Extracts from The Diaries of 'Professor' Cornelius Crane

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March 24th, 1969

It went a lot easier than expected. Father has the money and has promised to purchase Ol’ Bradley’s plot within the week. Very soon our family will be rolling in it. It feels so good to be able to accomplish so much even though I am so seriously handicapped. One can only imagine the good I will be able to achieve once all my restraints are gone.

Mother decided to remove the hedgerow along the east side of our house (She says it’s a breeding ground for all the creepy crawlies that she constantly finds inside the house) and replace it with a line of rose bushes.

Whilst digging out the hedge, my father found an old rusty whistle, some metal buttons and the casing of an old spent cartridge that he says looks as though it might be from around WWII.

I guess it’s possible because our house is pretty old. It was built during a time when houses didn’t have built-in cupboards. The bath is huge and deep and rests on four clawfoot appendages. The fuse box looks like something from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab – If it blows, you gotta remove one of these large porcelain blocks from a slot and rewire it.

Shit, the house even has those pressed tin patterned ceilings, and at times I lie in bed at night and watch some of those creepy crawlies go round and round inside the circular indentation above the stained-glass light fixture.

Anyhow, I saw the removal of the hedgerow as the perfect opportunity to put a plan into action.

Yesterday, taking some of the money that I had obtained from Joaq, I went down to the pawn shop on Dreyfuss avenue.

I had studied the items in the window before going inside. The music box with the ballerina was still there. I smiled, wondering how long it would be before Hannah had saved up enough to purchase her dream; obtain the one goal she so eagerly desired.

Although I now have the financial means to buy it for her, I cannot do it without drawing attention to myself. So, she’ll just have to do a few more babysitting sessions for my folks.

I feel for the poor waif’s guilt-ridden conscience. After all, getting paid to have so much pleasure must be absolute hell for her?

My gaze had moved to the sign above the pawn shop window. There was a large old clock hanging beneath the words, ‘Fry’s Second Hands.’

The enormous dark, wooden-cased clock had once hung further down the road at the train station. When it had been replaced, Fry had used the opportunity to purchase it at a bargain price. And although it was broken, the hands permanently stuck at 10h45, it made the perfect signage to advertize his goods. Beneath the clock was the slogan, ‘Give our second-hands a second chance.’

I pushed open the door and the bell fixture chimed appealingly. The shop had a musty smell; a mixture of old leather, rotting wood and wet cardboard.

The old man behind the glass counter had an uncanny resemblance to Jimmy Durante. We greeted each other with a nod before I proceeded to search amongst the dusty treasures.

At the back, next to a His Masters Voice gramophone and a pile of 78s, there was a bunch of old tin containers and cigar boxes. I chose the most battered, worn and rusted metal container that I could find amongst the collection. It had once contained boiled butterscotch sweets produced by a confectionery company in Lancashire, England, est. 1880.

The musty smell seemed to increase as I approached the old man behind the counter. Did the smell come from him or had years of working in this shop permeated him with the scent of Time.

“What can I do you for, sonny,” he asked smiling at his own joke.

“I found this old English candy container at the back. I was wondering what other British stuff you might have lying around.

“I think there were other candy containers back there where you got that…”

“Nah, I mean other stuff. Things I could fit inside this.”

He scratched his chin. “I got some war medals and…”

“Let’s see them?”

“I dunno, they’re pretty expensive, sonny?”

“My grandpa gave me twenty bucks for my birthday.” I flashed two tens under his enormous shiny nose.

The ancient eyes sparkled brightly.

I bought a WWII cap badge that had once belonged to a British soldier in the 17th Lancers. It had caught my eye because it is a skull and crossbones with a banner draped over the bones with the words ‘OR GLORY’. The meaning is quite clear – DEATH OR GLORY. I kinda like that. A bit dramatic, but nice.

I also purchased a couple of old British coins (Dated 1925 and 1931) and a couple of wavy edged postcards with sepia-colored photos of the Blackpool Promenade in the late thirties.

On the way home I bought a few bottles of yellow food coloring.

Mother is a housewife and only got a job later as a secretary/receptionist at a paint manufacturing company after my father killed himself. But with the sale of the Ol’ Bradley plot she won’t have to ever work a day outside the home again. In fact, we’ll even be able to afford to pay for a maid.

Actually, back here, most of the married women are still housewives. But it won’t be too long before women’s lib becomes a buzz word. Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique will have much to do with the coming changes. Hell, the bra burners have already started igniting the headlines in their quest for equality and more rights and opportunity in the workplace.

Having a mother around the house almost 24/7 is a serious problem for a fifty nine-year-old kid who needs to get up to ‘mischief’ every so often.

So, I was pretty happy and grateful when my mother joined a group of bridge-playing ladies that get together twice a month to play cards and, much more importantly, catch up on all the latest gossip.

This means, that on certain afternoons after school, I get to have the whole house to myself.

Yesterday was just such a day, and I used the time well to ‘age’ the money I had gotten out of Joaq.

I first soaked them in a solution of water and food coloring before drying them in the oven on a low heat.

After the notes had dried, I went through a long and frustrating process of crumpling and unfolding the notes to give them a more worn and used appearance.

A tumble dryer would have been the perfect device to both dry and wear the money at the same time, but we are not fortunate enough (yet) to have such a luxury in our house.

I was pretty nervous during the whole process, fearing that someone might walk in at any moment and discover me baking my small ‘ill-gained’ fortune. I even phoned my mother to make sure that she was still at the bridge club, asking her to buy me a new pen for school on her way home as mine had run out of ink.

In the end, I was pretty happy with the final result.

So, after placing the money in the old tin, along with the badge, old coins and postcards, I buried it in the newly turned earth where the hedgerow had been.

Today, after school, I took my powder blue DeSoto Fireflite Dinky Toy car outside to the same spot and waited for an opportunity to present itself.

My grandparents had given me the DeSoto on my 5th birthday, and it still looked good. They sure build things to last back here.

Some kids collected Corgi cars, and others the smaller Matchbox brand (Pretty much the same way that some kids preferred Meccano sets to Tinker Toy or Lego blocks.) But I had been a big Dinky supporter.

The kids in the future will get spoiled by all the new-fangled technology. If you can’t put a battery into it, they ain’t gonna waste their time on it. Hell, even the books of the future will be battery-operated.

I guess I shouldn’t complain too much about new-fangled technology though – It did, after all, get me here and save my life. And before that, it had made me sticking rich, too!

I was still busy studying the Desoto, thinking about how collectors in the future will pay plenty for a mint condition item, when mother appeared round the corner with a big basket of washing to be hung up on the lines. “What you up to in my rose garden?” she queried.

“Playing…I don’t see no roses.”

“Any roses,” she corrected. “Well, your father’s promised to buy me some bushes before the end of the month, and that’s very soon.”

“How many?”

“We worked out that we can probably fit about eight in there. Would you like to help? I’ll give you some extra pocket money?”

“Yeah? How?”

“Start digging the holes for me?”

In the immortal words of John ‘Hannibal’ Smith:

‘I love it when a plan comes together.’

“How deep?” I asked grinning from cheek to cheek.

“I never knew you could be so enthusiastic about doing chores,” she smiled back. “About a foot and a half.”
“How deep’s that?” I asked playing dumb.

“Oh, about as much as a…bucket. You can use the old bucket in the garden shed to measure it. There’s also a garden trowel in there that you can use for digging.”

“Okay, where do you want them?”

She put down the wash basket. “Fetch me something to mark off the spots.”

I brought her a bunch of twigs and she stuck them into the earth at regular intervals. When she was finished she stood back and said, “There, that looks right to me.”

“That’s ten!” I said loudly.

“Then I guess your father will have to get ten. If he can afford to buy a car, he can afford to get me a couple more rose bushes. I’ll tell him tonight.” Then she looked at me. “Right, get going. I’ll bring you something to drink later on.”

About an hour later she returned with a large glass of orange flavored Kool-Aid. “How’s it going here?” she asked looking at the four holes I’d dug.

“Okay, I guess! Luckily the ground ain’t been too hard, but there’s definitely something hard in this one.”

“Isn’t too hard,” she corrected. “What is it? A rock?”

I tapped the garden trowel against it. There was a metallic clang. “I think it might be the drain pipe.”

“That doesn’t seem deep enough to be the drain pipe.”

After some more digging and scratching I said, “It’s loose. I think it’s a box or something.” After some more feigned effort I pulled it free. “It’s just a rusty old oil can.”

“Let me see that,” she said taking it from me. She brushed off the dirt and studied it. “It’s an old candy container,” she said narrowing her eyes and reading the worn surface. “‘Boiled Butterscotch Sweets.’ It’s an old English candy container.” She tried to remove the top, but I had taken the liberty of gluing it down. It would have seemed strange if the lid had just popped off real easy.

She gave it a shake and something hard clanked against the inside.

“Ew!” I exclaimed. “I don’t think I want to eat any of those, thank you very much!”

She placed it next to her ear and shook some more. “Maybe it’s money! Pirate’s treasure!” she winked. “Gold doubloons taken on the Spanish Main many years ago and then secretly buried.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said with a heavily skeptical tone.

“What? Where’s your sense of intrigue…adventure? Didn’t your class read Treasure Island last year?”

“Yeah, but only because we had to do a stupid old boring book report on it.”

“Didn’t you enjoy it? Wasn’t it exciting?”

“Wasn’t what exciting?” asked my father coming round the corner of the house.

“Connie’s found some buried treasure!”

I could not have planned it any better!!!

My father must have counted it a dozen times himself before sitting back and exhaling a quiet, “Wow,” as though he had just taken a strong shot of liquor.

“Well?” asked my mother staring at him.

“Twenty five hundred; two and a half grand exactly.”

“Heavens!” she said and sat down at the kitchen table across from him. Who do you think buried it? The previous owner?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” he said studying the other items from the container. This stuff all seems like it belonged to some Limey. I don’t recall the previous owner being a Brit.” He deliberated a bit, then said, “Scott…Malcolm Scott was his name.”

“That sounds very British to me.”

“Yeah? Well what about Randolph Scott? He ain’t no goddamned Limey.”

“Language, please!” chided mother. “What about Scott of the Antarctic.”

“Wouldn’t a Scott be from Scotland?” I asked.

“Be quiet!” said my father to me, then to my mother, “You’re right! By Jove, you’re right. It must be. It’s the only explanation. He probably buried it there and forgot about it when he buggered off back to Old England.”

“What are we going to do about it?”

“Do? Nothing of course. His loss is our gain, old sport. Besides, who knows where he is now. Who says he hasn’t kicked the jolly old bucket, what? Nobody living would leave or forget this sort of money lying around.”

“What if it was stolen? Shouldn’t we inform the police or …”

“No!” exclaimed my father too loudly. My mother jerked in her chair. “We can’t tell anybody about this. You hear?” Then he repeated the question to me, “You hear? I don’t want either of you blabbing your mouths off to anyone about this; not even your best friend.” Then to my mother again, “And especially not to any of those old biddies down at the bridge club.”

“Fine!” said my mother in an annoyed tone. “And they’re not a bunch of old biddies.”

“What’s a biddy?” I asked.

“Quiet!” said my folks in unison.

“Promise me you won’t say a word to anyone about this money?”

“I said I wouldn’t!” blurted mother.

“No, promise me?”

“I promise!” she said loudly. “Happy now?”

He turned back to me. “You too! Promise?”

“What are you going to do with the money?” I asked.

“Promise?”

“First tell me what you plan to do with my money.”

“Your money?”

“He was the one who found it, Claude,” my mother chipped in.

“Yes, in my yard. This is my house, and that is my yard out there!”

You would think finding a lot of money would make people happy, not cause them to start a heated territorial dispute.

“It ain’t your house till the bank says so, Claude.”

“Isn’t!” I corrected.

“Quiet!” said my folks in unison.

“You still haven’t promised me yet?” said father.

“You still haven’t told me what you’re gonna do with the money yet.”

“If memory serves me well,” chipped in my mother again, “You promised Connie you’d buy the Ol’ Bradley plot if he could raise two thousand dollars. He’s managed to raise two and a half.”

I could have given my mother a big hug and kiss right there and then.

It was two against one, and he duly, although clearly reluctantly, submitted. “And that’s exactly what I intend to do!”

“Really?” I asked wide-eyed.

I was expecting another reprimand, but instead he calmly said, “Yes, what’s to lose? One way or another it’s an investment. Maybe not a very wise one, but still an investment.”

“Great!” I exclaimed, and my mother gave my arm a victory squeeze. “Then I promise never to say a word to anybody ever about how we got the money.”

“Swell!” he smiled.

“Just how are you planning to do it?” asked my mother. “Surely people are going to ask questions when you waltz in with a great big wad of money.”

“Don’t worry. Many people save up money at home. Not everyone uses the banks. I’ll tell them we kept it under the mattress till now.”

It was my turn to jerk – I had hidden the remainder of the money inside my mattress.

I chose to place $2500 in the old sweet tin. Putting in $2000, the exact amount agreed for me to raise, might have made it far too obvious. It appears the ploy worked perfectly.

The balance, minus the cost of the items from the pawn shop, I’ve placed inside the secret hiding place inside my mattress. One can’t tell, but it might be necessary for me to purchase a few more ‘necessities’ in the future, and it’s always good to have a little extra cash on hand.

“What about the other items?” I asked. “Can I have them?”

“I don’t see why not,” said my father putting the badge, coins and postcards back in the container and pushing it across the table to me. “I kinda figured you’d fancy that badge with the skull and crossbones.”

“Cool! Thanks dad,” I said breathing a sigh of relief. The chance of him taking the stuff back to the pawn shop had crossed my mind. That would have been disastrous.

So, as long as my father doesn’t decide to scrutinize the dough too closely, I’ll be safe and sound and in the clear.

If he should, he just might happen to notice that the $10 bills have the new words, ‘The Department of the Treasury,’ which they started printing at the bottom of the notes earlier this year, instead of the old Latin, ‘THESAUR. AMER. SEPTENT. SIGIL.’

I feel encouraged to repeat:

‘Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?’

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