The Chest

Posted on Thursday, April 30th, 2009 at 2:06 am

There was a man who bought a field. One morning, as he strolled across his land, he tripped over the corner of a wooden chest buried in the soil. Excited by the possibilities, he tried digging it up with his hands. The ground was hard and dry and he had little success. Afraid someone might stumble on his discovery, he raced home, grabbed a spade and raced back. There was no-one about as he jammed the tip into the earth. It made little progress in the rocky soil except to scrape a few inches of dirt from the edges.

Sweat traced streaks in the dust covering the man’s forehead and dripped into his eyes, making it difficult to see. He stood up, dropping the tool in irritation and gazed across the field. There must be something important in this chest and he had to know what it was. A pickaxe was needed. Again, he ran home and carrying the axe over his shoulder, returned to the box.

Gripping the shaft, he raised the pickaxe above his head and slammed it into the ground. A hole appeared under the point. This victory encouraged him and being careful not to damage the wood, he continued to puncture the earth, until the top was free. The sun glided across the sky, it’s heat scorching his back, then the top of his head, and finally burning his face before he was able to wrestle the box from the earth.

He sat down on the dry ground, his breath straining against his ribs and examined his discovery. The chest, its wood pitted from time spent in the earth, was unremarkable in size and construct. He tried to pry open the lid, but it was stuck and he was too hot and tired to struggle with it there. He stood up and grabbing an edge, dragged the heavy box behind him.

As he entered his front door, the air of his home lay like a cool cloth on his body, soothing the hot throbbing in his head and muscles. He pulled a large knife from a drawer and forced it under the lid of the box. It creaked, encouraging him to continue. The man shoved the blade in deeper and pushed on the handle. The chest opened, his hands plunged into the interior and he peered inside.

The box was filled with large metal shapes and what looked like rocks. He pulled these out first. They were rough and gray, but as he examined them in the light, he noticed threads of green, red, blue and purple glistening through the dull stones, whispering a promise of beauty. He laid them aside and pulled out the large metallic pieces. They were grimy, but their smooth edges testified to their workmanship. He traced his fingers on their surfaces and through the dirt, could detect ornate designs etched in the metal. Turning one piece over in his hands, the man realized it looked like some kind of headpiece. As he placed it on his head, he was surprised to discover it fit perfectly. Dragging more of the objects from the chest, he found others to cover the rest of his body.

He gazed in a mirror, admiring his reflection. There was something noble in what he saw and he felt as if a hand was stroking strings deep inside him, releasing the sweetest music.

At that moment, the door opened and his two most trusted friends entered. They saw him standing in the middle of the room, dressed in the soiled metal and laughed. Their laughter grew louder as the man explained about finding the chest and tried to show them the fine etching and coloured seams in the rocks. Through their amusement they gasped how foolish he was for getting excited by someone’s buried trash. They told him, they’d come to invite him for dinner, but he would have to get rid of his ridiculous outfit, if he wanted to join them. With that, they departed, still chuckling at his imprudence.

His friends were men of discernment and he valued their opinions highly, so turning his back to the mirror, he yanked the metal pieces from his body, tugging on shame like a well-worn coat as he dropped them into the box. He threw the dingy rocks, ugly in their silence, on top and slammed the lid down, once again concealing the contents.

Disgusted by his gullibility, he dragged the chest out onto the road and sat down on top. A horse-drawn cart pulled up along side him and the driver, a stranger, jumped down. He was obviously important as was attested by his fine clothing and magnificent horse.

“Why are you sitting on a box in the middle of the road?” he asked.

The man, looking down at the stranger’s leather shoes, replied, “I’m returning a box of trash to where I found it.”

“May I see what’s inside?” the stranger asked.

“It’s only metal junk and some rocks,” the man insisted, his face burning with the memory of his friends’ derision.

Again the stranger asked, “May I see what’s inside?”

The man stood up and lifted a corner of the lid, pulling out the metal piece he’d worn on his head. The stranger took it in his hands and examined it, rubbing his thumb over the design made faint by dirt. He reached in his cart and pulled out a cloth, then wiping it across the metal several times, passed it, now gleaming in the sun, back to the man. Astonished by its beauty, the man gasped.

“What else is in the box?” the stranger asked.

Again the man lifted a corner and pulled out another of the metal pieces. Again the stranger rubbed the cloth over it, transforming the metal.

“Let me see what else is in there,” the stranger demanded. Encouraged, the man opened up the box, letting the stranger peer inside. “Take it all out,” the stranger insisted and the man pulled out every bit of metal and every rock and spread them on the road.

“Would you like me to tell you what you have?” The man nodded, unable to tear his eyes from the gleaming headpiece.

The stranger took the object and placed it on the man’s head. “This is a helmet to be worn in battle.” He pointed to the metal, “All of this is armour, fine armour, meant for a warrior.”

The man started to pull the helmet from his head, “I found this buried in my field. I didn’t steal it.”

“Then it is yours, my friend,” the stranger said, picking up a rock streaked with vivid green. “This stone and the others, do you know what they are?” The man shook his head.

“They’re uncut gems of the highest quality, meant for a king.”

The man stammered, “I…I didn’t know. I f…found them.”

“Then they’re yours,” the stranger replied.

“My friends said they were trash,” the man whispered, marveling at the treasure before him.

“Farmers know of pigs and manure, not the ways of a warrior and the treasures of a king,” the stranger replied. He gazed at the man. “I am a captain in the army of a great king and can use a man like you. I can teach you how to fight in this armour.” The stranger picked up one of the rocks streaked with red, “And these stones can be fashioned by the king’s workmen into the finest gems. It’s for you to choose. Stay here with this treasure hidden in a wooden box, or follow me to the greatest adventure you will ever know.”

The man looked around, at his home, his field, his friends’ footprints remaining in the dust. He gazed into the eyes of the stranger and again felt the lightest touch of fingertips brushing the instrument deep inside.

“I’ll follow you.”

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply