Clark found a dusty box hiding in the corner of the attic. He looked over his shoulder to see if any of his cousins had noticed, but they were all looking at old paintings, jewelry, and other goods their grandmother had kept rotting up there over the years.
Their grandmother was still alive but their parents were helping her move to a smaller space, one closer to her children in the case anything should happen they’d be able to get to her right away. So, naturally, when the parents were helping her move, it meant the grandkids needed to be up in the dirty, creaky attic scouring through boxes.
When Clark made it to the box in the corner, he wiped the dust off the stop with the palm of his hand before wiping his hand on his pants, a straight line of gray going down the front of his dark blue jeans. He bent down to open the box but it was sealed with packing tape. This was the only box he had come across that was sealed and he’d been up in the attic for a couple hours now.
Nothing else in the attic was protected. If they were left in a box, the box was almost wide open. There weren’t many things his grandmother would be able to take with her to her new home. Most of her belongings were ruined.
This was exactly why he needed to open that box and see what was inside. It must have been so important that she wanted to keep it protected.
Clark looked this way and that but couldn’t really find anything sharp to open the box with. He bent down to pick it up. He braced himself for liftoff as he wrapped his arms around the awkward shape. But when he lifted it off the ground with a heave he nearly fell over. Confused, he stood where he was slightly lifting the box up and down. It didn’t weigh anything at all. Was the box empty?
Taking a risk to be a little rougher with it, Clark shook the box from side to side. Something moved. He didn’t know what it could possibly be, but there was a single item in that sealed box and it weighed almost nothing. Now he knew it was important.
“Hey, Clark found another one.”
Clark froze squeezing the box tighter. His cousins were being greedy, pocketing small items here and there, and if this particular item was as precious as it seemed to be, Clark didn’t want his cousins to even know what it was.
“What do you have there, Clark?” another asked. The four of his cousins were walking over to him now. He had no choice.
“Oh,” he turned around. “This box was hiding in the corner. It’s sealed though.”
“No biggie.” Roger, the oldest of the five of them, whipped out a pocket knife from his back pocket. He motioned with his free hand for Clark to set the box down.
“Be careful, it’s really light.” Clark said as he put the box down onto an antique dining set chair.
Roger stabbed the middle of the box with all his might making Clark wince. It wasn’t a big knife so surely Roger didn’t pierce anything. Still, didn’t he just hear what Clark said?
Roger moved the knife downward and then back up slicing through the thick tape. He then put his knife away and used his hands to pry the rest of the box open. Everyone watched him in silence, all wondering what could possibly be in the only sealed box.
“Ready?” Roger asked with a grin. Everyone nodded except Clark who remained frozen, his eyes fixated on the opening that Roger had his fingers in between ready to reveal its contents.
Then he opened the box.
All five of them ducked their heads to peer into the box at the same time. The element of surprise had gone and their hopefulness disappeared from their faces as confusion set in instead. They all straightened up as Clark reached into the box to pull out the item.
“What is that?” Amy asked.
It was a piece of cloth. Clark let it rest in the palms of both of his hands. It was soft to the touch and smooth. He thought it might be a blanket, a baby’s blanket even, but it was even too small for that. He unfolded it and held it up for all his cousins to see.
They scoffed and made disgusted faces. One by one they each walked away muttering about how that wasn’t worth the big reveal. Clark, on the other hand, was fascinated.
The cloth carried vivid colors, neon almost, with pinks, blues, yellows, and just about any other color you could imagine. It was quite ugly really; the colors looked as though they had thrown up on the cloth. Each color was its own geometric shape – triangles, circles, rectangles, and squares filled every spot leaving barely any white patches.
The piece of cloth was in great condition, still soft and the colors still blindingly bright. Clark folded it back up in the palm of his hand careful to fold on the creases already made. He looked up and all his cousins were back to rummaging through other boxes. He held onto the cloth tightly and made his way out of the attic.
When he made it to the ground floor he breathed in deeply through his nose. A smoked shoulder was cooking and he suddenly realized how hungry he was. He walked past the kitchen though only peering into the room to see if his grandmother was there. Two of his aunts were cooking though, no sign of his grandmother.
He walked into the dining room after hearing a clatter of silverware. There was his grandmother and his mother setting the table for dinner.
“Hi Clark, need a break?” his mother greeted with a smile.
Clark shook his head. “I was wondering about something.”
His grandmother paused in what she was doing and looked up at her youngest grandson. “Oh?”
Clark unfolded the cloth and revealed it to her. His grandmother gasped and his mother put a hand on her hip looking concerned.
“Clark, honey, if you come across any sealed boxes you should wait for Grandma to open them. It’s not politely to go through her things like that.” She said calmly.
Well, he knew that. She should have been telling that to his cousins. They were all going to need to be patted down before going home.
“Oh, it’s alright, Rita.” Grandma walked over to Clark and took the cloth into her own hands. “In fact, I had forgotten about this.”
“How could you forget that?” Rita commented with a smirk.
“Well, I forgot I had it up there. I thought it was under my bed or something.”
“It might be better off hidden up in the attic.” Rita chuckled.
“Oh, shush.” Grandma waved a hand at her but she too was smiling.
“Uh, excuse me?” Clark interrupted raising his hand slightly. His mother and grandmother turned to face him. “What is it?”
“It’s a sail.” Grandma replied.
“A… Sail.” Clark said in disbelief. “Is that a little too…”
“Small?” she said smiling. “Yes. Very small. But Clark took it with him anyway.” Grandma held up the cloth and admired it.
Clark raised an eyebrow.
“You were named after your grandfather, Clark. You knew that.” His mother added. “He had always wanted to be a sailor.”
“But I had wanted children.” Grandma added. “You see? None of you would have existed if I didn’t stop your kooky father from going out to sea.”
“Yes, I know. Thanks, Ma.” Rita replied with a smirk. She rolled her eyes as though she had heard that a thousand times.
Clark remained confused. He didn’t know what kind of question to ask next and his mother and grandmother seemed to be having a nice conversation on their own. He felt bad for interrupting. But his grandmother turned her attention back to him.
“You see, Clark always wanted to be a sailor but then he met me. I wooed him—“
“Alright, alright… We married, had children, you know how that works.”
Clark nodded with a disgusted face. He didn’t need to picture his grandparents… you know.
“After all you grandkids were born and he had retired, he so badly wanted to go out to see. Me, being the good wife I am, I found him at the docks one day. I had handed him this sail and gave him my blessing to go out to sea.” Grandma explained.
“And he left?” Clark asked surprised.
Grandma nodded. She looked down at the cloth and stroked it with her frail hands. “He laughed at me when I gave him this sail. I had sewed it myself. I was proud of it. Maybe a little color blind, but it was my best work at the time. He told me he couldn’t possibly use it as a sail due to its size. Still, he tied it to the top of his sail and let what little wind it could carry blow through it.”
Clark smiled. “That’s great!” then he frowned. “But… how did you get it back? I thought Grandpa died at sea?”
“Well, that’s the depressing part.” Grandma nodded with a sigh. She looked away from the cloth and at Clark. “They had found a shipwreck off the coast somewhere. I saw it on the news and lo and behold, there was this sail among the wreckage. That’s when I knew it was him. I tracked those news people down and demanded I get this sail back. He took a lot of things with him when he left, all of it lost at sea, except for this. I’ve held onto it ever since.”
Clark felt his eyes tearing up. He quickly rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands. He didn’t want to cry in front of his mother and grandmother. How embarrassing would that be?
“I’m sorry to hear that… Accidents do happen, I guess.” Clark said. He wasn’t too sure what to say actually.
Grandma nodded. She smiled and Rita and held out her hand, her daughter taking it and giving it a squeeze. “I knew he wouldn’t do well out there. That’s why I tried to get pregnant as soon as I could. I wanted him to have a life first.” She laughed.
“And a good thing you did.” Rita said quietly.
Clark narrowed his eyes. “You didn’t trust Grandpa to go out to sea alone?”
His grandmother laughed. She looked back at him with amusement filling her gaze. “Oh, my dear, he didn’t know the first thing about sailing.”