“The kids are fighting again.”
The old man fingered his jaw. The lawyers would have to be called again. One on hand, he rued the day he let them take over his business. On the other, well they’d fight it out. The strongest would win. But they’d only win the business.
He thought back twenty years, to when he’d first had his employees make him the box. It was heavy, made of thick, impenetrable steel. He converted his money, his hard earned cash into gold bars and put it in the box. Not all of it, mind you, because that woman of his could spend so much, but most of it.
And no one had even noticed.
The box is too heavy now for him to move. It sits, unassuming, in the back of his Chevy, right next to his rusting tackle box.
At lunch time, he feels new aches, new pains. It won’t be much longer now. He chuckles to himself. They’ll never know. Never.
He could give it to someone. He could. But who? Who deserves it? They all have attitudes, those workers of his. Not like the good old days where people took pride in the work they did. When they kept themselves humble, kept their heads down and got shit done.
These new workers, all they did was complain. How come my raise isn’t as big as his? Why can’t get we get more vacation time? And then there were the ones who left and then had to come groveling back. No. He decided none of them would get it.
He’d have to give it up to the river.
When the workers started shuffling back in from lunch he picked one. The one who looked like he could lift it. “Jeremy! Come here, I have a task for you.”
Jeremy shuffled forward reeking of pot. He shook his head. Now was not the time. “Get in my truck, we’re going for a little ride.”
Jeremy looked confused. But he obeyed. He strapped himself into the front seat. “Where are we going sir?”
Jeremy looked nervous, anxious even. He almost laughs. He knows. He’s heard the rumors that they all think he’s lost his mind. But he’s not feeling fuzzy right now. He’s sharp. As a tack. “To the river.” Is all he answers.
The drive is quiet. He stops the truck along the side of the road, watching the early spring waters gurgle and hiss. It’s overcast and windy, leading to whitecaps on the waves. Perfect.
“Take that box. Can you lift it?”
Jeremy grunts when he picks it up. Although he staggers, he picks it up and follows the old man to the water’s edge. There’s a row boat there, tethered to a weathered tree. The old man unhooks it, and steps in, gesturing for Jeremy to do the same. He follows instructions.
The old man grunts as he rows them out to the middle of the river. “Throw it over.” He instructs.
Jeremy gives him another quizzical look, but does as he is commanded. Surely the old man is mad.
When it hits the water it bobs for the briefest of seconds before breaking through and sinking steadily. He watches it until he can no longer see it. Then he starts rowing again.
“What was in the box?” Jeremy asks when they reach the shore and are tying the boat up again.
“Nothing of importance.” The old man mutters. “Something I don’t want the kids to get.”
They ride back in silence. The old man chuckles now and again. He pulls into the parking lot and turns off the ignition. “Thank you, for helping me Jeremy.”
Jeremy nods. They both get out of the truck. The screeching sounds of arguing adult children reach them even before they make it to the door. The old man smiles.
“They’ll never even know,” he whispers. “Never.”