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Short Story: Buried Treasure
By Beth J. Whiting
Lisa and Dill were both ten. It was a hot summer afternoon. They were in Lisa’s backyard. Her mother had just asked them if they wanted to go the grocery store or not. They declared the offer. They were sitting in the backyard.
Dill was kind of a nerd. He wore thick black glasses and wore striped polo shirts. He usually wore corduroy or slacks. Lisa was kind of a tomboy. She had been his best friend since the third grade. No one really liked Dill except Lisa.
He was kind of annoying but he was better than the other boys. The boys her age tended to be mean and he was sensitive. So Lisa liked him.
“You know,” he said, “I’ve heard of people finding buried treasure in their backyards.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of people finding worms there, too.”
“No, I’m serious. I think there’s buried treasure in your backyard.”
She smiled, “Why not your backyard?”
“There’s nothing but weeds there.”
Lisa rolled her eyes. She didn’t understand Dill. He’d been here only ten minutes and he was speaking of buried treasure. You could see there was nothing special in this yard except the lemon tree. There were two other trees. The lemon one was in the corner. Other than that it was just concrete.
“No, Dill, I don’t want to spend two hours digging for nothing.”
“I’ll give you ten bucks.”
Lisa knew he had the money for it. Dill, unlike her, had an allowance. His parents were well off. His father was an attorney who advertised locally about car accidents. Lisa didn’t understand why his parents had him. They were always elsewhere. She knew that when he wasn’t with her, he was reading an encyclopedia.
That’s how she discovered Dill in the third grade. She had detention in the library for lunch. She found him reading alone. She asked him why he was there. He admitted that he usually sat alone during lunch. He was currently up to 'M' in the encyclopedias. This she believed because Dill was a nerd. She felt sorry for him. Plus, she couldn’t take her friend Kerry anymore. Kerry had once been a tomboy but now she had nothing on her mind but boys. Lisa was looking for a change. Dill was better than nothing.
Dill always had her looking at his ant farms or his lizard collection. It was rough. Yet it was better than having Kerry paint her toenails, flipping through some preteen magazine.
Lisa thought it out, “That’s $5 an hour. That’s not bad. My mother won’t be back for two hours.”
Lisa knew that when her mother went grocery shopping, she usually did some other errands, too.
So Lisa took the shovels out of the garage. They started digging. Two hours later they came up with nothing but dirt and worms. Lisa was right.
“Told you,” she said to Dill.
Yet she saw a determined look on Dill’s face.
“What if I pay you another $5 for your time?”
“Dill, not today. My mom would kill me if she saw me with dirt.”
“I mean on Monday.”
Her mother worked during the weekdays as a receptionist.
“You mean you would pay me $5 an hour to dig a hole?”
“But, Dill, my mom would find the backyard someday.”
“We’ll say we’re digging for buried treasure. They will dismiss it as cute.”
“Sure, until the backyard starts to look bad.”
“Then they will just have us stop it.”
Lisa was counting it up. If they dug for five hours on Monday then that would be $25. That would be nice.
Lisa didn’t get Dill. Why he had this fixation on her backyard?
Her mom noticed Monday night.
“What’s with the yard?”
“Dill has a theory that there is treasure there.”
“Put the dirt back in when you get bored.”
Lisa was expecting her mother to get mad with it. The fact that she was just indifferent was somewhat of a relief and annoying at the same time.
It was Friday. Dill and Lisa had been digging the whole week. Lisa found her feet dirty constantly. They had dug in the ground. They had made somewhat of a tunnel. They were in the middle of the tunnel when Lisa found a golden fabric. It felt like fur and was soft. Its sparkle almost blinded them.
“Look, Dill, what is it?”
“I don’t know what it is. Maybe my mom would know.”
Dill took it into his mother. His mother who was busy on the phone seemed annoyed when her son interrupted him.
“Mom, I think I found something.”
“Look, Dill, I’m on the phone.”
His mother’s jaw dropped and she hung up on her friend.
“No way, is it…”
She called her professor friend immediately.
“I think my son found the Golden Fleece.”
Dill learned that it was the fleece of a gold ram. It was a quest that Jason and the Argonauts partook to claim the throne. This was the most Dill could get as reporters surrounded the backyard.
Sure enough there were archaeologists there soon and they took all of the credit. They were digging up the backyard. Dill and Lisa were just there in the background.
“Finally proof that mythology exists,” some people shouted as they practically danced in his backyard.
Oxford offered to buy the Golden Fleece from Dill’s mother. It was for quite an attractive price. It was to be a museum piece for all the world to share.
Dill's mother was excited, though, and telling all her neighbors, “Do you know what my kids found in the backyard?”
They went on about how strange it was that this was found in the middle of a suburban neighborhood.
Lisa said, “You were right, Dill. There was something there.”
“I’m not sure that’s all there is.”
This Lisa didn’t get. She thought that the search was over.
Soon Lisa and Dill weren’t allowed in the backyard since it was other people’s business. So they moved on to other things.
Soon it was back to school. It was fourth grade now. Lisa found that the girls had turned more girly. She like felt more of an outsider than ever.
One day Dill and her were in the outfield of P.E. Lisa was waiting for the ball. Dill wasn’t playing. He never played. When the ball did come, it would zip right pass him. Lisa would have to be the one to get the ball for him.
“Is your backyard safe now?”
“What do you mean?”
“Have the archaeologists gone?”
“I want to look through the backyard.”
“No one’s been back there for months. Dill, there’s nothing more to see.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“Are you going to pay me?”
“I don’t get you. If I were you, I’d keep my own money. I wouldn’t waste it on a backyard.”
He didn’t reply to Lisa’s comments.
Soon enough they were digging in the backyard once more.
Lisa was patronizing him.
“What do you expect to find this time? Buried treasure?”
“I don’t know. I was hoping for something more.”
What could be more than buried treasure?
A few weeks went by. Lisa was involved in softball so the two of them didn’t get together until a Tuesday night when her mother was off elsewhere.
They had flashlights with them and they were ready to dig. But it didn’t take long until Dill heard Lisa scream.
There was a dead man in front of them. His head was covered with blood.
Soon the police was there. Lisa's mother came home.
The police chief told Lisa's mother, “It’s a shame that someone had to dump a dead body into your backyard. People don’t typically use backyards for this sort of thing, so I find this puzzling.”
There was crime scene tape across the backyard.
The next day at school, Lisa was still woozy about the crime scene.
Dill came up to her and said, “Are you ready to go shoveling tonight?”
“Weren’t you with me last night?” She looked at him as if he was stupid. He didn’t get the hint.
“There’s crime scene tape all over. Cops.”
“I was figuring that we could lift the tape.”
“It says Do Not Enter.”
Dill seemed to shrug this off.
He came by that night with a thousand peanut butter sandwiches in his hands.
He had a flashlight.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going digging.”
“But you can’t. There’s cops and...”
“Are they there at the moment?”
“That’s all I needed to know.”
He continued walking.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Your backyard. I’m going to dig.”
“You’re going to dig at a crime scene.”
She decided he was too extreme to be talked out of it. So she invited him in.
“Just what do you think you’re going to find there?”
He looked passionately at her, “I know there’s something there. I don’t know if it’s buried treasure or maybe Atlantis, but I’ll find it.”
Lisa knew she should have been frightening him, but she was too lazy.
The last she saw of him, he was digging passionately pass the crime scene. Lisa thought he was mad.
He didn’t show up the next day at school or the next.
Soon the cops came to her house.
She stood there scared telling them, “All I know is that he went digging down in the backyard. I haven’t seen him since.”
She started to cry and her mother patted her on her back.
Lisa never did find out what happened to Dil. He just vanished out of her backyard and out of her life.
Beth J. Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy eccentrics. At eight years old, she developed a love of books through the works of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. Her short stories revolve around underdogs in suburban settings, such as the one in which she was raised. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona.
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