"Can you drive a manual shift?"
"Then you'll be fine, tho you have to be a little creative."
What he meant by creative was that the car had no 2nd or 3rd gear. From 1st you had to shift to 4th, of course there was also the ever faithful Reverse. It was a challenge, but I never had to drive it in traffic and the jaunt from home to work was just under 2 miles. It was really OK.
After Rick's dad died he called me and asked me to stop by the house. He and his wife and kids had lived in his dad's house to care for him; Rick wasn't fond of his father; while he spoke of his dad often I'd never heard him say a nice thing about him.
His father had been an avid reader and prided himself in the library he had amassed. Rick led me into the library and told me that I could take anything I wanted. He and his brother had picked through it themselves; I would get a shot at it and the rest would be donated or thrown away. There were empty boxes on the floor.
"Fill them with whatever you want."
I felt guilty, but, undeterred, I started filling a box.
The man had multiple editions of what must have been his favorites. Finely bound copies of the classics, shelved one with the other, were held in place by some of the most interesting bookends I'd ever seen.
After I'd filled a box I called for Rick and asked him to check what I'd taken. He came to the room, looked in the box.
"Is this okay to take?"
"Yeah. I told you, anything you want."
The box went out to my car and I started on another one. Again, I called him when it was full.
"You don't have to call me to check out every box; take what you want."
"We have taken everything we want."
And so it was that I packed up my small red car with boxes of "stuff" from his deceased father's library.
The bookcases in my office housed both the books I'd read in college... and by office I mean converted closet. I'm not one to complete any task right away and so I simply deposited the boxes on the floor to deal with at another time.
And another time came, bringing Peter into my office, looking for some boxes and curious about the contents of mine.
"If I help you unpack these can I use the boxes?"
The question mark (and the tone of his voice) would lead one to believe that this was a question, but Peter was hindered by very little. I knew that this was not a question. I watched as he began to move the books from the boxes to the empty shelves. He remarked on everything; early additions caught his eye, fancy bindings and the bookend... the marble bookend...
"This is cool."
...it was a square block, of sorts...
"The shape, the color... very cool... hmmm..."
I told him how it had been sitting by itself on one of the shelves.
"You know, there's a nut on the bottom."
He turned it over in his hands, studying the piece.
"You get it. Right?"
I was just watching him, his determination to abscond with my boxes diminished by his growing curiosity with this bookend.
"The bolt holds the bookend together."
He studied the top, the bottom.
"There is probably a compartment inside."
...and now I was curious, too...
"Don't you want to know what's inside?"
I did. I wanted to know what was inside. I'd pillaged an old man's library and walked off with the bookend that had the secret compartment. I knew in my heart that I'd never keep what was inside, but I also knew that I had to find out. I was the archeologist who'd unearth the mummy's treasure, but give it back to the rightful owner.
The nut was tight. (I love short sentences that say so very much)
"I have a wrench that will fit this in my office." Peter had an office. The phone rang. It was my day to answer the phones, but I couldn't be disturbed now. It rang again, Charlie was letting it ring because it was my day to answer the phones. One more ring as Peter came back to my "office". Charlie took the call; I took the wrench from Peter; with nothing for Peter to take, he sat on the edge of my desk.
Clearly the block was not meant to be opened and there was no clear angle at which you catch the nut with the wrench, but determination is my middle name. (Not really and... not really) It started to move, but had to be worked with the wrench.
"Don't turn it over. If the whole thing comes loose, whatever is inside will spill out."
Charlie stepped into my office; Peter held the marble bookend over my head; I knelt on the floor working loose the nut that held captive the treasure in the box.
"Your friend Rick called."
"Yeah?" working, working, working...
"He wants you to call him..."
"About?" almost there... almost there... almost there...
"He said his father's ashes have disappeared and you might have taken them without realizing what they were."
Peter looked at the box over my head. I looked at the box over my head. Charlie laughed and turned to go, saying,
"If I'd only waited five minutes."