Time for another flash fiction. The prompt for this was to describe how a treasure map was made. A prequel to an Indiana Jones. A Spot Marks the X type of thing. I decided to make it a child’s treasure map because, I don’t know, I thought it would be a fun diversion from the typical “pirate buries treasure.” And I have a three-year old…
PRECIOUS LITTLE TREASURE
“Cooooooool. That’s gonna be so, what was that word? Brawsome?”
“Yeah, brawsome. It’s gonna be brawsome when I undig that tweasure.”
“When are you planning on digging up your treasure?”
“When I’m all growed up. Like four. Or maybe five.”
“Wow. That’s a long time. Are you going to remember where you buried it?”
“I’ll remember. It’s right by the cat.”
“The cat might not be there when you dig it up.”
“Yes he will. Kitty’s always there.”
“Maybe we should write it down, anyway.”
“Ooooo, a tweasure map! That sounds brawsome!”
Frankie ran inside to his thick-plastic Crayola writing desk. The desk also doubled as an easel, but there was no time for easels now. The memory of his super-secret treasure location was flimsy and fleeting, as was the reason he now stood in front of his thick-plastic Crayola writing desk. The flat portion, a red found nowhere in nature aside from children’s toys, called out to him. He swiveled it up and stared at the slick black chalkboard underneath. Two sheets of paper slid off the suddenly vertical table.
Frankie remembered. He needed to make a map to the various treasures he had buried in his backyard. A time cat-sule, Daddy had called it.
“What did you put in your capsule, Frankie?” Daddy asked when the toddler returned outside, paper and red crayon in hand.
“Hatchimals. Lotsa Hatchimals. And some fruit snacks.”
“I wonder which will last longer underground,” Daddy mused, “the plastic tchotchkes or the preservative-packed food?”
“Okay, Daddy, how did I made my map?”
“You are going to make your map, little dude,” Daddy corrected.
“Uh huh. I said that, Daddy.”
Frankie placed his blank off-white sheet of paper, made from ninety percent recycled product, on the table outside. He looked up expectantly at his father for instructions, red crayon poised precipitously above the wide-open expanse of beige papyrus.
“Well, since you buried your Hatchimals, maybe you should put the letter H in the middle.”
“I can’t make an H.”
“F for fruit snack?”
The child shook his head.
“I’ve seen you draw an F before. F for Frankie.”
The child shook his head.
“Okay, what letters can you draw?”
“That’ll work. X marks the spot. Put an X right there.”
Daddy pointed to the center of the paper. Frankie put the crayon down and moved it in a diagonal motion, approximating a line. He then repeated the motion in the opposite direction, albeit nowhere near the same length or angle-of-ascent as the previous.
“I’ve seen a drunk sailor draw a better X,” Daddy opined.
Frankie didn’t respond, lost in concentration. Finished with the only letter he knew, he moved on to the other locations on the map showing the location of his buried trinkets. The only crayon in his possession, and as far as Frankie was concerned, the only crayon in all of existence at this precise moment, being red, he proceeded to draw the environmental factors in red.
“What are those?” Daddy asked.
“I drawed some trees.”
“Oh yeah. Silly me. Trees are brown.”
Frankie went inside to switch out the colors. He made it all the way to his Crayola table, currently transformed like his Optimus Prime into an easel, without so much as a glance at the various pitfalls awaiting him. He was focused. The prize was in his grasp, he could not take his eyes off it now. Frankie put the red crayon down, picked up the brown.
He looked down at his box, the rainbow of sixty-four distractions sparkling in the halogen glow of the shaded living room, and decided he might need others. Definitely a green, because he was pretty sure that trees have green. And black. Black always comes into play.
And what about those others? Orange? The sun is orange. Purple? I really like purple, there almost has to be some use for purple. The cat is grey, that might as well be purple. Oh wait, where is grey? It’s so hard to find grey amongst all the daffodils and mauves and fuchsias…
Frankie looked up from the shimmering pool of color and saw the door. It was tough to tear himself away, Narcissus looking at his own artistic brilliance instead of his reflection, but he found his focus. The door to the outside shone, a portal to a land of magical trasure, and Frankie would not be deterred. He walked forward, crayons held in a vice-grip. He would not be distracted, would not stray from the clear path to adventure.
Except for the refrigerator, off to his left.
“Daddy? Can I have some milk, please?”
“Sure thing, buddy. Hold on a sec.”
Daddy came in from the outside.
“Can I have some choc-ee milk?”
“Are you sure? Chocolate milk will take some time. Didn’t you want to finish your map?”
“Oh yeah, yeah. I need to finish my map. Choc-ee milk later?”
“Sure, Frankie. Chocolate milk later. You ready to come out?”
Frankie followed Daddy outside and resumed his artistic masterpiece. He looked once again at the straight red lines that he had been drawing, fanning upward in a spread pattern from a common point, and tried to determine how to fix them into the brown tree trunks littering his back yard. Unable to concoct any way to turn the red into brown, he drew new tree trunks, brown this time, stretching in the opposite direction from the same common point.
He lifted the crayon up, and was pleased with the four lines he had drawn, nearly perfect mirror images of the straight red lines above. Excited, he added more brown lines, then more lines and more. Before long, the brown portion looked less like distinct lines, and more like a solid brown triangle beneath a spray of red.
“That’s a pretty cool volcano,” Daddy said.
“No, Daddy. It’s a tree. It’s those trees.” Frankie pointed around his yard.
“Oh, my mistake. Those are great trees. What’s next?”
“I need to draw the kitty cat. He’s sitting right there.”
Although the cat had moved to a different spot, Daddy acquiesced, having already lost this argument once.
“Where are you going to draw the kitty?”
“Right here. Next to the H.”
“Yeah, the X.”
Frankie pulled out his blue crayon. Not that the cat was blue, but he hadn’t been able to find the grey and had already forgotten the previous false-equivalency of purple. He drew a full circle that he hoped would form into Kitty’s face. But it didn’t look right. It wasn’t the right shape. Frankie looked up at the cat and made another solid blue circle, then a third, in the vicinity of the red X.
“Maybe I can put a kitty sticker on it.”
“Good idea. Where are you going to put the sticker?”
Frankie looked at the piece of paper, furrowing his brow to a degree unimaginable in an adult face. He pursued his imagination like his kitty would pursue a prey. Focused, inching along until the moment of action, just as likely to flop over in exhaustion should the prey prove too elusive.
“I’m gonna draw in where the kitty sticker will go.”
Frankie picked his black crayon. His instinct had been correct. Black crayon was always useful. Always bet on black.
He drew one black dash, maybe a quarter-inch long, then lifted the crayon and made another black dash just north of the first. He moved the crayon again, creating a third dash.
“What are you doing, Buddy?”
“I’m making an outline. Then the kitty sticker will go here.”
“That looks more like a path.”
Frankie looked up at his father, a withering reproach in his blue eyes, which then rolled in their sockets, the three-nager in full effect.
“It’s an outline, Daddy. Duh.”
“Okay, it’s an outline,” Daddy responded, sufficiently cowed.
Frankie continued his outline, a staggering and meandering black-dash line that wove through his map. It came around the bottom of the brown, upside-down triangle topped by a spew of red. He wove the black line in between the three solid-blue circles, since that was where the kitty was truly sitting. Continuing through the circles, the outline finished at the spot of the X, because kitty would definitely want to look at Frankie’s Hatchimals.
Pleased with himself, Frankie surveyed his drawing and drew a circle around the entirety of his map.
“Can I go get my sticker now, Daddy?”
“Sure thing, Frank.”
Frankie went inside and moved toward the staircase up to his room. There might be some stickers in with his art supplies, but the vast majority, the mother lode as it were, would be found in a bin in his bedroom, where Mommy had put them all for what she called safekeeping. Frankie was pretty sure the containment of items designed to be flung free served some other purpose, but he (sometimes) kept that idea to himself.
A sharp pierce of pain shot up through Frankie’s foot as he placed it down on the first carpeted stair. Frankie whelped. His knees buckled, dropping him to his knee, tears welling up in his eye. Barely able to move, he still managed to find some inner well of strength and lifted his leg from the trap that had lain in wait. Shining in bright orange lay a Lego construction man. The Lego construction man, in fact. Emmett, the one from the movie.
Everything is awesome, Emmett. Everything is awesome, indeed.
Frankie looked at the underside of his foot and was surprised it was not a bloody mess. A small puncture was the only indication of his mortal wound. Regardless, he would definitely need a Band-Aid. Maybe Paw Patrol, maybe Star Wars. Or maybe, as a fitting bit of irony, he could ask Mommy or Daddy if he had any Lego Band-Aids. There should definitely be Lego Band-Aids. Lego should own stock in the Band-Aid company. And vice versa.
Frankie felt he should definitely go look for a Lego Band-Aid right now.
“No,” Frankie resolved.
The Lego man was a trap, a stone golem, a sentry set guard to stop him his desired goal. He could not be dissuaded, not now. If he could not get that kitty sticker, his entire afternoon was a sham. This minor flesh wound could not dissuade a valiant knight.The goal was in sight. Band-Aids were for losers or finishers. Which one would he be?
Resolved, he planted his good foot past Emmett, then pulled his crippled foot alongside. With a plant-hobble-plant motion, he dragged his way up the stairs, a desperate man struggling toward a desert oasis.
By the time he made it to the top, Frankie had already forgotten the pain, lost to Toddler Attention Span Land. He walked into his room, eternally focused on finding the-
Stuffies! All of Frankie’s stuffies were waiting for him on his bed. There was Kangaroo and Pineapple the Horse and the blue octopus he had named Greenie. Mickey Mouse was lying next to Minnie Mouse, which must mean that Donald and Daisy were buried in the pile. And Snuggle Pumpkin! Frankie swore he had not seen Snuggle Pumpkin in… how long had it been since Halloween? A day or a week, or maybe a lifetime. He couldn’t remember. He only knew that once, Snuggle Pumpkin had been his special favorite, and now Snuggle Pumpkin was lying there, calling to him.
They were all calling to him. Bears and mouses and ducks and kangaroos, all screaming out Frankie’s name. Pleading with him to please forget his current task, to come cuddle with them instead. That task, the task that couldn’t be named, didn’t matter. One thing mattered, and that was cuddling. A wonderful, ginormous pile of cuddling!
“I’m coming,” Frankie shouted and, giggling up a storm that dwarfed the earlier cry of pain, leapt onto the pile of animals on his bed.
He dove deep, letting all form of animal and character swallow him up like quicksand. His giggling mouth filled with cloth and stitching and plush fur. The animals coalesced around their loving owner, sucking his body down into hugs and snuggles and cuddles. Once lying underneath, Frankie reached a dramatic hand up through the pile and screamed out.
All thought of stickers disappeared, as did memory of crayons or papers or buried Hatchimals or a patient father waiting outside for a toddler that would not return.
Daddy left his standpost to follow his child’s route up the perilous stairs, leaving behind a piece of paper.
A sudden gust of wind grasped the paper and blew it out into the world.