To celebrate "Clean Out Your Closet Week"
Treasure in the Closet
It was time — the summer when life changes. On my dresser lay my shiny new high school diploma and the acceptance letter from Rutherford University.
I could hear my brother, Joshua, in the next room busily packing up his stuff, eager to move in here, the bigger, better bedroom, as soon as I cleared out. I had been working on this chore, reluctantly, for several days.
The celebrity posters and signs reflecting my political outrage and world view came down yesterday, leaving white squares and pinholes to mark their departure. Funny how they had gone from profound to childish so quickly. Their years of service as banners of the rebellion were rewarded with repose in the trash can.
My clock radio, desk lamp, pencil cup, stapler, along with assorted paper clips, rubber bands, and other desk drawer junk, were stashed in a cardboard box sitting in the middle of the floor.
Another box bristled with sports trophies and medals — the oversized gaudy symbols of victory in the juvenile wars of life and death. Where would I put them?
Today was the day I dreaded; the day that should have come first but postponed to last. No more excuses, no more avoidance, today I had to clean out my closet.
Where to start? It seems I remember some famous person saying, “Every great cleanout begins by opening the door,” or something to that effect.
Let’s start with the clothes. Great armfuls onto the bed. Four piles: go with me, hand down to brother, donate to Goodwill, car wash rags. I think I’ll wait for Mom to help with this. There, that wasn’t so hard.
Now to the floor. How did I get all this junk in here? Looks like a mix of shoes and sports equipment — a tennis racket, a football and pads, baseball cleats, swim goggles, a basketball, a volleyball. I’ll take the tennis racket with me. Maybe meet some cute chicks on the tennis court. The rest goes to Josh. He can sort it out.
How about these shoes? I’ll take these dress shoes, these sneakers, and this pair of flipflops. That should be enough for a college kid. I wonder how much snow they get at Rutherford. Pull out all the rest — quite a pile. I think I’ll let Mom take care of this. She’ll know what to do with them.
Now, the hard part. Get a chair and empty the top shelf. It sure is full.
“Andrew, what are you doing?” asked Joshua, standing in the doorway.
“What’s it look like … cleaning out my closet.”
“I can’t wait for you to get out of here, so I can move in.”
“Slow down. I think Mom and Dad want to paint this room before you move in.”
“Really … but I’m all packed. I thought I would move in today.”
“And I’m going to move into Josh’s room tomorrow,” said Ben, our younger brother, as he entered the room and joined the conversation.
“I don’t think so,” I said, “that room gets painted too.”
“Man, that’s going to take all summer,” said Ben, looking dejected.
“Maybe you can speed it up by helping,” I said.
They both heard the word ‘work’ somewhere in that comment and didn’t like it.
‘Right now, you both can help me get these boxes down from the shelf,” I said, as I climbed onto the chair.
Boxes, boxes, boxes, a deluge as I handed down one dusty box after another. Some I recognized, some surprised me, and for some, I didn’t have a clue. Were these boxes Mom and Dad had stashed up here years ago and forgotten?
The shelf empty, I was about to get off the chair when something told me to take one last look. I stretched hard for one last peek into the farthest corner of the shelf.
“One more,” I said, straining on my toes to reach the small box inconspicuous in that dark recess.
“What is it?” asked Ben.
“I don’t know,” I said as I blew the dust off the brittle old cardboard box.
“It sure looks old,” Josh added.
I slowly opened the box, careful not to tear or break the old cardboard.
“I know what it is,” I yelled, the recollection flooding my brain.
“It’s a Captain Midnight Secret Decoder. Gramps gave it to me years ago.”
“Does it work?” asked Ben.
“Yes. No. I mean, it works, but it’s no good unless you have two of them.”
“Why?” asked Josh turning the tarnished gadget over in his hand.
“It’s used to code and decode secret messages between two people, so both people have to have one,” I explained.
I had heard about these decoders from Gramps during a visit many years ago. They were a popular marketing device for kids in the 40s and 50s during the Golden Days of Radio. Every kid had to have one, or so they said on the radio program. At the end of the show, the announcer would spell out the promised special coded message to those in the radio audience who had the decoder. They could then decode the message to get the real secret information directly from Captain Midnight.
“What’s that piece of paper in the box?” asked Ben.
“Looks like a secret message,” Josh said, “let’s figure it out.”
“Maybe a clue to a hidden treasure,” Ben offered.
I love this kid’s imagination.
After several tries, I hit on the key to the code. By lining up the alphabet on the inner ring four letters off from the “L” in the alphabet on the outer ring, I deciphered the message. Josh wrote down the letters as I read them off.
“What!” Ben screamed, “that’s no treasure clue! It’s a stupid commercial!”
Mom and Dad were standing in the doorway, smiling.
Word Count: 968