HIDING THE MAPSTICK IN THE TREASURE ROOM
Illustration by Carlos Uribe
Junior looked his watch. “I’ve only a few minutes, and then we’ve got to get you and the mapstick safely to the church.”
“But I still don’t understand,” Abby insisted. “How are we going to deal with dreamstone? We can’t make it public! That will only provoke greed, misunderstanding, fortune hunting…”
“Of course,” Junior interrupted. “None of us know how to handle this problem, except the way our ancestors have handled it for countless years. One of your main gifts – you and your friends in Middletown, -- has been to distract these fortune hunters, playing David to their Goliath. You and your friends have to continue on that path. It’s a crucial part of the overall plan.” Abby frowned and looked frustrated. “But… you want this new model, the Good Road, to be influential around the globe. This sounds like a plan to save the world! Isn’t that absurdly far-fetched, even grandiose? We’re just a bunch of kids.”
“Just remember one thing,” said Junior. “We are not alone. There are many doing the same thing, quietly and invisibly building the Good Road, hoping to link up with others before they get stomped out. You’re job is to reach out to them.”
“And how do I do that?” Abby muttered.
“Let’s say you start with the church activities. Save Reverend Tuck from defeat. Go to Evansville. Work with Sara and her political group. Help the band to expand their audience. And help Amy Zhi in secret. Link up with her professor and the climate change panel. All that is possible for you and your friends… Look, we don’t know what the ultimate fate of dreamstone will be, or should be. All we can do now is fulfill our responsibility as well as we can. As the Keeper of the Mapstick, your role will change. You’ll have to take it step by step. But right now we’ve got to head up Cemetery Lane to the church, where you will ask Tuck for a place to hide the mapstick. And I’m late for my meeting with our new agricultural cooperative.”
They walked out into the front display area of the garden center. Alison yelled from behind the counter, “Chi Chi is loading flats and pots of young plants into the van for Abby. He’s going to drive you.” They stepped out into the parking lot, where Chi Chi was waiting for them. He took the mapstick and carefully slid it behind the front seats. In a moment they were on their way.
Abby stared at the cargo behind her, where literally hundreds of plants were laid out, most in small cubicles, 24 per tray, and a few in large pots, the upper leaves against the roof of the van. Pulling up to the churchyard, Chi Chi said, “Unload the plants first, just leave them inside the gate on the grass.” They worked fast.
“Now,” Chi Chi whispered, “take that in the side door and find Tuck.” He was pointing at the mapstick. “And before we attract more attention, let’s go, Junior, we’re late.”
Abby had hardly ever seen Chi Chi so abrupt, but she had no time to think. She calmly walked her bundle of tools hiding the mapstick up the churchyard path and knocked on the side door. She knocked again, and again, and again, struggling not to look at the stalkers on the sidewalk behind her. Then she saw Tuck come out of the abandoned school building and up the path. “I hope you haven’t waited long,” he said, and turned a key in the door. “Why are you carrying all those tools? You look awfully serious.”
“I am serious,” returned Abby. “These tools conceal… an heirloom, given to me by my father. I need to keep it in the safest place you can think of.”
Tuck watched her expression carefully, and led her down the stairs to the large meeting room, now silent and empty. “I see you’re anxious about something. What’s wrong with putting it in your cottage?”
“You know these men across the street watch night and day. What will stop them from breaking into my cottage whenever I’m not there?”
“Is this something they would want?”
“I have reason to think so…” Abby whispered, “though I’m not sure what this thing is. But I am sure that the loss of it would be a catastrophe for me and those who care for me.”
“That serious…” muttered Tuck. “Wait here.” He headed up the stairs and returned moments later. They walked down a narrow stairway to a sub-basement Abby had never seen before. Behind old broken furniture, wooden chests, and other clutter, they arrived at a metal door. He took from his pocket a silver key. The long metal prong sprouted four evenly spaced wings, full of indentations and curves. He opened the door and flipped on a light. Abby gazed at a roomful of amazing objects. There were carved tables, ancient vestments and robes, statues, jeweled rings and necklaces, crosses on tall staffs, a huge chest of drawers, and two paintings framed in gold. One portrayed a woman in a crimson robe with arms outstretched, standing on a crescent moon. Another presented a crowned woman with a staff and wings, enthroned amidst a circle of angels. Her skin and dress were deep red.
“See that low table?” Tuck said. “Set it there, back near the wall.” Abby untied the tools and lifted the mapstick free of it’s wrapping. She realized that it was the first time she had ever held it alone, unconcealed. ‘How could it possibly be so light?” she wondered, and placed it on the table.