Sunday, October 26, 2014

Free Fiction Sunday: "Hidden Treasure"

Note: This story was originally written under the penname Ann Mehnert.

David Truman is struggling to care for his dying father. Burdened with the responsibility, he is puzzled when his father suddenly begins to talk of a treasure. What is this treasure? Where is it? Will finding it help David learn what is truly valuable?

"Hidden Treasure by Laura Ware (writing as Ann Mehnert) is free on this site for one week only. The story's also available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and other ebookstores.

Hidden Treasure
Laura Ware (as Ann Mehnert)

David’s nose wrinkled as he entered the room.  His gaze skipped past the portable potty that stood not far from the bed.  It had stuff in it.
Trying to keep off the look of disgust that wanted to take over his face, he stepped to the end of the adjustable bed and put a hand on a blanket covered foot.  “Hey Dad, how’s it going?”
The old man in the bed lifted his head slightly.  Even in his 80’s, he had a thick head of white hair and surprisingly few wrinkles on his face. 
But his eyes gave him away. They didn’t seem to focus.  Now they swam with tears.  “I can’t find it, Davy.  I can’t find it.”
David frowned.  “Find what?”  He glanced over at the aide he had hired to help him out, a kind older woman who was buttoning a blue pajama top on his father.  “Fran, do you know what he’s talking about?”
She shook her head.  “Mr. Truman Senior has been asking about that ever since he woke up today.”  She placed a comforting hand on her patient’s shoulder.  “But we managed to have a good day anyway, didn’t we, sir?”
David’s father let his eyes drift to the aide.  “You’re such a nice lady Fran.  I know my wife and son appreciate the help.”
David bit his lip to keep from reminding his father that his wife – David’s mother – had been dead for three years.  At this point in time, it seemed easier just to keep silent than to say something that would set things off.
“Mr. Truman?” Fran looked over at David.  “I’m just going to clean up in here a little.  All right?”
He nodded.  “Yeah.  Thanks.”
He went back out and headed for what had once been his father’s office and was now his own.
The house was old but in fine condition.  His father had been a contractor and had built it himself years ago.  It had become a bit large since all the kids had moved away, but his folks loved it.
“Feel this?” his father would say to him and the other kids, grabbing the doorway and giving it a good shake.  “Solid.  I always make sure we do our best when we build our houses.  You make something solid, it’ll last no matter what.”
David and his siblings would glance at each other and roll their eyes.  Their father would always harp on “doing your best” and it got old after a while.
The thought of his siblings made David sigh.  Julie, Missy, and Leonard all lived out of state.  David had been the only one to stay anywhere in St. Petersburg.  So when things had gone downhill for their father, he was the natural choice to do something about it.”
“I’d do it, I would,” Julie had said over the phone.  “But there’s so much going on up here right now, and you’re right there.”
Yeah, yeah.  He was right there.  He’d opened a bakery/deli that did all right.  He had married twice – his first wife had died young of cervical cancer.  The second one had expensive tastes and decided to ditch him for someone making more money than he was.
So yeah.  When you looked at it logically, given the rest of the siblings had families and lives and he was right here in St. Pete, it made sense that he close up his apartment and move into the family homestead when his dad’s health deteriorated.
Dad had been ill for a long time, heading down that strange dark tunnel doctors called Alzheimer’s.  Mom had been his primary caregiver until she herself succumbed to pneumonia, of all things, three years ago.  After that, his father’s health slide became a plunge.
Dave had been living in the house for about a year.  He’d managed to handle things on his own until his father became pretty much bedridden.  That was a bit more than he could manage, so after a telephone conference call with the siblings he’d set up a network of aides and nurses to help him care for his dad.
David set his laptop case down beside him as he sat at the massive mahogany desk.  He hadn’t touched the pictures that lined the back of it – pictures of his mom, of him and his siblings, his folks’ wedding picture.
He looked at a picture of himself, much younger – his high school graduation picture, as a matter of fact.  He was the youngest, and everyone had expected great things from him – he was a Truman, after all!  His sisters and brother were doing great things.  So would he.
And here he sat, owner of a small moderately successful business, back in his parent’s house, stretching his funds to keep up with the bills, waiting for his father to die.
Somehow that didn’t seem so great.
He’d brought home dinner from the deli – thick roast beef and Swiss cheese sandwiches with lettuce and tomato on homemade sourdough bread.  He’d also brought home some German potato salad.  He fixed a tray for his father and carried it into his father’s room.
Fran had left while he’d still been going through the mail.  She’d sprayed some Lysol in the room and emptied the potty.  It smelled a lot better.
“Hey Dad,” he said, placing the tray in front of his father.  “Dinner is served.  Ready to eat?”
He used the remote by the bed to raise his father’s head.  His father blinked and looked down at the food.  “Did your mom make this?”
“No, Dad,” David said with a sigh.  “Connie at work did.  You know, the deli?”
“Looks good,” his father said, picking up the fork David had given him and poking the potato salad.  “You gonna eat with me?”
“Dad,” David sighed.  “I got paperwork.”
“I want you to eat with me,” his father said sulkily.  “You can do paperwork anytime.”
“Okay, okay,” David sighed.  He went to the kitchen and got the tray he’d planned to take into the office and carried it into the bedroom instead.  He sat down in what had once been his dad’s favorite recliner and placed the tray on a low table.  “There.  All right?”
“It’s good,” his dad said, licking his fork.  “Good food.”
David nodded.  “Yeah, glad you like it.”  He glanced over at the silent television set.  “You want to watch some TV?”
Dad took a bite of his sandwich and shook his head.   It’s not in the TV.  I can’t find it in there.”
“Find what, Dad?” David asked as he took a long swallow of iced tea.
“My treasure,” he said softly.  “My treasure.  It’s here somewhere.”
David frowned.  His family made decent money.  They had a few nice things.  But there were none that were missing has far as he knew.
“Dad, what is this treasure?”  He asked.  “One of the paintings?  Some jewelry?”
“My treasure,” his father mused as he chewed some of his sandwich.  “I need to find it.”
“Well, Dad,” David said, “If I knew what it was I could go look for it.  What does it look like?”
“It is a treasure,” he said softly.  “It is important.  I have to find it quickly.  It must be found.”
“Dad, I don’t know what it looks like,” David said, feeling irritation creep into his voice.
“I have to find it,” he said again.  “It’s here in the house and I have to find it.”
“Dad, I don’t want you to get upset.” David said in a soothing voice.  “Tell me what it is and what it looks like and I can look for it.”
“You can’t find it,” his father said sadly.  “I am the only one who can find it.  But I can’t remember where it is.”
“Oh,” David said.  He toyed with his potato salad.  “Dad, speaking of stuff, we gotta figure out what we’re going to do with your things, after…” his voice trailed off.
His father turned his head away.  “It’s not the treasure.  Who cares about my things?”
“Dad?”  David got up and went around to see his father’s face.  The older man was alert, and his face was wet. 
David felt sorry for him at that moment.  He knelt down so his face was level with his father’s  He placed a hand on his father’s wet cheek.
“No one cares,” his dad muttered.  “None of you kids understand it.  You’ll pull it all apart.  You’ll not see the value of what we had.  You’ll just see the money it will bring you.”
“Dad,” David said.  “It’ll be okay.  “We’re not going to fight over the stuff.”
“You will,” he said with a sigh.  “You will fight for it  because you don’t see the true value of it.  And the treasure…I have to find the treasure…”
“Okay Dad, take it easy,” David said.  “Look, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to upset you, okay?  Let’s just drop it.”
“I have to find it,” his father repeated.  “It’s important.”
“Okay, Dad,” David said.  “We’ll see what we can do to find it, all right?  Come on, finish your dinner.”
His father turned back to his tray.  David picked up part of the roast beef sandwich and held it to his father’s mouth.  “C’mon, Dad, eat.”
His father mechanically bit the sandwich and chewed.  David managed to get his father to eat a few more bites, then the old man pushed the tray away.  “No more,” he muttered.
“Okay, I’ll just leave your tea here next to your bed.”  David grabbed the tray from his father’s lap and carried it to the kitchen.  He came back to the bedroom for his own dinner.
His father was picking at the comforter that covered his body.  “You just care about my stuff.”
“Dad, I said I was sorry,” David said.
“You think stuff is important,” the old man continued.  “Your mother and I taught you better than that.  We always said doing your best was more important than getting stuff.”
David sighed.  All the talk of some treasure had reminded him of the fact that his father didn’t have a will.  He wanted to do what would please his father – providing he could figure out what that would be.
So he’d opened his big mouth and stuck his foot deep in it.
“We taught you better,” his father repeated sadly.
“Yeah, you did, Dad,” he said.  “But I said I was sorry, okay?  Look, you want to watch ESPN?”
“I want to find my treasure.  Where is it, Davy?”
“I don’t know Dad,” David sighed. 
His father closed his eyes.  “Go ask your mother if she knows where it is.”
David bit back the words his exasperation wanted him to spit out.  “Yeah, I’ll do that.”  He grabbed the tray with his dinner and took it into the office.
As he finished off his dinner he thought about the strange conversation he’d had with his dad.  About treasure.
Money was tight.  Closing the apartment had lessened his expenses, but there were a lot of expenses that came with the house.  His mom, bless her heart, wasn’t the best at managing finances.  Plus, his father’s deteriorating mind had meant that when David had looked at the checkbook he’d found a mess.
And caring for Dad wasn’t cheap.  David couldn’t just stay home 24/7 with the old man.  That meant hiring people to come in and help out. 
That meant spending money.  Dad had no insurance apart from Medicare, and it didn’t cover a lot of the stuff needed.  The siblings kicked in a little now and again, but the burden seemed to fall on David, because, as Leonard said, “you don’t have anyone else in your life to care for.”
So David kicked in his money.  And prayed his father’s bank account would hold out. 
He had occasionally been tempted to perhaps sell some of his mom’s jewelry.  Or maybe a couple of things that looked like they might have some value.  But he knew doing so would spark a fight with his brother and sisters, and he didn’t need that.
David hoped there wouldn’t be an ugly scene about his folk’s belongings when his father died.  He remembered when his second wife’s father died – “vultures” would have been a kind way to describe the relatives’ behavior.  He had vowed he would never act that way. 
Of course, that was before real life had stepped in, and money became tight.  David glanced at the stack of bills that waited to be paid.
A treasure would be handy right now.
Carl Truman drifted in and out of reality.  A small part of his mind knew his brain didn’t work as it should.  It was hard sometimes to know what was real and what was a reflection of his memory.
He was drowsing later that night when he heard a voice.  “Carl?”
He opened his eyes.  He was pleasantly surprised to see his wife Ellen standing next to the bed.  “What is it dear?”
“I want to help you find the treasure,” she said.  She held out a hand to him.  “Come, dear.  Let’s go find it.”
Truman nodded and found he could swing his legs out of the bed.  That seemed strange.  Seeing Ellen seemed strange too, but he was happy about it.  “It’s here in the house, isn’t it?”
Ellen nodded.  “Yes, Carl.  Let’s go get it together.”
He got to his feet.  The floor felt warm.  He took his wife’s hand.  “I’ve missed you, Ellen.  Where have you been?”
“Waiting for you, darling,” she said to him.  Hand in hand, they walked out of the room. 
They came to the office.  It was dark, but Truman found he had no trouble seeing.  He glanced at his wife.  Ellen seemed to glow slightly, a bluish-white light that he found quite attractive.
“Davy is taking care of me now,” he told her.  “He’s a good boy, but he worries a lot.”
“I know,” she said.  She walked to the row of filing cabinets that lined a wall.  She knelt down and indicated the bottom drawer of one of the middle cabinets.  “Here, dear.  Look in here.”
Truman bent down and opened the drawer.  In the back of his mind he was pleasantly surprised that he could move so easily.  He looked in the back and saw it.
“It’s all in there?” he asked, his voice trembling in excitement.
Ellen nodded.  “I believe so.  Let’s see, shall we?”
He pulled out the gray metal box that had sat in the back of the drawer.  He noticed it was locked.  “Ellen, it’s locked.”
“I know darling.  The key is in my special jewelry box.”
“Ah, I remember now.”  He got up and carried the box back to his bedroom.  He heard no sound in the rest of the house.  He wondered if David was still home.  He’d like to show him the treasure.
“Davy’s sleeping,” Ellen said.  “Let’s not wake him right now.”
Truman smiled.  “You always know what I’m thinking, Ellen.  I’ve missed you.”
“And I’ve missed you,” Ellen smiled.  “Soon we’ll be together forever.”
Truman felt a rush of happiness.  Finally.  He opened the teakwood jewelry box he’d given Ellen so long ago.  He pushed his fingers in through the bracelets that sat there and felt the shape of a small key.
He pulled it out.  He decided he’d sit in bed and open the box up.  He wasn’t tired.  It just seemed best that way. 
He climbed back into bed and pulled the covers up.  Ellen sat next to him.  “Open it up and see, darling.”
Truman couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this excited.  He inserted the key and heard the faint click of the lock. 
As he looked in the box, a joy warmed him.  “My treasure,” he said softly.  He lifted up the items, showing them to Ellen.
She nodded.  When everything had been seen, she put a hand over his.  “Why don’t you rest, dear.  Then you can come be with me.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Truman sighed.  He closed the box and cradled it as he lay back on his pillows.  A short rest.  Then he’d be with the woman he loved…
David dressed quickly.  He’d hit the snooze button a couple of times, and he needed to hurry if he was going to get his father his breakfast and start getting him ready before Fran got there.
“Morning, Dad,” he called as he approached the bedroom.  “Have a good night?”
The moment David walked into the bedroom he knew something was seriously wrong.  His father lay slumped on his pillows, a smile on his face.  His lips were blue.
“Dad?!” David didn’t remember moving from the doorway to the bed.  He put a hand on his father’s face.  The skin was cool to the touch.  Too cool.
“No,” David moaned.  He grabbed his father’s wrist, thinking to search for a pulse.  That’s when he noticed his father was holding something.
The doorbell startled him.  He ran to the door and yanked it open.  Fran stood there.  Before she could say anything David blurted out, “Something’s wrong with Dad!”
She pushed past David and went directly into the bedroom.  He followed behind her.  He prayed he was wrong.  He wasn’t a doctor, he had no medical training, so maybe he’d missed something.
He stood in the doorway as Fran checked his father over.  She sighed and placed a hand on the old man’s shoulder.  Then she directed a sad look over to David.  “I’m real sorry, Mr. Truman.  I think your father’s passed on.”
David sat on his father’s bed.  Everyone had gone.  The EMT’s had come and verified that his father was dead.  The police had called the family doctor.  In a daze David had called the funeral home that had taken care of his mother and they had come and taken – David winced as he thought of it – the body.  Fran had left as well. 
He held the gray metal box he’d found his father holding.  There was so much that had to be done.  He still had to call his brother and sisters and tell them the sad news.   He had to make arrangements.
But this box had apparently been important to his father.  He’d found a file drawer open in the office.  He didn’t know how his father, who could hardly make it from the bed to the potty chair, had gotten to the office and back.  But it looked like he had.
David had to know what was so important.
He opened the box up.
What the –
The first things he saw were the red sashes.  He lifted them out.  He remembered them so well.
He and Leonard had been active in Boy Scouts.  They had each gotten a number of merit badges.  David remembered how his dad had taken time to help out the Scoutmaster, how he’d helped David and Leonard with meeting the requirements for some of the badges.
Underneath the sashes David found a pile of pictures.  He flipped through them.  There were pictures when he and his siblings were inducted into the National Honor Society.  Pictures when Julie had won First Prize in a Spanish spelling bee. 
With a gulp David looked at a picture of the day he’d opened the deli.  On the back his father had written, “David starts his own business.”
On the bottom of the box he found a folded newspaper article.  It was dated Christmas several years ago.  It was one of those pieces that came out during the holidays.  This one asked what gift they would most like to receive.
He found a quote from his father in the article.  “The best gift I have received is that my children seek to do their best.  They may never give me anything of great monetary value, but their exemplary lives are a treasure far greater than any material thing.”
This was the treasure his father had spoken of?
David sat and thought about the contents of the box for many minutes.  Tears slid down his face, blurring the words of the article.
Then he gently lay the box down on the bed.  Wiping his eyes, he went to the phone in the office to begin the sad task of calling his siblings and telling them of their father’s death.
He no longer worried about how things would go.  He and the others would do their best.  And he knew his father and mother would treasure it from Heaven.

Hidden Treasure. Copyright © 2011 by Ann Mehnert
Published by JJ Press
Cover design by JJ Press

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction, in whole or in part in any form. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why I don't quit

Before you go much further into this piece, I suggest you read my friend Brad Torgensen's excellent post titled "When Is It Okay To Quit?"  Go ahead.  I'll be here when you get back.

The post was strangely encouraging to me.  Not because I'm giving up the writing (though there are days I'm tempted to toss it all aside and become a professional video game player instead), but because it reminded me of why I CAN'T.

One thing about writing that many people don't understand - it is hard work, especially if you want to get anywhere in this business.  It takes hours of butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, whether the muse is firing on all cylinders or off somewhere on vacation.  It takes being able to hear the word "no" again and again and not taking rejection personally.  It takes practice, which is more butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.

And sometimes, a writer will look up from her laptop, bleary-eyed and frustrated, and whine, "Is it worth it?"

For me personally, yes, it is.  Here's a few reasons why:

  • I believe any talent I have in this area is a gift from God.  To not use the gift He gave me is an expression of ungratefulness on my part.  We are given our gifts to use, not to put up on a shelf somewhere and forget about.
  • I know I've gotten better.  I have been seriously writing fiction for nine years now, and the difference between Laura the writer in 2005 and Laura the writer in 2015 is staggering.  Moreover, I know I can continue to improve as long as I keep on learning and not settle for where I am.
  • There are people out there who actually like what I write.  Whether it's the weekly column in the News Sun or a short story or even one of my novels, people have told me they enjoy what I've written.  Such statements make my day.  And it tells me I'm doing something right.
  • I know that the "secret" to succeeding in this business isn't knowing the right people or even having talent.  It's persevering, sticking with it through good times and bad, getting up after getting knocked down...just not giving up.
  • And in the end, this is something I enjoy.  Yes, there are times I enjoy it less than others, when it's really hard to get the words down or I can't seem to get arrested, much less make a sale.  But even so, I love sitting down and making up stories.  Even if I never saw a penny from this I would probably still make up stories, because it's how I see the world and figure it out.
And the cool thing is I'm getting there, to that place where the writing makes a nice chunk of change.  I'm not there yet, and I don't know when I'll get there - but I'm on the right road.  And stopping just when I'm on the verge of arriving?  That would be tragic.

So I'm not quitting.  And if you feel the same way I do, you shouldn't either.  Tell me about it, and we can walk this road together.  Who knows?  The success we seek may be just around the bend.  Let's go find out.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fiction River subscription drive

Fiction River, an anthology magazine with awesome short stories of many different genres, is having a subscription drive via Kickstarter.

Why am I telling you this?

One of my short stories will be published in a special Kobo edition of the upcoming issue Past Crimes.  It's called "Choices" and the editor of the issue has some nice things to say about it.

Also, if you contribute to the subscription drive there are a lot of nice rewards - including either an e-copy or a SIGNED copy of my novel DEAD HYPOCRITES.  It's a great opportunity to get a lot of great reading.

So here's the video...

After you've watched this head over to the website and check out the offerings:

Hope you see something you like!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Looking for suggestions...

I really have intended to blog more.  I want people to come and read here to know what's going on with me and maybe share things that will make you laugh or think.

I hope you are enjoying "Free Fiction Sunday" every week.  I find I like looking back over the short stories I've put out and sharing them with others.

But I want to know what you are looking for in my blog.  Are there things you'd like me to post about?  Comments on columns I write for the News Sun?  Cute puppy pictures?  What interests you?

Let me know!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Withdrawal is No Fun

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder.  In order to combat that, I take medication.  This medication is for all intents and purposes an amphetamine.  But instead of making me bounce off the walls, it energizes me and helps me focus.

Because of what it is it is tightly controlled.  My insurance changed slightly recently.  Because of that, even though I've taken this medication for years my doctor is suddenly required to provide pre-authorization before the insurance will pay for it.

Sounds simple, right?  Well, I've been doing without this particular medication since Sunday while my doctor, the pharmacy, and I guess the insurance company all get their act together.

Meanwhile I struggle with the symptoms that come with a sudden withdrawal.  Throw in that I also suffer from depression and anxiety and that my symptoms aren't helping with those conditions and you will understand this hasn't been a great week.

But right now all I can do is take it one step at a time and hope that tomorrow the powers that be will get this straightened out.  Anyway, consider this blog post a getting this off my chest.  Maybe it'll help me feel better.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Back on the exercise wagon?

It has been a long time since I visited the YMCA.  Time seems to slip away and to be honest it doesn't often enter my mind, though I know it would help with weight loss.

Yesterday my husband Don and I were talking.  He pointed out I have downtime between dropping the two young men who live with us off to their respective jobs.  He suggested I take 15 minutes and walk a treadmill.  Not too fast - I'm too heavy and it's been too long - but starting off slow and giving it a shot Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (commitments I have during the year make this more difficult on Tuesdays and Thursdays).

Okay, I said, I'll give it a try.

So after dropping off Young Man #1 to his job I headed for the Y.  After checking in I picked out a treadmill and after picking a lecture on my iPod to listen to, I got started.

Well, I only got up to 1.8 mph on the thing.  Because I have balance issues I hang on to the front rail of the machine, which apparently stressed out my biceps.  I plodded through 15 minutes before happily getting off the thing and heading home for a needed shower.

I am going to do my best to try out this schedule.  I am trying to have a positive attitude while I endure, hoping it will result in good numbers on the scale.  Maybe by going public with this I'll do a better job sticking with it.  We'll see.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Interesting discussion on my Facebook page...

Yesterday I posed a question on my Facebook page which came out of a discussion I was having with my best friend.  The question was, "Is a more powerful federal government a good thing?  Why or why not?"

As I type this there are over 100 responses in the thread.  Only a few from me, the rest from friends who weighed in on both sides of the issue.

I was a little nervous at first.  Would the thread blow up into some kind of flamefest, with people slinging mud all over the place?  I made it clear that I wouldn't tolerate such posts and would take the whole thing down if people couldn't behave.

I am pleased to report that overall, with a couple of exceptions, the conversation has been well-mannered.  The issues are actually being discussed rationally and calmly.  And I am learning and enjoying the back and forth between people.

If only those in power could talk to each other like this, maybe something good could be accomplished...