The only thing missing was Geraldo.
They were opening the old serving cupboard, the one she’d carted from Brooklyn to Nashville to Cleveland, where it had rested several years in a storage space before making the trip to upstate New York, where it now stood, as a server should, near the dining table. But somewhere along the way the original key went missing. A series of skeleton keys, bobby pins, toothpicks, small screwdrivers – nothing worked. The server was locked tight as a tomb.
“What’s in there?” he asked.
She knew and she didn’t know. “Linens?” she said. “You know – tablecloths and place mats and…aprons. A whole lot of aprons.” Things she didn’t really need, things no one needed unless they were a housewife from 1952 or a flea market dealer low on stock.
The server held things on top: a lamp, CDs, guitar pics in a bowl. Bank statements. It bugged the practical him – a potential storage space gone to waste. We need to open those doors!
“Maybe there’s money?” they wondered. Maybe there’s something she’d been looking for for fifteen years. She wasn’t sure when the lock had jammed. She remembers the server sitting in a turn of the century house in Nashville – a room with tall, tall ceilings, an arts and crafts tiled fireplace, a gold sixties sofa from the West End Synagogue rummage sale. A screen door onto a front porch with an old-fashioned swing. She and her daughter age thirteen watching Seventh Heaven in smugness and envy, and a huge white cat named James.
A hand saw is out – the back’s coming off.
Where’s Geraldo? There are treasures here a little bit greater than the contents of Al Capone’s vault. Curtains, napkins and finger towels if such a thing ever existed, in homey prints pre-dating mid-century. It was the eighties when she compiled her trousseau without meaning to, for that’s what this is really – preceding independence and her own taste even. These were choices her mother made for her, cocktail napkins embroidered with drunken sailors, card table cloths with suits of cards threaded in pink and green; western motifs and a surplus of Mexican-themed fabric from back when Mexico was cartoon exotic, all unearthed at estate sales and swap meets south of Pittsburgh. She remembers wearing some of these aprons ironically but still almost blushes, thinking of first attempts at cornbread and dinner parties in an apartment with a tub in the kitchen.
No money, but nothing scary either – no dead mouse or half-eaten seven-layer burrito from Taco Bell, from back when the novelty of middle American fast food appealed to her and her daughter. Nothing great, but nothing bad. Only a mound of Pittsburgh cast-offs covered with late twentieth century New York City grime and the white hairs of a deceased cat.
The doors don’t open from the inside either. They’ll have to call a locksmith.