Treasure Map by Dori Ann Dupré

Treasure Map

By Dori Ann Dupre

 

When I woke up, I found myself on the pavement outside of a chain brand pet store.

Wearing only a tattered and stained triple X-large white tee shirt with “Bob Dole for President”

written on the front in fading blue letters, I felt my legs burning on the backs of my thighs.

There were no cars in the parking lot, no lights on in the store, and it was not light out,

somewhere in between dark and dawn, where the fingernail moon looked chalky and drunk,

waiting on its inevitable hangover, from the night before.

I sat up. I put my hands underneath my thighs to quell the burning sensation but it

didn’t work. Why were my thighs burning? My stomach was in knots and I couldn’t breathe

regularly. I was not quite in a panic, but I felt nauseous with stomach cramps and like a small

fire was bleeding through my internal organs.

A slight breeze brushed along my face and I swore I heard movement: a car, a person, a

dog, a raccoon, I couldn’t tell. Something moved. But I saw nothing in my surroundings.

Immediately, I thought of that riddle my neighbor asked me when I was a little kid sitting on the

old rust infested creaky swings in my front yard, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is

around to hear it, does it still make a sound?” Did something just make a sound because I was

able to hear it? Never quite figured that out. I was never that good at riddles.

Feeling cold, exhausted, woozy, sick and sore in my shoulders, I tried to stand up. I had

soiled underwear on, which was covered by this rather huge tee shirt, but I still felt naked.

What happened to me? Why am I here? I actually had no idea where I was. It could have been a

chain brand pet store anywhere in the United States for all I knew.

My bare feet felt the cold asphalt on the bottoms, and my head began to throb with a

headache. Maybe it was throbbing all along and it was the first time I realized it. I heard

movement again, and glanced around, feeling the smack of something soft but real slapping

into my right calf muscle. It was a piece of paper, folded up, seemingly stuck on me. I leaned

over and took it off, opening it to reveal a map.

“X marks the spot,” I said out loud to no one and eyeballing the X so prominently

displayed in what appeared to be a treasure map. Its edges were frayed, and I realized that it

wasn’t actually paper. It was some kind of hard cloth. I thought about The Goonies and One

Eyed Willie and that Italian mobster family who imprisoned Chunk with their mangled, but

loveable, son and brother named Sloth. Then my stomach growled and I thought about Baby

Ruth candy bars and how I could use one of those right about now.

What was this map about? Was it for a real actual buried treasure? A toy from a store

for little kids wanting to play pirate? The directions to my home? My family? My dignity? My

Realizing that the map was an outline of the parking lot, I felt a jolt of searing pain and

overwhelming fear at the same time. It rippled through my torso and out my ears, like an

earthquake trying to break apart its big patch of targeted land. I had no idea if it was real or

imagined pain but it sure felt authentic. Turning slowly in a circle from where I stood, I scanned

the location of the various small buildings: the pet store, a chain fast food restaurant with its

world famous burritos, a craft store full of happy, colorful linens in the window; an Italian ice

shop with a Help Wanted sign on the front of it, and a big cell phone outlet. Part of me wished

there was something more familiar about this place so I knew where I was, but other than

recognizing the types of stores, my memory was challenged and I knew that I was completely

alone out here.

There were no lights on in the parking lot, as if they had never been used before. No

cars went by on the deserted street near the parking lot. No street lamps were lighted. No one

was flying over in a helicopter looking for me. No one was walking their dog nearby to help me.

Peering down at the map again, I decided to walk toward the X. Maybe there would be

an answer there. Maybe a clue. Maybe an X, suggesting that I find a way to dig through the

Each step hurt the bottoms of my feet. My thighs at least stopped burning for the time

being. Gingerly, I crept along the pavement toward the X, which appeared to sit on the right

side of the end of the strip mall. As I felt the breeze blowing through my hair as I moved along, I

put my hand to my head and ran my fingers along the right side. My long dark locks were no

longer there. Instead, I felt the prickly soft edges, a field of mossy growth indicating that my

head had been shaved by a hand held clipper set, the kind my father once had in the bathroom.

I was almost bald, mostly naked in an old election year tee shirt of the losing presidential

candidate, barefoot and in pain, totally alone, holding a mysterious treasure map and had a

head full of no memory…walking in the early dawn toward an X…looking for answers…to what, I

did not know. My dignity was essentially erased. That was the only answer I had managed to

figure out in any of this.

Approaching the location of where the X should be, I looked ahead and then down at

the pavement. There was no specific X written on the ground in chalk or in paint, but there was

something shiny, a slight glint of light loudly announcing its presence to the world…or at least,

to me. As I got closer, I could see that it wasn’t a jewel or a penny or a fancy Cross pen. It was

just a spot, like a laser pointing down from the sky saying, “Step here, please.” Since I had

nothing else going on for me at this point, no idea where else to go, and not much else available

to be taken from me, I decided to linger a moment to figure out where the light came from. I

looked up and looked down and could not find any source.

Figuring I had nothing else to lose, I held my breath and closed my eyes, stepping onto

the light, X marks the spot, and held the treasure map against my leg. Then I woke up from this

nightmare.