One Man's Treasure is Another Man's Trash

An original hand written Australian Short Story, underlying the classic Australian models and dominant themes and adolesent naivity.

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1. The Treasure Fields

 

I was only three years older than four when Pa started taking me out to the treasure fields. That’s what he called the old junk yard down the road. ‘You could find anything you looked for in there’ he used to say. Of course I used to look at it like as pile of scrap metal, but he used to love the old cracker of a place. The treasure fields used to be a place for Pa to breathe easy and escape from society. Half the time he would just wander the lonely pathways in search of nothing more than some ‘blasted peace and quiet’. He used to say you could smell the serenity. Of course I never understood what the old man meant.

He always seemed so bewildered when he gazed at the towering piles of rusted inhabitants that lay in the treasure fields. No one else saw any value in the junk fields, albeit Pa’s ‘hidden treasures’ or the cracked red earth; a token to the inland of Australia hidden in the suburban rabbit hole of Adelaide. I lived in an old, well-built house near the outer suburbs of Adelaide with my Mum and Pa. Pa was a very masculine man, whereas mother liked life’s more delicate things. People around town call me Archie, but my real name is Arnold. Mum always comments about how I am so much like my father, however others always seem to see more of my mother in me.

Mum always wondered why he spent so much time there; out in the treasure fields. Often when he went without me, mum and I would cook dinner at home awaiting his arrival home. Mum used to wonder why he’d rather spend time there rather than with his own family. But I knew Pa was searching for something bigger, so he could give us something better.

All used to be good at our home, until that one night when the TV was turned up really loud. I was in my room so it was hard to hear but I remember Pa complaining about a couple of letters he received, something about a notice of eviction. I didn’t quite understand what that meant, but the next day, Pa told me about another letter he received telling us we had to get out of the house. ‘How could they? They don’t own this house’ I questioned Pa. But he just shrugged me off. You could see his misery trickle down his cheek like crystal beads.

Later, I asked mum what was wrong, she came back to me with something about the finances being shaky and that we have to leave the house. I thought she was surely joking. However a day, then two, then a week passed and mum remained content and Pa still hadn’t snapped out of his depression yet. I began to question whether or not this was really happening. That blasted letter was going to tear this family apart. No one was the same and I feared they were never going to be.

One afternoon, when the TV was babbling on about some jewellery heist in town, I approached Pa, hoping to attain more than a mumble or slurry of Polly waffle.

‘What’s wrong Pa? Why are you always so depressed lately?’ I asked.

‘The House son, we’ve lost the house. Can’t you see, everything your mother and I have worked for has fallen to crap.’

‘Surely it’s not that bad Pa, can’t you stand up against it; fight it?’

‘There’s nothing to fight, we don’t have the money to pay our bills; we can’t afford to live here.’

‘What about the treasure fields, maybe there’s something in there that could help?’ I suggested

‘What, that out rust yard, there’s nothing there but a heap of trash and false hopes. Forget about it son, there’s nothing we can do, I have failed you.’

I refused to hear those words; I have failed you. Pa never failed us, and to think that not even his beloved treasure fields didn’t cheer him up. Filled with rage and discontent, I stormed out of the house, making sure to collect my bike lying next to the commodore. Pedalling like crazy, I rushed to the entrance of the towering rust yard and started my journey through the snaked maze. Initially I was enraged, hoping that the answer to all our problems would just pop up in front of me. Unfortunately after a few minutes I realised that the only thing popping up in front of me was the suns glare reflecting off the battle worn steel and a few pesky mozzies.

I eventually just started wondering. Unaware of my surroundings and totally oblivious as to where I was going. The thought crossed my mind of running away, I couldn’t bare the current situation as it was. But perhaps that was just my mother’s half talking, perhaps I needed to man up a little and face the situation; that’s what Pa always did. Now I realise why Pa always came here, it wasn’t for the contents or the possibility to find something of worth, it was for the experience, the time alone and for the chance to connect with a true sense of morality and reality. Regardless of what people say about this place being trash; its treasure to me.

Wandering back to the house, I was thinking about how I was going to cope moving out of the house, when all of a sudden, ‘THUMP!’ I had fallen head over heels into the hard baron ground.

‘Bloody Hell!’ I shouted.

Regaining my balance, I hobbled to my feet and glanced upon the culprit of my sudden trip laying in the middle of the footpath. A Blasted Woolworths bag, filled with junk I presumed. Winding up in anger I hurled my foot into the tattered bag, sending the gleaming contents hurling. I glanced back at the bag a second time now noticing it wasn’t filled with trash after all.

Rings, necklaces, gold, you name it. All different pieces of jewellery and valuables just like the one’s which were stolen. Thinking back to the robbery, it sure would have been a lot easier for the thief to go rummaging around in the junk yard rather than go to the risk of stealing some. Noticing the value of the contents, I hitched the bag over my shoulder and rushed them home to Pa. If I had never seen Pa as depressed as he had been, I sure as hell never saw how ecstatic he was when he glanced upon that little ‘pot of gold’.

‘You bloody ripper!’ Pa screeched.

After the night had passed, Pa couldn’t wait to get to the shops. Mum said he was exchanging the jewellery for a reward of some sort. I didn’t quite understand why he was getting a reward when I found the bag of goods, but mum said we could keep the house! That sure put my mind at ease. It was around midday when Pa got home from the shops, wearing a widening smirk and skip in his step. Mum and I were wondering what took him so long; was there any problems? He rushed over to me and hugged the stuffing out of me.

‘You’ve done it Archie, you’ve saved the house. And with the extra money we can start living a little easier here now; but first, I have to show you something.’

I was in a state of pure euphoria. Not only had I saved the house, but our family as well. Pa grabbed me by the shoulder and led me out to the Torana. I asked where we were going but he only replied with a solemn, ‘you’ll see’. Arriving at the front of the junk yard, I wondered why he was taking me back here; maybe one bag of gold wasn’t enough. Until I glanced up at the newly constructed sign above the entrance of the junk yard.

‘Archie’s Treasure Fields’ it read.

I couldn’t believe it, no wonder Pa was taking so long. I knew Pa never failed us, never. And it just goes to show how important that junk yard is to him and now me. People commonly under value or discard the importance of self-content, peace of mind or intrinsic value; after all, one man’s treasure is another man’s trash. 

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