I was trying to make it as a writer, but sometimes the ideas
just wouldn’t come.
“Why don’t you write your aunt a letter?” My
mother suggested. “Or better yet, why don’t you go visit her? She likes
men, you know. It’s just her sisters who visit now and when your dad shows up,
she talks about things she never shares with me.”
I didn’t have anything better to do, so I decided to bicycle
down the quiet streets to her assisted living apartment in the late morning.
“She likes Chinese food,” my mother suggested as I
walked out the door. It was on the way, so I decided to stop. The lady who owns
the restaurant is sweet and I ordered 2 chicken teriyakis.
“Thank you very much,” she said. My mother loves
this lady and always says the exact same line back to her “Thank you very
much,” in a thick Chinese accent.
“Somebody’s going to accuse you of being a
racist,” I said.
“Your accent is stronger than hers.”
When we leave the store, the lady always walks back into the
kitchen and yells at her husband. I can’t understand Chinese, but I know who
runs the restaurant.
The assisted living building is well-kept. It reminds me of
a classy hotel. Orchids are arranged in the lobby and the young staff are
dressed in red-fitted uniforms.
“Can I help you?” A girl asks.
“Yeah, I’m here to see my Aunt Jeanne.”
“Oh, Jeanne Scott; third floor, room 3.”
I walk out of the lobby and past the living room. There’s a
couple of women arguing about the rules of Bridge and a World War 2 veteran
hunched over in his wheelchair, snoring loudly. A young nurse walks over to him
and adjusts his oxygen mask.
In the elevator, a late 40s man dressed in a suit
accompanies his wife. “Do you think she’ll be awake this time?” He
“Who knows? She can fall asleep at a moment’s notice.
She was awake when I talked to her on the phone.”
I turned the door handle and walked into my aunt’s room. Her
smell was there. It’s been the same in both houses she’s owned. I’ve never
smelled anything like it before. It’s a combination of dust and old lady
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“Fine,” Aunt Jeanne said. She still had a strong
“You in school?”
“Yeah. I’ll probably never get out. They have me
“That’s fine. When my late husband and I put together
the dictionary, it took a lot of time. You just stick with it and you’ll get
I liked talking to her and I started to think I might get
some story ideas from our conversation.
will be in here shortly to check-up on me. We have to keep our
“Oh,” I said. Sure enough, a Hispanic gentleman
entered the room and adjusted her oxygen tank.
“Will that be everything Miss Scott?”
“That’ll do, until later,” she said with a wink.
“It looks like they treat you well,” I said after Jorge left.
“The food isn’t bad, but I don’t like to talk to those ladies
downstairs. It took 80 years of card games and bingo to turn them into empty
heads filled with cotton and Vaseline coming out of their ears. There’s not a lot of
people who hold a good conversation here. How’s your family?”
“Well, my mom’s doing fine.”
“I don’t mean your mom. What about your 5 kids?”
“Aunt Jeanne, I’m only 20 years old and
“What?” She paused for half a second and then kept
going. “Do you attend church?”
“Yeah, but only when I feel like it. Is there a place
that you go?”
“Satan and Jesus stop by here once-and-awhile, but they
usually don’t have much to say to me. They get along too well and I can’t get a
word in edgewise.”
I laughed inside when I thought about what my pastor would
“You know, there is someone I do like to talk to. Frank
lives next door. He robbed banks for a living in the 40s. He’s over 100 years
old. He can’t talk very good after his stroke, but he was able to draw me a map
of where he buried the bank money.
Jeanne pulled a folded piece of paper out of her Western
novel that marked her place. She handed it to me, and I opened it. It looked
like a Kindergartener had drawn a map with crayons. I wasn’t going to take a
second look, but then I noticed something familiar.
It was a lighthouse I knew, 12 miles away. It showed a gnarly
tree with a red X drawn near the roots.
“Don’t you need money to get yourself through
college?” My Aunt asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
She handed me the map. My Aunt asked about my father’s work
as a bounty hunter in Europe and then I had to go. I was riding home and I got
this crazy idea. What if my aunt wasn’t 100 percent delusional?
I turned a fork in the trail and rode south towards the
lighthouse. It was twilight when I got there, and nobody was in sight. I didn’t
have a shovel, but I looked around and found one, leaning up against a shed. I
followed the drawing out back and looked for an oak tree resembling an old man.
Its branches were bent and twisted in several places, like
it had arthritis and I started digging at the roots.
Pretty soon I struck wood and I pulled a chest out of the ground. I broke the rusted lock and opened the lid. There was enough cash in there to attend University for a lifetime.