An attic | Source: Shutterstock
An attic | Source: Shutterstock

Boy Finds Old Tube in Late Granny's Attic, History Teacher Opens It and Gasps – Story of the Day

Roshanak Hannani
Mar 18, 2024
10:15 A.M.
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Danny found an old brass tube among his late grandmother's things, but an antique dealer said it was only a novelty. Still, the boy took it for a show-and-tell presentation, and his history teacher managed to open it, uncovering the actual value inside.

"Mom! Mom! Look!" Danny ran to his mother, Sienna, who was on the first floor of Grandma's house, duct-taping boxes and guiding everyone, including Dad, Uncle Jerry, Aunt Silvia, and a few adult cousins, on what to do with everything they were packing.

Grandma had passed away and left Danny's mom and her siblings to clean up everything. The old woman hadn't prepared much because her death had been pretty unexpected, so Danny knew his mother was stressed. Fortunately, the entire family was helping out.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Danny wanted to be included and had found himself in the attic, helping by bringing down boxes and letting them sort through things. It was fun until his curiosity got the better of him, and his hands started opening his late grandmother's old boxes. A somewhat shiny metal object had caught his fancy.

His mother sighed, rising from her crouch and wiping sweat off her forehead as she stared at Danny curiously. "What is that, hon?"

"I don't know. It was in one of the boxes in the attic," Danny replied, twisting the strange metal tube he had discovered. At first, he thought it was a tiny telescope or something. But it wasn't. Still, Danny was strangely mesmerized by the different patterns in the metal.

"Oh, so you were snooping around Grandma's things?" Sienna chuckled, shaking her head.

"Oops!" he said, shrugging. "Sorry, but I think there's something inside. Do you know what it is and how to open it? It looks cool."

His mother frowned and grabbed the tube, examining the item for a second. She looked up just as Danny's uncle was coming back inside for more boxes.

"Jerry, do you know what this is?" she asked her brother.

Uncle Jerry was sweating bullets, so he grabbed his shirt and started flipping it as he walked toward Danny's mom. He only had to inspect the tube for a second. "Oh, I've seen this before," he commented.

"Where?" Sienna wondered, putting her hands on her waist.

"I saw Mom staring at it one day. Man, it was years ago. I think I was 15," Uncle Jerry continued, nodding to himself. "She was sitting on her bed and jumped when I called her."

"That's odd," Danny's mom frowned.

"Yeah, but I asked about it. She looked annoyed and told me it was nothing I needed to know about," he continued, handing the tube back to Sienna. "I sneaked in a few hours later, just because. Couldn't find it. Forgot about it after that."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Sienna pursed her lips.

"So, you don't know how to open it?" Danny asked.

"It opens?" Jerry asked, frowning.

"I think so," Danny responded, shaking it. There was a clear rattling sound. "There's definitely something inside."

Uncle Jerry shrugged. "Well, I don't know how to open it, little dude. But have fun. I don't want it."

"Mom?" the boy looked at her mother for confirmation.

"Sure, just be careful," Mom smiled and went back to work, twirling in place to inspect the room and start working again.

Uncle Jerry moved, too, leaning and grabbing another box to take outside to his pick-up truth.

All Grandma's furniture had already been packed and taken away because Sienna and her siblings were selling the house. So, Danny sat on the floor in the corner and started examining every nook and cranny of the tube.

He noticed some of the pieces on the surface. They moved back and forth and forward and backward. It was fascinating, but I couldn't figure out what it was.

"Danny, have you finished bringing down everything from the attic?" Danny's mother interrupted his reverie.

"Oops! Sorry, Mom. No," he jumped from the floor, placing the tube in his jeans pocket, and rushed to the attic. He had no time to focus on it again as they had to finish packing all of Grandma's things that day to place the house on the market.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

It was nighttime when Danny and his parents arrived home. The boy ran to his computer. A quick search online led him to a forum on antique and rare items. He took pictures of the metal tube and made a post, asking people if they knew what it was and how to open it.

He also uploaded the picture on his social media, but he didn't expect his friends to know anything. Still, it was worth a shot. For a second, Danny thought he might be able to find a tutorial on how to open it online, but he didn't know the name of this kind of item, so that made the search difficult.

The next day, the boy woke to a notification from the forum site. Someone had replied.

It's a puzzle brass tube. An online user said. He posted a link to a website that showed similar-looking tubes. It's kinda like the one in the Da Vinci Code. But it doesn't have the numbers.

Danny clicked on "Reply" and added another question.

But can you help me open it? I think there's something inside that belonged to my grandma. She just died, and I want to find out what this is.

The other user was fortunately online and responded quickly.

I'm sorry for your loss. But I don't think I could help unless I see it IRL. I also can't find anything similar online, but it makes sense since it belonged to your grandma and must've been made decades ago. Good luck solving it, though!

Danny sighed but grabbed the tube and started moving the surface pieces. "Wow," he marveled quietly. Inspiration hit, and Danny decided to fire up another question.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Do you think it could be worth anything?

Danny moved the pieces while waiting for an answer.

IDK. You need to get it appraised somewhere, like an antique store. Based on the pics, though, I wouldn't get my hopes up.

The boy pursed his lips, feeling a little disappointed. However, he still thought the puzzle tube was cool and wanted to open it. For the next few hours, Danny moved the pieces around, trying in vain to do something.

When nothing worked, he finally decided to leave his room. Sienna was in the living room, reviewing several papers strewn all over the coffee table and couch. Danny surmised that it must be related to his grandmother's passing.

She was nursing a cup of coffee and looking more stressed by the minute. Still, he decided to go ahead and ask what he wanted.

"Mom, do you think we could go into town and visit that antique shop?"

"Huh?" she looked up, her eyebrows furrowing. "Why?"

"I want to see if this thing is valuable. Maybe we could sell it. Or maybe the owner knows how to open it," Danny continued, shrugging.

His mother sighed heavily and stared at all the papers again.

"It's alright. Another time—"

"No, Danny," Sienna said. "I actually have some errands to run, so it's not a bad idea. But we'll have to do those first. Then, we go to the shop and see about that thing."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Awesome!"

"Go get dressed," she chuckled and stood from the couch to get ready herself.

***

In town, Danny accompanied his mother on all her errands, some of which required them to wait a while. Two hours later, she seemed to have even more documents to sort through. Glad I'm a kid and don't have to deal with that.

Then finally, it was time to visit the antique shop.

They opened the old-fashioned door, which made a bell ring to alert their entrance.

"Welcome!" the shop owner said, standing from the stool behind the counter. He was old, bushy-haired, and skinny. But his smile was friendly.

"Hello, sir," Danny's mom began. "We were wondering if you appraise old items here."

"Yes, of course," he nodded.

"Excellent," Sienna said, pushing Danny forward. "This is your thing. Ask what you need."

Danny squared his shoulders and marched up the counter, placing the puzzle tube on top. "I found this among my grandma's things, and I was wondering if it's worth anything," he stated after clearing his throat.

"Hmmm… let's see here." The man's brittle-looking hand grasped the tube while his other pushed his reading up. It didn't take long for him to put the item back on top of the counter, shaking his head. "I'm afraid it's not worth much."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Really?" Danny asked, disappointed. "It looks really old, and I think there's something inside."

"I don't know what's inside," the man started, pursing his lips. "But you asked about the item, which in and of itself isn't valuable at all. I haven't seen one like that in a while, but I believe it was a novelty item of the 50s or 60s. The only valuable part is that it seems to be brass, but I don't think it'll sell for much."

The boy frowned, thinking the man hadn't looked at the tube long enough to determine such a thing. "Maybe if you take a closer look—"

"Danny," his mother interrupted, touching his shoulder. "This man is an expert in these things, hon. If he says it's not worth much, it probably isn't."

"But if it's from the 50s…" Danny trailed off.

"Just because it's old doesn't mean it will be worth anything. However, its price is not what matters. This belonged to your grandmother. It's a memento. If you think it's special, then it has sentimental value," Sienna tried to explain as best she could.

Danny nodded thoughtfully. But he looked up at the man. "Do you know how to solve the puzzle?" he asked, hopeful.

"No, kid. I wouldn't know anything about that," the shop owner shook his head. "Sorry I wasn't more helpful."

"Oh, please, sir. You've been helpful," Sienna said, raising her hands. "Danny, let's go. We'll talk to your father tonight, and you two can search more on the internet to solve the puzzle."

He smiled, nodding. "OK," Danny told his mother and looked at the owner. "Thanks for your time, sir."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"You're welcome," the man smiled and waved them goodbye as Sienna and her son exited the shop.

Danny got his father, Franklin, to help search at home, and they started working on it. His dad didn't have much patience, so he gave up quickly.

"Nah, man. No way. This is like...something for smart chess players to solve," Franklin laughed. "I'm going to help your mother with dinner."

Danny laughed and continued investigating. He wasn't angry. It was just getting frustrating that no one seemed to be able to solve the puzzle. After a little search on the internet, he discovered that there were tens of different possibilities and movements, but only one would open the tube.

Therefore, the boy grabbed a piece of paper and started mapping out his movements, going back, and trying out others. He wrote what didn't work and sighed. I don't think I'll ever get this right.

"Danny! Dinner!" Sienna called him, and despite his increasing interest in the puzzle, the boy was glad for a break.

He stared at the tube for a few seconds and rattled it. Somewhere, sometime, someone had hidden something inside. Danny was determined to find out what it was.

***

A few days later, Danny had to bring something for a show-and-tell presentation for history class. Mr. Warner, their teacher, had encouraged them to find something important or special that belonged to their families.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Obviously, the boy couldn't think of anything better than the metal puzzle tube. He got so excited, making charts and drawings for his presentation the night before. Even his mother was proud.

During his presentation, he discussed finding it and what Uncle Jerry said.

"It's a mystery, one that I would like to solve. But I've been trying to open it since then," Danny explained to his history class, "and I still haven't figured it out. It's like a combination lock, but you must move the pieces precisely to open it."

Danny grabbed some papers he had brought, where he was recording the movements that already didn't work.

"I'm writing down everything I do with it," he continued, showing his class the drawings he did. "I read online that there are so many possibilities. So, it'll take me some time, but I'll do it someday."

Danny looked at Mr. Warner, who was smiling and nodding proudly at his students. But suddenly, someone piped up.

"So? What's so special?" a classmate asked in a mocking tone.

"Anderson," Mr. Warner warned, frowning. "This is Danny's show and tell. Don't interrupt him, especially not if you're going to be rude."

Danny saw Anderson grumble under his breath.

The boy shrugged. "Well, Anderson is kinda right. It doesn't seem to be special at all. It's not worth any money. My mom and I went to an antique shop and talked to the owner. He said it was a novelty item from the 50s or 60s. It's only worth its weight in brass. But I feel that whatever is inside could be pretty cool."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"You should've opened it before showing us," Anderson's friend, Marcus, added and laughed. The rest of the class snickered, too, but Danny shrugged again.

"I guess I should've. But I didn't have anything else interesting for the class," he chuckled. "Mom says her family never liked to keep much stuff. When someone dies, they sell, donate, and throw everything else out, so we don't have a lot of mementos like Mr. Warner wanted."

"No, Danny. This is wonderful, even if you haven't opened it yet," Mr. Warner said, rising from his desk. "This is exactly what I wanted, guys. Investigate something in your house, find where it came from, and show it to us. We can discover so much from what our ancestors — our family — kept, even if it's just a piece of paper. That information is what makes it valuable."

"How can something be valuable if it's not worth much?" Anderson asked. This time, his question seemed genuine.

Mr. Warner replied, "That's a good question, and I'm glad you asked it. You guys are old enough to understand that money is not everything. For example, your favorite poster on the wall may be worth ten bucks in money, but it's worth a lot more to you. Correct?"

"Yes, my Jonas Brothers poster is worth a million bucks!" a girl chimed in, and others agreed while some boy groaned.

"Exactly, Ava," their teacher pointed out. "In this case, Danny's grandmother's puzzle tube is worth a lot because it's a memory from her. Now that she's gone, Danny will always be able to remember her thanks to this mystery he discovered. Do you get it?"

"Yes!" the class replied.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Good job, Danny," Mr. Warner said and started clapping. The others clapped, too — some more enthusiastically than others — and Danny sat on his desk. Someone else was up next for show and tell, so he sat and listened to his friends' presentations.

Despite some exciting items, including LP records and old collections, Danny thought his puzzle tube was the most interesting of all. And evidently, Mr. Warner did, too.

The teacher asked the boy to stay back when the bell rang for recess.

"Danny, come here," he said, gesturing with his fingers for him to approach. "Let me take a look at the tube, and bring me your notes, too."

Danny's eyes widened in delight as he ran to his teacher's desk. Mr. Warner pulled on his reading glasses, reminding the boy of the antique shop owner. However, it was different this time because his history teacher was looking at the tube.

"Did you like my presentation, Mr. Warner?"

"Yes, I did, Danny. But I'm intrigued by this thing," Mr. Warner commented. "I also like solving puzzles, so I wanted to look closer."

His hands twisted it back and forth as his tongue came out to wet his lips occasionally. Mr. Warner asked about his notes, and Danny explained precisely how he recorded his moves.

"That's clever, Danny," Mr. Warner said. "Creating your own sort of language to understand how you're moving the pieces."

"Thanks," the boy responded, feeling ten feet tall.

Mr. Warner checked Danny's notes several times, moving things back and forth. The boy stared so intently that his eyes dried up. He was blinking rapidly when a sudden click came from the tube.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

The catch on the side was released.

"Oh my God! You solved it!" the boy exclaimed.

Mr. Warner laughed. "I guess I did. But really, you have already done most of the work. You've solved it soon. Let's see what's inside," he commented, tilting the tube.

A ring fell out, clanking against Mr. Warner's wooden desk. Both the boy and the teacher gasped. It was a huge rock that shone brightly due to the sun coming through the windows.

"Is that a... diamond ring?" Danny asked, breathless. His eyes were alight with shock and wonder.

"I think so," Mr. Warner said, whistling. "It's also pretty big. I think this family heirloom is worth more than you can imagine, Danny. But a word of advice: don't go to the antique shop owner with it. This needs to be appraised by a good jeweler first.

"OK," the boy nodded and watched as Mr. Warner tilted the tube toward him to see inside. "Wait, there's more, I think."

His fingers reached inside and unearthed a piece of paper. "Uh, it seems that we may get to solve your Grandma's mystery, or it could be a clue," the teacher added, grinning. "This just got more exciting."

"Wow!" Danny was awestruck as Mr. Warner licked his lips and unfolded the paper.

"Dear Marlena," the teacher began reading. "I assume that's your grandmother, right?"

"Hmm, I think so," Danny frowned for a second. "I just called her 'Grandma.'"

"Well, let's keep reading," Mr. Warner nodded.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Dear Marlena,

I know being drafted to war was not in our plans. I was hoping not to see my name on that television lottery, but it happened. I'm sorry about our fight. I'm sorry I made you cry, but I can't do anything now. All I can promise is that I carry you in my heart and will fight to stay alive so I can return soon.

My soul is yours forever. To show you I'm serious, here's the ring I planned to use for my proposal. It has been in my family since World War I. When I come back, I'll ask you to marry me properly. You will be surrounded by the daisies and piano music and magic on that special day. Our wedding will be even better.

Our lives will rival that happiness as we welcome children and make a house full of love. Our families will get together for the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and your favorite, Halloween. I will provide all that for you if you promise not to forget me during this time.

Sincerely yours,

John.

"Was John your grandfather?" Mr. Warner asked Danny when he finished the letter.

"No!" the boy responded, remembering. "We called him Grandpa Charlie."

"Hmm," Mr. Warner pursed his lips. "Well, John is a fairly common name. I don't suppose we'll find out what happened. But this is history, my boy. And now, you have a ring from World War I."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Danny grinned widely and asked Mr. Warner to show him how to open the puzzle. They did it several times, wasting his recess time, but the boy didn't mind.

When the other kids came back to class, Danny went to the front and addressed them. "Guys, my show and tell was incomplete. We just figured out what was inside!"

He read everyone the letter and showed them the ring. The girls were particularly interested in it, but Danny didn't want to pass it around in case it got damaged. He didn't know anything about diamond strength.

On the other hand, the boys told him, "You're rich!" Danny frowned at them, as he now wasn't sure he wanted to sell anything. The puzzle in Grandma's attic had gotten more interesting. He couldn't just pawn it off.

***

At home, Sienna and Franklin were shocked after reading the letter and seeing the considerable rock Danny showed them.

Danny's dad turned to his wife. "Your father told me he and Marlena got together almost right after high school," he said almost accusingly.

Sienna was rubbing her ears as she frowned at the letter. "That's what I always thought, too," she sighed, shaking her head. "I think now that my mother kept a lot of secrets. I remember Dad telling me he didn't volunteer for the war because of his bummed knee. He was injured during football practice."

"So, this guy went to war and possibly died," Franklin speculated, "and your mother went back to Charlie. Is there anyone we can ask about this situation?"

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Why?" Sienna asked him, squinting her eyes.

"It's just…" he began but stopped, looking briefly at Danny.

"What?" the boy asked.

"Franklin, it's fine," Sienna said, snapping her fingers impatiently. "Tell me what you think."

Danny's father cleared his throat. "It's just… you know how Marlena and Charlie married three years after Jerry was born…."

"No…" Sienna breathed, closing her eyes.

"What?!" Danny asked again, but his parents ignored him.

"I always thought…maybe…" Franklin continued, his shoulders raising. "I don't know. I just saw pictures around your mom's house and thought…he doesn't look like you or your sister. It's not something overly obvious. But then, he doesn't look like your dad either."

Danny's eyes widened as he finally understood his father's implication. "Uncle Jerry is not my uncle??" he asked, surprised.

"Danny!" Sienna snapped angrily. "Of course, he's your uncle. I mean…even if your father says true, he'd still be your uncle because he would be our half-brother…."

Danny saw his mother lowering her head into her hands and rushed to hug her.

"I'm sorry, darling," Franklin said, comforting his wife in his arms. "It's just guesswork. I might be wrong. Let's just forget about it and talk about this ring. We could sell it."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

The boy raised his head. "Sell it? No, but it's mine. I found it."

"Danny, that's not —"

"No one is doing anything with that ring," Sienna's head snapped, and she rose from the couch. "I'm calling Aunt Carol. She's the only one who may know anything at this point."

"Carol? Your mother and her sister didn't speak for over 40 years," Franklin frowned, confused.

"Yeah," Sienna nodded in a "duh" gesture. "Maybe this John is the reason why."

"Oh," her husband said. He and Danny sat, watching as Sienna picked up her phone and made a call. She started pacing the living room while waiting for her aunt to answer.

Danny had never met Aunt Carol and figured that it must be related to what his father said about an estrangement between her and Grandma.

"Hello, Auntie," his mother finally spoke up. One hand went to the edge of her shirt and started fiddling with it as she explained why she was calling. "We found this note on something belonging to my mother. We were wondering if you knew about John."

Sienna got quiet as her aunt responded. Father and son couldn't hear a single word on the other line but frowned when she pulled the phone away from her ear. "She hung up," Danny's mom breathed.

"Why?" his father asked, leaning forward on the couch.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"She said, 'Don't talk to me about John. Ever.' And just ended the call," she clarified. "We have to call Jerry and Silvia."

"Are you sure? Honey, I'm probably wrong about this thing. Maybe we should keep it between ourselves," Franklin stood, shaking his head.

"They need to know about that ring and the letter, too," Sienna said, pointing to the stuff on the coffee table.

"Why?" his father asked. "It belongs to Danny anyway. Let's just leave this alone. Danny will put those things back in the tube, and it'll remain our secret."

"It feels wrong to do that," his mother retorted. "That ring is huge. It's gotta be worth thousands of dollars."

"So? They don't know it exists. Marlena didn't want anyone to know about it," Franklin continued, pausing for a second as a new thought popped into his head. "At the very least, let's just wait. Let us not implode your brother's life until we find out more."

"OK," she breathed, clutching her chest. Danny saw his father placing his arms around her, and she spoke into his chest. "I can't believe this might be happening. My mother was more mysterious than I ever thought."

"Danny, go put those things in your room," he told him, and the boy acted quickly. After placing them on his bedside table drawer, Danny sat and thought about his father's speculation. He thought about Aunt Carol's reaction, which was odd, too, although he had no idea what she was like.

After dinner, he pulled his father aside and asked, "Does Aunt Carol live far?"

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"No," his dad shook his head, explaining where she lived. "Your mother and her siblings apparently visited her when they were younger, but your grandma and her didn't talk. It got worse when your grandpa Charlie died. I have no idea why."

"Weird."

"Yeah," he agreed but suddenly frowned. "Wait. Danny, you're not planning on visiting her. Seriously. Enough. Let's put this subject to rest. We don't want anything rocking the family while your grandma just died. Please."

"OK, Dad," Danny nodded, raising his hands.

"I mean it," Franklin warned.

"I know."

***

Yeah, like I'm not gonna go. Danny rolled his eyes as he got on his bike the next day. He had told his parents he was playing basketball with his buddies at the nearby park. Instead, he pedaled into town, finding the best course to another suburban area where his Aunt Carol should live.

Unfortunately, he reached the street and realized his dad never told him the house number. So, Danny shrugged, stopped at the first house, and knocked. A woman holding a crying baby opened it. "Oh, what are you selling, sweetie?" she asked.

"I'm sorry. Nothing," he said. "I'm looking for my aunt's house. Do you know if an old woman named Carol lives nearby? Technically, she's my mom's aunt."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Oh, sure. Carol is over there. The blue house with the white flowers," the woman replied, pointing to a tiny home on the other side.

"Thank you!" he said, running to his bike.

An old woman who looked exactly like Grandma answered the door. She stared down at him from her dark-rimmed glass and said, "You look like Sienna."

"I'm Danny, her son!" the boy announced proudly.

"I guess I should've expected you after your mother's call yesterday," Aunt Carol said gruffly, inviting him inside. "Come on. You might as well taste these cookies. I think I'm losing my touch."

Danny entered and closed the door behind him. He followed her eagerly to the kitchen, where she started serving cookies from a baking dish onto a plate.

"Oh, chocolate chip," he commented, licking his lips.

"Yes, the best chocolate chips in town," Aunt Carol nodded soundly. "They used to be my grandmother's recipe. But I perfected her recipe years ago. Something is off, though. Come, sit down and taste."

Danny grabbed one and munched on it. "Yummy!"

Aunt Carol was tasting her cookies, shaking her head. "You never tried my cookies before, so, you have nothing to compare them to. But they used to be better."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Maybe it's the ingredients."

"What?"

"Dad complained the other day about our butter tasting different. He hated it although it's the same brand he has bought for years," Danny explained, grabbing another cookie and watching Aunt Carol reaching for the milk in the fridge.

"Really? That's interesting. I always buy the same stuff, too," she frowned.

"Yeah, Dad called the corporate offices. He said they had to change the recipe for… some reason… I don't remember," the boy continued. "Dad yelled at them. Then, he started buying another brand. It tastes the same to me."

"I see," Aunt Carol sat back down and dunked a cookie in her milk glass. "OK, well. Enough chit-chat, kid. What the hell is going on? Why would your mother even ask about John."

Danny explained what happened as best he could, adding all about discovering the tube, how Grandma told Uncle Jerry not to touch it, his history teacher's puzzle-solving, etc.

"After reading the letter, my mom was surprised, but my dad started speculating, and she got worried…" he trailed off.

"Speculating what?"

"Dad thinks Uncle Jerry is not Grandma Charlie's son," Danny stated, watching for the old woman's reaction.

Aunt Carol sat back on her chair and finished her glass of milk. "I never met your father," she muttered.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"His name is Franklin."

She nodded again. Her head tilted toward the kitchen window, and her eyes looked far away. To Danny, the old woman seemed to be debating whether to tell him anything.

"Kid, this is not something I wanted to discuss with a child. It's a little too grown-up. It's serious," Aunt Carol started. "And now that my sister is dead, perhaps it's better that this remains a secret."

"So, it's true?" Danny asked, ignoring the rest of the words. "Uncle Jerry was John's son."

She pursed her lips. "Do you want a ride back home?"

"No! I want to know what happened!"

"I will not tell you unless your parents let me," Aunt Carol stated, standing up. "So, I can take you back to your house and talk to them directly. You can be with us if they allow it."

"OK! Let's go," the boy stood.

He put his bike in Aunt Carol's car's trunk, and they set off. He guided her towards his house, and his mother was out the door as soon as the old woman pulled up the driveway.

"Aunt Carol!" Sienna exclaimed. "Danny! What did you do?!"

"I went to find Aunt Carol," he answered defiantly. "She's going to tell us the truth. But Dad is right."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"I didn't say anything," the old woman shook her head, walking to the porch. "He assumed."

"What?" Danny asked, outraged.

"I told him that I would not answer his questions without your approval," Aunt Carol continued, ignoring him.

"Should I call Jerry?" she asked as Franklin came out of the garbage, wiping his hands from car grease.

"Do you think he's ready for this story?" the old woman asked seriously.

Franklin understood the situation without asking for clarification. He gave Danny a stern look as they went inside.

"Well, maybe we should hear the story first," his dad said. "Just in case it's nothing. No need to rock Jerry's world."

"Is Danny allowed to listen?" Aunt Carol asked as they sat in the living room.

"Well…," his mother said.

"He found the letter and the ring," Franklin said. "And you know he won't rest until he finds out. He's just like you, woman."

Sienna chuckled. "Alright."

Danny didn't gloat. He plopped on the floor before the coffee table and looked at Aunt Carol expectantly.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"I don't know how much you know about Marlena, but she was popular among boys. She didn't date, though. Until John transferred to our school during her sophomore year," Aunt Carol began. "He was a junior. I was a freshman."

Oh, this is a love story, Danny thought, leaning on the coffee table eagerly.

"They fell hard for each other," she continued. "The most popular couple in our school. Everyone knew they would get married. I was so excited for her, too. We started buying wedding magazines when she was in her senior year. John had promised to propose after her graduation."

"And he was drafted," Franklin said, nodding. Sienna hushed him.

"It's true. He was drafted. It was devastating. We all cried, including our mother, who was the biggest hard-ass you could've ever met," Aunt Carol confirmed. "John asked her to wait for him. They would be back and together. But Marlena was horrified by war and hated that he had to go by force. She asked him to run away to Mexico to avoid that. But John said no."

Danny looked at his mother, who had grabbed his father's hand tightly.

"So, he left," Aunt Carol said. "I did my best to cheer her up. It was all I could do. Then, she started puking, and our mother knew what was happening. That was a big fight."

"Oh, God," Sienna breathed, clutching her neckline nervously.

"I guess I should mention that I had a boyfriend, too," the old woman continued. "You may be able to guess where this is going."

"No…" his father groaned, making Danny frown.

"What? No. Who was your boyfriend?" the boy asked innocently.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Oh, child," Aunt Carol sighed. "Charlie was my boyfriend."

A deafening silence took over the room, except for the sound of Danny's jaw popping open in understanding.

"Yes," she started talking again. "Our mom was so angry, but she told Marlena to get rid of it because they didn't know if John would return from the war. Back then, things weren't so open with abortion. It was a lot harder, but there were still ways. Obviously, my sister refused. I supported her decision. That time broke our relationship with our mother permanently."

"What happened with Grandpa Charlie?" Danny interrupted.

"Patience, boy. I'm finishing the story," Aunt Carol chided. "I supported my sister so much during her pregnancy that Charlie was around her often, too, and…he fell for her. It was…the biggest betrayal of my life."

No one had anything to say.

"But it's been so long," Aunt Carol mumbled, getting teary-eyed. "Now that Marlena is gone, I wish I had forgiven her earlier."

"How could my mother just get with him?" Sienna wondered as her husband tightened his hand on hers.

"She said she fell, too, but I knew the truth," Aunt Carol replied. "She didn't want to raise a child without a father already. People in town were already talking. So, Marlena agreed to say it was Charlie's child. They told everyone they married at City Hall right before Jerry was born."

"And you?" Danny asked, full of sympathy.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"I was left to the side," she shrugged. "We had a fight, and all she said was, 'You wouldn't understand.' I hated her from then and didn't speak to her again. I'm glad you kids came over years ago. My life became very lonely after that. I never got over Charlie. I didn't love anyone else… or I was scared to."

"Wait," Franklin raised one hand. "They didn't get married until Jerry was around three years old."

Aunt Carol didn't say much for a while. "I don't know the exact truth, so I don't know what she was thinking, but… John's parents got a letter from the army confirming his death. Two months later, Marlena and Charlie were married," she finished.

Danny turned to his mother, who had started opening sobbing loudly. "I'm so sorry, Aunt Carol," she wailed between cries.

For the first time since he found the tube, Danny thought that discovering new information wasn't a good thing.

Just a minute later, Aunt Carol heaved and stood from the couch. "Well, the truth is out there. You do with it what you will," the old woman began.

"You don't want Jerry to know?" Franklin asked as she walked to the front door.

"Frankly, I don't care anymore. It's up to you," she sighed and nodded at Danny's parents before turning to the boy. "You can come again for cookies if you want."

With that, the old woman left.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Danny," Sienna said, wiping her tears and grabbing his shoulders to lift off the floor. "Not a word of this to anyone. We're not telling your uncle about this. Hide that tube and letter and ring. It's yours if you want to use it later. But the rest of the family doesn't need to know.

"Really?" he asked, looking to his father, who only nodded.

"Yes!" she said, desperation dripping in her words. "Please!"

"OK, Mom."

His mother went back to openly sobbing, and Danny walked woodenly to his room. The tube was still in his drawer. But he grabbed it, made sure it was shut tightly, and took it to his attic. He placed it in a box full of old yellowing blankets.

He returned to his room, curled up on his bed, and shed one tear for John, who never got to propose. And one for Aunt Carol…who was all alone while Grandma Marlena and Grandpa Charlie had had a big family and laughed often.

It wasn't a love story…not for everyone anyway…

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