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It was amazing the sort of panic a simple box top could set off in Betty’s chest.

But with Ed six years into retirement and James grown and living three thousand miles away, things tended to stay in their place most of the time.

And so, as Betty walked down the hallway toward the back door to check on her husband and grandson, the Chuck Taylor All-Star box top screamed to her from Ed’s office desk like a baby waking up hungry in the middle of the night.

It just lay there, alone, on one corner of the plain oak surface. Where was the rest of the box? Where were the baseball cards?

Ed had guarded those precious cards of his all through their marriage, and all through James’ childhood. He had collected them as a kid, and, by golly, they were going to be worth big money someday. Probably already were!

Nobody but Ed was allowed to touch them.

Betty didn’t know much about baseball cards, but even she could see Ed’s were beat all to heck, and she knew that was part of their charm for him … and nearly all of their value. Ed and his brother, and their father, had collected those cards together, and together they inflicted every ding, every crease, every rip.

Those cards were priceless, alright, but only to Ed.

And now … well, something had happened to them, and Betty was sick. Sick for Ed, but also a little concerned she might get blamed somehow. After all, she had friends over every few days, and she couldn’t swear one of them hadn’t found Ed’s stash and … what? Played with them?

It seemed absurd, but something had happened to them.

And what was that sound? It was the annoying buzz-whir that had sent her rushing toward the backyard in the first place, and it was still humming in her ear. It almost sounded like a small engine.

If Ed was teaching Jarrod how to use a chainsaw or a lawn mower the first time he spent a week with them, missing baseball cards would be the least of his worries. The child was just four years old!

Ah, the baseball cards!

Betty stood there oscillating between annoyance and panic for a couple of minutes before the buzzing got to be too much. Besides, it was Ed she needed to see about both problems.

She took a deep breath, flipped an about-face, and hurried down the hallway and through the backdoor.

Ed stood in one corner of the concrete patio, motioning toward Jarrod, who was riding a bicycle toward his grandfather. Without training wheels!

The bike made a buzz-whir noise … like a small engine.

It only took Betty a couple of seconds to figure out the source of the bicycles magic — baseball cards clothespinned to the frame were beating against the spokes as Jarrod pedaled for all he was worth.

The Converse box rested on the glass-topped patio table, cards spilling out over the surface.

Betty glanced at Ed. He smiled and winked, then nodded at the cards.

“Priceless,” he mouthed.

He had been right all along.

Published inFlash Fiction

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