Ten-Cent Treasures

“Take a look at this!” The old man was deceptively fast and agile. With his cane, he dragged a nearby chair behind Steven Gentile’s legs, in the nick of time to prevent Steven from falling to the floor. With a thud, Steven landed in the chair, yet within a fraction of an instant, he was back up on his feet, his mouth open, but again speechless. There was no mistaking the gumball machine before him. The faded and chipped words, “CREEPY CRAWLIES - Ten-Cent Treasures - See what you get - get what you see,” were still visible on the glass. Here, within inches of Steven, was the very same machine that Steven’s father had in his luncheonette and the very same machine that had turned his fledgling business around. It was now empty of the creepy rubber creatures it once housed and which helped solidify a father and son bonding routine. The old man patted Steven on the shoulder. “Take it,” he said. “Don’t ask questions, please. Just take it.”

“I don’t understand,” said Steven, blood beginning to flow slowly back into his cheeks. “Where in the world did you get…”

“No questions. Take it. What harm can it bring? It belongs with you now.”

Back in his bedroom, emotions collided every which way within Steven as he stared unflinchingly at the gumball machine. His door was closed, but that didn’t stop his mother’s unwelcomed entrance. Janice Gentile walked into Steven’s room, her eyes immediately fixated on the gumball machine. “What in the world is that?” She didn’t wait for a response. “Get rid of that ugly thing now.” He wasn’t sure if she had recognized it or not.

“But mom, let me explain…”

Steven Gentile was cut short. “No buts. Get rid of it. I want it out of this house today. End of story! If that filthy piece of junk isn’t out of here by tonight, I’ll throw it and you out at the same time! Got it?” Janice Gentile slammed the door and stormed out. Steven gave her the finger and turned toward the machine. He placed his palms around the glass bowl. Bending his head slightly, he moved closer to the bulbous glass. There, stuck in the bottom of the machine’s inner workings, was one of the little plastic barrels. Old Mr. Taylor had said the machine was empty, and after all of these years, Steven just assumed same. He shook the machine and jiggled the little plastic container in order to get a better glance at what was inside. A look of surprise crossed Steven Gentile’s face. Inside the plastic was a curled up red rubber worm. Maybe his mind was playing tricks on him, but Steven seemed to recall the last toy his father had brought home from the gumball machine was an identical rubber worm. There was no way Steven was going to discard this unique and irreplaceable treasure. He looked around his room, but there was no place he felt comfortable hiding it. He couldn’t place it in the basement. His mother was sure to find it there, and that’s when it hit him. The attic! After making sure that his mother was downstairs and his path to the attic was clear, Steven placed the gumball machine in the near corner of the dark and musty attic, which stretched across and over the bedrooms. He kissed the glass bowl before heading back to his room.





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