View Full Version : The Rumrunner. Adult, Short, 1,200

November 15th, 2014, 08:17 PM
When my grandfather died I inherited his old house. The rest of the family thought I'd been shafted in my inheritance, since no one else wanted the decrepit ocean-side mansion. The old man had been wealthy, talk being he had accumulated his money during prohibition. He had quite a reputation as a rumrunner in those days, even a few years of incarceration.

I, however, was honored at the bequest -- being the manís favorite relative. I enjoyed being around him, listening to his stories of the "good old days." The rest of the family had depended on him to bail them out of difficulties but didnít really have much respect for the old miscreant.

As a young boy, I spent many happy hours listening to his tales of murder and mayhem. To me, the old house was an imaginary castle, full of ghosts, blood, and rooms where such notables as Al Capone and other famous criminals had slept.

As a child, I would stand in my bedroom at his home, looking out the window and imagining Harry Fleisher of the Detroit Purple Gang looking out that same window, impatiently waiting for his boats to unload crates of illegal whiskey at my grandfatherís dock.

Now the place was all mine.

I knew it would take a fortune, one I didnít have, to restore the old house. The thought of selling it never entered my mind, and never has since.

I parked my six-year-old Ford at the end of a long windblown driveway. The huge edifice sat like a wooden rock, imposing as it towered over a dirt and gravel drive. It wouldnít be the same without the old man, though.

As I left my vehicle, I fully imagined him standing in the doorway, pistol shoved in the back of his belt, to greet me -- as he greeted everyone. That firearm was ever-present, lying by his chair as he napped. My eyes became misty as I used a key to open the familiar front door.

Luckily the man, being an old reprobate, had illegally wired his place to the house next door in order to steal electricity. So the lights worked when I hit the switch. He was like that in little ways. Why pay for something when he could steal it, was his philosophy. I felt like an intruder, hardly believing the place was really mine -- half expecting his cry of "What the holy hell do you think you're doing," to reverberate throughout the now-dreary living room.

I wandered through dusty rooms filled with old-time furniture, the silence oppressive. There was hardly a piece of plastic in the entire house. Eventually, I came to his bedroom on the ground floor. He hadnít been very steady on his feet in his old age and, suffering with arthritis, hated climbing stairs. When his legs began to fail, he moved from a sort of fort upstairs to that room on the first floor. After all, he'd figured he no longer needed that wood-covered steel door and escape hatch to the roof.

I hadnít been in his bedroom more than a couple of times in my life, seeing him mostly in the living area of the huge edifice. When sleeping over, as a youngster, I would sometimes spend hours with an ear pressed to an old-fashioned furnace duct in my room, listening to drunken parties downstairs. It was like a private soap-opera, hearing old men telling of hidden bodies and hair-raising deeds of the dim past, long before my time.

The bedroom was a mess, obviously lived in, with clothing lying on every exposed surface and an unmade bed against one wall. What caught my attention was that, although the room was at the back of the building, right under my usual one, it had no window facing the bay. His was also quite a bit smaller than the one upstairs.

Instead of a window, there was only a blank wall with small pictures behind the head of his bed.

Walking around to the head of the ancient iron bedstead, I carefully inspected that wall. Finding a small recess behind a picture of my grandmother, I put my hand on the depression, felt around with a finger and pushed.

To my surprise, I felt rather than heard a click. When I shoved, a section began to pivot, eventually revealing a dark, hidden room. Feeling around inside, I found an old-style light switch and turned the round knob. A harsh glow from a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling exposed the secret room.

Mind filled with thoughts of lost treasures, my eyes scanned the dusty space. The first thing I noticed were a dozen whiskey crates stacked in different locations. Next was a wooden desk covered with papers and account books.

There was a door on the other side of the room, facing the bay, and two wooden filing cabinets in one corner next to the desk. A couple of coats, including a raincoat and hat, hung from nails near the door. There was also what looked like a Thompson submachine-gun on a small table beside the other door.

Fighting back a twinge of fear at invading his privacy, I dared to enter that lion's den. I went directly to the desk. It sported a large ashtray half-filled by cigar butts, their stink long gone. Next to it was a .45 cal semi-automatic pistol, the rest of the space covered by old papers, including a newspaper.

While picking up the newspaper, I found it covered by a thick layer of dust. The old man must not have been in there for many years. The news was that of December 5,1933, the headlines telling of the ratification of the 21st amendment to the Constitution -- the date when alcohol was officially legalized.

I checked the liquor cases and found several open, with a few bottles missing. Quickly uncapping a quart bottle of Canadian Club, I took a long swig, put it down, and quickly searched the room. I was looking for anything of real value.

All I found was rusty beat-up junk. There were quite a few accounting books, holding information of sales to gangsters, some of names I recognized. They were interesting, but not particularly valuable. I might make a little money from the booze and sale of the guns, but that looked to be all.

Sitting in the dirty, creaking, desk chair -- feet up on the desk -- I finally calmed down and took another long swig from that bottle.

What did I actually have, I wondered, bottle in hand?

Remembering my grandfather, a man I deeply respected, a tear came to my eye. I realized I had unknowingly found the treasure I'd been searching for.

It was this room itself, a snapshot of history. I wondered if he had left it in that condition in anticipation of that very moment? I wouldnít put it past the old bastard. He'd have known I'd come in here to spend many hours sitting in that creaky chair, amid the sights and smells of the past, reminiscing of long-gone days while keeping HIS OWN past alive.

The End.

December 4th, 2014, 01:56 AM
I really enjoyed reading that. I bet you've been writing for a long time. You're really good with words. I was actually disappointed that it ended and didn't take some wild and crazy turn when he found the secret room. That definitely could be turned into a novel, and I'd read it for sure!

December 4th, 2014, 02:37 AM
Thanks for commenting, mommytozachandgrace (http://www.writingforums.com/members/57625-mommytozachandgrace), Sorry, no action here. More of a moment in time snapshot.


December 4th, 2014, 02:42 AM
"their stink long gone"

These four words- a pearl of phrasing.

December 4th, 2014, 03:43 AM
You're welcome, Charlie. Again it was a great read.

January 22nd, 2015, 07:57 PM
great read it took me in to the room with you I seen the dust thank you

January 22nd, 2015, 08:33 PM
Thanks for commenting, aureliochavez.

As a small kid, I loved searching attics in our rented houses and those of relatives. I'd crawl up into those dusty dirty spaces, searching under and between beams for anything interesting.

I still have some of those finds in the form of old newspapers and parts of sales catalogues from the 1800s to 1930s. They're old and brittle, not seen by myself for many years, but still interesting. Sometimes I wonder if some kid in the future will open that drawer after I've died. Knowing my family, I doubt it. They'll probably be dumped into the trash along with my own mementos.


January 23rd, 2015, 11:53 PM
“The huge edifice sat like a wooden rock” - What did you mean by this? It’s an interesting image - it made me think of a ship beached on the sand - although I’m not sure if that was your intention.

The term “soap-opera” jumped out at me. It feels a little stuffy and dated. Drama, perhaps?

Intriguing and captivating. I could really visualise the house and environment. It was very moody - fantastic.

January 24th, 2015, 03:13 AM
“The huge edifice sat like a wooden rock”? I intended the image of a huge old building sitting on the edge of a cliff ... like a man-made rock.

Soap operas are going. This was meant as a frozen moment in time. An image of a long gone age.

A story doesn't have to portray conflict and resolution. It can, like this one, be written to show an image.

I have another one that shows an average day in the life of a big city homeless man. His only conflict is to get drunk, and he resolves that issue.