Chuck Wendig over on TerribleMinds.com issued a challenge for authors to write a piece of flash fiction inspired by the discovery of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s whiskey, which he left there over a hundred years ago.
This is what I came up with. Bear in mind, that this is fresh off the printing presses, with no editing whatsoever:
When I read about the case of Scotch they found in the ice, I immediately thought of that box my brother and I buried in the backyard over twenty years ago. There is nothing fancy like really old whiskey in it, but it is just as valuable to us as those bottles are.
I was 5 and he was 8 when we buried it, under the old apple tree in the farthest corner of the yard. Jimmy had learned about time capsules in school and how some fifty years ago one was buried on school grounds. So then and there he decided he wanted his own. And naturally he wanted me in on the act. We did everything together; we weren’t squabbling like most other siblings. That came years later, when he started high school.
And because of our close relationship he was able to talk me into putting things in there that were very dear to my heart at the time. Which, as a five year old, was pretty much everything I owned.
He made a real big thing out of it. When he came home, he came to my room and declared that we were going to bury a time capsule. I didn’t have the slightest idea what he was talking about, but went along with it all the same.
“First we need to find a box” he said. He looked around my room, but didn’t find anything, same in his room. But our dad had a pretty big shack with tons of stuff. We were sure, we’d find something there. Dad was in the back yard, repairing the fence. It had gotten damaged in the last storm. He helped us find a box and even put one of his old lead figurines in there. It was one of Jimmy’s favorites, the cavalry captain on his charger. Jimmy looked a little sad, but didn’t want to back down from his plan.
Then we were back to my room and he started asking me, what I wanted to put in there. I kept trying to put in random toys, all of which he refused. Until he spotted the perfect thing. My favorite teddy bear. It took him about half an hour to talk me into it. I didn’t want to let go of it, it was my favorite after all. But in the end the bear went in there, along with one of my toy cars.
Now the box was getting pretty full, pretty fast. The bear took up most of the space. We walked over to his room and started looking for things of his to put in the box. And since the memory of putting my most prized possession into the box was still fresh in my mind, I demanded he put his in as well. I can remember the smile on his face, when I stood there, all of five years old, stomped my feet and making my demands.
And he relented, quite quickly actually. So he got under his bed and pulled out his safe, which was an old trunk, with a big lock on it. Dad gave him that for his 6 birthday, if I remember right. There were stickers from cities from all over the world on that thing. When dad was still traveling around the globe for his job, he hauled all his stuff around in this trunk. Whenever he visited a new city, he’d put another sticker on it. And after he stopped traveling, he gave the trunk to Jimmy, who made it his treasure chest. Up until that point I was never allowed a look into the thing, so I didn’t know what was in there. Even now, Jimmy made me stay out of sight as he opened the lock.
A couple minutes later he came closed the lid again and put the thing back under his bed. In his hand he held two of his favorite things in the world. One was a comic book I had never seen before. I knew he read comics, I even knew what comics were, but I had never seen this particular issue. Only years later would I understand what it meant for him to put that in there. And I was surprised he didn’t dig it up again. The other thing was a stone, a little bigger than my fist is now, with a hole in it. Dad brought that home from a trip to Germany I think. That stone is supposedly really old and the hole in it was naturally occurring. How that happens, no one really knows, but it is there. People used it as a lucky charm; Jimmy just thought it was cool.
With both things in hand, we walked back to my room and put them into the box. Dad had given us a pretty sturdy wooden box, so that the things we put in there would be protected. Jimmy closed it up and walked it out to Dad, who put some nails into the lid and then handed us a shovel. We took turns digging the hole under the tree. Finally it was deep enough, so we could put the box in and close it up.
Pretty soon afterwards both of us had forgotten the box was even in there. Until a couple of weeks ago. Jimmy’s 30th birthday was coming up and I was thinking hard about what to get him. Then I read that article about the Scotch buried in the Antarctic and which they had dug up recently. Now I had the perfect present. My dad still had the house, so I could just go back there and dig it up. Dad helped me and sure enough the box was still exactly where we had buried it.
The look on Jimmy’s face when I handed him the comic book in a frame and the stone in a glass case was priceless.