“Allison, you have to see this.” Leo waved his friend over to the exterior door to his basement apartment in her old green house.
She’d stepped outside on this chilly, sunny fall afternoon, to stretch her legs and back, freeing them from the cramps of tiling work, and to fill her lungs with fresh air.
For a moment, she considered putting Leo off. She loved him, and all the help he’d given her, but she clung to her solitude, sometimes a bit too much for her own good. So she pasted on a smile and walked over.
“Sure, what is it?”
“Come in here,” Leo said, and stepped through the door into the basement. “Back this way.”
He led her to the door to a little storage area under the oldest part of the house. “Have you ever looked in here?” he asked.
“Um, not really,” Allison answered. She had bought the old house on a whim, and Leo had moved in shortly after. Mostly, she let him have the privacy of the basement space.
“Me either, until today. Look what I found.” Leo opened the door, and stooped to enter the old space. “Don’t come all the way in – it’s dirty, and there’s probably spiders.” Allison smiled. All the work she’d done on this old place, she had never given Leo cause to believe that a spider or two would freak her out. And dirt? Good lord, she thought, I’m usually dirtier than he is.
“There,” Leo said, and shone a flashlight beam toward the back corner.
Allison saw what looked like an old wine barrel, covered in dust and spider webs. “Wow,” she said, unsure as to what kind of reaction Leo wanted.
“I know,” he said. “Let’s go back outside.”
Out in the fresh air once again, Allison could see Leo’s huge grin. She was curious. “What? Is it worth something, do you think?”
“Oh, I have no idea. Probably not, given that it’s full of concrete.” He cackled. “It looks like its been there for decades, and its full of hardened concrete. I tried to move it. Couldn’t budge it, even an inch.”
“Why would someone fill a barrel with concrete and leave it in the cellar?” Allison asked.
“Exactly!” Leo’s expression was that of an eager little boy. “It’s a mystery!” His enthusiasm was contagious, and Allison joined him in laughing.
“Well then,” she said, “Leo, let’s solve it.”