Treasures in Heaven
Treasures in Heaven
By Linda Barrett
As dawn sneaked furtively above the South Philadelphia skyline, two huge, burly figures tread carefully through the Kensington neighborhood, pick axes slung over their shoulders. Their bright orange prison jumpsuits seemed muted under the row home's shadows. Crossing the street, they hurried under the deep brown shadows towards an abandoned row home. The crew cut haired man named Cain was the first to reach the curb. He turned to his dread-locked brother and gestured for him to follow him up the row home's steps.
The dread-locked man called Abel yelled as he tripped over a stone in the road but Cain hissed through clenched teeth for him to be silent. Together, they flanked their burly bodies against both sides of the door. Cain nodded to Abel. Slowly unshouldering their axes, they swung their weapons all the way back.
The door's broken glass shattered the early morning's silence. Hacking their way through the door until it was nothing but splintered wood, the two men hurried into the house and silence fell again.
Standing in the pitch dark living room, the two men looked at each other. Cain, eyed Abel.
"Where'd you think Mama left her treasure?" he whispered to Abel.
"Seek and ye shall find," Abel replied.
"Cut it out!" Cain muttered, shaking his pick ax e in a threatening manner. He searched the room's deep shadows. "We gotta find that treasure before Pavel gets us!"
Abel swung back his ax e. He aimed it towards the wall facing him.
"Seek, Brother Cain," Abel mock reverently sang. "And ye shall find!"
The ax e bounced off of Cain's head, causing him to fall face down onto the floor. His descending body caused the house to shudder to its foundations. Abel looked down at his prone brother.
"Forgive me brother, for I have sinned!" Abel said to Cain's orange buttocks.
Cain crawled to his feet and glared at his brother.
"Shut up!" he roared at Abel. "Quit messin' around and start hacking! Mamma left that treasure to us in case we needed it! You wanna find out what that Russian mobster Pavel will do to us if we don't give him his 30 pieces of silver?"
"He'll crucify us?" Abel scratched his dread-locked scalp.
Cain made a face. Whining, he smacked his hands to his ruddy, round cheeks.
"Goddammit!" Cain shouted, "Start chopping this house down! We didn't get out of prison for this shit! Pavel'll do worse! Russian mobsters are bat shit crazy!",
"Maybe we can rob my boss, Peter!"
"Rob Peter to pay Pavel?" Cain whined, lifting up his pick ax e again. "We just got out of prison, idiot!"
"He'll be at the Shore!" Abel laughed. "His house is just a few blocks down the street!"
"Cops're lookin' for us everywhere!" Cain pressed his gnarled face up to him. "They see our jumpsuits, we're back in again! We're on the news an' on Facebook an' on alla th' whole world! If we didn't get here in the thick of night, we'd face Graterford again!" He went back to preparing to hack up the other wall. Swinging his ax e backwards, he readied himself.
The pickax e's pointy tip tapped Abel on the top of his head. Its ringing sound echoed within the dark house. Abel howled.
"You hit me!" he said, rubbing the dome of his dread-locked head.
Cain's ax e smashed through the wall, creating a medium sized hole.
"Oh," he groaned, "Turn the other cheek."
Abel turned and swung his pick ax e to descend it upon Cain's head. Another ringing sound tolled all the way up to the house's ceiling.
"WHY'D YOU DO THAT FOR, IDIOT?" Cain roared, rubbing his pale, blond noggin.
"An eye for an eye!" Abel chuckled.
Cain pointed a finger at him.
"Out of the jaw bone of an ass!" he growled. "Let's get to that treasure!"
After hacking and hacking, the two convicts stood in the middle of a chaos of plaster and rubble. They resembled a pair of huge powdered sugar donuts. Abel broke out into a coughing fit. Cain smacked him on the side of the head.
"Cut it out, idiot!" he said. Glancing around with an assiduous squint, he thought for a moment.
"Where would Mama leave her treasure?" he asked Abel.
"In her Bible?" Abel blinked his eyes.
"Follow me!" Cain gestured to his brother.
"The blind leading the blind!" Abel said as they ascended the creaking stairs.
Their boot clad feet stumbled around the second floor as they smashed through all the walls. Abel started pounding on the floor after Cain and he rolled up the rug, tossing it out onto the backyard. Papers scattered all over the place like frantic doves, trying to escape from the two men's blundering clutches. They knocked each other over, causing furniture to land onto the floor, shaking the small row home's confines. Abel stared up at the picture of Jesus who kneel ed before a cloudy sky.
"Maybe we should've prayed about this before we escaped from Graterford?" Abel said.
"God helps those who help themselves!" Cain grunted as he wrapped his tattooed arms around the width of their late mother's bureau. "Gimme a hand with this, brother of mine!"
"Maybe we shoulda gone to th' prison chaplain about this!" Abel turned to Cain.
"Shuddup, stupid! Push back this thing!"
Abel dropped the pick ax e onto the floor. He came behind his brother, wrapping his muscular arms around Cain's torso.
"It's always good to come alongside a brother!" he said in philosophical tones.
"Shuddup an' PULL!" Cain roared.
Falling backwards, they brought the massive bureau down on top of them. The bureau's mirror fell across the wide, Queen sized bed, shattering into a thousand pieces onto the mattress. A long silence followed the destruction.
Roaring into action, Cain wriggled from under it. He grabbed Abel by a dreadlocks and dragged him out from underneath it. Abel wailed. The two convicts swayed to their feet.
Cain slapped Abel across the face.
"You do that shit inna shower at Graterford with that bitch, Milo. NOT YOUR GODDAMN BROTHER!"
"It's just the Devil made me do it!" he whined.
"We gotta find that damn treasure. Mama had it hidden around here someplace!" Cain grunted. "Let's get this goddamn bureau up!"
When they finally righted up the bureau, they started pulling out the drawers. The late Mrs. Eden's bedroom resembled the aftermath of a hurricane which tore through a Wal-Mart women's clothing section. When the last drawer flew out, Cain pulled out a leather bound book with golden letters embossed onto its cover. He emitted a deep throated chuckle.
He tossed it to a pile of tossed about women's clothing standing in the middle of the bedroom.
"Figure out what this is!" he laughed.
A pair of silken women's panties slid off of the mountain of female garb, revealing Abel's disoriented face. He looked down at the book on the floor.
"That's Mama's Bible!" Abel said.
"Well, read it!" Cain gestured to him.
"Why?" Abel asked.
"It might be her treasure map!" he hollered.
"Why don't you read it?" Abel tossed it to him in football fashion.
"'Cause I can't!" Cain threw it back to him in the same manner.
"I told you when we was in school we shoulda sat down and listened to the teacher!" Abel wailed.
"Shuddup! An' figure out where she gotta map in there!"
Abel unzipped the book and flipped through the pages. He paused for a moment, his mouth silently moving out the words.
"Do you think we can hijack a truck an' get outta town?" he asked.
"How come?" Cain snatched the book out of Abel's hands.
"It says we have to get to some place called the Holy Land in the Time of Jesus. They got a map in there too of Paul's Missionary Journeys. See all those little arrows?"
Cain stared at his brother for a moment.
"He'd find us there!" Cain battered Abel over the head with it. "Can't you think straight?" he shouted as Abel covered himself with his trembling arms.
"Well, we still have time to look through the rest of the house for the treasure!"
Cain grabbed Abel by his arm.
"Let's get downstairs!" he growled.
As the day progressed, the Eden brothers wrenched all the kitchen fixtures and pulled up the carpets. They threw the china cabinet onto the floor, smashing dishes to find their mother's treasure. Abel began sobbing when he gazed upon what was left of a Precious Moments figurine.
"I used to love that little manger scene," he wiped his eyes on the dining room table's tablecloth. "It used to bring me back so many cool memories."
Cain tossed it over his shoulder while pulling out all the china closet's doors.
"Shit," he growled, "We can get another one at Chuck's Pawn Shop on Alleghany and Broad."
They ripped up all the floor boards only to find mice scurrying from their former places of safety. Upon seeing the mice, Abel screamed and jumped into his brother's arms. Together, they collapsed onto the floor. The mice scampered up their prone bodies while the two men shrieked in terror. Wildly hitting themselves to be rid of the tiny beasts, Abel and Cain started slapping each other.
"Worse than bein' in solitary with them things!" Cain said, retrieving the last mouse from his sweaty underwear by its tail.
Abel hit him with a dining room chair.
"WHY'D YOU DO THAT FOR, STUPID?" Cain twirled around to see his brother holding up the chair.
"You had a roach on your head!"
"Well, thank you!" Cain sneered, lifting off the chair which framed his head. "I can always bring that up with our parole officer! My stupid ass brother saw a cockroach on my head and he killed it by smacking me with a dining room chair!"
"We'll be in Mexico by then!" Abel said.
"Wherever!" Cain grunted. He turned to the kitchen to stare at it for a moment.
"Maybe Mama left it in there," He gestured to Abel.
"The kitchen?" Abel asked.
Cain grabbed his brother by his dreadlocks into the kitchen.
"Let's get to work!" he told Abel.
They threw out all the dishes. Silverware sang as it landed on the floor. Pots and pans sailed across the room, creating a chaotic cacophony of metal and aluminum. Making his way to the refrigerator, Abel slipped onto a broken shard of dinner plate and sailed into the appliance. As his body hit it, the freezer door opened, causing ice to avalanche onto his head.
Cain threw all the cleaning products from underneath the kitchen sink. Hearing the sound of the refrigerator door being opened, he leaped to his feet. His head hit the sink's pipe. He roared in pain.
"What the hell are you doing, stupid?" he pulled his head out from underneath and rubbed his scalp.
"I slipped!" Abel whined.
"I don't see her treasure in there, either!" Cain searched around the kitchen.
"Let's look in the cabinets," Abel said, getting to his feet from out of the pile of ice.
Together, they slid around the kitchen floor. They skated for the cabinets, tossing out cans and packages of food. Glass jars and metal cans joined the melting ice on the tiles. After a few minutes, they paused and looked at each other. Abel wore a suit of corn flakes and honey. Clad in a covering of dried pasta and turkey gravy, Cain seemed dashing in his too-early for Thanksgiving dressing suit.
"I don't think we found Mama's treasure," Abel said, chewing on a patch of corn flakes alongside his mouth. "But I'm sure getting hungry!"
Cain responded by picking a frozen pie off of the kitchen floor and smashing it into his face.
"Let's begat down to the basement!" he stepped onto what remained of a frozen turkey leg. His foot fell forward and he slid all the way down the cellar steps. His screams echoed to the bottom. An uneasy silence filled the air.
Seeing the prone body at the stair's bottom, Abel picked up the raw turkey leg and ate it for a moment.
"Cain," he called, "You okay down there?"
After coughing out the basement floor's dust, Cain sneezed and groaned.
"I'm dead an' I'm in Hell!"
"Well, if you asked Jesus into your heart like Mama told us to do when we was kids...," Abel sat down on the top step, still munching on the raw meat. "You wouldn't be in jail with me!"
Cain lifted up his head with a demonic glare.
"I'm takin' you with me!"
Bolting up the stairs, Cain snatched his brother by his shirt lapel and dragged him down the basement.
They hammered and hacked until the basement wall's plywood covering revealed only cinder block and plaster. Falling onto the floor and weighed down by extreme exhaustion, the two escaped convicts stared at the mess surrounding them.
"We went all through the goddamn house lookin' for nothin'" Cain panted.
"Where else could Mama leave her treasure?" Abel asked.
"I dunno, Abel," Cain wiped his sweating head on his brother's shirt. "Let's look over behind this wall."
"Where the water tank is?" Abel crawled after him.
"What the hell is that behind the water tank?" Cain panted at the gray plastic thing resting on the shelf.
"Looks like an old school tape recorder," Abel reached out to pick it up.
Cain smacked at his arm.
"Cut it the hell out! I got more sense than you! All this red thread shit story Mama told us about us wrestlin' in the womb like them Bible characters...,"
"Jacob and Esau." Abel said.
"Whatever." Cain thrust his finger down on the audio cassette player's PLAY button. "I wanna hear what this shit says so no mumblin'"
Mrs. Eden's gentle but weary voice floated out from the small, ancient cassette tape player.
"Dear Cain and Abel," she began in solemn tones. "When I carried you in Graterford Prison's hospital ward, I knew you were active boys....,"
"I thought she told us she was in the State Pen down in West Virginia." Abel said.
"Shh, stupid!" Cain hissed
"Dr. Rosen said you were always wrestling around in my womb. The nurse put a red thread around one of you's wrist so she could tell the other. Just like in Genesis...,"
"Like the older would serve the younger," Abel said.
Cain slapped him on the back of his head to be quiet.
"When you both came out, I knew you served the Devil more than God but I prayed for you two oftener enough."
Cain grabbed at the tape recorder and shook it.
"C'mon Mama!" he roared, ignited by a new surge of rage. "Tell me where the goddamn treasure is!"
"Shh," Abel hissed, "Honor thy mother!"
Cain fell down onto the basement floor again.
"The treasure that you seek has been stored up in Heaven." Mrs. Eden said. "It neither rusts nor corrupt nor moths lay waste to it."
Cain shot to his feet and dragged Abel by his dreadlocks.
"Let's get to the attic! It's gotta be there!"
"Wait!" Abel wailed. "Mama's not finished!"
Abel handed Cain the tape recorder.
"My treasure is not anywhere but in Heaven. This is all I give you. My Bible which you all refused to read and what money I earned from my dishonorable youth...,"
Cain snatched the tape recorder from Abel's hands and shook it.
"Bitch!" he hollered. "What'd you do with Daddy's drug money?"
"She's dead!" Abel cried. "How can you talk to Mama like that?"
Tears rolled down Cain's eyes as he stared at his brother.
"Pavel'll will crucify us if we don't pay off our debt to him! We broke into Mama's house to find her money to pay him! That's why we broke out of Graterford!"
"Boys," Mrs. Eden intoned in her grave voice. "I gave that money to the Whosoever Gospel Mission in order that I could save other youth from Satan's clutches. The love of money is the root of all evil....,"
Cain sagged to the floor, sobbing into the grimy carpet.
"Oh, Jesus, now we in Hell!" he cried.
"Look on the bright side" Abel laughed. "At least we got a treasure in Heaven!"
Cain jumped up and scowled down at Abel. He turned and hurled the cassette player across the basement. It struck the water tank and a huge gash formed in its side. Gallons of water rushed out, filling the basement. Overcome with grief, the two brothers held onto each other and cried. They sang hymns they remembered from their days in Christian schools. Five minutes later, the police rushed down the stairs and arrested them.
Treasures In Heaven
1953 Acorn Lane
Abington, Pa. 19001
1953 Acorn Lane
Abington, Pa. 19001