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EXPLORING FOR TREASURE - Part One
The tiny store smelled of old paper, stale coffee and wood polish and it was one of Lynn’s favorite places in the world. The creaky old wood floors let the owner know the location of any customer in the store and she would call out,
”No, if you’re looking for fiction you have to go four stacks over.”
It reminded Lynn of her own mother’s ability to know what she was up to at any given moment with her not being in sight, a talent she would develop many years later with her own children.
“Don’t you dare drink out of that milk carton, get a glass”
Mother’s can be scary creatures at times. They can also look deep into your eyes and tell if you are lying or not. The woman who owned this book store was way too old to be a mother though, perhaps a great-grandmother, Lynn thought. Her hair was a matted mass of grey with streaks of once blonde, dry and full of hair pins. She smelled a bit musty her self but Lynn gathered it was from being in the book shop for so many hours each day. She sold home made baked goods too but Lynn’s mother told her never to eat any as cleanliness was also an issue, apparently. Lynn didn’t think she looked dirty, just very, very old.
The greatest thing about the shop was the trade in policy. She could exchange two for one. Two now read comics for one new one so she had an almost never ending supply once the initial investment of one week’s allowance was made.
Today her eyes landed over in the fiction section and she tried to step sideways without creaking the floor, so as not to alert the owner that she was traveling outside of her normal routine. As it turned out, she was busy ringing up a fairly large order from a man Lynn had never seen around the neighborhood so even if she had been heard, the owner’s attention was on a few dollars profit and not an eleven, almost twelve, year old girl.
Paperback books, some as thin as a cheap hamburger from the café on the corner, were stacked at her eye level but what interested her were the ones just out of reach. “Adventures of Exploring” was the title and the book was large for a paperback and as thick as her own home made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Next to reading, there was nothing she enjoyed more than exploring and this summer had been ripe with new territory since they had once again moved. This time they lived one block from the river. Talk about a perfect life! Her mother at work all day, sometimes for ten hours at a stretch, she was as free as a feral cat and roamed in as many strange places.
She had thirty-five cents and two comic books for trade and doubted it would be enough for this treasure but she waited until the man left and approached the register. The lady was still counting the money she’d just made and barely looked at Lynn when she said, “Ten cents and the comics.” What good fortune! A quarter left would buy a Coca-Cola and a bag of peanuts from the vending machine in the lobby of the old hotel where she and her mother had their efficiency apartment. She hurriedly paid and left before the lady discovered her mistake, running the two blocks home.
In the lobby, Old Joe was asleep in his chair and a couple of other elderly men were watching the news and arguing over something called Viet Nam. It was a place she'd recently heard of but she only knew that troops were beginning to be sent there by President Kennedy. She dropped her dime in the coke machine and slid it out of the metal gateway making sure the lid was down tight when she was done. Then to the vending machine, dime in, a push and whir clunk, and down dropped a giant sized bag of salty peanuts. She didn’t bother opening the bottle as she could use her trusty generic Swiss knife that she always kept in her shorts pocket for that.
Back out on the street she hesitated deciding if she wanted to go down by the Mississippi or to the abandoned feed mill to begin reading her new book. Hmm, it was kind of hot so the shade of the old building should bring some relief and with all of the missing boards the breeze off the river should have it fairly cool. Perfect! She started out for the mill, walking at a brisk pace but taking time to notice her surroundings. It seemed that everywhere her eyes landed she found something of interest and her new daytime freedom just fueled her curious nature. She had stayed alone before when her mother worked, since the age of eight, but they hadn’t lived in such a wonderland of places to explore. Besides, the last place they lived Mom had stayed two whole years and Lynn had that place pretty well discovered out and all of its treasures were now safe in the shoe box under her bed.
She reached the mill in nothing flat and stepped gingerly around the pigeon droppings and hurried back to the concrete slab that faced the river. She’d learned not to scream out in surprise when mice darted over her feet but she still didn’t care for it and once on the slab they pretty much left her alone. She sat cross legged, opened her Coke, poured in half of the peanuts and quickly sucked at the foamy reaction it caused, saving the other half bag for plain munching. Opening her book, she carefully turned to the pages in the middle that were on slick paper and held pictures of far away places. The captions underneath told the locations and some had pictures of a man displaying the treasures he had found on his travels. She surmised he must be the author and she studied his face trying to decide if he and she could have been friends. They had something big in common, exploring was her most favorite thing in the world. He looked nice enough but you never could tell about people until you’d had a few conversations with them. She’d learned that lesson well enough in moving around the country with her always chasing after rainbows mother.
Lynn flipped the pages back to the table of contents scanning them to find just the right subject to read about on this fine day. There it was! Chapter 14, “Treasure All Around Us” a sure sign this guy was a soul-mate. Most people missed out on the whole thing just by not paying attention. Why she’d found one of her best ever rocks right on the sidewalk in front of the Five and Dime. There must have been twenty people walk right past it before she scooped it up and hid it in her jeans pocket. It was a real rose quartz for Heaven’s sake! That was a true loss to the person who must have dropped it but a fine addition to the shoebox collection of treasures!
Her attention was pulled away from the book as the pigeons flew nervously back and forth in the rafters and mice scurried to hiding places. She felt, rather than heard, his approach but the sunny day showed only his silhouette in the entryway. From his size she knew it was a full grown man and not some kid and she could make out his shoes which didn’t look as if they, or he, belonged in this abandoned feed mill.