Short Story of the Day

11/24/20

The Musketeer's Treasure

Graduation day was looming, as well as the end of the Four Musketeers' happy days. After one final summer together, Jeremy, Andy, Ryan, and Jared would part ways to pursue their own paths in life. Jeremy was going to Harvard for his pre-law studies, and then on to law school after that. Andy was going to Yale to take up History. He was dead set on fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a museum director someday. Ryan was off to Stanford to study Psychology. Among the Four Musketeers, he was always the one patching things up whenever there was internal conflict within the group. He was the listener and the adviser. He was the peacemaker and their voice of reason. It was a gift. He had a knack for reading people like open books and giving them the proper advice to fix their problem. And so it was only natural that that he would choose Psychology as his major. Finally, Jared was going to Juilliard to study Music. His parents were musicians themselves. It was no surprise, then, when Jared said that his goal was to get into Juilliard.

They had all been friends since the day they met in the first grade. They instantly clicked and stuck like glue through any situation. They were always there for each other, in good times and in bad. From elementary all the way up to high school. They'd been through first crushes, first heartbreaks, first fights, first rejections, failing grades, pranks, detentions, being grounded by their parents, teenage angst and rebellion, and so much more.

Once, when Andy asked Daisy Figueroa to homecoming, she initially said yes. Later, however, she went back on her word and said that she was going with friends, and as her friends didn't know Andy, it would be awkward. All this was sent through text. Jeremy had a plan. The four of them would play Call Of Duty all night, whether Andy wanted to or not. There was no escaping it. Jeremy wouldn't take no for an answer. Finally, Andy agreed to play, albeit reluctantly. Soon enough, they were shooting enemies and accomplishing missions. It worked like a charm, and in no time at all, Andy forgot all about Daisy Figueroa. He thanked Jeremy and the others for cheering him up and picking him up when he was down. They truly embodied the motto of the Musketeers: "All for one and one for all!"

While Jeremy was looking back and thinking about all that, Andy arrived and parked his Ford in front of the house and honked. That jolted Jeremy back to reality. His phone rang and he picked it up.

"Howdy?" Jeremy said as he picked up.

"I'm out front," Andy said. "Are you ready?"

"Just about," Jeremy said, rummaging through his desk until he found what he was looking for. "Alright, I'm ready."

He opened his window and climbed down through the trellis on the side of their house, quietly crept across the driveway, and into the backseat of Andy's white Ford.

"You okay back there?" Andy asked.

"I'm good," Jeremy said, putting his seatbelt on. "I can squeeze. It's a short drive to Ryan's and Jared's houses anyway."

"You sure you're okay back there?" Andy asked again. "You sure you're not claustrophobic?"

"Nope," Jeremy answered. "I'm good."

"Alrighty then," Andy said, starting the engine and driving off.

The next person that Andy picked up was Jared. He was already waiting, sitting on the steps of his front porch. Andy adjusted the seat to let Jared into the back, then re-straightened it.

"Two down, one to go," Andy said before driving off.

The last person they picked up was Ryan. He quietly snuck out the back door, over the fence, across the driveway, then into the front seat. Jeremy looked at Jared with a smile and nodded subtly.

"Are you thinking what I think you're thing?" Jared said, his smile spreading wider.

"One, two, three…" Jeremy whispered.

"Hail, hail! The gang's all here! We're all friends together in all kinds of weather," Jared, Jeremy, and Ryan sang with enthusiasm. "Hail, hail! The gang's all here! We can have a lot of fun!"

"Please, no," Andy said with a sigh. It always annoyed him when the others sang that song.

"Please, yes!" Ryan said with a laugh.

"Being alone is never fun," Jeremy sang. "Can't have fun without no one."

"But, gee, when all you're friends are near," Ryan sang.

"They bring happiness and cheer," the three of them sang.

"Hail, hail! The gang's all here," Andy joined in as they sang. "We're all friends together in all kinds of weather! Hail, hail! The gang's all here! We can have a lot of fun!"

When the song ended, they all looked at each other and laughed, and laughed, and laughed, until they reached Friendship Hill. The "burial on Friendship Hill" was a yearly graduation tradition at Brookside High where groups of friends would go up Friendship Hill and bury a box full of memories in the ground—a time capsule, if you will. Andy killed the engine, and adjusted the seat, allowing Jeremy and Jared to get out. Ryan retrieved the shovel and the box from the bed of the truck.

"So this is finally it, huh?" Jeremy said, suddenly filled with emotion. "Friendship Hill."

"Back then, we wondered when we'd get to climb this hill and why it was taking so long," Ryan said.

"So then why does it feel like it came too fast?" Andy mused.

"Maybe because it did and we just didn't notice," Jared said.

The rest of the trek up the hill was done in complete silence, a heavily somber mood hanging in the air above and around them. Jeremy told himself this is what it must have felt like as Jesus and the Disciples crossed the Kidron River into the Garden of Gethsemane. A last moment with friends. He knew he was being dramatic, but he couldn't help it. When they reached the top of the hill, Jared looked for a place to dig and bury their time capsule. When he found one, he gave Ryan the signal to dig. He handed the box to Jeremy and began digging. At four feet deep, he stopped, deeming it deep enough. After he was done digging, they stepped away from the hole and opened the box. They stood around it and prepared to drop their mementos inside. The first to drop his memento was Jared. It was an empty bottle of soy sauce. That one had a funny story behind it. Andy was always the intended target of Jared, Ryan, and Jeremy's pranks. The poor kid couldn't catch a break. One time, they deliberated how to prank Andy yet again. Jared had an idea. What if they put soy sauce into one of Andy's bottles? Both the soy sauce and the grape juice were dark liquids. No one would be able to tell the difference unless they drank it. And that's exactly what they wanted to happen. They wanted Andy to taste it. See, Andy always brought a bottle of Welch's grape juice with him to the gym instead of water. He said it was more refreshing. They were hanging out at his house one night when Andy suddenly decided to work out before the gym closed. He got up, went into the kitchen, and grabbed a bottle of Welch's from the fridge. The three friends shared a look.

"Was that the bottle?" Jeremy mouthed.

Ryan nodded. He and Jared had marked it so that they would know which bottle it was. As soon as Andy closed the front door behind him, they all burst out laughing, throwing their heads back. Jeremy couldn't breathe and his sides ached. Andy worked out at the gym that night, took a swig of his grape juice, and promptly spat it out, apologizing to the gym manager for the mess. It tasted horrible! It wasn't until months later that they told Andy he'd been the victim of yet another one of their childish pranks. He nicknamed the three of them "Smart Alec and his Smart Alec pals." Jeremy was Smart Alec, the ringleader, and Ryan and Jared were his Smart Alec pals.

Back in the present, the four friends laughed, dabbing their wet eyes. They were tears of joy and laughter mixed with tears of sadness.

"You guys," Andy said, shaking his head. "I thought I was so tired I must've been imagining things! And then I find out that you put soy sauce in my drink. I associated that horrible taste with the gym that I stopped working out for a very long time."

They laughed and cried some more at Andy's revelation. The next to go was Ryan. He placed a Denny's receipt inside the box and cleared his throat.

"Remember sneaking out of the house to go to Denny's?" Ryan asked. "Those coffee contests, man."

When they were old enough to drink coffee, the four friends would always sneak out of their houses to go to Denny's to hold coffee contests. Who was the fastest coffee drinker and who could drink the most glasses of iced coffee. It had different and unique effects on each of them. Usually cheerful, Ryan would become morose and sullen, putting on a serious face when he'd had too much coffee. They couldn't explain it or understand why. The opposite happened to Jeremy. It made him even happier than usual. He would laugh like a hyena at everyone and everything, even if the situation wasn't really that funny. Jared, the quiet one, becomes more talkative with coffee in his system. Andy would shake—hands, knees, legs… The table would start shaking as though there were an earthquake and that's how you would know that Andy Davidson had had too much coffee to drink.

After reminiscing, it was Andy's turn to drop his memento into the time capsule. He dropped a whole roll of toilet paper inside it. It was another item with a funny story behind it. The Four Musketeers had other friends outside of their group and they would sometimes invite them over to hang out and play video games with them. One day, when Andy was feeling quite cocky, he proposed a challenge. Two against two in battlefront. Him and Jeremy against two other guys. The losers would eat toilet paper. Jeremy thought his friend was bluffing and so he never took it seriously. Additionally, he thought he'd have a little bit of fun shooting his own teammate or committing suicide from time to time, making his character jump off ledges just to hear the famed "Wilhelm scream". Thanks to Jeremy's antics, they both lost and had to follow through with Andy's promise that the loser would eat toilet paper. And eat they did. They even swallowed it.

The very last to put his memento into the time capsule was Jeremy. It was a picture of the four of them at Mimi's Café, taken by his parents. It was his twelfth birthday and all he wanted was to eat out with friends and family. No big parties, no fancy invitations, no party games, buffet lines or catering. He didn't like parties very much. He was more into intimate moments than anything. And this was one of them. They enjoyed the evening eating, talking, and laughing. After that, they went to Andy's house for a sleepover and a Star Wars marathon.

"You guys are just the absolute best," Jeremy said with a sigh, closing the box's lid and sealing it shut with a padlock. Then he placed it in the hole and signaled for Ryan to start covering the hole with earth. Then he put out his right hand in front of him as they stood in a circle, and said. "All for one?"

"And one for all!" the others replied, piling their hands on top of each other.

All four friends bounced their hands and raised their fists in the air. Jeremy looked around at each of them.

"Musketeers forever?"

"Musketeers forever," Andy said.

"Musketeers forever," Ryan and Jared said.