By Gary Simmons
"Samuel Thomas Blackburn I will not tell you again. The answer is no. You are not going up in that attic. It is full of dust and it will cause you to have an asthma attack."
I knew by the sound of my Grannyís voice this question had been asked too many times. Besides she never called me Samuel and definitely never used all three names unless she was upset.
A moment later she was smiling again. She could never stay angry for long.
"Sammy your mother and father will be here tomorrow. You only have a few more days. Enjoy the beach and stop worrying about that silly old dusty attic. "
"I need to run to the store and pick up a few groceries. Why donít you and Duke play outside this morning? The weatherman is forecasting thunderstorms this afternoon and you will be stuck in the house the rest of the day."
I hollered over my shoulder; "Duke, come on boy letís go play."
From nowhere Grannyís Chocolate Lab, appeared wagging his tail, ready to go.
"Want to go outside boy?"
The Lab took off for the front door.
"Sammy Iíll be back in awhile, will you be okay?"
"Granny I keep telling you that I am not a baby any longer."
"I know Sammy, I know. You just grew up so fast. Anyway, donít go too far down the beach. I will be back in about an hour and will fix lunch."
Duke and I were sitting high on a sand dune overlooking our yard when we saw Granny pulling out of the drive. She had driven the old Buick as long as I could remember. It was the last car my grandfather bought before passing away.
Before the taillights disappeared I heard the voice.
It was the same whisper that kept me awake several nights earlier. The same one, which kept asking all the questions about the attic and why Granny made this a no trespassing zone.
This is the same voice that asks if I heard the footsteps a few nights ago. I was sure I heard footsteps on the attic floor. The voice I am speaking of is the one that lies in all of us. I have two it seems. One always woos me to do right while this one leads me in the other direction.
Once the stronger voice asked, "Is it possible Granny keeps an insane family member locked in the attic?" I remembered seeing a movie once about such a thing.
Another time it spoke, "Maybe, Granny keeps hidden treasures up there."
It occurred to me, her house was over a hundred years old. She often told me stories about how pirates once anchored in our cove. Perhaps Granny or Grandpa discovered their secret loot when they were younger, then stored it upstairs for safekeeping.
The possibilities seemed endless. One thing was for sure. I needed to know what lay behind the locked door.
Minutes later I extended my shaking hand to retrieve the key from its hook. It certainly wasnít in a secret place. Granny kept it on a large wooden shaped key on her kitchen wall.
Dukeís instincts seemed to warn him of an impending danger and he began to growl.
It was now or never Granny would be back within the hour and my parents would arrive the next morning. I needed to know what was behind the door; I may never get another chance.
I was so jittery I was having trouble getting the key in the hole. I knew this was wrong. The second voice spoke softer than the first.
"Donít do it Sammy. Your grandmother must have a good reason to keep the door locked. After all she has never held anything back from you. Turn around before it is too late."
Then the stronger voice, "Go for it, nobody will ever know the difference. How many times has the old lady said when she is gone youíll inherit the house and everything in it. You almost own it now. Donít listen to that other wimp. He never wants you to have a good time. You deserve to know what is behind the door."
The lock released and the door swung open. It took a second for my eyes to adjust to the dim light. Then I saw it. Setting in the middle of the large windowless room was a trunk.
The dark voice spoke, "I told you there was treasure up here. Go on look in the chest. After all it will be yours someday."
My legs felt rubbery.
The smaller voice spoke one last time; "Itís not to late turn around before you regret what you are about to do."
I took a few steps toward the trunk and inhaled a large amount of freshly stirred dust. My lungs suddenly began to contract and I felt like a fish out of water.
I instinctually reached for my pocket. The spray wasnít there; it was on the night stand by the bed. I hadnít needed it here with all the fresh sea air. My old enemy, dust mites were on the attack.
Gasping for air I looked. I was within a footstep of the trunk. For a moment my need to know was greater than my need for a breath of air. I took the step and opened the lid. To my amazement there were two articles lying at the bottom. The first was a container of spray.
I grabbed the spray pressing the button as I inhaled. Within seconds my lungs began to open and I was able to at least take a few short choppy breaths. I reached back in the treasure chest pulling out what I was certain was a map. A second glance, I realized it was an envelope. I turned making my way out of the dusty chamber. I was clutching the envelope with all my strength.
Reaching the door I took another draw from the spray, and made my way downstairs and out back to fresh air.
After a couple of minutes, my breathing was normal. I was now sitting in one of the old wooden chairs, staring at the envelope.
Duke walked over and sat next to me. He cocked his head and looked as to ask, "Whatís the problem now? "
The problem was my name was written on the envelope. I was puzzled as what to do next. Should I open it or put it and the spray back where I discovered it, and hope Granny never found out I chose to disobey her.
To my surprise the softer voice spoke, "Go ahead, open it. Your name is on it. It must be meant for you."
I slid my finger under the tab trying not to tear it. Carefully I slipped a single sheet of paper out and began to read.
If you are reading this note then you must have chosen to disobey me. I hope you did not need the spray, I placed it in the chest just in case. I told you the old attic is dusty and you did not need to go up there. Now be a good boy; return this letter and the spray to where you found it.
I hope you have learned a lesson of trust and forgiveness. We will never speak of this again. It is forgotten.
I love you very much Sammy,
That day I learned true forgiveness was forgetting.
Gary Simmons has lived his entire life in Mississippi. Ten years ago he dipped his pen for the first time in hopes of unleashing his imagination. Since then he has wrote dozens of short stories and is now having a novel edited. This was his first try at writing to a younger audience. You can write to Gary through the Letters page of this magazine.
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