Paula hung out after the final show had closed.
The nostalgia of the event had begun as soon as her coffee had arrived that morning, carried by the effervescent stage hand, Cal. “Here’s your latte, Paula. Seems sad, don’t you think, closing after such a long run?” Cal had been her daisy in the morning. That and caffeine, of course.
She sat in the highest seat, the furthest from the stage. She thought of the props that would get stored in some dark room on the lot: the wooden ship, palm trees and fake sea monsters. How ugly the props were to her. She doubted she could have overlooked their flimsy falseness had she paid for the view. The audience hadn’t seemed to mind, though, she thought.
“‘Scuse me, Ms. Paula, but there’s this little treasure chest. You want us to toss it in with the rest of the stuff?” One of the cleanup crew had seen her wandering the seats and had asked if she was OK. “Oh, I’m just winding down. Don’t worry about me.”
“Treasure chest? Oh, that thing. Right.” It had been the McGuffin during the entire play, impossible to ignore, but ignorable in its own right.
“We’ll just set it down here in front. You take it if you want it.”
“Thank. Thanks a lot.”
During the show’s climax, she would attempt to open it. “No treasure could ever buy my love,” she’d cry with as much passion as she could muster—two hours into scorching lights and fifteen costume changes. “But let’s just take a peek to see what he thinks I’m worth.” The audience would laugh every time.
Her dashing opposite would slam his hand down and close the chest. “Then take my love as bounty enough,” he’d exclaim before snatching the chest and swinging off the bridge of the fake ship.
“What the hell is actually in there?” she thought out loud.
The brooms were out, being pushed by a half-dozen college-age drama students, hellbent on rising through the ranks. The various stage backgrounds had been wheeled away. All that were left were the tied-off ropes and sandbags that counter-balanced the sun, the moon and stormy clouds, equipped with self-contained thunder created by warped sheets of aluminum.
Paula stepped cautiously down the carpeted stairs, found the iron-buckled chest, the size of a loaf of bread, and tried to pry it open. Someone had placed a luggage lock on the clasp. “What the hell?”
“Well, screw it.” She tucked it under her arm and headed backstage and out to the rear parking lot. On her way she grabbed the one outfit that she’d felt suited her best, a simple barmaid’s dress, but one with class, like that of a woman who took pride in her appearance despite her low station.
She turned the top down on her BMW and drove along the neon lit avenues. “Bright lights, big city,” she rest her hand on the chest. “A pocket full ‘o gold, a tall ship and a star…”
What looked like a Great Dane dashed across the road in front of her. She’d killed a deer when she was sixteen, driving her dad’s pickup, and had dreamt about it for years.
She yanked the wheel to the right and the car fishtailed. At her speed, nearly forty, when she ran up the curb and hit the fire hydrant, the momentum induced a yaw that flipped the car. It tumbled three times before ending up inverted, Paula dangling unconscious from the seatbelt.
The chest was flung like a trebuchet’d stone. It landed in the alley and rolled under a dumpster. That night it rained. The first of the summer deluges that would drown the city.
Sammy had become an expert dumpster-diver. He knew the spots that collected the best trash. Tech, books, lamps and stupid shit people collected all their lives, only to have thrown into the garbage when they died. He also knew that when folks tossed shit into the bins, they rarely aimed.
“Day-yam, will you look a that. That’s like, one o’ them pirate booty things, a treasure chest.” He rolled away the dumpster, spot-checked the alley and smoothly tucked the chest beneath his jacket.
With a pair of pliers he twisted away the luggage lock. He lifted the lid and inside, rolled up and tied with a blue ribbon, was a list. It read:
Thanks for coming along for thirty days of September Scene Writing Month: (in no particular order)
- George F.
- Hetty Eliot
- Phil Huston
- Dracul Van Helsing
- DoodleDiddy (Mike)
- MyDangBlog (Suzanne)
- Duke Miller
- Tom Being Tom
- JT Twissel
- Audrey Driscoll
- Sam “Goldie” Kirk
- The Pink Agendist
- Miss Understood
- Olivia Ava
- Stine Writing
And thanks to all who read and liked. It’s been a challenge. See you next year.