Copyright is held by the author.
THE SLOW pounding of his heart echoed the sluggish but panicked pace with which Anthony shuffled through his apartment. It was late afternoon on a midwinter day and, with the sun quickly dropping from the sky, Anthony was becoming frantic. A lock of his grey hair escaped the hold of the Brylcreem he had carefully applied and now bounced off the left lens of his glasses as he looked around the living room of his sparsely furnished one-bedroom apartment. He discarded the notion of pulling up a corner of the worn shag carpet and sticking it underneath. If they vacuumed today they would surely notice the bump.
All of his efforts of late had been futile; they had found his treasure each day. Yesterday he had tucked it behind the frozen dinners in his freezer. The woman had gone in to get ice, she said. Found it there and scolded him like he was a child who had stolen a cookie. The day before that it was under his mattress and the man had found it while changing his sheets.
He had come to Canada as a young child and his family had had little. But they all came together — rare for that time — and no one died on the boat. His father supported the family by working as a mason for a small wage and his oldest brother worked too. The girls cleaned houses. After school at first, but there didn’t seem to be any need for high school math or geography when you were pouring concrete or cleaning floors. So, one by one, his siblings left school to work full time.
As the youngest by far, Anthony was well kept by his family. Even as his brothers and sisters married and made homes of their own, they gave money to the family so he never had to worry. He was encouraged to stay in school and get a business degree so that he could one day take over and expand the masonry business his father and brothers had built. And how he expanded that business. It had grown to employ dozens of masons. Everyone knew the name Fuccini and Sons. Though by the time the business was really taking off his father was no longer around to see it. Emphysema kept his father bedridden for months before it finally took him in the night. Less than a year later his mother passed. They said she died of grief.
Anthony had never married. He’d always been too focused on the family business to give a woman a proper place in his life. If he had children he hadn’t been told. He’d enjoyed his nieces and nephews, though they were all grown now with families of their own. One of the great nephews had taken over the business. Anthony couldn’t remember his name. The scoundrel no longer showed him the company books — didn’t consult with him at all. His brothers and sisters were all gone.
And so Anthony had no one to protect his prize for him when they came each day. He wasn’t sure who sent them. It could be one of his snooping neighbours — they were always asking about his health. Today he would find somewhere safe to hide it. Three days ago they’d found it under the couch. They said it was deep-cleaning day. Before that he’d tried the mailbox, underwear drawer, and oven. He took quite a scolding for the oven.
The tick tock of the grandfather clock in the living room counted down the minutes until they would arrive. Today he would find somewhere better to hide it. As the last of his generation, it was up to him to protect all he had worked for.
The knock came. “Mr. Fuccini, it’s Amanda from Helping Hands here with your dinner,” the young woman said.
Anthony shambled to the bathroom. Desperate, he lifted the lid of the toilet tank and threw his wallet in.