Life in Boxes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Bridges
Elesio was a born proud Italian with great expectations and now at 93 years old, he is perceived by his family to be just an eccentric old man with money. They pretend not to care about the inheritance and have never cared about the stories of his life. Not happy about the attitudes of the family who have grown to be nothing like the large happy family he grew up with, he gathers them together for a plan to unite them before he dies.

Submitted: July 01, 2019

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Submitted: July 01, 2019

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This is the end of a 93 year journey, perhaps a year or two may follow to make more memories come alive.  Files and files of hope, dreams, horror and happiness are recorded and filed in the boxes.

Mama’s ancestry is filed in the red tubs and Daddy’s in the blue and they go far back as his life can see. Elesio had searched genealogies to find where his memories stopped, back before he was born.  He retired at 75 and had spent the next 19 years searching more about his roots.

On this day, he had already found the start of his genes in Italy, Austria and Finland, and now on sleepless nights, he gathers his dreams and relives his past.  He has lived a glorious and sometimes terrifying life, but it was all in honor and he never wanted it to end.  He started to validate his life as a way of continuing where his body failed to follow his brain.

Elesio has summoned his family and now four sons sit in a circle around his cushioned chair in the big mansion second floor ballroom.  Behind him are the wives.  He begins as the last of the grandchildren fill in the rows behind them.

“This is my life of struggle, war, scratching my way to the top and the honors and rewards I received which none of you has ever bothered to listen to.”  He pointed his long thin finger on his left hand around the stacks of paper boxes.  “Some of you thought you’d burned all these documents for your mother when she tried to sell all my other properties that month ten years ago when I was ill.”  He looked more accusingly at the oldest in the front row.  “But you see I survived her.  And these are the originals that my lawyer, the one your mother never knew about, had hidden away in storage.”  He laughed.  “She never knew about that either.”

“As you know, I only had one wife, gained much wealth and lived all over the world.  What you don’t know about the war and other parts of my life is recorded in some of the boxes that you and your mother never knew about.”

Elesio points to a dark-haired middle-aged man who had been sitting in the shadows.  Let me introduce you to my secret lawyer, Benetio.  He is having everything recorded that goes on in this room. He pointed to the cameras behind and over his head. The outcome of my final will and testament will be revealed to you before I die. My medical team that you also know nothing about, tells me that I’m so hornery I could live forever.”

There is some laughter from the family members.  He grins with glee.  ‘Good, they are listening.’

He begins again.  “During the Immigration of the Esposito family from the village by a valley in the northern part of Italy near Canne, treasure was hidden in the land that was at one time a part of Austria and Hungary.  One of the Esposito family recorded this in his hidden memoirs and to this day, no one has ever recovered that treasure.  I’ll be giving each of the sons clues and I’ll finance each family for all expenses to Tuscany where the search will begin.  You’ll be accompanied by Benetio in a group and work together as a team to find the treasure.  If any of you fail to work in unison, you will be disqualified.  No gossip, no argument, no back stabbing, no bullying and no tattling.”

There was mumbling with each other and Elesio clapped his hands.  “If you have something to say, raise your hands and say it to me.”

The oldest raised his hand.  “I have a company to run Father.  I can’t be bothered to go running out of the country for a game that is undoubtedly born of old folk’s tales.  If you knew about the treasure why didn’t you look for it on one of your many trips to the ancestral village?”

“Oh, but I did, I know what it is and where it is.  But I left it there for you to find someday.”

The youngest man, Daniel challenged him.“And how do you know that one of our many cousins hasn’t already found whatever is rumored to exist?”

They all yelled, “Yeah."

“Because I'm the only one left to hold the secret.  All the other uncles and cousins have died and none of them were privy to the secret.  You see, after I was born in the little village on the cliffs which you’ll learn about in these boxes, my family left and settled in the farming community near the Wisconsin River.  My father was the only family member privileged with the treasure when Grandfather Falsettio died.  Other families followed to the Wisconsin farms and they would not have come had they known there was treasure in their village.”

The youngest, Dennis popped up with.  “I can’t believe that Mother allowed you to keep that secret.  She would have told us about it.  She always said you were full of blarney.”

“And what can you expect from a red headed Irish Lassie.  She always had a hot loose tongue and she never wanted to hear my stories and she didn’t want me to tell them to you.  Even she didn't know about the treasure.”

Thomas charged with the hot temper of his mother.  “You were always too busy traveling and working to tell us anything.”

“Did she tell you about World War II?  Did she tell you about my medals, the horror of the recession?  No, she discounted my life.  Well, that all happened before, but it is the reason for the immigration of Italians.  I was ten years older than your mother.  She had been shielded and knew nothing about real life.”

“Yeah well, your holdings from the wineries here in California were enough to put us all through college in any university in the country, but you were too stingy and we had to work our way through the free college program here in this state.”

“When you were in college, I was head over heels in debt, but working my butt off to build it from the ground up.  All of you were born here in this state, but in these boxes, you’ll learn about it all, from the dairy farm and creamery in Wisconsin where my brother and I worked growing up and later inherited and built up to my expanding to the wineries here in the Napa Valley.  Wine and cheese..."

“Boring.”  That’s all that the third born, Jason had to say.

“Listen to me.  These boxes hold important stuff.”

Dennis laughed.  “Just old newspaper clippings and pictures that stink to high heaven.  I thought Mom had….”  He stopped suddenly as he got the evil eye stare from his older brother.

“It’s o.k.  Sons, I know about the bonfire when your mother destroyed what she thought were the only copies of my life story.  I’ve always tried to cover the truth from you.  But you see ,when she was busy conspiring against me and setting up her own future when I was ill, Benito here was busy with bugging my room, putting all my holdings in a trust that she could not penetrate and diverting the sales that she tried to implement on all the properties.  Everything is intact and ready for you to inherit if and when you solve the mystery of the secret treasure.”

He called Benito to his side.  “Benito has a set of computer drives for each of you.  On them are the scanned files of all the documents in the boxes plus more.  The only way for you to find the treasure is for you to travel at my expense to Italy, find the clues on the files on these drives and then look for the treasure.  A camera crew will follow each of you.  After you find it, Benito’s team will secure it, record the facts and then you will all come back here to claim your inheritance.  If you don’t participate, you'll lose your portion and the winner or winners will receive that portion plus his own.  The other participants will receive a fair share.  Reading the records and sharing with each other are the keys.”

Elesio looked around the room.  “There’s one more stipulation.  If you don’t share and work together to find the clues, if you bully or practice deceit in any way, you’ll be disqualified and will receive nothing.”

“So, what if you die before then?”

Elesio laughed.  “I have a way to speak from the grave.”

He looked at Benito and said.  “Benito will answer any questions about travel arrangements.  He won’t be able to give any other info, but he can help in other ways.  Go down to the wine cellar, enjoy and talk it over. Benito will be there for you to sign agreement to participate and to book travel.”

He heard the mumbling as they rose…”War hero…I’ll bet…”

The old man still vital and looking much younger stood and walked with his back straight and his steps sure and as he opened the balcony doors, he turned and said, “A nation that does not honor it’s heroes will not endure.  Abraham Lincoln."

He sat in the swing on the balcony until dusk.  As the last of the sun dipped over into the ocean, Benitio walked out with two glasses of the best wines.  “They’re all in for it and already going through the files together on their separate computers and I phones in the parlor downstairs.  I just booked flights for them.”

Elesio chuckled. “It worked.  Sally would be rolling over in her grave if she knew I’d bested her in this little war of hers.”


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