Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical Works
My name is Xavier. I make my livelihood recovering the lost and hidden things that most of humanity is too lazy and ignorant to snatch up. While the burdens of daily living prevent most of humanity from chasing their dreams, I embrace the buried.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t stand in judgment. On the contrary, I’m grateful for the reticent nature of society. If it wasn’t for the neglected treasures of the world, I would probably be a poor man.
I do acknowledge that my nomadic lifestyle makes relationships somewhat challenging. I barely deserve to call my house in New York City a home. I’m only there a handful of days every year. My home is the sea, the forest, the desert, the jungles.
My most recent excursion took me to the ancient land of Greece. After a successful recovery mission in Italy, I jaunted on over to a country where I always manage to find some adventure. I was only been there a week when I was told of a local treasure.
“Xavier, you must go to the island. It’s just down the coast from here. Ever since I was a girl, I heard the rumors. They say it’s hidden in the walls of the house.”
There are always legends circulating among my fellow treasure hunters. Stories of riches unspeakable. But this particular treasure was one I’d not heard of before. I was lucky enough to learn it from a woman who–oh, how can I put it? We’ll call her a “woman whose establishment I frequent during my travels abroad.” Born on the little island to the south, she came to work in Athens several years ago.
According to my lady friend (Theodosia is her name), a treasure trove was concealed inside the actual framework of one of the island’s oldest dwellings. The man who built it had died, passed it on to his son, who had followed suit and given it to his son. Generations later and the news finally came: the family was willing to part with it. This was the moment local villagers had been waiting for.
“See you again?” The next morning, I rose early and thanked my lady friend for her hospitality. She pretended to miss me as I headed to the waterfront. I knew she’d only miss my money.
Down at the docks, it was fairly easy to find a fisherman. I’m always willing to pay a little extra in order to move quickly.
“Mysteri’o Nisi’?” The jovial man nodded. While my Greek was not good, it was sufficient. He knew this place, this Mystery Island.
Grinning, the fisherman accepted my coins and by high noon delivered me to a paradise so simple and beautiful that as we reached the shore, I considered how I might extend my time there. And why not? There was no one waiting for me back in America.
After disembarking, I easily found the island’s solitary inn and devoured a plate of local food. I failed miserably to extract any information about the treasure from the innkeeper, a short, round man who spoke no English. His food was worth the language barrier.
I spent the afternoon ambling through the quiet streets. I admired the blue domes of the whitewashed homes, the brilliant reds and yellows of the flowering window boxes. Yes, I would be extending my stay here.
When I arrived at the property in question, it crossed my mind that Theodosia had enjoyed a bit of fun with me. To be sure, there was nothing special about the old place. No columns or statues, no extravagant pools or trickling fountains. In fact, the quaint structure could use some polish. As long as there was treasure, the simplicity of the structure made no difference to me. My interest was beyond what could be seen from the outside.
“Excuse me. Auction? The house?” I walked back in to town, and with broken words and a rugged drawing, I managed to learn from a teenage boy that the house was, indeed, being auctioned off at high noon the following day.
Relieved that Theodosia had not sent me on a monkey chase, I chose to spend the rest of the day swimming. Diving into the clear blue water. I was reminded me of a painting I’d seen at a museum in France. Maybe I would go there next.
The next day, I arrived early at the auction. I’m religious about scouting out the competition. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a generally small crowd had turned out for the event. As always, there were plenty of snoopy onlookers, but the number of bidders with actual money in their pockets was relatively low. Several bidders played a hard game, but since I was willing to part with a hefty sum, my success was no surprise.
“Success!” declared the auctioneer in Greek. I was the lucky one.
Although I had won the house, I would not receive the keys until the subsequent morning. You might be able to tell, however, that I’m not known for abiding by rules. The property was mine. Paid in full. I would simply wait until the villagers had gone to sleep before sneaking my way into the house.
Once darkness descended upon the little village, I made the short walk to the property. Under the canopy of the stars, I breathed in the aromatic smell of the sea and continued to contemplate the possibility of a longer stay on the island. I’d worked hard for a long time, jumping trains, wading through rivers, sleeping outdoors. A vacation was in order.
In my twenty-eight years I had cracked hundreds of windows and popped many locked doors. The old house would be no match for my skills. Fully prepared to break in, I discovered that the back door was unlocked and quickly slipped inside.
The scent of smoke instantly alerted my senses, and without consideration for my safety, I rushed towards the smell. My treasure was inside.
“Good evening, Mr. Altes.”
Bursting into the main sitting room, I breathed a sigh of relief. A woman was sitting on the floor in front of a small hearth. Her black hair held hints of silver. She appeared comfortable, like she belonged on the island, but her clothing was tailored. Not something she had purchased here.
“You’re an American?” I asked. She spoke in perfect English.
“No. But I’ve spent the last twenty years studying. I’ve done well, no?”
“Speak better English than me,” I muttered and sank down next to her. There was no furniture in sight.
“I saw you at the auction today,” she said. “You were quite eager to buy my property.”
“Can’t pass up a good deal when I see one.”
“I could have you arrested, Mr. Altes. This is my property until tomorrow.”
Her face was so stoic that I wondered if I might need to pass a bribe to local law enforcement. Surely a few drachmas would make the incident go away. I was surprised when she burst out laughing.
“Mr. Altes, you should have seen your face just now.” She was pleased with herself.
“Okay, you got me. Very funny, Mrs.–?”
“Mrs. Simpson,” she said, extending her hand. “I know. Not very Greek. My husband is American. I haven’t lived in this house since 1874, can you imagine? I came back to sell the house. Now that my work here is done, I can return to my family.” As she spoke she rubbed her hand across the floor, each square inch holding a memory. “I suppose I’m just here to say goodbye,” she softly added.
We sat in front of the fire for some time. She told me colorful stories of growing up on the island, of her father’s life as a fisherman, about her progressive husband and their life abroad. Of how she had met Teddy Roosevelt before he was president and had afternoon tea with Mark Twain. All the while, I tried my best to casually inspect the walls, the ceiling, the floor, planning my best method of attack for tomorrow’s search.
“Is there a Mrs. Altes?” she asked and poked at the fire.
“My lifestyle isn’t very well suited for a family,” I admitted.
“Not any more,” I said and shifted uncomfortably.
“You must get lonely.”
“I keep busy.”
“So you’ve come to try your hand at the illusive treasure hunt.” I suppose I was relieved when Mrs. Simpson finally broached the subject.
“That’s what I do. Find things others can’t.
Mrs. Simpson looked up from the fire. Her dark brown eyes examined me. She was old enough to be my mother, but she had a way about her that made it seem like she was still a girl.
“I know a thing or two about treasure myself, Mr. Altes. I know the rumors that the villagers tell about the house, of the walls that hold unfathomable riches.”
I clenched my jaw. I had wasted my money. If there was treasure, Mrs. Simpson would have discovered it by now.
“Mr. Altes, every time I entered this house, I found riches beyond description. But that was another time, I suppose.”
“So you mean it’s gone?” I tried to contain the anger. I had paid more than five times what the house was worth.
“Look around, Mr. Altes. Do you see anything here?”
“All the furniture’s gone.”
“But do you see what is missing? The very things that make a house a home have come and gone. My father and mother have passed, my siblings are scattered. There is no more treasure to be had.”
“So there never was any treasure in the first place?”
“Money, no. Treasure, yes. The kind I hope you find one day, Mr. Altes.”
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also. The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:19-24 (ASV)
Written by Heidi Sadler, Inspired by Matthew 6, © 2016, Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved.
Additional Resources: Photography of Fred Boissonnas
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