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The Keys of Earnest Cable
Earnest Cable sat up in his bed, aching and shivering. The lack of heat in his home made his very bones sick, and coddled nothing but disease. He swung out his legs slowly, painfully, and stepped out onto the freezing floor. He felt his age in his back, his knees; everywhere. But still, he smiled to himself.
Making his way to the kitchen, he was sure to check up on his collection of keys, though he doubted he could do much about a missing one or two. Though, what did it matter? No one knew them like he did; no one could use them like he used them. The only good it would do to steal those old keys would be to give Earnest a good amount of sorrow, and nobody would want that.
He poured out his cereal, ate it quietly in his dining room. His tummy filled up quickly, and he couldn’t help but recall those days of his youth when he could smile with his own teeth, and eat till his belt tightened. That was a time when the keys were new, and the words they held still echoed in the air. He pulled out the key hanging around his neck, and held it to his ear.
“I love you, Earnest…”
A tear ran down his wrinkled cheek. Every time he heard it, it brought back memories of her, of them together.
He silently mouthed the words back, using Emilie in place of Earnest.
Looking around, he hastily replaced the gift his wife had given him; the first key.
It had all begun with just one, Earnest remembered, on the night of their 3rd anniversary. It was a present, and a revelation.
Emilie had this beautiful talent, she could whisper her words into any item, and it would hold it for a very long time. A very long time, that is, unless she used keys. Those seemed to last forever.
Earnest had been amazed. He went out and bought 12 keys the next day. 12 Became 15, and 15 became 508. It all escalated until the day of her death, that fateful morning, when she had given up her gift to Earnest and left him with the keys she’d made.
They were hidden all over the house. A post-it-note told all, speaking in gigglies and coughs, that they had to be rescued from vents and from beneath beds.
Earnest only ever found 507.
So it was today, he decided, today. He would finally find the last key.
He decided that everyday, desperately hoping he wouldn’t- you know- before-
He wouldn’t allow a single key to be left behind when he passed. He wanted them all buried with him next to Emilie.
Secretly, he wanted to leave that last key behind. To stop looking and say it was alright to not have 508 keys with him. It possessed the instructions for gaining that special ability. None of the other keys did, so Earnest knew this was the one. But he kept on searching, looking inside and out, waiting for a slightly troubling piece of metal to pop out into the open.
It was during one of these searches that his neighbour Shannon walked up with her little dog, and shook his hand politely.
“Find it yet?” she asked with her southern drawl. She of course had no idea what ‘it’ was, but she knew very well that her friend was in search of something. Everyone knew.
“Well I hope you find it!” she began walking away as Earnest nodded, but he suddenly fell. He gasped and held his chest, sputtering and wincing…
In out faded lights and hands, all pumping and moving so fast Earnest couldn’t keep up…
Suddenly a glint of silver peeked out from underneath a yard chair, just far enough in to go unnoticed by even the most desperate mind…
Then he was gone, and the last key remained.