According to my big brother Daryl, mothers used to wrap their stillborns in gauze and stick them in a hope chest, hoping their child’s heart would then start beating again. I suspected Daryl was full of shit though because he was always full of shit. Mom kept her hope chest at the foot of her bed. It was locked but Daryl knew where she kept the key.
My entire childhood Daryl tried to trick me into getting inside that cedar box. Big brothers do things like that. Once he dared me to lie in it like a casket, and when I did, he locked me inside and left me there for hours. All the light I’d ever absorbed left me by the second. I swore I’d get back at him, but never got the chance since he himself would soon lie in a similar box, only this one was bigger and made of pine.
Years later I was cleaning out Mom’s house, going through her possessions. The hope chest was hidden in the basement under a bunch of boxes. The key was in it. I lifted the lid and saw Mom’s wedding dress and my grandmother’s prize quilt. Then the sweet smell of cedar overwhelmed me and Daryl was back for a brief moment. We were in the backyard playing catch, his Camaro sat unwrecked in the driveway, he was smiling—my reckless brother was smiling—we were just kids and our wild hearts were beating once again.
Todd Clay Stuart is an emerging Midwestern writer. He studied creative writing at the University of Iowa. His work appears or is forthcoming in Milk Candy Review, New World Writing, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He lives with his wife, daughter, and two loyal but increasingly untrustworthy pets. Find him on Twitter @toddclaystuart and at http://toddclaystuart.com.