Cave of Clutter


On some days Isabelle and Jason would do almost anything to avoid their school work, even if it meant technically doing more work. This time the distraction was going through the boxes they kept in the spare bedroom, separating things they wanted to keep from things they could get rid of. Clothes, books, toys, pictures, and knick-knacks were spread all over the bed, all over the floor, and on the nightstand. The siblings were standing in the middle pulling items out of the boxes and adding to the pile.

Nesrin was leaning on a wall in the closet. “If you’re determined to get things out of this room, I would happily put them in my storehouse in the hidden realm. There’s more than enough space.”

Jason chuckled. “Must not have as much in it as this.”

“Oh this is nothing. My people have millennia to accumulate possessions. It’s what led to the misconception that we can magically create unlimited wealth.”

“Thanks, Nesrin,” Isabelle said, “but we really do need to get rid of some things.” She held up a battery-powered lantern without glass. “I mean seriously, why do we even have this?”

Jason held up a two feet tall plush clown on a stand. “Probably the same reason we have this.”

Nesrin walked out of the closet and picked up a house coat with a red and white rose print. “What are you going to do with the stuff you don’t want?” She slipped the sleeves over her arms. “Surely you’re not going to just throw it out.”

Jason sat the clown down and picked up a cookbook. “Of course not. We’ll probably find somewhere to donate it.”

Nesrin found the sash to the robe and tied it around her waist.

Isabelle stopped and looked at the box. “Or we could sell it; get a little extra cash for school supplies.”

Jason snorted. “Who’d buy any of this?”

“People like us that stop whenever they see yard sales. I bet we could do pretty well from all this old junk.”

Nesrin reached into the air. Her eyes flashed gold and she produced a dollar bill. “You can start with this house coat.”

Isabelle took the dollar and held it up. “See?”

“Where would we have the sale, though? Our lease doesn’t let us sell things in the complex.”

Nesrin was looking at her new robe in the hall mirror. “You can rent a booth at the flea market for thirty dollars a day. Forty for a weekend.”

Isabelle squirmed. “I wonder if it would be worth it.”

Nesrin came back in with her hands in the robe’s pockets. “If you want more of a profit you could take some things from my storehouse. Some of my junk would be quite valuable by this society’s standards. I’ll take you there and you can have your pick.”

Jason and Isabelle shot each other excited glances.

“That would be worth doing just to see the place,” Jason said.

Nesrin smiled. “Excellent.”

She made several motions with her right hand and her eyes took on a steady gold glow. Soon the bedroom began to fade away and a circular wall of bookcases took its place. As soon as the bookcases were in place a small, light brown bird fluttered in and landed on Nesrin’s finger.

Nesrin kissed its beak. “Hey, Lind. These are my roommates Jason and Isabelle. Guys, this is my pet nightingale Lind.”

Lind fluttered around the two new arrivals, then flew in front of them, looking them in the eye. Finally she flew back to Nesrin and nodded her head before perching on her shoulder.

“We’re in the library right now. The main display area’s this way.”

She led them through a winding line of books that went on for several yards before opening into a room that was part museum, part warehouse, and part bank vault. The first thing Jason and Isabelle saw was a crimson steam locomotive.

“Do you like it? It’s a Jones M2 class from England.”

Jason ran up and almost climbed into the cab. “You have a train?”

Nesrin patted the front of the engine. “No, only the engine. For a full train I would also need some coaches or freight cars.” She pointed to a long wall lined from floor to ceiling with wooden filing cabinets. “Those drawers contain multiple types of currency. Don’t mess with them, and don’t touch any locked chests or doors. Other than that, anything you can easily carry is yours.”

Isabelle walked forward slowly, unsure where to start. The first thing she came to was an Easter tree decorated with Fabergé eggs. “You’re sure you don’t want any of this?”

Nesrin waved a hand. “Having this much excess for so long sort of removes the fulfillment you get from possessions. The things I really treasure are locked away; anything out here I basically just happen to have.” She picked up a bronze and gold egg with a clockwork design. “You may want to avoid anything too suspicious, though. Sell enough of these and we’ll have federal agents showing up at the apartment.”

Isabelle nodded and backed away from the tree. She walked to a line of tables where Jason was admiring sets of kitchenware from various countries and time periods.

Jason held up a glass chalice. “Okay, I’m convinced. With this kind of merchandise we’ll do great.” He put the glass in his other hand and picked up a plate with swirling blue patterns around the edges.

Isabelle picked up a wooden stand holding a dozen wine stoppers. They were all marble, and carved into the shapes of angels. Perfect.

There was so much they’d have to choose at random. She turned around and caught a glimpse of Nesrin’s wall of money. If what Nesrin said was true, there had to be more money in those drawers than was on the physical planet.

“Hey, Jason, does it bother you that Nesrin keeps that much money under lock and k…?”

“Awe yeah, swords!” Something shiny had caught Jason’s eye, and he’d ducked under the table to make a beeline for the sword display. He picked up a long, curved sword and pulled it out of the sheath. The first thing he did was look at the reflection of his face in the steel. He then proceeded to swish the blade through the air as if he were in a duel. “I think I’ll take this just for me.”

She tilted her head, but didn’t say anything.

Jason tried the sword in his other hand. He slipped it back into its sheath when she saw Nesrin coming with four cardboard boxes.

Nesrin put the boxes down beside the sword case. “I figured you could probably use these. They’ll be here when you want them. I see you found my shamshir. That one has a weird story behind it. It once belonged to King Vologases V of the Arsacid Empire. ”

Jason ran his fingers over the sheath. “Oh that is cool. Why would you get rid of this?”

Nesrin gestured to the room around them. “You honestly think I’ll notice? There’s more here than I ever look at. In your world it wouldn’t just be gathering dust, it would have been dust literal ages ago. This way it can get some appreciation and make you some much needed money. It just makes sense.”

Isabelle held up a hand. “Speaking of things that do or don’t make sense, do all hidden ones have enough money to line a wall?”

“Not all. Jann don’t have any. Most of us do, though. After long enough it just sort of happens.”

“What do you do with that much?”

Nesrin shrugged. “Buy things? I choose to pay rent, and pay for whatever else I need instead of just taking it like most hidden ones do. Most of it just sits with the rest of the so-called treasure unless we’re bound to a master who wants to use it, which I never intend to be again.”

Isabelle’s mouth hung open. Memories raced through her mind of the broken springs in orphanage beds and the chips in the ceilings. “You realize that means collectively your people could actually fix all the world’s problems. Probably you could single-handed.”

“Theoretically, but new ones would just come up, and where would the fun be in a perfect world, anyway?”


They were interrupted by Lind taking off after a toy dragonfly Jason had sent flying.

Nesrin took the opportunity to say “There’s something I need to go tend to. I’ll be back for you and Jason before long. Feel free to keep looking.”

Isabelle didn’t respond at first, but finally said “Bye.” When Nesrin was gone she looked down. She was still holding the wine stoppers. She put them in a box, then went back to the table and grabbed the heaviest gold plates and cups she could find. After that she found some piles of jewelry and raked in pieces at random.

Jason was playing with some wind-up figurines painted like fifteenth century explorers. Satisfied with the slow, mechanical way they marched, he put all six in his box. While he was still putting in the last one he saw two pewter bookends in the shape of wolves. “Hey, check these out.”

Isabelle smiled. “They’re nice. We’ll get a good price for them.”

“More like they’ll look great holding my books up in my room.”

“Oh qué va! This whole thing started with trying to get rid of stuff.”

“And make way for new stuff, like really cool bookends.”

“You… never mind.” She left him alone and grabbed a handful of silk scarves.

By the time Nesrin came back they had both filled both their boxes, and Isabelle had found two shoulder bags to fill up besides.

Nesrin surveyed their takings. “Excellent choices, you two. So, you ready to head back?”

Isabelle said “I am” at the same time Jason said “Yeah, I guess.”

Nesrin kissed Lind’s beak and the bird winged away in search of new amusement. Nesrin went back through the motions from before and their apartment began fade into sight.

Jason heaved his two boxes onto the bed. “Now I get to figure where to put all this stuff.”

Nesrin frowned. “You mean until you sell it?”

Isabelle huffed. “Don’t ask.”

Nesrin rolled her eyes with a laugh. She turned to Isabelle. “I suppose you still want to call the flea market?”

Isabelle shook her head. “Actually I think stuff like this would do better in a pawnshop. I’ll find one this evening after I get done sorting through the other boxes.”

“Cool, cool. Well, I better get ready for work tonight. Good luck selling all this.”

“Thanks.” She watched Nesrin go, grateful that they wouldn’t see a lot of each other that night. She picked up a silver candlestick, tracing the design with her fingers. She sat it down and happened to put her hand in her jean pocket. She found the dollar Nesrin had given her for the rose robe.

On second thought, maybe she’d only use half the money for school. Someone else might need the other half. She’d figure that out later, too, while her pollino brother slowly realized he didn’t have room for his two boxes of toys.

2 thoughts on “Cave of Clutter

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  1. David, this is an excellent write. It feels to me like an excerpt from a contemporary, mythical story.
    I do not say “mythical” lightly. The story embeds social phenomena with supranatural beings and events. It makes me think at “The Cry for Myth.” “The Lord of the Ring” fed (paste tense? I do not know if it still does; your opinion will be highly valued here. Harry Potter? ) our need to escape reality.

    I am going to stop here. I hope you understand what I am trying to say. You have no idea how much I want you to be successful. If you continue to write like this you will be!

    Enjoy your weekend!


    1. G, I’m so pleased with your comment that “The story embeds social phenomena with supranatural beings and events.” That’s certainly something I tried to accomplish with this piece.
      I do agree with the premise of “The Cry for Myth” that myths are necessary for people to process reality. The human mind needs something outside itself that it can use as a tool to ground its thoughts, and myths and stories provide that. I think the fantastical elements of myth also make it easier to confront the issues of reality by creating a sense of distance. Since the world of the story isn’t ours, the sense of urgency is lessened and the brain can analyze with less panic. I also think “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” do continue to feed the dependance because they’ve brought myths back to societal attention and restored the interest. They’ve made it an accessible option again. If nothing else their popularity does prove there is still a desire for that type of thing.

      Your support is so greatly appreciated I hardly know what to say. It gives me great confidence to know you have such faith in my work. I feel it means something coming from an author of your caliber.

      Thank you, thank you, and enjoy your weekend as well!

      Liked by 1 person

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