by Christopher "Irish Goat" Knodel
The chest had been in my family for over three hundred years. Eleven generations of MacElberry’s had safeguarded the box. Family tales said the wood came from the Biblical cedars of Lebanon during the crusades. It was part of the spoils of war, and was sailed back to Scotland as plunder. From there, it lay in a hidden cache for two hundred years, until discovered by my ancestors. That wealth began our legacy, and the wood found with the treasure was seen as our lucky totem.
The chest was built by the first MacElberry. To represent the new line, he used the sacred wood to construct a strongbox. The boards were cut and hued by hand. The hinges and plate were forged of brass. Inside, he placed items that would secure our legacy; ensure our destiny. After sealing the contents with wax and a prayer, he rotated the tumblers of the custom lock. The box was secure.
The MacElberry lineage progressively increased its holdings and titles. It wasn’t until the modern age that our fortunes turned. The castle was besieged in 1798, and the chest was taken by rebels. We maintained the one key. Within six years, the rebellion was suppressed, but the box was never recovered. Some said it had been transported to France; others claimed it had been loaded onto ships to the former colonies. With our loss of fortune, and luck, the family began its spiral into ruin.
In 1973, my grandfather found the chest in a Boston auction house. It still bore the family crest upon its hasps. He negotiated its return, and proudly brought it home. We, the last of the mighty MacElberry clan, were living in a Baltimore suburb. Our lands had been seized, titles stripped, and claims ignored. All because of this box.
After all these years, the lock remained unbroken. Father wanted to throw it open, but Grandpa said it was an ill-omen to break the seal. He claimed that just having the chest would restore our honor. So we waited. Years marched on. Yet, nothing changed.
Grandpa died, and father aged. Ten years reunified with our lucky totem, and we remained in a state of mediocrity. Granted, nothing worsened. But I grew impatient, fueled by stories of our past.
Father passed in ’85. The box went to me; I made a choice. The future would belong to Clan MacElberry.
I slipped the family key into the lock and felt it seat perfectly. Softly, shyly, I rotated it counter-clockwise. I could hear, and feel, the tumblers retract. The lock fell open.
I slid a razor around the edge and broke the seal. A silence came over the room. I could feel the heaviness, the wariness of my intentions. I ran my fingers over the the brass clasps, feeling their purchase. And then, excitedly, I unfastened the hasps and threw the lid open. I could not have imagined the weight of this action.
Chris ‘Irish Goat’ Knodel is an author, poet and ultra-distance runner in San Antonio, TX. He is a freelance journalist and writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. His poetry and short fiction have been featured in The Asses of Parnassus, Ealain (MPA Publishing), The Wolfian, The Write Place at the Write Time, Writer’s Quibble, The Zodiac Review & Zombie Logic Review. He can be easily spotted by his kilt, tattoos and six inch, flaming-red, Van Dyke goatee.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'The Keys of the Kingdom'