"It's only a little further. Seriously this time. Really."
You must login to vote
Sue shook her head, though Archer couldn't see her do so from up ahead. He just kept walking. Or hiking.
"I guess," she mumbled to herself as she kept carefully placing one foot in front of the other on the narrow trail, "if you're in the woods, it's frigging hiking, all right."
"What?" he called back over his shoulder.
"How much further?" she said, barely loud enough for him to hear. He was at least twenty feet in front of her. The trail wasn't wide enough to hold hands, and there were all kinds of branches and bushes and crap. And the ground was uneven and it was starting to get muggy and it would be dark by the time they got back to the car...
This was not a date. This was stupid. They'd been driving back to Boston from Worcester when Archer had remembered this old camp ground his family had been to like, twenty years ago. When they'd been kids. OK. Fine. Stop and look at the camp ground. It was still early, they'd have plenty of time to do... something... back in Boston.
So they spent 30 minutes farting around on back-ass country roads looking for the entrance to the place. And another 20 minutes driving into the woods. And the campground was... more woods. But it made him happy to see it. He remembered it. Which was nice to see. Since he seldom seemed excited or really happy about much.
But then he'd also remembered an old trail up to some stream and... a surprise! Ah, the surprise. And it was only a couple minutes walk. Or hike. Which was now turning into close to a 30 minute thing. Which would be another 30 minutes back to the car, of course.
"Not long. Really. I know it's up here somewhere. I can smell the water now."
She couldn't even see him, and he could "smell the water."
Sue shook her head again, eyes on the path. When she looked up, though, Archer had stopped, and was standing in the middle of the trail.
"There it is," he said.
They were standing at a corner of the trail. The path hooked to the right, and sloped down, parallel to a narrow stream. It had been a dry Spring, and the water level was low, but Sue could tell that, maybe right after snow melt, it would be a good three feet deep and eight feet across. A good sized stream for kids to play around in. Not dangerous, but not dinky.
"It's a nice stream, Archer," she said. It was, and a walk through the woods was an OK way to spend a Sunday in June.
"Oh. Yeah, it is," he replied. "And there's a log bridge over it a hundred yards downstream or so," he went on. "Or there was. But that's not the thing. This is."
And he pointed to a big rock.
It was, maybe, a boulder. Chest high on Sue, and about as big around as a baby grand piano. A big rock, with moss and dirt and cracks. Grey. Granite? She had no idea. She was an editor, not a geologist.
"It's a nice rock, too, Archer."
He smiled at her, and she was glad, again, to be there.
"It's got a secret," he whispered. And with that, he began to pull at some of the cracks on the rock.
She raised one eyebrow. "What are you doing?"
"Looking for the secret," he answered.
Sue shrugged, and started pulling on parts of the rock, too. He seemed to be tugging on the edges of cracks, so she copied him.
And, sure enough, she found one that, when she pulled, came up. A chunk of rock about the size and shape of the gas cap on your car just popped right off the face of the rock, pulling some moss and crud with it, revealing a hole underneath.
"You found it!" Archer gasped. And, again, he was pleased. She'd half expected him to be crabby that she'd found it before he did, but he was clearly glad that she was playing along. Which made her glad. Probably more so than anything else that day.
Archer looked down. With a significant sort of look. Sue looked down. The hole in the rock was deeper than she'd thought. He looked down again and made the, "Go on!" look-thingy with his eyes. So she reached into the hole and pulled out a folded up piece of paper.
She brought it out and, turning her head to one side, asked him, "How long has this been hiding in the rock?"
He grinned. "Since I put it there the summer after fifth grade."
She counted in her head. "Twenty... twenty-two years?"
He nodded. "Something like that."
"Why?" she asked.
He shrugged. "I found the hole here once when I sat down on the rock while I was waiting for my folks to catch up with me. I thought it would make a cool hiding place for treasure. But I didn't have any treasure, and if I did, I wouldn't have hid it, I would have sold it and bought comics."
"So I asked my mom for a piece of paper and a pen and I wrote a note to myself and folded it up and put it in the rock like a time capsule."
He sat there on the rock, like he must have when he was ten, grinning down at her. Sue smiled back up at him and handed him the note. "Read it to me," she said.
"No," he answered. "You do it."
She nodded, and unfolded the paper. And then she turned it over. And over. Twice. And looked troubled, her eyebrows coming down and her mouth coming up.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"It's... blank," she said.
"What?" he reached out and she handed him the paper. He looked at it up close, carefully, from both sides. A couple times. Finally he nodded.
"Water got into the rock, I bet," he said. "The ink must have run."
They were silent for a minute or two.
"Well, what did it say?" Sue finally asked.
Without looking at her, Archer smiled a small, half-smile and replied, "I have no idea. I was ten, remember?"
He looked so sad to her. But the paper had been there. And the rock, and the hole, and the stream, the woods, the campground.
Sue reached out and took the paper out of Archer's hand. He let it go without any kind of resistance. Then she searched in her purse for a moment and took out a pen. Balancing on one buttock, she scrunched up a knee, used the hard side of her purse as a writing desk, and scrawled a note on the paper. Then she folded it up, put it back in the hole, and put the rock lid back on, twisting it around until it chunked back into place again. She even patted some moss and crud around the edges to hide them a bit, too.
She stood up, put the pen back in her purse, brushed her hands on her pants said, "Time to go back," and held out her hand for him to take.
Archer glanced at her, at the rock, at her purse, at her, at the rock, and back at her.
"Well?" he finally said.
"Well what?" she asked.
"What did *you* write?"
"If you'd like, we can come back in twenty years and then you can find out."
She held out her hand again, and this time he took it. And she led him back to the car.
I blog irregularly at TinkerX. I'm also on Twitter. @andyhavens, go figure.