Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Quote of the Week Short Story: Simple Answer to Complex Questions

"Sometime the questions are complicated 
and the answers are simple." 
Dr. Seuss

She cracked open the door and peered inside. Dust lay thick on the floor, cobwebs decorated the shelves. The air was thick with age, musty and heavy. She heaved the door opened the rest of the way, making a curved shape in the dust.

This was the room that her parents never opened. This was the room that she fantasised about her whole life. What crazy secrets were here that needed to be hidden away?

After her Mom died, her father still refused to open the door. It took all her will power not to open it when he ended up in a nursing home. Her brother had suggested they wait until after their father's will was read - in case there was something included regarding The Room. When there was nothing, they decided that it was time. They were left with more questions than they had before, and even less answers.

Now here she stood, and her brother stood behind her. They stared a long time into the dim room - flashlights still in hand, unlit. It was hard to make herself step inside. Her brother coughed as the cloud of dust moved past her, and enveloped him. She took the first step and then the second.

The inside of the room was disappointing, empty shelves and one old chest. She sighed. Her brother sucked in his breath, and stepped in next to her. He put his hand on her back. She was seconds from crying. He stepped to the chest, looked back at her. Somehow, her head managed to nod. He lifted the lid.

Baby clothes, folded carefully were the first thing she saw. None of them were ones that she remembered her brother wearing, and they certainly weren't hers. Carefully he lifted out the clothes, and she wiped the dust away from a spot next to him. He placed them gingerly, almost reverently, on the floor, and picked up a photo album. He opened it, gasped, and she peered over his shoulder.

The woman in the pictures was certainly their mother, but the man was not their father. There was a baby, and a woman who looked a bit like their Aunt Jane. As they flipped pages the baby got older, was walking, and apparently potty trained.

She peeled a picture off the last page. The date scribbled on the back was a full 2 years before their parents married.

The secret. After all these years. Mom had another family - but where were they now? What happened to them?

They knew that Mom and Dad had met in high school, and that Dad had gone off to the Army, and then to war. It wasn't until after the war was over that they got back together.

Pieces were settling into place, but so many were missing. They dug further into the chest. A wedding dress, a ring; a marriage certificate, a birth certificate. James was what they named the baby, Chadwick was the father.

Underneath all of this was a funeral bulletin, for Chadwick. A boarding school certificate for James, and more pictures. Letters from school, written by James, but never opened. They sat the letters aside, to read later. She realized that the letter were written while she was a little girl. Her mother had to have snuck into this room when no one was home and put them in the chest... or her father had.

It was making less and less sense as they pulled out item after item. Who had been paying for the boarding school? How had Chadwick died? Why did they seal up this whole room? It didn't make any sense.

In the bottom of the chest, under all the other things were 2 loose pictures. 1 was a little boy, being measured up against a doorjamb. She saw their kitchen in the background. She turned and looked back out the door. This was James' room!

She walked over to the door jamb and saw the gauges into the wood where they had last measured James. A tear escaped her eye. She had another brother, about 7 years her senior - but may never meet.

Her brother piled most of the contents back into the chest, closing it with a wooden 'thunk'. James' birth certificate, the marriage certificate, and the stack of letters. He walked out of The Room, and placed the stack on the kitchen table. Armed with his tablet, he went to work searching for their brother.

As she closed the door of The Room, he turned the tablet around to face her. There, staring at her, was the face of her brother. The funeral director.

Days later, they stood in the funeral home. Ushered into the Director's office, they sat uncomfortably while they waited for James to come in.

"He died."James said from the doorway. "My father." They turned to look at him. "Heart problems. He died in my room. I never went back in." He sat at his large desk. "I didn't handle it well, and ran away a few times, I left Mom no choice but to send me to a boarding school."He sighed. "When she married your dad, I stopped hearing from her - but I still got Christmas and Birthday gifts. When I got out of school, I came back to find you two, and no room for me in the family. I saw Mom twice after that, then not again until her illness. She felt guilty, and remorseful, but we made our peace. I'm not sure your father ever knew who I was."

Finally, all the questions had one simple answer - sadness. All the secrets were because of sadness. Mom had been sad because she lost her husband, James had been so sad he left her too, Dad had been sad because of Mom's first marriage, and in the end she was sad she had been deprived of an older brother for all those years.

The three siblings hugged. No more secrets. No more sadness.