Dead Man’s Chest
by Marian Allen
“That’s everything except the steamer trunk. Anybody want that?” Jonathan smoothed his tie and flipped through the inventory on his clipboard. If all families were like his own, he and his fellow lawyers would be short of work.
Uncle Louis, childless, had left his estate to be divided equally between his brothers (he had no sisters), nephews (he had no nieces), and great-nephews. He had lived in a rented house, and hadn’t had a car for twenty years, so the estate had consisted of a plump bank account, a few stocks, a few bonds, and the contents of the apartment and a small storage locker.
Jonathan had moved the contents of the apartment to the storage locker, had made a thorough inventory, and arranged for his fellow heirs to take turns choosing items. There had been some negotiating, but no squabbling.
“What’s in it?” Beau asked the question everyone wanted to ask.
The trunk was shabby, although it bore no stickers or remains of stickers that would hint at its having gone on the travels for which it was manufactured. It was black, bound with brass, and either locked or stuck shut.
“Don’t know what’s in it,” Jonathan said. “Should we break it open, or does someone want it as is?”
“How heavy is it?” Larry tried to shift it, then put his sizable heft into the effort and rocked it off-kilter and back. “Kind of heavy, but hard to tell if there’s something in it or if it’s just a heavy son-of-a-gun.”
“Is it valuable? Like an antique? Be a shame to damage it and find nothing inside if the trunk itself would be worth something,” said Roger.
“Not in very good shape.” Lamont made a nice side income, buying items at yard sales and selling them to collectors, so his judgment carried weight.
“Let’s open it, then.” Bernard was always the impatient one.
Larry said, “Man, I am way past ready to go home. So whose is it? We all had our turns, and it all came out even except for that thing.”
Jonathan knew his relatives – and himself – enough to know that nobody wanted the ragged trunk, but nobody wanted to look like a fool in case there was, say, a fortune in rare stamps or a first edition of an important book or something in there.
He said, “Why don’t we cut cards for it? Hearts are high, highest card gets the trunk?”
Ben said, “No. If I got it and it had something valuable in it, I wouldn’t want to keep it for myself; I’d want to share it.”
“Not me,” Preston said. “I’d want to hog it all up.”
Everybody laughed, because they knew better.
Jonathan said, “Cut cards for the trunk, open it, and share what’s inside?”
They agreed. Jonathan won the cut.
The lock was well-made, but Jonathan found a way to jiggle it with a letter opener that caused it to make a comical noise and spring open.
“What’s in that little drawer?”
The little drawer held a mesh bag of 1910 Liberty Head nickles which, Larry said, were worth about $2.50 each. There were fifteen coins, enough for each of them to have one.
They cleared out the storage locker, each loading his choices into his car, with some last-minute swaps and a lot of laughter.
Larry and Jonathan were the last to go.
Jonathan said, “Thanks for scrounging those nickles up for me.”
“I still don’t get why you wanted to plant them in that trunk.”
“It just seemed like if anybody picked that old trunk, it would be fun for them to find something cool in it.”
“But nobody did pick it.”
“No. And it worked out even better. We got to divide the treasure between us.”
“Yeah, we did. Yo ho ho.”
Jonathan dropped the locker key in the box bolted to the locker door and went home.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Someone finds a treasure.