was likely to be a pointless attempt to protect her clothes. She’d probably have to burn them after this.
Mabel, finally getting her nerves under control, closed the front door and joined her, putting on her own apron. “Needle in a haystack,” she said, looking around in dismay. “What exactly are we looking for?”
“A book,” Ricki answered. Technically, she was looking for the combination to Granny’s safe, but she was pretty sure she’d find it in the old family bible, if only she could find that. Granny was a big fan of the Gospel of John, especially the bit about the “truth will set you free.” Finding the combination to the safe would definitely set Ricki free.
They divided up the room and got to work. The bookshelves, which had seemed promising at first, were a bust. There were hundreds of books, stuffed on the shelves in no particular order, from biographies and fictional accounts to survivalist manifestos and how-to books. There was, however, nothing even remotely resembling a bible.
Ricki stood, dusted off her hands on her now filthy apron, and stretched her aching back. “Still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
“Are we giving up?” Mabel asked, hoping she’d say yes.
Ricki shook her head. “Keep searchin’.” I know that book is here somewhere.
They methodically made their way through the house, stopping only briefly at lunchtime for sandwiches, lemonade, and fresh air in the backyard, before getting back to work.
Mabel started making sounds about giving up and going home again as the afternoon passed. “Love is where you find it,” she said, “but heaven only knows where this book is. Are you sure it even exists?”
“Don’t let me lose this dream,” Ricki said, willing her friend to keep searching. “Granny said the book would be the answer to all of my prayers.”
“Are you sure she wasn’t just leading you on?
“I’m losing faith in you, Mabel,” said Ricki as she headed into the kitchen to continue the search.
Mabel followed, muttering, “Or maybe just losing it.”
Two hours later, on a high shelf above the refrigerator, behind the Glenlivet and Bushmills, buried in a stack of cookbooks, wrapped in a Joy of Cooking cover, they finally found it.
The Graves Family Bible.
It was old and cracked with well-worn pages and, more importantly, with a series of four numbers penciled in the margins of John 8:32.
“The search is over.” Ricki let out a breath she hadn’t even realized she was holding.
“Great, let’s go.” Mabel had packed up her things and heading for the front door.
“You don’t have to stay,” Ricki said, climbing down from the ladder, still holding on to the book. “You’ve already gone far beyond the call of friendship, but I still need to open the safe.”
Mabel let out a long sigh before turning back into the room. “Fine. I’ll stay. But I definitely get to pick our next girl’s-day-out.”
Finding the safe was much easier than finding the combination had been, since it had been hiding in plain sight masquerading as an end-table since Ricki had been a little girl. Most thought it was just a decorative faux-safe, she knew it was the real thing.
It took Ricki three tries to get it open; the dial was hyper-sensitive, and her tired sweaty hands kept slipping. She finally got it open and there, underneath a framed photo of Granny Graves and the whole extended family, was the legacy.
Ricki’s key to financial security and a life of freedom.
Mabel stared at the contents in amazement then she turned to Ricki. “What about your odious siblings? They’re going to want their share of this.”
Ricki reached for her tote bag and started transferring the contents of the safe. “Finders keepers,” she said with a grin.
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