“FINALLY!” Harry screamed, his exhaustion apparent when he just dropped the heavy hammer crashing to the floor.
Harry grabbed a chisel and wedged it into the crack-sized opening. The door didn’t budge. He turned and staggered about the study room’s clutter. Moments later, he reached down and uncovered a framing hammer. With whatever strength he still had to muster, he began to beat on the chisel stuck in the bent doorjamb. The rusted solid hinges bit by bit released their unyielding grip. Each swing of the hammer forced the door to open another eighth inch. For ten more minutes, he hammered. The opening got large enough to allow the bent crowbar to fall free and land a heavy thud on the flat rock covered floor.
Behind the twelve by twelve-inch, one-inch thick metal door was a metal box that had as well one-inch thick walls. Harry wiped his brow with his shirttail and laughed aloud. “No wonder it was such a bitch to open, it’s an old metal wall safe!”
Excitement outweighed his exhaustion. His imagination went wild… he had found hidden away in this money-pit old house a forgotten, painted over, California Gold Rush-era, wall safe.
Once the safe door was open enough, Harry peered inside using the light from his phone. To his utter disappointment, the only thing in the safe was a softball sized leather pouch. He took a deep breath, reached in and pulled the pouch out. His disappointment vanished, the pouch weighed oddly heavy compared to its size. A smile graced his lips.
After a hundred years that mere movement caused the brittle leather to crack and the leather strings holding together disintegrated. His leaning back and sliding down the bumpy rock wall to sit on the floor caused the pouch itself to crumble. Once on the floor, he brushed and blew the flaky pouch remnants away. With one last billowing breath, he exposed the contents.
His glee dissolved in unison with the leather flakes fluttering down in a cloud of dust. There were no shiny gold nuggets or valuable old coins seating in his open hand. All that remained was a semi-heavy, three-inch in diameter by half-inch thick, black disc containing two centered small holes.
Harry looked up to yell at the Almighty. “ARE YOU SHITTING ME… IT’S A FLIPPING BIG-ASS BUTTON!”
Logic set in and Harry wiped the remaining dust off the button with his sweat-drenched shirt. “Come on… you’re considerably heavy for a damn button, maybe the black’s paint and you’re made of gold.”
Fueled by renewed excitement and lingering frustration, the gentle wipe turned aggressive. He rubbed the sweaty-wet material on it with a renewed gusto. Harry could now see that the dark button had corrosion developing along its edge. He gritted his teeth in depressed realization.
“Oxidation… CRAP… gold doesn’t rust!” He forced himself to conclude the pitch-black button was either iron or blend of oxidizing metals. He pushed himself up off the floor and stood staring at the object in his hand.
“SHIT!” he yelled at the top of his lungs to restrain himself from throwing the heavy metal button across the room.
He took a step and gave the first thing within foot reach a quick kick. Harry regretted kicking the box of nails and limped towards the living room. As he walked over the debris-littered room, he studied the button. He flipped it over and over in his hands only to stop and take a closer inspection under the single light dangling from the ceiling. There were several itched lines along the big button’s edges. He spat on the button before wiping it off again with his shirt and continued walking.
In the kitchen sink Harry washed the button with hand soap and a stiff floor brush. Once cleaned, he sat and studied the button for almost an hour before giving up the attempt to decipher the miniature engraved images encircling both sides of the button. Besides, he was tired, hungry and dying of thirst, whatever was so special about the button would have to wait. Harry put the odd button into his pocket, popped the cap off a room-temperature beer and finished it in one long swig. He had just taken the greasy wrapper off the other half of his leftover lunch sandwich when there was a knock at the front door.
©2016 by Patrick Witz and/or the author's publishers. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Please see our Disclosures and Disclaimers