Today I am sharing an excerpt from my work in progress, a novel called The Month of June . . .
I was bouncing around the basement with my dust rag, dancing to oldies blasting from my phone and singing out of key when I found the object that had been eluding me for months.
I had stepped behind the bar to dust the old bottles and glasses before boxing them up when my foot jammed into something heavy and solid.
When I bent over to investigate, my heart nearly stopped. There, beneath the shelves of shot glasses and bottle openers and honky-tonk lights from the seventies, was a steamer trunk.
The steamer trunk by the looks of it. The wood was dark, weathered, and warped, and the brass casings and clasps were dulled with age.
I ran my shaking hands over its rough surface, thinking about what could possibly be inside and hoping that I wouldn’t be disappointed with its contents.
It took all my might to pull the giant thing from beneath the bar so I could open the lid and investigate. Slowly, huffing and puffing and sneezing from the dust, I maneuvered the hulking chest to the center of the basement floor so it was in front of the stone fireplace where my family and I had gathered so many times in the past.
A song from the sixties was playing from my phone, and I found myself thinking that this trunk had been in existence for at least twenty years before the song was even recorded. I could almost feel the history pouring from wood.
I tried to picture my great grandfather hauling such a heavy item with him from Czechoslovakia to New York and finally to Pittsburgh. I tried to imagine how many times it had been opened and closed over the last ninety years and all the changes it had witnessed.
I took a deep breath and knelt on the floor to open the lid. My hands were still shaking. The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody echoed through the room.
The trunk opened with a groan and emitted a puff of dust as it fell back. An old blanket I’d never seen before covered the rest of the contents, and I removed it delicately and set it aside. Was this something my Gram had crocheted?
The first thing I spotted was a yellowed shoe box. Slowly, I lifted the lid. Inside was a sheet of brittle tissue paper that crinkled when I touched it. Underneath were my grandmother’s wedding shoes, recognizable from the many wedding pictures I’d seen over the years. They seemed impossibly tiny but beautiful and classic, and I found myself wishing that my feet weren’t so big so I might wear them someday, even if it were just around the house.
Under the shoe box was my aunt’s baby album, yellowed around the edges and filled with only a dozen or so pictures. I smiled as I remembered the jokes she used to tell about being neglected and rarely photographed as the fifth and final child.
. . . There was another shoe box, this one full of newspaper clippings, wedding invitations, anniversary cards , and a small notebook with a blue ribbon binding the pages.
I could only stare at the first line of my grandmother’s handwriting while I waited for the pounding of my heart to slow. After a few moments, I sat with my back against the couch and began to read.