“JANE! GIT YOUR LOLLYGAGGING ass up here right now!” a voice screamed from the attic above. “I need some help moving this heavy chest. There’s somethin' behind it I wanna look at.”
Jane rolled her eyes and moaned softly at the sound of her alcoholic mother’s voice. It was 10:30 in the morning and the older woman was already beginning to slur her words.
This was not the way the summer was supposed to go. Uncle Ron had made her a promise the past December at her high school graduation party.
“You'll be eighteen next month,” he'd announced. “So we've got two mile stones to celebrate. How about we do that by going treasure hunting?”
That present was one she had longed for since she was old enough to understand. It seemed then that her whole life was finally coming together.
That lasted until an accident took her beloved uncle and left her alone with the wreck who was her mother.
“Coming mu-ther!” Jane replied wearily, her words channelling up through the fold down attic stairway toward her embarrassing parent above.
She began to ascend the cheap, rickety old stepladder that creaked and groaned with each step. Jane shook her head, dreading the scrounging around day they had planned. A waft of dank and musty air caught her full in the face as her head cleared the opening through the attic door, forcing an unavoidable cough to escape her. She paused a moment, taking in the surroundings, blinking, giving her eyes time to adjust to the dim light.
A single incandescent bulb covered with a thick film of dust fought valiantly to illuminate the room. Its dingy, yellowed pull string swung slightly in a draft made visible primarily by a single shaft of light entering in from a gable vent. Minute flecks of dust danced in the brilliant light. The floating display of flickering dust gave evidence to her mother’s diligent rummaging through the stored junk scattered about.
The mid-morning temperature outside had risen to only a mild 78 degrees. The sun’s morning rays still made the attic a virtual oven. Jane’s mother, Dawn Whitmore, sat atop an old, huge, dusty chest. She was leaning forward, a bottle of beer with a slice of lime inside dangling loosely in one hand between her knees. Sweat dribbled down in rivulets between her breasts and into the tank top she wore, creating a round stain of perspiration. Dressed for a working day, she had on a pair of boxer shorts, no bra, tube top socks, and sneakers. Her lovely blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail. Already looking worn from the effort of her toils, she looked at Jane, her eyes piercing cornflower blue irises surrounded by whites with a pinkish cast.
“Find anything?” Jane asked.
“Not in this old piece of shit chest. There’s nuthin' in it but old sailor crap, clothes, and a few porn mags. Your uncle was a filthy pig!”
Dawn made a clumsy move standing up, then stepped aside to make room for Jane to help her.
Jane put her hands on the heavy chest and continued the conversation.
“Don't say that, Mom. He was always good to me,” she said, helping to slide the chest aside. “He always found time for me; taught me how to dive and sail; taught me how to spot antiques—all of that. We were going treasure hunting this summer, you know?”
Dawn rolled her eyes.
“Yeah. I know. That's all you two talked about since you started school last year. You want treasure, what's in this old chest's about what you're gonna get from your Uncle Ron!”
Dawn lifted the lid on the old chest just as Jane was reaching for it. Jane stepped back while her mother started rummaging around in it.
“I wouldn’t mind finding something to remember him by,” she said wistfully.
The older woman lifted out an old white canvas captain’s hat as Jane was speaking. She looked it over for a minute, and then placed it on her head.
Jane saw which hat it was, and her heart fell.
“Mom! That was Uncle Ron's lucky hat. He was going to give it to me when I graduated.”
Dawn shrugged, indifferently.
“Well he didn't, and it’sh mine now. Theresh a lot of other junk you can probably have anyway.”
She pulled out a small jewellery box next, opened it, and then shook her head, frowning. A small hiccup and belch escaped her.
“How about theesh?” she mumbled, tossing the box to her. “Theesh 'rrr more your speed anyway. Try 'em on.”
Jane caught the box and opened the rusty-hinged lid, peering inside.
Much to her surprise, a strange pair of earrings shaped like skulls with ruby coloured eyes stared back up at her.
Her first thoughts were,
“Why would Uncle Ron have something like this?”