Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1705049-The-Gift-of-Independence
by Jeff
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Drama · #1705049
Writer's Cramp Entry - 9/3/10 - A mysterious, valuable birthday gift.
When I arrived at my basement apartment on Monday evening, there was a smattering of birthday gifts: food baskets, flowers, small trinkets, and gift certificates. Every square inch of living space was nearly overflowing with the outpouring of goodwill. I suppose it was nice, in a way, to know that so many people felt I was worth a few bucks and a sentiment on my birthday; especially after losing the house, my family, and all of my belongings in the hurricane. It was a rough year, and all of the generous gifts really made me feel special for the first time in months.

As I looked around the apartment, what really captured my interest was the small package, simply yet skillfully wrapped in newspaper and conspicuously placed on the kitchenette countertop. I wondered what could possibly be inside such a tiny, unassuming gift. It wasn't nearly as colorful as the flowers, or as sleek and convenient as the gift cards, or as appetizing as the baskets of food. But it did have a mystery about it; an intrigue that made it infinitely more noticeable than any of the expensive gifts surrounding it.

The suspense lasted all of about a minute. I had the paper torn open in no time, and opened the box to see something that truly made me gasp in surprise.

In the small box was a scrap of paper and a key. On one side of the paper was an address. The other side had a simple message:

The key's purpose will make itself known.
Happy Birthday.

It was such a curious gift. There was no card, no indication of who had given it. I looked the address up online; it seemed to belong to a house in a newly rejuvenated residential area of town. The curiosity was really getting the better of me now; I had to know what was at that address, and what the key was for.

The drive took me an hour in traffic, and as I pulled up to the address, my research confirmed that it was indeed a small, brand-new house in the revitalized area of town. The entire city had undergone an overhaul after the hurricane, and this was one of the new residential sectors they had started constructing. The key in my hand looked an awful lot like a house key, though I couldn't fathom why an anonymous gift-giver would send it to me.

I knocked on the door and waited for a few moments, then knocked again. When it became clear that no one was going to answer the door, I slipped the key into the lock and turned the deadbolt. Cautiously, I stuck my head inside the door and peered around.

That's when the lights came on. All of my friends and family were there, yelling, "Surprise!" at the top of their lungs. Confused, they explained to me that they didn't know who the mysterious benefactor was that had left me the package; but I wasn't his only visit. He was a philanthropist of some form or another, who selected people that had been displaced by the hurricane and got them into homes again. He wanted to surprise me for my birthday.

When the initial shock had worn off, the reality of the situation sank in. Someone had given me a house, had known that I'd been displaced by the natural disaster and lost everything. And that someone had either the money or the means (or both) to make sure that I would have a new place to live, where life can return to normal.

I couldn't think of a more generous, valuable gift for my birthday. Sure, it may not be as delicious as those food baskets, as grand as the flowers, or as functional as the gift cards, but this person had – anonymously – given me so much more. He or she had given me a home.

Is there a more generous and valuable gift out there?

(661 words)
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