Rock Box Treasures

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
This fictional short story explores possibilities that set backs and hardships are the rough valleys we must go through to find the treasures of life on the other end. This story, even though it may seem like a "yeah, right" situation holds a double meaning. When encountered with difficulties, step back, find a place to explore and find solutions or at the very least rearrange life and charge ahead.

Submitted: July 10, 2019

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Submitted: July 10, 2019

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Josh walked out of the shop employee door.  His head was down into his bent shoulders. If the big steel door had not been so heavy, he would have slammed it. He did slam the truck door when he settled himself heavily on the smooth leather seat.

He grabbed the steering wheel and glared back at the side of the building where he had worked for 15 years. This was where he had earned his right to have this wonderful, shiny new truck.  Fear gripped him as he realized that he had a long way to go before this truck truly belonged to him.

Josh sat and watched his fellow workers making their departure from the parking lot. Some were loud and cursing. Others were bent over, looking like abused animals, slaves submitting to their master. The hatchet news that the owners had loaded on them in the meeting on the shop floor had come at a complete surprise. How could they have kept this move, this outsourcing information so completely under wraps? There had been cut backs on materials and hours, but no one expected that the company would just close the doors like this.

Inserting the key in the ignition, Josh went into automated mind control all the way home. He couldn't remember how he got home, but he became aware that he was home as the dogs barked and gathered around his truck in the gravel dirt driveway. He brushed his hands through the lush red coats of the golden retrievers as he got out and stood looking around the farm.

This was his childhood home, willed to him by his father two years ago along with badly needed repairs. There were no savings or life insurance policies. He and Jill had talked about getting an equity loan to fix and renovate the farmhouse and barns. The property was in such bad shape that it was appraised far lower than the actual resale value. Since home values were at a new low, there was no way that they would be able to sell the house and get out from under their debt, let alone use the profit to live on.

The thought of selling the property made him shiver. The construction company that was building the new subdivision to the north of the property had offered to buy the farm several months before. But how could he sell the property where he had so many childhood memories. He walked toward the old horse barn where Tic Tac, his Welsh pony had been housed. That was one stubborn pony, but oh the fun they had running back and forth across the lot, playing tag. Josh leaned up against the wood rail fence and looked out across the adjoining woods at the trail to the hideout.

His boys, Jake and James had so much fun playing there. He had played there, his father had played there and his grandfather had played there. The farm had been in the family for well over 100 years.

Josh walked out to the trail and disappeared into the trees. About 400 feet in, he stopped in the clearing and was overwhelmed again by what felt like a vice squeezing his chest. This peaceful place was priceless. How could he let the thought of selling it to a real estate or construction company pass through his mind? Tractors and bulldozers would level it right out and roads would be put in.

Sitting down on a wooden bench that surrounded the fire pit, Josh revisited the conversation that he and Jill had about clearing some of the areas that he had let grow into forest for a pumpkin farm and to harvest and grow Christmas trees for the fall and winter and board and breed horses as well. Farming was in his blood.  It would be good to turn it back into a working farm. That would be a great idea, if he had the money to even begin that project.

Putting both hands on the bench, he leaned back and looked up to the sky through the opening in the trees. His eyes drifted down the largest tree in front of him to the tree house. Jumping up, he walked over to the big Maple and climbed up the board ladder nailed to the trunk. At the top, he swung up on the platform and laid back to look at the sky. The rustle of the leaves soothed him and the sun warmed his face. Sleepily, he remembered the fun he and his cousins had as they played in their hide out. Now his boys played here and their cousins spent all their time indoors playing video games. They would never get to hunt and hide treasure here. Treasure...Josh sat up and looked up at the knothole above him. It was too high up for his sons to reach yet.  Because of a storm that struck the tree on that part of the trunk, he had to cut down the limb near the knothole that he and his cousins had used to climb up to the hole. He stood up to his full six foot length and reached into the hole. He pulled out debris from a bird's nest and then in the back of it was the feel of metal. He pulled it down and smiled from ear to ear. This was wonderful. Just what he needed to dispel this funk he was in.

He sat down on the floor of the tree house and opened the small rectangular metal box. It was an old tool box that his father had given him when he was small. The memories flooded back as he opened it and he smiled as he looked down at the content.

It was 1970 and he and his family were on vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They were camping in a campground and ran wild around the ditches and gullies near a gemstone mine. Since he was the rock hound of his family, he tried to keep every piece of limestone, agate and pyrite that he could find. When they started to pack to leave, his mother couldn't find enough room in the camper or car to put all the rocks. So she limited Josh to just the pieces that he could put in the little metal tool box. Josh had taken his paper bags of rocks back to the gully where he sorted through them to choose just three.

Suddenly he noticed a green glimmer poking out of the limestone dust nearby. Digging it up, he pulled out a long, green, hexagon stone. The angles on the stone looked like a stone cutter had carved it into a shape much like the Washington Monument. He remembered the Monument from a postcard that Mom and Dad had from their honeymoon trip to Washington, D.C.  He dusted the stone off and held it glimmering and reflecting the sunlight. He laid it in his box, and left the rest of his treasures behind.

He remembered why he had never told his parents about his treasure. While they had been on that vacation, Josh and his family had visited many shops that sold gemstones.  He had seen many people bring in stones and hand them over to the man behind the counter.  He had been afraid that if he told his parents, they would make him give the stone to the gem store at the camping ground.  To his six year old mind, this treasure was like the precious stones that the gemstone shop sold.  He had seen many smaller stones that looked similar to his in the shop.

Josh sighed and rubbed the stone.  Maybe it was worth money.  But like the farm that he grew up on, this stone represented a part of his life.  He looked into the changing greens as he turned it in the sunlight.  To sell it would probably net less than a hundred dollars and that would not add that much to the financial situation as he saw it.

 Josh heard the engine of Jill's old car pull into the drive and looked up.  From his perch in the tree, he could see her get out and head for the house.  He figured he'd better show himself or she'd be worried.  He put the stone back onto the cloth handkerchief in the box and stuffed it down in his large coat pocket.

Jill was in the kitchen rattling pots and pans when he entered.  Suddenly he felt the depression hit again.  He dreaded telling her that her income at the jewelry store was all that was going to save them from starving.  She looked up and gave him a worried smile.  She walked over, hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.

"Do you want to tell me or do I have to tell you the gossip that's going around town?"  She said as she stepped back.

"Well, whatever you heard was probably true."

"Did you get laid off?"

"Yep.  It's more than a lay-off Jill.  The plant is leaving the country."

"How can they do that? Don't they have to give more notice?"

"They claimed that we should have known because of the cut back of material and hours."

"But just like that?  What about your pension and the severance?  Don't you get some kind of money after 15 years?  And oh, God, what about health insurance?

"It's a small non-union plant, Jill.  There is no severance. There's not much anybody can do."

Josh's head starting aching and his eyes felt like large rocks in his sockets.  He hadn't really thought about all that.  He rallied with a fake smile and reached over to tweek Jill's dimpled cheek.

Hey, we do have a meeting tomorrow to discuss all that and each of us has to meet with Personnel.  One door doesn't close without another one opens.  Maybe all of this is a sign that we need to become Horse and Pumpkin and Christmas tree farmers.  I saw a garden catalog last week with giant pumpkin seeds featured.  And I can go on the internet to find out how to grow those 1,000 pound pumpkins to win all those big prizes at the fair.  Wouldn't the boys just love that? And boy, how they would love the horses."

Jill watched Josh as he bounced around the room like a Pentecostal preacher trying to stir up the adrenalin in a sleepy crowd.  He was contagious.

She picked up her water glass and lifted it.  "To a new adventure."

Josh held up his hand in mock toast. "To a new adventure."

They heard the school bus stop in front of the house.  Suddenly the silence smothered them at the realization of the responsibility that would be walking in that door at any moment.

The boys came in like a storm as usual.  They took off their coats and started dropping everything on the mud room floor.  Jill jumped into her usual act as Mother, scolding the boys for not hanging things up.  Josh turned and walked to the refrigerator.

"Jill, why don't you take the boys and the dogs for a run out the back field while I get you all some dinner?"

"Nonsense."  She retorted.  "You take the boys and dogs out and plan our holiday horse farm.  I've got dinner planned and you can cook out tomorrow night."

Later that night, the boys were showered and in bed from the run through the fields.  They were too active and flighty to stop and look at the layout of the land or to taste the soil.  Josh wasn't really in the mood.  He just didn't have any faith that there would be any money from the company.  But he would go to the unemployment office tomorrow after the meeting to check the unemployment registration rules.  Heck. He’d probably find that out at the meeting.

Josh sat at the back of the meeting room and watched as worried souls came in and filled the seats in front of him.  He was still in a dazed state of mind.  "It's rather like being on a slow bumpy all night bus ride," he thought to himself.The night had dragged on to Jill's morning alarm clock.  Josh had been so wired up all night that he just couldn't sleep. He had even gotten up and cooked breakfast for Jill.  He had watched the morning news about the plant closing with just pictures of the building.

Today, now that the news had been fully informed, the local channel news team was on hand to give viewers a look at all the poor suckers in the meeting room.  That's why Josh hid in the back row.  If he had to, he could duck to stay away from cameras.  But they caught him anyway when he was sitting there mesmerized by the speakers.

All the money that he had allowed to be deducted over the years for a pension had been absorbed by a life insurance policy.  They could take it out, but it would mean that they would lose over half of what was invested.  If they chose to leave it there, it would earn them dividends that would perhaps pay off years down the road in retirement.  For those that had been there for 30 years, their plans had vested and they could start drawing the dividends.  For most of them, that would render about $200.00 per week.  "Well better than a jab in the eye with a sharp stick."  Josh overhead one of the lucky ones say.

A representative from the unemployment office was there.  It was an all day activity.  Between waiting in line, filling out paperwork, and talking with the company in one interview and unemployment officer in another interview on a one on one basis, Josh's head felt like it had been in a vise.  The unemployment news didn't make him feel much better.

Driving home from the meeting, Josh felt the tool box in his coat pocket.  There was something about that stone that just calmed him down.  He pulled over to the side of the road and took it out.  He watched the light hit the angles and bounce off again.  There was something a little magic about it all.

He remembered that he had to make dinner tonight and realized that he would get home to get it started just before Jill would arrive.

The smell of the roast filled the air as Jill came through the door.  He had set the table with a tissue wrapped package by Jill's placemat.

'Wow, I'm so beat and dinner smells great." Jill said.  She stood on tiptoes to kiss his cheek.  "I'm going up to shower before I come down for dinner.  Can you handle things?"

That was Jill.  He was bursting with news and she was so trusting of him that she wasn't a bit concerned now.  He knew that he must have really convinced her that everything would be just fine, and she was depending on him to just do the magic.  Well, what could he expect from a loving and completely devoted wife.

When the boys burst through the door, he sent them out to play on the swings. He picked up the package from beside his wife's plate and sat it up on the sideboard shelf.  If the boys saw the package, they would be just too curious and he wanted it to be a surprise to Jill.

Jill came down, with her hair all wet and hanging down with that big fluffy bathrobe on that he gave her last Christmas.  She never looked lovelier to him. She stood and watched the boys playing catch out the back window for a moment and Josh couldn't wait any longer.

 "I'll call the boys to dinner", she said and turned to the kitchen door.

"No, no, not yet."  Josh put his hands on both of her shoulders so that she was looking up at him.  "I have something for you."

She looked puzzled.  "Actually it's something for the whole family. I need to finish one more thing on it, but I want you to see it before the boys come in."

 

He pulled her over to the light of the back window and pulled down the package from the sideboard shelf.  He laid it in Jill's hands.  She pulled off the tissue and stood stunned as the light picked up the green shimmer of the object.

"See how the light hits it?  It has a way of giving hope and good will.  You know, it's like it just lifts up a depressed spirit.  That's why I want to share it with the whole family.  I'm going to drill a small hole in the top and hang it here in the kitchen window so that the light will catch it and spread....."

Jill had been rolling the stone around in the sunlight and looking at it in shocked silence.  "You will do no such thing."  She blurted out.

"What are you talking about?"  Josh retorted.  "What's wrong with that?"

"Josh, where did you get this stone?"

Josh told her the history of the gem as she rubbed the smooth surface, turning it in the sun.  She rubbed her hand over the rough edge of the bottom surface.

"This must have been where it broke off from the limestone.'  She said.

"Yeah, as a kid I thought the stones that were set up on the limestone bases in the gem stores were like the sword in the stone.  You know the story of a knight who searched for the mystical sword that was stuck in a stone.

Jill put the stone into her husband's bigger hand. "Ah, I'll have to take this in to the jewelry store and have my boss look at it, but I think what you have is a genuine piece of the very best quality of emerald."

Josh felt his heart jump. "So what does that mean?"

"It means, my love. that you will most likely be able to start the holiday horse farm on just this stone alone with maybe a little for renovating the house.

"Are you kidding me?"  Jill shook her head no.

The pair could not contain themselves for the excitement and ended up calling her boss to bring his appraisal tools and come to dinner.

Albert Godstein, the jeweler, confirmed that this was the biggest piece he had seen in his 45 years of experience. He gasped as he rolled it around under his appraisal glass.  He appraised it at not less than $60,000 and said that he would work on getting it confirmed the next day.

Jill went bananas and the boys joined in the fun.  Josh made plans in his head for the pumpkin fields.  He watched his family and wondered how much work he was really going to get out of those boys and if they were really going to enjoy it as much as he knew he would.  Then it hit him.  His dream was going to cost him a wonderful memory token.

That night Josh slept with the stone under his pillow.  Part of the night, he thought.  "Hey, this is just a stone, a kid's treasure, actually, a rock."  Part of the night, he fitfully dreamed of losing his stone in a deep river and desperately trying to get it back.  He woke up in a sweat, with Jill talking to him in a soothing voice.  He looked up at the tenderness in her face.  And he knew that it was time to let it go and to put away childhood things.

Al brought in another expert and they both agreed that this was the biggest North American emerald of its kind ever found.  There was a great deal of excitement in the gemstone world about this huge find and it sold at auction for $120,000.

A portrait of the emerald stone now hangs over the mantle in the newly decorated parlor. The image is a reminder that when times get tough, a gem may be waiting in the most unusual places. The gem may come in the form of an opportunity, a dream or a suggestion.  Developing it takes research and realistic expectations.  Sometimes it’s not as easy as this story would suggest. With persistent work, planning and sometimes giving up one project to seek a new beginning, life will bloom again. Recognize the potential of the gem, let it go and let it work.


© Copyright 2019 Cookie Reece. All rights reserved.

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