The Oldest Object in The Oldest Thing in The Oldest House
“I did not plan to wait but HEARING mister Bunk above… bunked me… at the cellar door. For good reason I THANK HIM for that bunking. For good reason it made me wait. I waited at the top of the cellar stairs. I stared down into the black hole. I could hear Bunk on his creep up in the chamber. He’s going too fast I said. I closed the cellar door. All the pennies down there are going to have to WAIT I said. I sit down in an old dumpy chair. Just for a minute. I can hear Bunk up there (in the attic chamber) screwing it up.
“WHY? He’s at it TOO FAST. And too far off. WAY down in a corner under the eaves. WAY down and there’s no window down there. Nothing but black and dark. Ain’t EVER been someone THERE hiding pennies ever. EVEN if they had a candle… would they CRAWL on their KNEES to HIDE a penny back THERE? Hide ANYTHING back there? So I laugh to myself and get up and go to… well… CREEP that first floor and wait him out.
“WAITING OUT? Lunch is coming. And that mister Bunk KNOWS it. He’s hurrying to be done. Up there where THREE HUNDRED YEARS have passed he’s old mister FORTY-FIVE (minutes and I’m DONE). Yep. LESS than forty-five left before that LUNCH BREAK that gives him another forty-five (11:45 – 12:30 allotted team lunch break; an enthusiastic group activity) of what? NOTHING I say. He’ll be done before lunch I say. You watch.
"So I go around the first floor. Creep it. There’s five rooms. The big old kitchen – family room. The bedroom on the other side. Then three rooms across the back (north side away from the ocean). One’s the buttery but it might as well be a shed. Then a room that IS a shed; the back door. What they call a MUD ROOM today. Then the room from there over off the bedroom. GOD knows what went on in there. PROBABLY had the COW in there FIRST. There’s no cellar under those rooms. WEREN’T ROOMS even originally. MORE BARN than HOUSE out there. But they finished ‘em eventually. That means put in the FLOORS. So what ever treasure they hid there is UNDER the floors. So I can’t RIP THOSE UP. RIGHT? Anyway I already know all that so just creep around the cupboards and try to SEE in behind the mantels. See ROUND the chimney BEHIND the wood work. Ain’t been anyone in there EITHER. Just been left alone in there since they finished it. Probably didn’t FINISH IT until the seventeen fifties. AT LEAST. Probably… I looked at it… probably not until even seventeen EIGHTY some of it I bet. Anyway. I can SEE that. So I know what I’m gonna find around THERE: NOTHING.
“That’s what I found: NOTHING. A lot of that. But I find a lot of that anyway. And I know MISTER Bunk is finding that TOO. I hear him. Off in another corner. Ain’t gonna be NOTHING up there ‘cept round the FIREPLACE and up on the CHIMNEY. THAT’S where the people WENT up there. Except to HANG something UP. OR FETCH something DOWN.
“So I go back to that chair and WAIT. And don’t he come CLOMPING DOWN in his BOOTS. Paid TWICE as much as I pay him for a WHOLE DAY for them CLOD HOP’EN BOOTS. I have to LAUGH.
“So he SEES ME and I say LUNCH? And he asks if I finished the cellar. I say NO and that I creeped this floor. He says ‘Find anything?’ NOTHING I say how about YOU? ‘Nothing’ he says so I say LUNCH? He looks at me so I say AFTER LUNCH go down and clean out that shed. Don’t SAY anything. Just go do it. Put everything outside so when I finish up here that building’s EMPTY when I come down. He says ok to THAT and goes up to lunch. I look over at that cellar door and tell it I’ll be back for YOU after LUNCH.
“I go up there (to the barn) and have my lunch with ‘em. All of ‘em. They don’t EVEN MENTION antiques the whole time. Been putting antiques in boxes for over FOUR hours but never say the word. FINE WITH ME it is. They talk about some TELEVISION show they all WATCH. I DON’T CARE. But I listen. Sounds STUPID to ME. And here they are at MY oldest house talking about watching TELEVISION. They think I put the ANTIQUE in the BOX and then put that antique in a STORE and then I SELL it to someone who puts that antique THEIR LIVING ROOM. They think that’s the WHOLE THING: Antiques come in a BOX!
“And I’s sitting there saying nothing except ‘don’t come BUG ME when I’m on MY cellar creep. Leave me ALONE’. That’s where it REALLY is: ON that CREEP in that CELLAR HOLE of that OLD HOUSE. CLEAN OUT THAT SHED mister Bunk and LEAVE ME ALONE in that old HOLE that some man DUG BY HAND WITH HIS SHOVEL. Three hundred years ago. Now THAT’S an ANTIQUE I’m not gonna FIND AGAIN; that CREEP. And I know that and have since I first seen that hole.
"So I go down in there and I don’t WHISTLE when I WORK. Nope. I just STAND up against those rock walls and LOOK. And FEEL with my fingers. EVERY LITTLE BIT OF IT; that whole damn hole. I stand there at one spot. What’s that? Thirty inches wide in front of me? That piece of wall. FROM THE floor beam to the DIRT FLOOR…get down on my knees and LOOK. And FEEL. SLOWLY. EVERY INCH. Finding NOTHING. Oh some old nails and THAT. Put in my pocket. But I WANT something. SOMETHING I WANT. I want to find something I WANT that’s OLD. VERY OLD. So I know to keep at this every inch. I don’t want to be outside here tomorrow talking with the owners and all locked out and have a ‘I didn’t go in there’ thing. Nope. Don’t want THAT. SO DO IT RIGHT I say. So I creep it; that hole.
"And nothing. And the PROBLEM is that where the stone meets the beams there’s little HOLES where I can SHINE (the flashlight) IN and see under the FLOORS. So I’m spending a lot of time doing that. NOTHING but if I DO SEE SOMETHING I gotta get it and. Well. I’d jig it out SOMEHOW. And there’s these little spaces between the beams. NOT FITTED. Didn’t need to be. They’re just RESTED on the stone. So I can fit my hand in here and there along. AND SO COULD SOMEONE ELSE. Right? So there we go. Right?
“So I go all along up past the chimney base and around under the stairs and then ACROSS from the stairs out under the BEDROOM. And I can SEE out under there pretty good. Nothing. So I’m doing those beam spaces as I go along. AND THERE IT IS. Yep. See the bottom with my head lamp first. Off on its side. Set it up THERE and it tipped over backwards HOW MANY CENTURIES AGO?
“I pull it out and I’m JUST OH. (A New England – North Shore above Boston) REDWARE Pitcher. OLD. CRACKED. Dirty. But WHOLE. BEEN IN THERE HOW LONG? So I take that right up the stairs and look it over. Cracked but whole. They used it cracked. AND CRUDE; spout all crooked off wrong. Must be a NOTHING potter made it. OLD. Dark brown and that TALL form. I know THAT. Eighteenth century no problem but OLD. So COLONIAL I say. Look it all over and I KNOW I FOUND IT: That’s it. NOT GONNA BE MORE. I know that. Just great. Take it up to my truck. Don’t say a word to anyone. Show it to my wife later. IT’S GONE. She had it washed off in ten minutes. I’d ah left it dirty. I DON’T CARE ANYMORE: I FOUND IT. No one else would have found that. That’s what I DO. You leave me alone in one of those old houses I’ll find it.