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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Over $5000 Found in House

Angela Tongohan
Class of 2020

(3/2017) Search through the humble home of Amos and Annie Shang, brother and sister, who died within a few days of each other, has revealed gold, silver and notes aggregating in value between $5000 and $6000.

The couple, who dressed shabbily and were apparently on the verge of poverty also were the owners a quantity of clothing: 20 fine skirts being one item, which appeared on the appraiser's list, made public Tuesday.

The elderly brother and sister had spent their entire lives on a little farm east of Fairfield. It is said that only two or three times did they go as far as 10 miles from their home. The brother died the day after the sisterís funeral and their nearest relatives, two cousins, searched the house. The first thing that came upon was $650 in gold, then $360 in silver and finally the balance in notes and bank certificates.

I watched as my sister descended from the stairs of our shabby little farm house dressed in the same old, worn, long skirt and faded pink blouse that she always wore on Tuesdays.

"You look beautiful, Annie," I said with a small smile, as she gave me a little twirl.

"You flatter me, Amos," she said with a brilliant smile. She then proceeded to ready breakfast.

When the bread had been sliced and the butter pulled out of the icebox, I took my place at the head of the table. We sat in silence, as we did most days, and quickly finished our little meal.

Annie deserved so much more. I knew it in the deepest corner of my heart. She deserved more than this little farm house and this stale breakfast.

Annie was beautiful, with golden locks and big brown eyes. She was a princess, and she deserved everything that a princess had and yet here she sits, dressed in the same clothes our mother wore.

"Iím going to tend to the garden," said Annie as she quickly rinsed the dishes.

I grunted, pretending to examine our old couch as she skipped her way out the front door. When I heard the soft sound of her humming sneak in from outside, I slowly made my way to the attic.

The attic was the darkest room in the entire house, and most definitely the dustiest. The slanted ceiling and window-less walls gave the room a cramped feeling. And the inability to see the corners because of the lack of light made me feel eerie.

I slowly made my way to the very back where a single large chest sat. It was black in color and would have been easily unnoticed by a stranger. I pulled the small golden key out from under my shirt where it hung on a simple gold chain.

With a slow turn, I heard the lock click and the chest pop open.

I always take a slight pause when I open the chest. The magnificence of the piles of gold and silver coins never cease to amaze me. Together, they amounted to exactly $1,010. I got up and made my way to the right end of the room.

Feeling my way through the dark, I patted the dirty, rotten floorboards until I was met with a hollow thud. I pulled the floor board open and pulled out a pile of notes and bank certificates. Carefully, afraid that I might rip them, I counted them once more. It was exactly $3,990.

That meant $5,000 altogether.

I sighed. This money could easily buy a million skirts and a thousand blouses for Annie. I could buy a bigger house, a nicer house. And for breakfast we could have savory food. I might even be able to hire a servant, so that Annie could focus on doing the things she loves like tending the garden.

I looked down at the pile of money in my lap and remembered a time when I was much younger. A time long ago.

My father had come home. It was one of the few times I had ever seen him. One of maybe seven in my entire lifetime. He was wearing an expensive blue suit and in his hand he held a sparkling silver cane.

He told me then to help him bring up the chest. The same black chest that sat in the back of the attic.

"This is for you, son," he said to me after we set the chest down. He pulled a wad of bills out of his coat pocket and handed them to me, "Hide it. Donít use it all at once."

"He wonít be using it at all," said my mother, who was standing in the doorway, "We donít want your blood money."

My father stood up with a sigh, "Itís not blood money, sweetie," he said.

"Oh, donít give me that!" my mother cried, "Tell me! Tell me how many men died for that money. Died working in factories and who knows where to earn that money for their families, only for you to take it away!"

My father rolled his eyes, "They shouldnít have borrowed more money that they could pay," he said, "They must pay the interest. Thatís the way the world works, sweetie."

"Even if it means that children starve," she screeched, grabbing the wad of money from my hands and throwing it on the ground.

"Donít you ever use that money," she said to me, glaring straight into my eyes, "Itís cursed money. I forbid you from ever using it!"

I grimaced. I slowly placed the pile of bills back under the loose floorboard, and made sure the old chest was shut. I hung the old key back around my neck and tucked it under my shirt. Slowly, I made my way back downstairs.

I opened the front door and found Annie still tending to the garden. Her pale hands were covered in dirt, and grass stains appeared on her skirt from where her knees settled on the ground.

She looked up at me with a smile.

"Isnít it beautiful, Amos?" she said, waving proudly at her small garden of flowers.

I nodded. I knew then that no amount of money could make Annie as happy as she was at this moment. That she didnít need to live like a princess to be a princess. She was so utterly content with life and living life that she found no need for materialistic things that money could give her. She was satisfied and she was happy. And that was good enough for me.

Read other articles by Angela Tongohan