“Dad! Dad! Dad!” Ryan McClain repeatedly called for his father.
Patrick McClain rubbed his forehead and took a deep breath. Snow days were a blessing for his children, but not so much for him and his wife. It seemed like every single day Ryan and his oldest daughter, Sasha, bugged him for some reason. The weather conditions had been nightmarish for weeks in town and the mayor sent out an advisory telling residents to only go outside when absolutely necessary. Patrick and his family had been practically snowed in for days, although it had felt like for all of February, and they were thankful that they had stocked up on necessities before the outdoor conditions became unbearable. Patrick loved his children, but they never failed to get on his nerves. He mumbled, “Do you think they’ll stop if I pretend I’m not here?”
“Nope,” Claudia, Patrick’s wife, groaned, “It’ll just get worse and you know that.”
“Dad! Dad! Dad!” Sasha began to call for Patrick too, which meant he had no choice but to find the two rascals and see what the problem was.
Patrick yelled back, “Where are you both?”
“The attic!” Sasha and Ryan called out at the same time.
Patrick sighed and whispered, “Claudia, sweetie, wish me luck.”
“Good luck, honey.”
Patrick stood up from his family room sofa and then, almost right on cue, heard crying from upstairs. This time it was from his infant twin daughters, Kylie and Diana. He then wished Claudia luck with the babies and quickly made his way up the stairs to the attic’s entryway, while his two older children were still calling for him.
It seemed like this type of event happened everyday during that particular stretch of bad weather. One morning, Ryan caught his ear in a small, empty baby bottle and the whole situation demanded the attention of everyone in the house. Another morning, Sasha screamed from the basement after claiming to have seen a “huge, scary, monster bug”. After searching for the monster, it turned out to be a small spider. There were many other mischievous moments caused by the children in the McClain household, all of which were not appreciated by their parents. Patrick trudged up the stairs and reluctantly climbed the ladder leading up to the attic.
Sasha shrieked, “Dad, you’re finally here!”
Patrick mumbled, “Yep, sorry I took so long.”
“Dad, you’ve got to see this!” Ryan grabbed his father’s arm and pulled him to the back of the large room.
Patrick rubbed his eyes and asked, “See what?”
Sasha exclaimed, “That!” She quickly stuck out her arm and pointed into an open, large, white cardboard box that was stacked on top of another box.
“I don’t see anything, sorry kids.” Patrick tried his best to spot what his children were seeing, but he could not spot anything out of the ordinary. The box had various items in it, most of which were not large in size. “What are you talking about?”
Ryan looked down at the box and answered, “It’s this thing on the top. We don’t know what it is, so we didn’t want to touch it. I don’t think anyone’s ever looked in here and I don’t even know if this box is ours. I mean, maybe the last people left it here by accident when they moved out last year. I can’t believe they didn’t triple check everything, but maybe they thought this was our box.”
Finally, the exhausted father spotted what the children were insisting was there. He picked up the box and lightly placed it on a nearby table. On top of a couple blankets and mixed in with tupperware was a painted, wooden block with another thinner wooden piece attached to its side. The mysterious object was certainly not made during the 21st century. It was covered in chipping green paint, making the largest part look somewhat like a pickle. Patrick carefully picked it up and was surprised by how light it was. The object’s smooth exterior also surprised Patrick.
“Kids, please go get your mom and tell her to come up here.”
Sasha and Ryan quickly made their way out of the attic to get their mother. The object mystified Patrick. He was certain that it was a part of something larger, because he was able to spot some small areas that were clearly damaged. On top of the long, flat side, he noticed that something else was painted on top of the original green shade. It looked like a bullseye, but he was unsure of what it was supposed to be. When his wife came upstairs, he asked her if she knew what it was.
Claudia shrugged and said, “I have no clue. It looks so strange. The biggest part looks like a large pickle and whatever is supposed to be coming from the side of it makes no sense. There’s also this weird painted dot on it. Have you looked through the rest of the box?”
With extreme caution, Claudia and Patrick placed the contents of the box on the attic floor. Most of what they found was tupperware. They also found two blankets, one of which looked more like a special quilt. Some of its patches were different shades of brown and the two were curious about where those patches came from. They carefully packed everything back into the box and went back downstairs. Both of them spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what the object was. Unfortunately, the hours spent on different Google searches led them nowhere.
“I am so proud of Kylie and Diana. I can’t believe that they haven’t cried yet.” Claudia laughed as her and Patrick settled into bed that night.
Patrick sighed and said, “Don’t jinx it, honey. You never know with those two.”
“You’re right, Patrick. Our kids never fail to surprise us, do they?”
Patrick nodded and replied, “Yep, but I don’t blame them. The weather conditions and being trapped inside all day would drive me crazy too if I were their age. But during our research earlier, I read that the weather is supposed to improve very soon.”
Claudia murmured, “Thank goodness.”
“Speaking of our research today, I wish we knew what that thing we found today is. I’ve never seen anything like that.” Patrick wondered about the thing all day. His lack of knowledge frustrated him. He tried his best to search for clues, which prompted him to look throughout the entire attic, but he had no luck. “I think we should try to find the previous owner of this house and give the box back to them. It’s their stuff, so they should get it back. And maybe we’ll find out what it is.
Claudia agreed. The two wanted answers and also wanted to do the right thing. They grew tired of not having a name for the object, so they decided to call it “the pickle”. The next day, they began their search for the past owner of the house. The owner’s information was nowhere to be found, so they decided to continue looking the next day. The next day, however, brought a miracle for the residents in the area where the McClains lived. The snow melted and the temperature rapidly climbed. It was determined that the weather was better and would most likely keep improving. The two older McClain children cheerfully returned to school and Patrick returned to work part-time. Claudia stayed at home with the two babies and her brother was able to help take care of them. She enlisted him to find out what “the pickle” actually was, but neither of them had any luck after weeks. Two months had passed when Patrick finally moved the closest any of the McClains had to figuring out what the object was.
“James L. White!” Patrick randomly exclaimed one April morning.
Clearly confused, Claudia asked, “What?”
Patrick ecstatically replied, “James was the last person who lived here. I finally found paperwork from him, but I was unable to find out exactly where he is from. Looks like I’ve got some homework for when I get back from work!”
Patrick’s workday seemed to drag. He was constantly checking a clock on the wall and found it hard to focus. When he was finally able to go home, he rushed back and began extensive research. After a lot of looking, he discovered where James had moved to: Coventry, England.
“Coventry, England?” Claudia felt like her husband hit the jackpot but truthfully, the news disappointed her. She knew that the chances of James returning to America were very slim. “Patrick, honey, I think that’s quite a stretch. I don’t think he’d come back and if he didn’t, I don’t think he’d appreciate a box of stuff he forgot just arriving on his doorstep.
Patrick joyfully shouted, “He’ll be here in a week!”
The McClain family tidied up the house in preparation for James’s arrival. The children were now on board with the excitement. No one in the family felt stressed about their highly anticipated visitor, it was actually quite the opposite. They felt relieved to know what had been laying in their attic and they were also pleased to return what wasn’t theirs. Patrick made sure that James was the owner of the box and James told him that the items definitely belonged to him. When James arrived, Patrick drove fifty minutes to pick up James and two of his grandchildren from the nearest airport. He had never heard James’s voice or seen his face, so he was surprised to be meeting a man in his eighties. James repeatedly thanked Patrick for contacting him and was excited to finally take his forgotten items home.
“Where is the box at?” James asked soon after he reached his former home. Patrick and his son carefully brought down James’s box from the attic and upon opening it, James gasped. With tears in his eyes, he whispered, “Thank goodness. I thought I’d never see these things again.” He put the tupperware containers aside and “the pickle” next to them. He grabbed the strange quilt and hugged it tight.
Charlotte, James’s granddaughter, patted her emotional grandfather’s shoulder and began to cry herself. She explained, “His father fought in World War II and died in Normandy on D-Day. His mother, a grieving widow and newly single mother, made two quilts with pieces of his father’s soldier uniforms. One was for him and one was for his older brother, William. My grandfather was devastated when he realized he did not bring this blanket back with him to England. He was really heartbroken, so we appreciate this so much.”
Patrick felt himself getting emotional along with James and his grandchildren. He cleared his throat and replied, “We’re really glad we could make this happen. We looked for your grandfather for a long time.”
James picked up the mysterious object that originally caught the attention of the McClain family and wiped a tear from his face. He said, “I can’t believe you found all of this. You’ll never know how much I appreciate it.”
“Sir, I’ve been wondering about that object in your hand for a long time.” Patrick’s chance had arrived. Him and his family eagerly awaited this moment for a very long time. “What is that exactly?”
James chuckled and answered, “This little thing is a toy airplane. My older brother and I made it in 1941. It’s based on RAF fighter planes flown during the war and it didn’t look like this originally of course, I dropped it later on in life and it broke.”
The McClains were happy to know what “the pickle” really was. It had seemed like ages since they had found the item, so knowing felt like they had been awarded with something themselves. Patrick was somewhat saddened when he realized that their journey with the pickle-like plane was over, but seeing James’s face made up for it.
“Thank you so much. Thank you. You truly have no idea how much this means to me. Thank you very much.” James humbly thanked the family.
That night, Claudia and Patrick were thankful to be able to rest. Although they had a rewarding day, they were hopeful to get a rewarding night’s sleep as well. They knew they had to discuss the broken toy airplane.
“All along, it was a little plane. I can’t believe it.” Patrick laughed.
Claudia scoffed, “And I can’t believe we didn’t figure that out sooner.” She grinned and said, “James was over the moon though. Did you see how emotional he got? It made me emotional as well. I’m really glad he was able to come and get the rest of his stuff and I’m glad we found out what ‘the pickle’ really was.”
Patrick squeezed his wife’s hand and sighed. “Finding out doesn’t matter that much to me anymore to be honest. Making that man happy is really all that matters.”