Short As Fictober #14: “The Legend of Whispering Will”

Tommy dipped his map into the coffee water bath he’d prepared that morning, and let it soak for a few minutes. While he waited, he whistled a worn out melody from the summer of ‘88, a ghost of a song he couldn’t quite remember the name of. Funny. He and his friends had listened to it constantly that year, and it would seem that at least the name of the band might have rung a bell or two. He wrote a mental reminder to ask Connie when she finally bothered to show up. 

Late afternoon light flooded through the attic’s half moon windows, illuminating the map Tommy pulled from the coffee bath. 

“Wowsers, that looks sweet,” Tommy said. “Wait’ll you guys see this.”

He held the map out in front of him on his way past stacks of boxes with labels such as: Tommy’s Toys; Tommy’s Elementary School Work; Tommy’s 6th Grade Trophies & Awards; Tommy’s High School Clothes; and Tommy & Julia’s Wedding Stuff.

Toward the back of the towers, Tommy crouched next to a box that had been ripped open. He pulled out a child’s black backpack and put it on over a green windbreaker a size too small. The baseball hat he’d found at the top of the box had given him a headache after he’d worn it for ten minutes, so he switched to an old ski cap, tucking his graying hair in underneath.

Tommy stood and approached three of his four best friends in the entire world. He couldn’t wait to show them the map.

The three men thrashed and struggled against the ropes securing them to their chairs, joining together in a chorus of muffled screams and sobs.

“You guys look like a million bucks,” Tommy said. “I’m stoked I could find your favorite clothes, so you could ditch the dweeb outfits you were wearing.”

The man on the left, Brian Fugit, wore a loud, red Hawaiin shirt, while Austin Holcomb, in the middle, sported a Supersonics jersey; the third final member of the trio, Pete Driscoll, had on a 3/4 sleeve Journey t-shirt.

“You guys, this is totally going to blow your mind,” Tommy said. He turned the map around so his friends could see. The coffee-aged paper was covered in circles and squares, connected by dashes and surrounded by illegible cursive phrases. “What do you think?”

Austin shook his head and tried to say something around his gag.

“What’s that?” Tommy asked, removing his friend’s gag.

Austin rocked his jaw from side to side.

“I asked what we’re looking at, Tommy? Why are you doing this?”

Tommy rolled his eyes. “I told you guys already, this is the map that’ll unlock the Legend of Whispering Will. I found it in my dad’s old things from when he was a curator.”

“No it’s not. That’s your handwriting, Tommy, and the whole thing reeks like coffee. We used that method all the time when we played pirates as kids.”

Tommy’s face flushed, and he replaced Austin’s gag.

“You’re wrong, man. This map is the real deal, and when we find Whispering Will’s treasure we’ll have enough money to save the museum. We’ll be heroes. Don’t you guys want to be heroes? Life can be good again.”

The doorbell chimed from below, and Tommy pumped a fist in the air. Don’t move.I’ll be right back.”

Tommy walked away from three of his four best friends in the whole world, and moved some of the cardboard towers to hide them. He wanted this to be a surprise.

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