It was 11 o’clock when the phone rang. George was leaving for work when he heard it. Chimes. A peaceful, serene sound. His wife, Rosetta, had selected the uplifting ringtone, but never imagined the pain it would bring.
The message was sudden and tragic. The memory of the events that followed seemed like a blur, and even when he lived through them, it seemed too unimaginable. Yet somehow, Arthur Fernser – Husband, Father, Grandfather, and inspiration to all – was dead.
The funeral passed by, unnoticed by George, like a cool breeze of April air. His father, Arthur Fernser, was the motivation for his life and an inspiration to others. Arthur was a retired mailman whose gentle and peaceful personality contributed to his popularity among locals in Frankfort, Kentucky. He loved his family, always finding time to spend time with his grandkids, John and Melony. He was the kind of person who could warm up the coldest days and make even the gloomiest of people laugh, but it was his only son who he impacted the most. Following in his father’s footsteps, George had also chosen mail carrier as his career path, and was also the gentle giant his father had taught him to be. Like his father he was a treasure to the neighborhood, but after the heart attack, it seemed as if a giant cloud trapped the community within their own sorrows.
It was a sunny Monday, 9:58 am. After returning to work 3 months ago everything seemed to be back on track, for the most part…
“Come on man, it’s now or never,” George’s best friend Bill Harriot never seemed to have an off switch and he was making that very clear now.
“Come on maybe next week, yeah that seems good, on the 30th the end of the month, then we can start June conscience free, you know?” George replied as he sat down for a late breakfast with Bill.
“No, come on, why can’t you just get over there? Its not like I’m asking you to BASE jump or anything.”
“It’s just too much to ask, in there it feels se….”
“..timental I know you tell me every day. But seriously, if you can’t get the will to get over there then the bank, your bank, will take everything, forever. And I mean once they take it, it’s gone, sold, extra cash for them, and regrets from you.”
Why do you even care? It’s not your dad’s stuff. As far as I know he’s alive and well, still trying to cook his “famous” meatloaf that you enjoy so much”
“Hey don’t dis-respect the man’s meatloaf, it may be pretty, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the best dang loaf on this here planet! All I’m trying to say is, you have, what, two weeks before they knock that place down? You need to get over there and claim some of that junk that you are supposed to care about. Do you think your old man would just want you to sit around and do nothing?”
“Actually I’m sitting around and trying to eat. Now can you pass the ketchup, I’m trying to eat this egg sandwich,” George replied humorously, but he caught the look in his friend’s eyes and quickly replied, “Yeah yeah, I’ll head over there after I finish my deliveries, but can we just eat now? Please?”
“Ok ok, eat your stupid sandwich. But seriously head over there later and by later I don’t mean in a week.” Bill replied.
“Ok, ok, I’ll head over there after work, and now will you stop complaining and eat your food?”
“Yeah I’ll eat my food, but listen, I know this is tough for you. I can see that you’re hurt. Your eyes don’t have that same warmth I used to see. You sure you want to go over there? I guess I can do it for you if you want.”
“Actually I think it would be better for you to stop admiring my eyes and focus on your food, it’s getting cold. Geez what are we a couple?” And as he turned away he could almost remember how life used to be. Almost.
The driveway had never been a favorite to George, and in this case the long, narrow, and winding gravel entrance only added to the anxiety of what he might find in his deceased father’s estate. The simple two story home was anything but extraordinary. It was perched up on a hill, which unfortunately did not provide a view of the town or of any scenery, but just further introduced isolation. George had always wondered why such a friendly and favorable man would hide himself from the rest of the world. Being a mailman it would imply that maybe he enjoyed others’ company. But then again after spending the work day with neighbors maybe he looked forward to the quiet and secluded peace of being alone with family during the evening. Nevertheless it was a nice house with three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a nice kitchen that always smelled of his mother’s homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, which were always made fresh upon any guest’s arrival. Sadly his mother was now in a home with Alzheimer’s, and the home was to be knocked down, and turned into a bigger one, where a new couple might start a family. Either way the house was soon to be extinct and George was asked to return, to look around for anything he may want to keep.
It was hard being the only child because now he had no family to turn to, to help him during his struggles. Only Bill and his wife and kids were there, and Bill being as good a guy as he was, and his family being as supportive as they were, could not replace the longing for siblings he had always kept secret. However now was not the time to depress himself more and he had finally reached the top of the seemingly infinite driveway. The house was pale blue with dark green shutters and a bright red door. As you pulled up you would see two garages in a separate brown barn like structure to the right of the house. The front door was directly in the center of the home, led to by a brick pathway, which would light up at night by small ground lanterns. As George walked up to open the door he could remember the same long process being repeated every day after school, and the thrill of finally making the journey to be rewarded by the delicious taste of his mother’s baking. In fact he was caught up so much in his past that he found himself knocking, waiting for an answer. But only reality was home, and he was forced to take out his keys and open the door.
If there was one word George could pick to describe the entrance, it would be bland. A small foyer greeted visitors, with a closet to the left and a staircase running parallel to a hallway that led to the main living area and kitchen. The walls were tan and the musty smell of books filled the house from his father’s upstairs study. Suddenly he found himself drifting from room to room: the kitchen where his mother would always have fresh baked cookies; the living room where every Sunday his father would watch football on the jumbo couch they had for their family of three. He came to his old bedroom on the ground floor, where he would spend time doing homework and looking out his two windows towards the woods at a small stream that had entertained him for hundreds of hours. And then the familiar creak of the stairs reminded him he was now traveling to his father’s study, past the bedrooms and plastic-wrapped furniture soon to be sold, to a single doorway where he had never dared to enter. The study was actually a fourth bedroom, which his father had converted into his working space. The wall to his right was lined with bookshelves, not a single space unoccupied. A large oak desk sat in the back left corner with drawers that he assumed contained files of delivery reports and bills. George had never been allowed in his father’s private sanctuary. As a kid he would always imagine what might be found within it. He could remember having fantasies of secret doors to different dimensions, packages with the most strange and mysterious contents that never were delivered, and a library of books with every piece of information known to man. But George once again only let himself down. The office was as normal as it could be. Inside the drawers were files. Within the desktop of his simple computer were reports and emails. The office was your average office, no more, no less, than what you might find in a cubicle at work. Small office tools added the final details to the oak desk and the only unique feature was the long stretch of books that lined the wall. But as George examined the aisles of alphabetically ordered books of all kinds, something caught his eye…something peculiar…
“Well what have we here?” The antique appraiser said as George was told to go in by the secretary.
“It’s a book I found. I’d like to know more about it.” George replied.
“Well obviously it’s a book, is it yours?” The man asked.
“No, I found it in my deceased father’s home.”
“Oh, well I’m sorry to hear that. I was told your name is George, yes?”
“Ok, so if you will, George, can you come back maybe tomorrow? That will give me some time to research and get some good background info on the book. I should then be able to appraise it for you.”
“Ok that sounds good, so tomorrow at noon maybe?”
“Yes, that should be plenty of time.”
“Ok see you then.”
“Yes, see you tomorrow.”
And as the appraiser went into the back and George started to leave he remembered that he had previously wanted to specify that the book was to be handled extra carefully as it was very interesting to George. So he stopped heading for the door, but then he figured that an antique appraiser would certainly be knowledgeable enough to know how to take care of the items he investigates. After all it was his job. So he dismissed the question. However as he started to turn the handle of the door, he heard the faint ringing of a phone and the sound of it being picked up. He did not want to eavesdrop but the conversation almost immediately drew his attention. The appraiser had obviously had thought George had left as he was not being cautious in his volume.
“Yes the man just left, I have the item. I’ll have it to you by tomorrow morning, I already have a plane booked for 8:00 am, I should arrive to D.C. by 9:00. ….. Yes then we can negotiate. …. Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow…Good…Bye”
George was almost frozen in place, who was that on the phone, what was happening to the book, why was it so important? What is it that I don’t know? Something wasn’t right, and he now had a strange sense that he was being watched. He had to get out of here, tell somebody, but what? He knew nothing, what would he tell them? That he was eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation? For all he knew that conversation was about something else, or maybe it didn’t even happen. How could this appraiser know so much about a book that he had briefly described on the phone? It was probably his imagination, it was his imagination. Tomorrow he would return, get the information he needed, and find out if the book was worth anything. So George walked out of the office into the waiting area, where luckily the secretary had decided to take a coffee break. For the rest of the evening he enjoyed time with his family. For the rest of Monday night they relaxed, everything was perfect.
The next day it was eleven forty eight, George had had such a good time relaxing the night before, that he had overslept. He was going to be late. He quickly turned on the TV, he always enjoyed listening to the news as he got ready, and started to brush his teeth. The news report had the same schedule of giving the weather, addressing minor events from the day before and so on, but it was as George started to finish tying his favorite Timberland shoes, that the breaking news of the morning came on:
“…And now to Christine Derry who is right now in our capitol with this mornings newest multi-millionaire..”
“Thank you Harry, I’m here with a Mr. Anderson Harrison who has just made 11.2 million dollars off of a book you said you found in your attic?”
“Yes Christine, I was actually looking for some old clothes I could give away to my young nephew when I came across this ancient cardboard box, I looked inside and found some old books. Being an antique appraiser I know a lot about history and many old items so when I found this book I was astonished…”
The news story continued for another minute before the anchor took control again, but George had stopped listening. He could not think. His gut had been right. But now he could only stare, for his book was on the screen, and it had been sold for over 10 million dollars.