Monday, October 24, 2016

Short Stories & Such 26: Inside the Old Box

The following prompt was given by Writer’s Digest on May 7, 2013. I didn’t get a chance to share it online, but I’m posting it here, but don’t hesitate to use the prompt for your own version to the story.
When I first wrote it, I had only dialogue, then, I went back and added some more details. I hope you enjoy=)

You are at the neighborhood garage sale, looking for nothing in particular. Something inside an old, wooden box catches your eye. The old woman who is running the sale comes over to say something about the object. What is it? What did she say and why?

Inside the Old Box 

  “How many of these things are we going to go to?” Tony turned off the ignition and pulled the key out to fumble with the beads that were attached to its chain.

  “This one’s different, Tony.” Gretta grabbed the empty tote bag under her seat.

  “How’s this one different?”

  “For one, there aren’t a lot of customers and second, it’s a garage sale.”

  “Ho ho ho.” Tony pretended to be amused and, then, formed a lopsided grin. “A garage sale and a yard sale are the same thing, Gretta.”

  “You have no idea of the difference.” She shook her head and pinched his nose.

  “Fine, suit yourself, but I’m going to stay here with the windows down. You’ll find nothing to go with your antique shop. Trust me. All we’ve picked up is more junk to go in our garage! This hasn’t been a positive shopping spree.”

  “Oh, phew!”

  Tony shrugged his shoulders, but didn’t remove his seat belt.

  "I still love you when you're no fun." 

  Gretta stepped out of the car and crossed the street toward the garage sale. She looks through items as if eyeing nothing in particular. She rummaged through old clothes and old records. She turned to the car where Tony had propped the car seat back and sighed.

  Then, a spot opened up where the old books were. She picked up a children’s book on the Raggedy Doll Annie and browsed the pages. When she set it down, she caught a glimpse of the edge of a wooden box. She moved some books and placed both hands around it. She used her fingers to trace the impression on the top of the box. It looked like a shell used to be glued on it. The wood had faded and could use some polish. She knew exactly where she could get a flat shell to go with it.

  Right before she opened it, the old woman who ran the sale approached her and said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

  Gretta raised her eyes. “Excuse me?”

  “The box has been lost for many years. It holds a secret about your great grandfather.”


  “He was a seaman.”

  “Y-yes, how do you know that?”

  “It’s written on your face.” The woman’s faded blue eyes twinkled. “You are Gretta.”

  “Yes, yes I am. Did you know my parents?”

  “Only in nightmares.”

  Gretta’s pulse quickened and she backed away from the old woman. She set the box down on the next table, but the old woman picked it up and opened it. She walked toward Gretta with an eerie pace, extending the box with her shrouded arm. Inside was a golden locket, an old pocket watch, a picture, and a note.

  The old woman handed the note to Gretta and gestured with her pointy chin to open it.

  Gretta unfolded it and straightened the paper. “I don’t understand?”

  “It is your destiny.”

  Gretta bit her lip and re-read the note. She surveyed the long hand, most probably written with a quill and black ink. Her eyes took in each word written. When she finished, the old woman was gone.

  She searched for her frantically, leaving the box and its contents on the table. No one seemed to see the woman and Gretta returned to the wooden box. She placed the note inside, left ten dollars with a young woman assisting other customers, and headed to the car.

  Tony yawned as Gretta climbed inside.

  “What did we get?”

  She handed the box to him with vacant eyes.

  He slowly reached for it with a raised eyebrow.

  “Read it.”

  Tony opened the box and picked up the blurry picture of a dark haired man with his arm wrapped around a young woman who looked like… Gretta. He set it down, dismissing it as her grandmother.

   He fancied the tarnished silver pocket watch, but the locket was very Victorian. He heard Gretta gulp and he set the items down. He then unfolded the note carefully. The paper was torn from the edges and the folded creases had a few holes.

“My dearest beloved Gretta,
I have reached the pier where we last met.
I await your arrival.
I’ve missed you with all my heart.
Love, James”

  Tony squint at the name on the greeting and turned to Gretta. “Say, what is this?”

  But Gretta had already put on the locket around her neck and was walking down the street in the direction toward the beach.

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