A Short Story
Wilma slammed shut the door of her little beige Ford Focus, mentally checked-out walking up to her apartment door, being careful not to slip on the slick pavement from recently frozen over sidewalk. Fingering the correct little gold key into the lock with oversized mittens still on, sighing out a big breath closing the door behind her.
“Finally, a little peace and quiet! What have you been doing today, boy? I see you rearranged the blankets to form a nest again,” Wilma joked to her scruffy terrier Little Ricky. “You wouldn’t BELIEVE the day I just had.” As she flipped open the Chinese takeout menu, Wilma turned on her often-used playlist to ‘2009 bangers’ to just shake out all that bad energy from the stressful, utterly overwhelming day at the shop. One of these days, she thought, she’d finally be able to quit and pursue her passion on her own terms. Ah, yes! Just thinking about that lifted her spirits, that and the impending crab rangoon and fried rice already en route. Finally some solitude in her cute little oasis, surrounded by succulents and spider plants galore, she told herself she’d draw a nice long bath and get to bed early for some of that super restful sleep. Pure bliss for an extremely meh day.
Five o’clock in the morning, jolted awake from the sound of the neighbors phone alarm clock buzzing against the floor above. Must have fallen off the bed again. Wilma shrugged off the drowsiness with a strange memory of what must have been one of the most vivid dreams she has had. Puzzled and attempting to put together the details of this random dream, she stretched out with a big yawn, slipped her warm socks on, and headed to the kitchen.
Preparing her usual French press, she remembered details of an old woman finicking with what seemed to be some sort of shoebox and placed it within the floorboards of a little cottage, the kind of place where there is still plastic on the furniture with a layer of dust collected on top. The woman seemed distraught with a sad aurora, perhaps mourning the death of a forbidden lover or something of the sort. Wilma let her mind wander to think of possible reasons and narratives of what this dream could have meant, but still just couldn’t put her finger on it, nothing seemed right.
All of a sudden a wave of emotion hit her like a wave crashing on rocks. Whoa.
She had a single flash of a name in a little black notebook, Arthur. Goosebumps rose on her arms as she shivered. Ding! Ding! Ding! Wilma jumped, startled at her alarm going off. As she leaned over to swipe the annoying ring to silent, she noticed a new notification. Nearly falling out of her chair, she read the keywords from the text from her boss: hey guys, the water main pipe broke, no work today. Enjoy the paid time off and we will hopefully be back in full swing Thursday. Oh joyous day! Although it was still quite cold and crappy outside, she knew she needed to go enjoy the day to soak up some nature.
“Finally! A kind-of snow day! Let's nature it up Ricky!,” she exclaimed, excited for something different than her daily draining 9-5 workload with pinhead for brain coworkers. “We’re going to bundle up and get some of that beautiful Massachusetts fresh winter air.” Little Ricky jumped around in anticipation as Wilma excitedly bundled up for the 30ish degree Fahrenheit weather, also putting Ricky’s fleece sweater on him, completely forgetting the odd dream that stuck with her so precariously.
Together, they ventured to the metroparks on the other side of town, the one they haven’t been to because it is always far too busy when she usually has time on the weekend. But luckily, with this random day off they’d be able to explore unbothered. As Wilma took the turn onto the street, she noticed something very peculiar. Arthur Drive… very interesting, and what was this on the corner? The exact same little cottage from her dream. One lone car began honking behind her as she quickly realized she had zoned out to a stop in the middle of the road. Now she knew she had to check this out. Only once before had she had a dream as vivid as the one the previous night; as a child she was always highly intuitive, although years of the public school system and strict Christian parents had hammered out those otherworldly types of ‘voodoo magic,’ so they’d say. If she knew anything, was this dream most definitely meant something, and she had to investigate why.
Wilma pulled up in the next open street parking place, luckily very many options as it was a chilly Wednesday in March after all. Cracked open a window for Little Ricky so she could peak inside; clearly this house had been abandoned, probably some sort of foreclosure situation. She walked up the little path in her snow boots and knocked on the door once. It flew open as it clearly had a broken lock from what she could only assume would be a refuge for the homeless on those bitter cold nights.
“Hello? Is anyone in here?”
Wilma figured drifters had left to take advantage of the nearby highway exit to panhandle for money on one of the sunnier days. As she walked inside, she pulled open a curtain and she could clearly see the dust particles floating in the sun beams streaming in through the foggy window. As the dust cleared, her eyes focused past the late 80’s plastic covered furniture to a floorboard, slightly discolored underneath the coffee table. Suddenly she felt winded, she went back to the door for a few very deep breaths of air to ground herself.
Ok, she told herself. Lets see what’s in this mysterious box, if there even is one. Just breathe, she thought. It’s probably nothing, just my brain playing tricks on me. Walking as if in slow motion, she then moved the coffee table slightly to the side.
She took another long deep breath as she touched her palm to the wood floor, as though she could sense the pulse of the house, living and breathing too. As she studied the floorboard to see how exactly to get it shimmied out, another shiver and goosebumps, low and behold she could not believe her eyes. As she pulled out the dusty old shoebox, her heart began to race as her fight or flight response kicked in.
Do I dare open it?
Flustered, she sat on the floor next to the secret cubby holding the shoebox. She closed her eyes and took one last deep breath. Inside the box was the little black notebook from her dream. She opened it and read:
Arthur, dear beloved husband. I fear you have left this world without me, however in due time we shall be reunited and together once again. Wait for me, my love. I know our story is one of terrible heartache and betrayal… Wilma suddenly realized she was reading the intimate journal of the old woman from her dream, one that had loved and lost... but why leave this box to be unfound by others upon her death? Taking the notebook out of the box, confused, she dumped the remaining contents of the box delicately on the floor. She flipped through the years of bills, photographs, documents, and discovered one fairly important looking document enclosed in a plastic gallon freezer bag, a will.
Skimming as quickly as she could, her heart began thumping intensely in her chest. What were these documents with her name on them? Trying to make sense of it, she sat stunned. She then began to think of her parents, how they kept so much from her she didn’t really even know much about her family history. She felt as if her heart was going to jump out through her throat, she closed her eyes and breathed. Her name was included on the house deed and the will, as the sole beneficiary. Suddenly a memory of herself as a girl, and her mother taking her to this very park, waving to the kind man on the porch. She had been there before…
Had my mother known about his wife? Or about his death? Why didn’t she tell me he was my real father? Wilma felt overwhelmed with questions. She jumped back into her Ford Focus with the shoebox on the passenger seat beside her.
Who really am I?
She turned onto her mother's street, screeched to a stop and ran through the crunchy, snow covered lawn so she wouldn’t slip in hot pursuit.
After knocking vigorously, her mother answered.
“Oh, hello there, sweetheart. I wasn’t expecting you today!”
Ever since Dad died last summer, she has taken to sitting at her spot near the kitchen table, watching endless soap operas while bingeing on cigarettes and black coffee. Now her life revolves around daytime television, book club meetings, and Pilates with the girls.
“Mom, the strangest thing just happened, I can’t explain why, but I need a few answers.” Wilma, with eyes deadlocked with her mothers, opened the shoebox and showed her the photograph of her and Arthur. “How do you know this man, and why is my name on these papers?”
Stunned, her mother lit up another cigarette, taking a long slow pull.
“Honey, I’m sorry. I should have told you sooner. It was a long time ago and nothing is different because of this.” This response was typical of Wilma's mother, but not what she wanted to hear at this moment. “We were both married, and we made a mistake. We didn’t want your father to know. He couldn’t have children.”
In an utter state of shock, Wilma plopped down in the chair next to her mother's and started studying the documents in the box. Whoa, she thought, does this mean, legally, everything Arthur left… is mine? She stared blankly for a minute, blinked and then focused on the words below. “Mom, did Arthur have any other children? Or do these documents say that everything he left is for me?
She stirred sugar slowly into a fresh cup of coffee.
“Just you, dear.” She pursed her lips after a scalding sip. “How did you find this anyhow?”
Remembering how little her mother thought of the supernatural and her realization of the cottage from her dream, she shrugged, “I had the day off and went to the park, where I stumbled upon the little cottage we visited that one time as a girl.”
Her mother nodded in agreement, “Well, saved me from breaking the news to you the hard way!” she said, letting out a snort.
As if she were ever going to tell me.
As she left her mother’s house that day, Wilma realized two very important things. Clearly, her mother is as lost and immature as she is, and that her day off became so much better. Now she just had to think about fixing up her new house next to the park and how to use the additional $20,000 from the will. Finally! she thought, enough to start my own shop! Wilma never thought in all her years on this planet she’d find herself in the midst of luck like this, one so very intuitively like the experience was a magical spell set on her from the moment she laid to sleep last night. This can’t be real. Dreams don’t come true. However, today she learned that sometimes prosperity finds us in the strangest of places; even within our own minds.