Ten-Cent Treasures

The illuminated clock on Steven Gentile’s nightstand read 1:11 when the loud crash and blood-curdling scream woke him up. He was initially disoriented. It sounded as though the thumping crash had come from overhead while the scream, which to the best of his knowledge, lasted a fraction of a second, came from down the hall in the direction of his mother’s bedroom. He wasn’t sure where to turn first. He thought he heard muffled laughter, but could not make out from which direction it had come. He turned toward his mother’s bedroom and knocked on the door. No answer. He knocked again and shouted. “Mom, are you okay? Mom?” Again nothing, so he tried the door handle. It opened. “Mom?” His eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness and he was able to make out the light switch, but she was not in the room. Steven wasn’t worried. He moved about like a detective, methodical, calm. He remembered the crashing sound he thought had occurred overhead, so he turned and headed for the attic. He flipped on a flashlight and ascended the stairs. He scanned the expansive space. Cobwebs, boxes, an old television set, everything looked normal. Everything that is except for one thing, the gumball machine. It was still in the corner, but now it was located in the far corner of the attic! He walked slowly toward it, shining the light ahead of him. Steven kept the light firmly on the glass bowl of the gumball machine. When he got within a foot or two, he bent down to take a closer look. Inside the little lonely clear plastic barrel was a shrunken Janice Gentile, apparently screaming, but Steven heard no sounds. He could see her breath clouding the inside of the plastic shell. His mother’s tiny hands protruded from her bathrobe sleeves. She was trying to clear the fog off the plastic and her hands continuously pounded frantically on the inside walls of the enclosure as the rubbery red worm crawled around her waist and headed up toward her neck. After watching his panic stricken mother for a few minutes, Steven shrugged his shoulders, lifted the machine, removed it from the attic and brought it back into his bedroom. “Goodnight mom,” he said before extinguishing the lights and returning to bed.

In the morning, Steven fished a dime out of his pants pocket and plucked it into the machine. He turned the handle, listened as the gears did their thing and the plastic barrel crashed against the inside of the hinged door. He cupped one hand under the door and with the other, lifted it and watched as the treasure dropped into his palm. He brought it close to his face and stared. Neither his mother nor the rubber worm moved. He carefully placed the ten-cent treasure on his bookshelf, the same one once used to display the rubber bugs his father had brought home to him. He got dressed and made a mental note to stop by Taylor’s shop and say, “Thank you.”


[Bio] Bruce Harris is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: ABout Type,published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box (www.batteredbox.com). His fiction has appeared in The First Line, Inch, Hint Fiction, and online at Pine Tree Mysteries and Short, Fast, and Deadly.

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