Fiction Friday – The Attic

 

This is one I wrote it for a 1000-word challenge. The prompt was to write a story using 1000 words or less that was an unbelievable tale.


 

Coffee in hand and a half-eaten bear claw on a plate, Gavin paged through the paper, scanning the classifieds. When calls for work evaporated, he resorted to answering ads. He set down his mug as he read the request printed halfway down the third column.

Wanted: A man to help an old woman clean out her attic. Must be single, hardworking, and ready for adventure. Rewards will be great. 555-0123

He chuckled and picked up his phone. Cleaning an attic, he could do, and the lady that posted the ad sounded like a hoot. “Hello. I’m calling about the ad in the paper. You need help with your attic?”

“Ad? Oh my! Has it been sixty-five years already?” Her voice sounded dream-like. “1515 Story Lane. But I won’t know if you are right for the job until I meet you.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be there in a half-hour.” He ended the call, shaking his head. What criteria did she have for cleaning out an attic? Sixty-five years? What was that about? He finished off his pastry and downed the rest of his coffee. As he darted past the display case in front, the fruit-topped tarts caught his attention. Maybe a sweet treat would make him right for the job. He ordered two, then asked for another to be added to the box.

He drove across town to the well-kept Victorian. Before making his way to the front door, he stopped to admire the ancient structure. Flowers that despite the nip of fall in the air bloomed brightly along the walkway and in pots on the porch. He glanced up at the dormer, where he presumed the attic awaited its cleaning. Curtains moved.

Gavin hurried to the door, afraid the older woman had started without help. He rapped three times and waited, the box of tarts growing heavy as his anticipation mounted. He had to give the old woman credit. She made something so mundane as cleaning an attic seem exciting, almost daring.

The door opened, and a woman well into her eighties with the eyes of a twenty-year-old smiled. “Thank you for coming.”

“I brought you a little something.” He lifted the lid to show off the pretty treats.

“You are perfect for this job. Come in.” She shuffled out of the way, a cane clutched in the hand he hadn’t seen. She hadn’t been in the attic. “Carry those into the kitchen for me.”

He followed her through doorways surrounded in carved wood moldings and across richly colored rugs laid over wood floors. “Your house is beautiful.”

“It makes me happy to hear you say that.” The sadness in her voice contrasted with the words she spoke. “I’ll be moving soon, and this home deserves someone who appreciates its beauty.” She pointed to the refrigerator as they stepped into the kitchen.

He tucked the box of sweets into an empty spot. “I’m ready to get started.”

The woman touched his cheek. “The minute you climb into that attic, your life changes. Are your really ready?”

He inched backward, unnerved by her touch and her words. “How do you mean?”

“In every box in that attic is a treasure. You must find the one that calls to you. When you accept it, it is for life. And this is where you will live.”

“Whoa. I thought I was here to help you clean.” Gavin spun on a heel and started toward the front door.

“Sixty-five years ago, my Nathanial stood right where you are, his hand on the doorknob, ready to flee because what he’d heard sounded unbelievable.”

He glanced up the stairs. “What made him change his mind?”

“I’m not sure he ever changed his mind—until the day he died he called it unbelievable—but he listened to his heart. You brought three tarts.” She rested a hand on his arm. “Once you choose her, she’ll call and place an ad to run sixty-five years from today.”

“How do I get into the attic?” He set aside the ridiculousness of believing such a tale and hoped maybe love waited behind that moving curtain.

“At the very top of the stairs is a small door.”

He breathed in deep before trusting his weight to the well-worn stair. The creak caught him off-guard, but whatever hid behind the dormer pulled at his curiosity. One more step, then another, and his pace quickened. He raced up the last few stairs and bent low to get through the miniature door. The sunlit space held boxes and trunks. What had he expected to find? In every box is a treasure. He scanned the room, unsure how the process was supposed to work. He opened the box closet to him. Inside sat an ornate hand-held mirror. He peeked into another bin which held a pair of heels, the color beyond description. Next to the front dormer, sat an old steamer trunk. Like the pull of a magnet on metal shavings, he moved toward it. Faded stickers from ports of call all over the world adorned the outside. What treasures lay within? He knelt in front of it and lifted the lid. At the bottom lay a treasure map and a small music box.

Gavin cradled the small wooden box in his hand and wound the key on the underside. He opened the lid and watched the dancer spin around as a tune from his dreams echoed through the attic.

A hand touched his shoulder. He squeezed it and turned to see the dancer in front of him.

“You came.”

Gavin pulled her into his arms. “And I brought you a treat.”

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