“Lost or Stolen”

Tali stepped off her bike and pushed the kickstand down with the toe of her tennis shoe. She had worked hard babysitting and cleaning houses to pay for that bike and didn’t like dropping it to the ground. It was a girl’s version of Ben’s bike with the same knobby tires and a front shock. She liked riding the back country too.

She reached for the coffee stained envelope squeezed between the goliath hangar doors. Pulling and wiggling gently, she managed to get it out in one piece. Scribbled on the front was one word, Ben. She turned it toward Ben, so he could see the name, then slid her finger under the flap and opened it. Inside was a crinkled yellow sheet of paper torn from a note pad and folded in half. She pulled it out, read it to herself, looked up at Ben and grinned. Ben’s eyes lit up. Then she read it aloud.

Sorry Ben, had emergency. Back at four, promise. Bring friends. Signed, Grandpa Jimmy.”

“Awesome,” said Ben.

Slowpoke Jold finally coasted up on his bike with Bandit. “So, where’s the old guy?”

“He had an emergency,” said Tali. “He left Ben this note, says he’ll be here at four this afternoon.”

“You mean I pedaled all this way for nuthin’.”

“You’ll live,” said Willy.

“Hey guys,” said Kate. “I have to go to the store. Dad told me I had to dust furniture.”

“I’ll go with ya and help,” said Tali.

“Me too,” said Ben. “but got to be back here at four.”

Willy nodded, “sure.”

Jold just exhaled for all to hear.

Douglas Home Furnishings, that’s the name of the store owned by Kate’s mom and dad. Her parents believe that everyone in the family should help in the business. This Saturday morning, it was Kate’s turn to vacuum and dust.  Her two older brothers did the heavy work, like loading furniture into the delivery truck.

Her parents didn’t mind if the gang came along so long as Kate finished her work. A little sign next to the front door read, please leave animals outside. For some reason, Bandit was the exception. Jold was sure that was because of Bandit’s telepathic abilities. It was obvious to Jold that he had subconsciously influenced Mr. Douglas.

Kate and Tali walked to the storage room at the back of the store. Tali grabbed the dust rags and Kate brought the vacuum. then moved through the store, one display at a time. Kate insisted they dust each display from left to right and top to bottom. Then vacuum the floor.

The guys had disappeared, but the girls didn’t mind. That’s the way they wanted it. After all, there were  important matters to talk about that didn’t need to be overheard. Like Tali’s interest in Ben.

Kate had already decided that she would never date. Her dad told her that she was a princess and that God would bring her a prince one day. She believed him. He gave her a promise ring when she turned twelve. He promised to protect her heart, and she promised to wait for the right guy. Kate wanted the same thing for Tali. But her home life wasn’t like Kate’s. Oh how she wished her dad would talk with her.

Ben, Willy and Jold had their own plans. “Mr. Douglas, would it be okay if we check out the dumpster?” asked Ben.

“Sure, but I don’t think there’s much there. The truck came a couple of days ago to pick up the full one. Let me know if the door on the dumpster is locked.”

“Okay.”

The dumpster was an awesome place to find cardboard boxes for lining the walls in the treehouse. Might even be some big sheets of plastic wrap to cover the roof. It leaks a lot. This was a monster container, about 25 feet long and 8 feet high on the sides. A regular trash truck couldn’t dump it. It was the kind you would find on a building sight. Every couple of weeks a truck comes by, drops of an empty container and hauls the full one to the dump. The heavy steel door was usually swung wide open for easy loading, but today it was latched and locked.  

Ben didn’t hesitate. A bunch of old broken pallets were stacked behind the store against the building. He climbed on the pile, leaned against the wall for leverage and pushed with his feet until the one on top was teetering. Then, with one last shove it crashed to the ground. “Still in one piece,” Said Willy as Ben climbed down. They dragged it to the dumpster then leaned it up against the side at an angle. Jold watched, giving advice, needed or not. The boards on the pallet worked like a ladder.

“Can you at least hold it steady?” said Ben.

“Sure, no problem,” said Jold as Ben and Willy climbed to the top for a look.

“I think I see something,” said Willy.

With little thought, he swung one leg over, then the other. Holding on to the side rail with both hands, he let himself down. Arms fully extended; he was still two feet from the bottom. He released his grip and dropped.  Ben quickly followed. What they found under a flattened box was nothing more than flimsy tin strapping.

“Nothing we can use for the tree house here,” said Ben. He looked around, “Uh, Jold.”

“Yeah”

“We have a little problem.”

“What’s that?”

“Don’t think we can get out of here.”

“Shoulda thought of that before ya jumped in, bonehead.”

“Wait, maybe we can stack everything in the corner and reach the top,” said Ben. The clanging and banging stopped after a couple of minutes. “Nope, still can’t reach the top.”

“I’ll get Mr. D.,” hollered Jold.

“No, don’t do that. See if Kate can help.”

Too late, within minutes, Jold, Kate, Tali and Mr. Douglas were all standing next to the dumpster.

“Hey Ben, I’m unlocking the door,” said Mr. Douglas. Thought I asked you guys to let me know if the door wasn’t open.”

“Sorry.”

Ben and Willy stepped out of the dumpster. Ben lowered his head and looked down at the ground, “sorry Mr. Douglas.”

“Well, you didn’t get hurt, but don’t be climbing over the side anymore, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Boys!” said Kate to Tali. They giggled as they skipped back into the store. When they finished dusting and vacuuming, Kate headed for the storage room with dust rags and vacuum in tow. Her dad always said the job was never finished until everything was back in its proper place. She reached for the handle on the storage room door, that’s when she noticed something was missing.

She grabbed her left wrist with her right hand, then turned and scanned the store. Where could it be, she thought. This wasn’t any ordinary bracelet; it was her grandmothers. It had been given to her grandmother by her grandfather on her eighteenth birthday.  Grandpa was in heaven now and Grandma had kept it all this time, waiting for Kate’s twelfth birthday. It was genuine silver with beautiful charms from the 1950’s and 60’s; priceless in Kate’s mind.

Tali could see the worried look on Kate’s face. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I lost my bracelet.” she said, unable to hold back the tears.

Tali knew just how much she loved that bracelet. “Don’t worry, we’ll find it. Are you sure you had it when you got to the store?”

“Positive.”

“Hey guys, come here.” Tali hollered. They gathered around, “Kate lost her bracelet somewhere in the store, it’s the one her Grandma gave her. We need your help.”

“Sure, we’ll find it Kate, no problem.” said Ben. 

They scattered. It was a big store and Kate had covered most all of it while dusting. Thirty minutes passed, then an hour. By then Kate was sitting on a sofa sobbing, tears dripping from her chin. Her dad came over and put his arm around her.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” he asked.

“I lost grandma’s bracelet. We’ve looked everywhere in the store and can’t find it. It must have been stolen.”

“I don’t think anyone would take your bracelet, honey. Let’s keep looking, it’s here somewhere.”

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