Come With Me.
and you'll be
in a world of my own machinations.
Take a look
and you'll see
all my pure abominations.
The Keeper of Lost Things
I wrote this for a creative writing class a while back and wanted to share it with listeners. The Keeper of Lost Things has been growing in the back of my mind for years now, keeping tabs on the goings on for Jack, Vaeda, Xander and the rest. Meticulously taking notes and remembering everything that might be lost.
Ezra Jean Campbell is a sheepish girl, her hair is mousy brown and her eyes dart from one thing to the next. The air around her always seems anxious, as though it’s afraid that Ezra will swallow it up and instead of exhaling it she will somehow snuff it out of existence. Ezra is ordinary in every way except that she has a knack, a knack for finding things.
The first person to notice Ezra’s special ability was her grandpa, just a few years back when Ezra was just getting good at riding her bike. Grandpa was a forgetful man; he was always losing keeps and tools. The most common position to find him was standing at the front door with a bewildered look on his face, scratching his head. His next words were always asking himself where he’d placed the thing that he needed.
Grandpa farmed and Ezra’s momma and daddy lived in the small house with him. Ezra’s daddy hadn’t been able to get work anymore and complained that he wouldn’t until they got Hoover out of the Oval Office. Times were very hard but since Ezra’s little family had moved in with him; Grandpa had one relief that he’d never known, he never lost anything.
It didn’t matter if Ezra was in the same room with you or if she was off with her momma all day long, as soon as you asked her to help you find something, she could hone in on it like a hound after a rabbit. She didn’t smile much but when she found the thing you were looking for, her smile lit up the room. Grandpa liked that, he thought it was unnatural how she didn’t smile often.
“Girl ought to try to be happy,” he’d say to her parents.
Ezra’s parents would smile and nod but they knew that Ezra was happy, in her own way she was very happy.
About a year after Grandpa’s son and his son’s family moved in with him, it’d had finally donned on him that he could test Ezra. After dinner, while Jane, Ezra’s momma, did dishes, Grandpa took a framed photo of his late wife and tucked it into a small ledge the chimney while Ezra was washing up for bed. That night, Ezra, who was tucked under her momma’s arm sleeping as deeply as one of the old dogs on the porch was awakened by Grandpa.
“Ezzie…Ezzie wake up,” Grandpa whispered with a bit of force in his voice.
“Huh?” Ezra mumbled as she forced her eyes open to meet the gaze of Grandpa’s soft blue eyes.
“There ya are!” He whispered with a great deal of muffled excitement. “I need your help, Ezzie, see I lost that old picture of Granny that I love so much. You know the one on the mantle in the round gold frame?”
“But you didn’t lose it, Grandpa–”
“–Oh but I sure did,” he interrupted.
“No. Remember? You put it in the fireplace,” Ezra said as she let out a long yawn.
“I did,” he said, feeling stupid for not realizing that the girl probably spied on him from the bathroom.
Ezra gave a sleepy smile and turned over to snuggle up right under her momma’s chin. Grandpa’s lips pinched together and he nodded his head slowly. He decided to try again tomorrow.
As Grandpa settled into his own bed, just as his eyelids were getting too heavy to lift he remembered something that that truly was lost. A gold pocket watch, one his wife had given to him after her own father had died. Grandpa has lost it on a train ride to the city a few years after she’d given it to him. How he’d grieved over that watch. As the old man’s neck loosened and his head grew heavier, the corners of his mouth turned up in a grin as he imagined seeing this old artifact from many years ago.
At breakfast the next day, Grandpa asked Ezra if she’d see his old pocket watch.
“Oh it’s a very special watch, Ezra, I shined it every day I had it and it had the initials R.D. engraved on the back.” He sucked in a shaky breath. “Those were the initials of Grandma’s daddy.” His eyes brimmed with tears as he remembered Grandma’s face the day she gave the watch to him.
Ezra looked at him blankly while she chewed her eggs. She looked at Grandpa so seriously that he had to look away for a moment to keep his wits about him. At times like these, Ezra was just too strange for him to hold eye contact.
“Okay, Grandpa, I’ll look in a bit,” she said between bites.
Satisfied, he nodded and turned back to his own breakfast. His mind reeled at the thought of his granddaughter somehow finding this long lost treasure. He took his time eating his breakfast. When Ezra had finished her last bites of egg and toast, he gathered up their plates and carried them to the sink. Jane had always admonished him for helping in the kitchen but the habit was too old to break. He’d always washed dishes for his late wife.
“The cook doesn’t clean up the mess too! I enjoyed every last bite. I’m a happy man, I’ll do the dishes,” he said their first morning as husband and wife. And so it was that Grandpa had been the dishwasher for forty-two years. For a few minutes, he closed his eyes and let his hand enjoy the peaceful task. The water was warm against the back of his hands, it softened his calluses, perhaps that was why he enjoyed the task.
“Grandpa?” a voice interrupted his tranquility.
It was Ezra. And now it came to it. Just now, he found it nearly impossible to open his eyes. In the next moment, he would be right or wrong and neither of those options was good. If the watch was there, what was Ezra, some sort of witch or sorceress? If there was nothing he would feel ashamed for having tested this innocent girl and also…if he was being honest…he’d be disappointed to find out that she was just Ezra, plain and timid Ezra.
Ezra finally placed her hand gently on his arm. She cocked her head to see the front of his face a bit better, furrowed her brow and then slowly raised her right brow high. She parted her lips to say his name one last time…
“Yes, Ezzie…” he said with his eyes still closed and hands still plunged in the warm dishwater.
“I think I found your watch but I just wasn’t sure if it was the right one or not,” she said.
Grandpa’s eyes popped open and looked at Ezra. Sure enough – she was standing right beside him, holding three gold pocket watches. Grandpa sucked in a quick breath and then let out a low whistle.
“I believe that’s the one,” he said as he pointed to the one on the left. It even had the small gouge on the lower right side of the cover. He’d accidentally caused that gouge when he forgot to take the watch from his pocket before helping a neighbor take down a tree. Ezra’s face lit up with excitement. Her cheeks were the color of sun-kissed apples…Grandpa had not noticed that before.
“Ezzie,” Grandpa whispered and he placed his soapy wet hands on Ezra’s shoulder and bent down to meet her eyes with his. “Can you show Grandpa where you found these?”
The girl’s face darkened and her smile faded.
“Oh Ezzie, don’t be scared. Grandpa believes you,” he said as he drew her close to give her one of his big bear hugs that she liked so much.
“I know…it’s just that…” Ezra’s feet shuffled beneath her, “it’s just that I don’t know if I can. And even if I can, I don’t know if I wanna tell ya!” Her voice muffled at the end as she buried her face deep into Grandpa’s shoulder. Grandpa nodded his head. He knew then that he’d pushed her too far and perhaps just too fast. She was not of this world, of that he was finally sure. Grandpa picked up Ezra and began to walk to the living room but as he walked he slipped the pocket watches on the counter into his pocket. There was no sense is bringing attention to her momma and daddy about this, they’d find out soon enough.
Ezra cried soft and low into Grandpa’s chest until the poor girl fell asleep and Grandpa rocked her in the rocking chair he’d made for Grandma many years ago. It wasn’t long before he too had nodded off on this lazy Saturday morning.