The Shoebox

Work in progress …

The Shoebox 1Steve wasn’t certain if he was up to be mayor of his hometown, but it’s too late to second guess his decision to run. He won in an overwhelming election – the largest, actually in the history of Fairfield.

He first thought back to how he was voted “Most Likely to be a Politician” in high school, but they quickly shifted to worst-case scenarios: cascading power outages, an unexpected sinkhole swallowing part of Dixie Highway, or widespread floods, like the city to the north had just a few years ago which destroyed dozens of basements.

It had been hours since the end of the election. Hours since his election night watch party guests left with smiles, and hours since his wife went to bed. He was still in his office, sitting behind his desk staring at the results on his laptop screen which started to become unreadable as the light from the sunrise crept through the window.

Steve stood up to close the drapes in the office before finally heading to bed but stopped as his hands reached near their tops. A car pulled into the driveway. He looked at his watch, taking his eyes only briefly of black Dodge Valiant. As it parked, he went out to meet whomever it was that was about to knock on his door at eight o’clock in the morning.

Steve didn’t bother closing the door behind him. “Can I help you gentlemen?”

There were two men in black suits, white shirts and black ties walking up the path toward the door. One held a small, long box. It was an old shoebox. The man without the box asked, “Mr. Miller?”

“That’s me.”

“We’re here to bequeath an item left to you by Mr. John Smook.”

Steve froze. John Smook wasn’t a name he heard since high school nearly a quarter century ago. They were best friends growing up in Fairfield. After graduation Johnny joined the Marines and Steve went to college where he studied mechanical engineering.

“Bequeath?”

“I’m sorry, you hadn’t heard?” The man closed his eyes and bowed his head for a moment before looking Steve in the eyes. “Mr. Smook was one of the passengers on Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 that crashed in the Florida Everglades last December.”

“Johnny’s dead?”

“I’m sorry you had to hear it this way, but we were told you were notified. He left you this,” the man said, turning to his colleague who hastened toward Steve and handed him the box. “It took a while to find this as he created a bit of a scavenger hunt which delayed us finding it.”

The news numbed Steve, but managed to crack a brief smile. “That sounds like Johnny.”

“We’re sorry for your loss.” The men shook Steve’s hand before departing. They left the mayor-elect alone with the shoebox.

Steve looked at the end. “Still has the picture of our moms at the factory lunchroom,” he said quietly. He headed back inside but lifted the lid as he did so. The curiosity on his face shifted to a nostalgic smile. “Now what do we have here?”