Short story: Let’s Be Kids Again

Ava Weece

This short story ran in part in the April 20, 2023 literary edition. 

“Mama, I’m looking for treasure,” Teddy says, with a determined squinting of his eyes. He has short wiry hair and large eyes, like his father. His mother, Alice, looks up from the dishes and sighs. 


Teddy nods and fishes a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. 

“I buried it last week so it would stay hidden and I made this map but now I wanna dig for it to make money to buy blue laces for my shoes since everyone at school says you run faster if you have blue laces,” he blurts out breathlessly, all while waving the map and pulling on rain boots.

Alice holds back a giggle and runs her fingers through her hair. He’s always up to something. “Where are you going to look for it? Your dad will be home soon, maybe he can help.”

Teddy points out the window. “I buried it out there! And Dad can’t help since everyone knows that adults can’t see the treasure,” he says, making a “Duh!” expression and reaching for the doorknob.

“Ok, you can look for your treasure, but you’re only allowed to dig three holes!” Alice warns. “Only three, do you understand? We’re having company over next week and I don’t want the yard to look messy.” She gives him a stern but kind glance, and he salutes her before stamping out the door.

Alice laughs to herself as the door closes and goes back to the sink. Looking out the window, she sees Teddy stab the ground with his shovel and lean into it like he was trying to move a small elephant. Three holes won’t be bad. Besides, it gives me an excuse to plant the new flowers I got last week. She puts the last dishes away in the cabinets and looks for a spoon to stir her coffee. Before she can find one, she hears tires climbing up the wet concrete and the low rumble of the garage. 


* * *


Teddy moves the back of his hand across his forehead, leaving a long streak of dirt across it. He looks back and forth from his map to the partially dug hole in front of him. I thought it was here! Or maybe behind it? He peeks over his shoulder and takes a few steps back. Like any normal seven-year-old, Teddy has been fascinated with finding buried treasure after watching The Goonies with his dad. But, due to a lack of caves in their small Kansas neighborhood, he decided to bury his own treasure. He pushes some dirt back into the first hole before scooting back to his second location. Confidently, he folds his map and brings the small shovel flying down into the grass.


* * *


Alice hugs her husband when he walks into the kitchen. He smiles warmly at her and takes off his coat.

“What’s Ted up to out there?” he asks, as Alice sits down at the table.

“Oh, it’s another treasure hunt. I have no clue what he buried this time!”

“As long as he didn’t break into any local banks for supplies, I think we’re good!” her husband jokes. Alice laughs and stands up to kiss him on the cheek.

“I’ve been sleeping with my rings under my pillow for a week to keep them safe!”

Her husband chuckles and loosens his tie before pointing at Alice.

“You ready for dinner tonight?” Alice looks confused. I wasn’t planning on cooking…maybe we could get pizza! The good kind with pepperonis all the way to the crust. 

“Alice?” She snaps back into the conversation

“Sorry…what dinner? You mean next week, right? For your boss and his wife?”

He shakes his head. “No, it’s tonight. I thought I told you about it?”

Alice feels her heart rate increase and she clenches her teeth. “Are you serious? I don’t have anything planned…and look at what I’m wearing!” She gestures to her gray sweatpants and faded t-shirt that has a picture of a giraffe in sunglasses on it. “And what about food?” She moves frantically around the kitchen and starts to tidy up.

Her husband puts his hand gently on her shoulder. “It’ll be fine! It’s a potluck, so they’re bringing food, and I’m sure we have something around here that can work for a main course.”

Yeah, right. Our guests would love to have a frozen dinner with chips and a can of Pepsi. I really need to cook more. Alice bites her lip and scans the kitchen for any more messes. “All right, you find something…anything to work as a meal, and I’ll change,” she says, looking at the clock on the microwave. “What time are they coming?” 

Her husband grabs woven place mats from a drawer. “Around six, but he’s always a few minutes behind.”

Alice takes a deep breath. “Ok, thirty minutes…I can do this.” She turns and sprints up the stairs to their bedroom, continually chanting “I can do this” like a broken record.

“Great pep talk!” her husband calls from the kitchen.

“I’ll remember this the next time you make fun of my driving!” she shouts back, pulling on a floral skirt and rummaging through her jewelry for earrings. She puts in a pair of small gold hoops and slides into the bathroom on stockinged feet. Her reflection in the mirror makes her cringe slightly, but she quickly runs a brush through her tangled curls and puts on lipstick. Works for now, she thinks as she grabs her shoes and runs back into the kitchen.

Her husband is cutting from a questionable rotisserie chicken when she comes up to him. 

“Is that any good? I think I bought it two weeks ago,” she asks.

“Yeah, it’s fine. His wife’s a vegetarian, so the three of us can take the risk,” he says, putting the pieces on a plate. “Could you help with drinks and silverware?”

Alice nods and peeks out the window at Teddy before grabbing cups from the cabinet. He’s crouched down on his knees, looking down at something in his fingers. She opens the drawer to grab forks, but they’re all missing along with the spoons and knives.

“Have you seen any silverware lying around? I can’t find any in the drawer,” she opens up two other drawers, but only sees a thin layer of dust. Her husband checks the dishwasher. 

“There’s nothing in here,” he says, setting the plate of chicken on the table. 

“Are you sure? I just did dishes today, and I swear I saw silverware.” They both move through the kitchen but come up short. Alice puts her hand on her head and groans.

“How on earth does this happen? I mean, what kind of crazy person loses all the silverware before a dinner party? Did it get stol-” she stops suddenly and looks up at her husband. Realization crosses over his face and they turn to look out the window at their treasure-fanatic son triumphantly holding a dirty silver fork over his head. 


* * *


Two hours later, Alice throws an empty cardboard box in the trash and puts a stack of plastic cutlery in the pantry. Thank goodness we found this. She hears her husband thank their guests and walks over to them with a smile. Her husband’s boss, an older man with large, slightly hairy ears and faded navy shoelaces, shakes her hand. His wife does the same and the adults all move outside into the clear night air, where Teddy still sits with a slowly growing pile of silverware next to him. 


* * * 


Teddy looks down at the pile of forks and spoons and sighs. Where are all the knives? Those are the most important. Frustration grows in him and he tosses the shovel down, just as his parents come outside with their friends. He hears his Mom walk up behind him and bend down. She kisses the top of his head and he rubs his face to hide his embarrassment. “I couldn’t find all my treasure,” he says tearfully, while he shoves the map back into his pocket.

“I bet it will still be there tomorrow,” his mother says, “We can keep looking.”

“I’m sorry if I made the older people angry.”

His mother laughs and Teddy looks up at her. Her eyes sparkle.

“They weren’t angry,” she says, sitting down next to him. Her husband and their guests walk up to Teddy, stepping over two large holes to reach him. He looks up slowly and gives a small wave. The older man bends down with a creak and peers at Teddy. His mother and father walk the boss’s wife to her car.

Teddy stares at the old man’s wrinkled face. It looks like crumpled paper that’s been unfolded. Teddy becomes embarrassed again and fiddles with his jacket. The old man’s papery face breaks into a childish grin.

“I like treasure too,” he whispers, as he picks up the shovel and begins to dig.