Dead Man’s Chest @StoryADayMay 15

Dead Man’s Chest

by Marian Allen

15“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.

“It’s empty!”


“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.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Dead Man’s Chest @StoryADayMay 15

  1. Jane

    May 15, 2015 at 9:02am

    I began on the alert when all the family was male, but — red herring!
    Nice flip of the coin. Heh.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 15, 2015 at 1:15pm

      That’s how it went when Charlie’s mother died. The kids took turns picking stuff. One person might pick a walnut sideboard and another one might pick a bag of quilt pieces, and everybody was happy. It was amazing.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Pierre Laberge

    May 19, 2015 at 3:37am

    HEH HEH HEH. Not honest… but a good one! Thanks.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author
      • Pierre Laberge

        May 19, 2015 at 11:51am

        Well clearly, they took the treasure!

        Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  3. Pierre Laberge

    May 19, 2015 at 12:27pm

    Well, apparently, they kept it to themselves, offered coins to the others, and the others did not get any. Which means they knew what the trunk once held to begin with….

    Unless, the treasure was giving away the coins.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      May 19, 2015 at 12:37pm

      The coins were the only treasure in the chest, and they split them evenly. Sounds like my ending could use a little tweaking! Thanks, Pete!

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  4. Pierre Laberge

    May 19, 2015 at 12:43pm

    It is just that this is a Lady or the Tiger type ending.

    1. The 2 guys had explored the trunk previously, and found treasure. They kept it, and replaced it with the nickels so that there would not be an empty trunk to raise suspicion… (Of course this leads to a whole new story when one explains all that!!!!)

    2. All that there really was, in the estate, was some cash, and a few odds and ends. But they wanted to leave something small, memorable, unique, behind. Something that all the people remaining behind could share. And this became the unusual bequest, or gift, the common date nickels. (And that yields to another whole new story, you see…..)

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author
      • Pierre Laberge

        May 19, 2015 at 1:29pm

        I see two new stories here. Well, I’ll let you get to plotting. My job is to read and be a nosy critic. I’m GOOD at that!

        Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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