The well dressed elderly gentleman sat looking towards the west as the last moments of sunlight filtered through the Venetian blinds.  Soon the clattering of dinner carts was heard as uniformed aides rolled them down the hallway. Right on time, Henry thought.  


Henry was glad he was already in the dining hall.  Avoid the rush he always thought.  If he could think.  Butterflies in my head he reminded himself.  Sometimes good days sometimes blurry days. Today was one of those blurry days.

“Hi Henry, we missed you at bocce ball this afternoon.  Taking a break from us?”  A pretty redhead aide asked as she wheeled an elderly woman to Henry’s table.  

“Oh, you know I love bocce ball.”  My daughter was visiting, all the way from

California ”

“What a special surprise,” she said as she locked the wheel chair into place.  “Enjoy your meal”  she called as she raced away.

“Well, Henry how was your visit?”  His dinner companion asked.

Adjusting his glasses he looked at the woman sitting next to him. Recognition came slowly but her colorful pink scarf jarred his memory.  

“The visit, the visit, he said slowly.  “Good, Marge, good.  But I’m trying to remember.  I have something important to remember but butterflies are in my head.”

“Well, lets see,” Marge prompted.  “Usually when my son comes he talks about my will. My daughter talks about the cost of things and my grandchildren ask for candy.  I like seeing my grandkids best because the staff usually knows when they are coming and they give me a cute bag load of tasty chocolate treats for each child.  Then I get tons of hugs.”

A soft smile appeared on Marge’s lined face.  “I do love those hugs.  Any of that chase your butterflies away? “

Their dinner had arrived and Henry looked thoughtful between bites of his lasagna.  “Well, it was about money.  Some treasures I had hidden years ago.  I just can’t remember.  What did I hid?”  Slowly he pulled some papers from his pocket and handed them to Marge.

Putting on her rhinestone reading glasses she slowly reviewed the sheets.  “Hum,  looks like your daughter might have to sell your home because of the back taxes owed.  Seems like it’s quite an accumulation of cost and it seems like all the funds have run out.  Looks like these papers were lost in the mail or disregarded for many years.  That’s bureaucracy and mismanagement for you,”  Marge said shaking her head.    “Only a miracle or buried treasure will help.”

Henry mimicked her actions and  shook his head slowly, “Yes, that’s what my daughter was talking about. Buried treasure or something along those lines.  Maybe something in my pocket.  But what pocket and where? Ah, these damn butterflies!” 

“Ah”, Anna cried in annoyance.  More cobwebs were caught in her hair.

Laughing Peter, reached over and brushed them away.  “By the end of today your Halloween costume will be complete.  The cobweb ghost.”

“Well,  for some dumb reason I thought dressing in a white jumpsuit was a smart idea.  So you could notice me better in this dark cramped attic,” she said laughing slightly then coughing from the years of accumulated dust.

“Don’t you think we should have taken these boxes downstairs instead of looking through everything bent over with only our cell phones for light?” Anna continued between gasps.  

“Well, mom said we were in a hurry and this is the fastest way.  Dragging everything out of this attic is just more energy.  Anyway she did give us a clue.  We are looking for something in a pocket.  So we are looking for clothes.”

“Too bad grandpa left here so quickly.  Too bad he can’t remember.  Too bad he didn’t do any of this when he was younger.  What a mess and nightmare,” Peter said shaking his sandy hair in frustration. 

We’ve already checked everywhere else.  Every closest in the entire house, even the trunk of that old car of his.  This is the last place to look.  I can’t believe we didn’t know about all the back taxes and bills he didn’t pay.”

Lifting his cell phone with his light on bright he scanned the area.  The boxes were neatly labeled but age had deteriorated most of the tape and the writing was faded.  A sense of doom filled him.  

Anna followed his light, crawling towards him on her hands and knees.  Her white jumpsuit now a dirty grey. “Let’s see,” squinting as she read the labels.

“Tools, heavy.” Anna said as she tried to lift the box. 

“Books, another heavy box”.  Slowly she checked everything.  “Socks, oh my, who saves old socks?”

“Here, you take the light, I can go quicker”, Peter said with impatience

Dessert was served and the after dinner activities announced.  “Feel like some bingo?”  Marge asked, “You can wheel me over.”  

“Oh, I still have these butterflies.  I wish something would jog my memory,” Henry sighed in frustration. “But I’ll push you.”

Slowly they walked to the activity room.  Once there Marge looked at new wall decorations.  “Look,” Marge said pointing to the display of posters and models announcing the annual Bonneville Speed Week.  “Maybe they will take us out to the salt flats to see a race or two.  First weekend in August.  That’s an annual event.  Did you know people from around the world show up. Might be fun.”

Henry’s eyes fixed on an old maroon car painted with golden flames.  “That’s a Pontiac Metropolitan Torpedo I believe.  I had one like that.  The girls loved it.  Matter of fact I still think it’s in the garage on the ranch.  Just couldn’t part with it.”  Scratching his head Henry looked thoughtful.  “Say,” he began just as a crowd of people walked past and distracted him.

“Well, we are almost done,” Peter said with a sigh.  

Anna used the cell phone light to scan the attic one more time.  Suddenly she paused, her light shining on a dark object in the furthest corner.  Getting on her hands and knees again she scurried over, the light bouncing as she went.

“Look, an old trunk.  How did we miss this?” Anna exclaimed.  “The lock is broken,” she said lifting the lid.  “Look it’s full of old clothes and here’s those mechanic overalls Grandpa usually wore fixing his treasured car.”

At her side now, Peter grabbed them from her.  Reaching into the right pocket he pulled out a small metal container.  “I remember this, it was always on the downstairs mantelpiece near the front door.  Shaking it they heard a muffled rattle.

“Quick,  open it!”  Anna cried

The old flat tin was tightly shut.  “Come on, let’s go downstairs to better light,” Peter answered. 

Excitedly they descended the attic stairs.  With frantic fingers Peter pried open the rusted relic.

“Say, I think I remember,” Henry said, looking from the poster down to Marge.  “My car, my old car.  That’s the key.  That’s the treasure.”

“Look the car key, and a letter!”  Peter exclaimed triumphantly.

Clearing his voice he began reading aloud.  

“Wednesday June 18, 1995

Dear Blanche:

If for some reason or other I should get separated from my car this is what you look for.  

There is about fifty thousand dollars hidden there.  Twenty thousand in the car and thirty thousand in my safety deposit boxes.

The keys to the safety deposit boxes  are directly under the heel of the driver and the bank’s address under the heel of the passenger under the front seat.

You will have to take out four screws from the moulding directly under each front door.

The keys and a letter are under the carpet there.

Also there is ten thousand in hundred dollar bills directly in front of the left rear tail light wrapped in a cloth.

Then about ten thousand in the trunk directly behind the rear back seat divided in two Maxwell coffee bottles.  

The bank is the Wells Fargo bank in downtown Truckee.  I have three safety deposit boxes. 355 397 405.  Hidden under the back seat are my cards and signature.

And that old car, my Pontiac Metropolitan Torpedo Six, was worth $932 in 1941.  Fix her up and you’ll have more of a gold mine.

Right now your Pappy is a tired old man.  

Much more to do but it will have to wait until tomorrow.


“Hallelujah!” Peter and Anna cried in unison. 

Miles and miles away the halls of the retirement center echoed,  “Hallelujah!”

December 06, 2019 20:38

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Tori Routsong
19:12 Dec 16, 2019

Your descriptions are really good-- you utilize "show, don't tell" very well


Dawn Mandzik
18:52 Dec 31, 2019

Thank you. I find conversation helps with that.


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Gordon Petry
21:50 Dec 11, 2019

Fine depiction of old age and a nice retirement home. I got a little confused, (no butterflies, yet, just confused) with the switch to the attic. Instead of the quadruple spacing throughout, I would just use it to indicate the change of scenery. I liked how you segued the memory of the Pontiac Torpedo from the race to his memory to the solution of the money problems. Next time I buy a used car, I'm going to check all the nooks and crannies just in case somebody else has an unusual safe deposit box. Realistic characters


Dawn Mandzik
18:52 Dec 31, 2019

Thanks. My story was based on reality. Last year my mom was in a facility and in cleaning out her attic we found a letter from her dad. There was about three thousand dollars hidden in a car of his. Instead of safety deposit boxes it was a list of travelers checks. Somehow I think the money is still in the car in a wrecking yard somewhere in Florida.


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Crystabel Lynx
02:57 Dec 15, 2019

I loved this! My mom's in a senior apartment complex and starting to have some butterflies, so the first part made me a little teary. Wonderful ending! I agree with Gordon Petry that some kind of transition breaks or scene change introductions would make it easier to follow the action moving back and forth from the retirement home to the attic.


Dawn Mandzik
18:55 Dec 31, 2019

Thanks. I’m trying to think how to change that without just “telling”. All based on reality of recent experiences with my mom, including the letter found in the attic from her dad. And yes, all a bit sad.


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Helen C
22:26 Dec 11, 2019

I really liked this story a lot. The ending was especially satisfying and well written. It is a feel good story with a lot of hope.


Dawn Mandzik
19:00 Dec 31, 2019

Thanks. It was all based on personal experiences including the letter. This past summer we drove from my mom’s home on LI New York to SF California. We happened to spend the night in the town in Nevada when the races were happening. So fun for me to use my experiences in the story.


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