Copyright is held by the author.
BRIANNA FOUND the thing when we were messin’ round after the hurricane. Whole lotta houses were under water so we were lookin’ for stuff, you know, somethin’.
She was goin’ on about college this and that, but she’s got like half a brain and’ll be lucky to graduate high school.
“Brianna,” I say, “you’re gonna pay thousands of dollars you don’t have and college isn’t goin’ to guarantee you a job. Look at me. I never went and I’m doin’ okay and paid off my car. And you should listen ’cause you’re like 17 and I’m three years older and that makes me smarter, doesn’t it?”
“What’s that?” she asks, totally ignorin’ my argument and pointin’ at somethin’.
What it was is this round tube floatin’ in the surf. She was goin’ to toss it back till I told her to let me look. You know, it didn’t look like junk.
“It’s some kinda machine part or pipe,” I say.
“No,” says Brianna. “It’s special. See, the ends are closed off, and this line here means it must screw together, like it’s really two pieces.”
“Lemme see, Brianna. For Chrissake, give it to me.” Damn women, a can opener is heavy equipment to them.
It was a cylinder and the end unscrewed. So I opened it and Brianna goes, “Whoa, there’s some coins and photos and stuff.”
I took the coins, but she argued that she found the can so they were hers. Hell, it was only about a dollar. Some quarters with the 2001 date. Old stuff, but still worth only a quarter each. “And there’s a letter,” she screeched. “Maybe somebody’s on a desert isle or something.”
“Keep the coins.” Brianna really needed to stop watchin’ so much TV. Desert island, for Chrissake. Man, it was near noon and we hadn’t found any stuff worth keepin’ or sellin’.
“Hey, listen, Robby. This letter. It says, ‘I will always remember that we got through Y2K unscathed.’ What’s unscathed? And then blah blah blah something. Oh, and ‘to lose it all at 9-11 when the finger of fate was an Enola Gay pointing at the WTC.’”
She was makin’ me crazy. Brianna’s a good looker, but not much in the brains department. “What’s a Y2K? And 911 is when you call the cops. WTC is what the English call a toilet. I saw it in a movie.”
“There’s more,” she says. “‘You were the Fort Knox of my security and the Elizabeth Browning of my thoughts and dreams.’ That’s weird. Maybe her name was Enola.”
“Sounds like some old guy’s love letter. You know what this is? It’s a time capsule, and the house is probably floatin’ on its way to China, but this got separated.”
“Well, whatever it is sounds sweet.”
“Yeah, whatever. Keep the change and toss the rest of the stuff back in the ocean.”
Then an old guy came up behind us. Scared the shit outta me. “You’re right,” he says. “It’s like a love letter, to a wife or mate who died when the terrorists attacked America. A eulogy.”
Brianna screws up her face and asks, “How’d you know that, Mister?”
“WTC is the World Trade Center. Nine-eleven is September 11, 2001.”
His eyes got all watery and he kept mumblin’. “The Enola Gay was the American plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Fort Knox is where we keep all our country’s gold — billions of dollars worth. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a poet who wrote ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways / I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight / For the ends of being and ideal grace.’”
Brianna’s mouth feel open. “Jeez, how’d you learn all that stuff?”
The geezer smiled and tipped his hat, and said, “By getting old. By learning and never forgetting. Fellow once said, ‘Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Things in that letter are things you need to know. They’re a frame of reference. Have a good day.”
“I don’t understand,” Brianna says as I’m tryin’ to get her to move on. “This Y2K and the rest sounds like some kinda text message.”
He stood there a minute. “Y2K refers to the Year 2000 when everyone was worried all the computers would shut down because dates were written as two digits, but they didn’t. I guess you could say it’s a love text from the past.”
“Brianna,” I finally shouted, “take a break! You with me? I’m goin’ up to the boardwalk and get a pizza.”
“You go ahead, Robby. I’ll catch up. I got some questions I need to ask this guy.”