Longevity’s Secret Revealed
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Cabin"
Originally featured on 06-15-2007
As part of our series "Checkered"

“Did you say this was your Grandfather’s cabin?”

I parked the car in front of the small cabin on a thin layer of snow and looked at Sandy sitting next to me.

“My great-grandfather, actually,” I said.

Sandy frowned as she got out of the car. “It doesn’t look like much,” she said.

“Yeah, well, he built it himself. It’s almost a hundred years old.”

Grandpa (as everyone had called him) Hank had died a couple years earlier. After debating what to do with his cabin, the family finally decided to just sell it. I had visited the cabin with my parents and brother a few times, but not in several years. There were already a few bidders and I wanted to see it one last time. Sandy and I had some time off from college, so I convinced her to come up with me.

After we brought in the bags, I set about trying to start a fire in the large brick fireplace. Eventually I got the thing lit and before long there was a nice fire burning.

Sandy and I sat on the couch in front of the fireplace and drank the cheap red wine I had bought at the little market we had passed on the way up.

“So, what do you think? We could buy this place, move up here, raise a couple of kids.”

She gave me a weird look. “How cheap did you say this wine was?”

“I’m serious,” I said. “I think it’d be nice to live up here.”

“Yeah, sure. Out in the middle of nowhere with no stores or anything and the nearest neighbor only what, five miles away? That sounds great to me.”

I laughed and finished my glass. Sandy looked around.

“I thought you were selling this house. Why is there still so much junk in here?”

“Apparently nobody wanted to come up here and clean it out. My mom told me their selling it as-is, junk included.”

“Do you have any idea what’s in here,” she asked looking around.

“No idea.”

She grinned mischievously. “Do you want to find out?” She didn’t wait for my response and quickly got up and walked over to a large desk. As she began opening drawers, I smiled and slowly got up to join her.

“Anything interesting?” I asked.

“Nothing yet,” she said rummaging through some papers. “When was the last time your Grandpa came up here anyway?”

“It must have been a long time ago. His last few years he was too sick to leave his house. He just stayed there with his, uh, friends.” She smiled and looked at me.

“Ah, his friends. You told me about them. How many were there anyway?”

“I’m not even sure. Let’s see, I remember Rachael, Morgan, Cindy, Jessica, and the last one was Nicole. She was Swedish.”

“And he would just tell these women he was rich so they would stay with him?”

“That’s the crux of it.”

“Do you think he was rich?”

“Well, they did find a couple dozen boxes of Hershey bars in his basement, but besides those, he only had about $300 in a bank account, so I’m thinking he wasn’t. C’mon let’s get back to the fire. I’m not sure I ever told you this, but I give excellent foot rubs.”

“Maybe he hid the money,” she said, ignoring my come-on. “Did you ever think of that? Maybe his fortune is hidden in this cabin!”

I rolled my eyes. “Perhaps it is. I’m going to open that other bottle; you’re welcome to join me.” I went back and sat down.

“Uh, yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.”

 

 

I awoke with a start and looked around, forgetting for a moment where I was. Apparently I had fallen asleep on the couch. I thought I had heard someone calling my name. I was about to close my eyes when I heard it again.

“John! Come up here!”

“Sandy?”

“John, hurry!”

I stumbled off the couch and headed for where I thought Sandy was calling from. I found her upstairs buried in a closet in a small bedroom.

“John, look at this!”

I went to the closet and lodged in the back, surrounded by numerous shoes, belts, and other assorted clothes, was a black metal box.

I was still a little groggy. “What’s that?”

“It’s a safe. I tried putting in some random numbers but it won’t open. Do you have any idea what the combination could be?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know, Sandy. Why don’t we go to bed, we can look at it tomorrow.”

Sandy yawned. “Yeah, okay. But try to think of those numbers!”

We slept in the master bedroom. Fortunately we had brought our own sheets and blankets because the bedding was rather musty. In the middle of the night I got up to use the bathroom. The cabin was pretty cold so I slipped my jeans on. On my way back to bed, I passed by the room with the safe. I smiled and went in.

The room was sparsely decorated and besides the messy closet, very neat. I pulled the light string in the closet and gazed down at the safe. Sandy was going to be disappointed, I really had no idea what the number could be.

I was just about to go back to bed, when I had an idea. From my back pocket I pulled out my old leather wallet and from that took out a folded piece of paper. It was a black-and-white photograph Grandpa had given me years ago. It showed a large man standing next to a small boy in a field. I looked at it for a moment and then turned it over. On the back was written “Daniel and Henry, April 5th, 1897.” I looked down at the safe. Could it be?

I knelt down and turned the dial first to four, then around to five, and finally back to 97. I heard something click. I grabbed the handle and slowly opened the door, nervous with anticipation.

At first I didn’t know what I was looking at. But I soon realized that the safe was almost completely filled with stacks of magazines. I pulled the top one out. The title was “Gentlemen’s Pleasure,” and an attractive, albeit a little thick, woman was posing in a bikini on the cover. I was a little puzzled and grabbed the next magazine. This one was called “Men’s Fancy” and showed a similar-looking woman wearing a tight red dress. I laughed. Grandpa’s fortune was finally revealed: ancient pornos.

I picked up the “Gentlemen’s Pleasure” and flipped through it. I was about to put it back when a thick piece of paper fell out. It had a shiny seal on it and looked like some kind of certificate. I had to read it twice to realize what I was looking at. It was a certificate, a stock certificate—for 25 thousand shares of the Hershey Corporation. I was stunned. I didn’t know what Hershey was trading at, but I was relatively sure this piece of paper was worth well over a million dollars.

After I recovered from the shock, I laughed again and slipped the certificate back into the magazine. Women and Hershey bars, Grandpa’s two passions. I got up and headed back to bed. Maybe that’s how he lived so long, I thought, and slid under the covers.

Read More By Tim Josephs

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Portland Fiction Project

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