The gray sky hung low over Dream Valley as Brightblade strolled slowly, almost lethargically, down the street with his head held low. The sky seemed to be reflecting his mood. Since he had returned from his great adventure, life had seemed dull; and he missed his friends-- Ramone and Cassandra the rats, Breeks the raven, and Epona the mysterious flame-maned unicorn. He hadn’t been able to find steady work since he returned, just enough to pay the bills; and none of the odd jobs he had taken were stimulating. Part of him longed for life-and-death struggles and adventure while another part looked for a comfortable routine to settle into, and neither part was satisfied.
The yellow pony looked up from his musings and realized that he had no idea where he was. He must have missed a turn or gone the wrong direction and ended up in a part of town he was not familiar with. He looked around for some landmark that might help him get his bearings. Nothing looked familiar in the least. “I guess I’ll have to ask for directions,” he mumbled to himself. Normally he’d just keep wandering until he found somewhere he knew, but today he didn’t feel like it.
He had happened to stop right in front of a run-down looking antique store with a sign reading “Going Out of Business Sale” in the window next to the “Open” sign.
“This looks as good a place as any, and they might have something nice.”
Inside, the store was dusty and cramped. Narrow shelves reaching almost to the ceiling looked as though they would topple at the slightest touch, spilling their precious contents onto the ancient hardwood floor. Brightblade made his way carefully down the narrow aisle toward the counter, feeling like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Behind the counter was an old gray mare. “Why, hello, young man,” she said in a grandmotherly voice. “May I help you find something?”
“Yeah, myself,” Brightblade replied in a dry attempt at humor.
“Pardon me?” the mare asked, puzzled.
“I’m a little lost. If you could give me directions to Main Street, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
“Oh, so you’re not going to buy anything?” The mare sounded disappointed.
“I might; I’ll look around after I get my directions.”
“Well, main is two blocks that way,” said the old mare, pointing toward the back of the store. Brightblade’s gaze followed her outstretched hoof and he noticed a rustic old chest in the corner.
“Thanks,” replied Brightblade. “How much is that chest?”
“Twenty jangles. Do you like it?”
“Yeah, it’d look great in my living room. And it would give me a place to put all my old magazines.”
“Well, the lock is broken; I’ve never been able to get it open.”
“That’s okay,” said Brightblade as he laid the twenty jangles on the counter. “Twenty jangles ain’t much for such a nice old chest.”
“I’m trying to clean out the store so I can retire and move to Florida,” the mare explained.
“Well, good luck,” said Brightblade as he lugged the old chest, which was unexpectedly heavy, out of the store. By the time he reached his home outside of town, the sun had set.
* * *
The next morning, Brightblade, who was currently between jobs, set about studying his purchase. It was an old iron-bound chest, the kind one saw in old pirate movies. There was a large lock built into the front of the chest. Brightblade pushed aside the pendulum-like keyhole cover and peered into the lock. He couldn’t see into the interior of the chest, but he could make out that it was a relatively simple lock.
Brightblade got out his toolbox and put a couple of drops of oil into the old lock. Then he rummaged through the toolbox for a piece of heavy wire which he bent into a crude lockpick. After a few moments of jiggling the wire in the lock, the latch released with a loud click and the lid of the chest was free. Brightblade slowly lifted the lid and peered inside.
The sole content of the chest was a heavy canvas bag bound with a frayed piece of cord. Brightblade lifted the bag (which accounted for more than half the weight of the chest) from its resting place and set it on the table. He untied the cord and let the contents of the bag spill out onto the table. The yellow pony couldn’t believe his eyes. Before him laid a pile of thousands of jangles!
Brightblade rushed back to the antique store. “Hello again,” the mare greeted him. “I wasn’t expecting to see you again so soon.”
“Uh, yeah, well, about that chest I bought...”
“I’m sorry,” the mare cut him off. “All sales are final and all merchandise is sold ‘as is’.”
“No, there’s nothing wrong with the chest. I got the lock open and, well, it was full of money!”
“Oh?” said the mare. “And?”
“ ‘And?’ “ Brightblade was confused. “Well, I thought that... um, the money is rightfully yours! There’s enough to retire and move to Florida like you want to!”
“Oh, no, all sales are final. The chest, and the money, are yours. Besides, what would I do with the store?” Another pony entered the shop.
“But I can’t just...” Brightblade started to say.
“I have another costumer,” said the mare. “You’ll have to come back later if you insist on discussing this further, but I won’t change my mind.”
* * *
Later that day, Brightblade sat at the Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe eating a banana split and thinking about the money. After his visit to the antique store that morning, he had gone home and counted the money-- one hundred thousand jangles. Normally he’d be happy to have so much money, but it didn’t feel right just taking it from the old mare.
“Hey, why so glum, BB?”
Brightblade looked up from his split to see Medley, whom he had gone out with a couple of times, sitting down at his table. “Oh, hi, Med. I’ve got a little dilemma an my hooves.”
“Well, maybe I can help you figure it out. What’s the problem?”
“I went to this antique store and bought an old chest. When I got it home I found a hundred thousand jangles inside. I tried to return the money to the old mare who runs the store so she could retire, but she refused to take it.”
Medley stared at Brightblade for a moment in disbelief. When she regained her composure she said, “Well, you always complained that you never have enough money.”
“This is serious!” Brightblade snapped.
“Hey, I’m just tryin’ to cheer you up.”
“I’m sorry. I just don’t know what to do. The mare won’t take the money-- at least not while she’s still got the store-- and I don’t feel comfortable just keeping it.”
Medley scooped up a bit of whipped cream from Brightblade’s banana split and said, “Why not just buy the shop with the money? The mare would have her money and you wouldn’t have to keep bouncing around from odd job to odd job.”
Brightblade was struck dumb for a moment. “You’re a genius! It might just work!” He jumped up and rushed out the door.
“Mind if I finish your split?” Medley called after him. There was no response. “Well, I guess not,” she reasoned as she picked up his spoon and started eating.
* * *
Brightblade rushed home, grabbed the bag of jangles, and proceeded to the antique store. He took the money and set it on the counter.
“I’ve already told you, I won’t take your money,” the mare protested.
“Oh, I’m not giving you the money,” Brightblade said. “I’m buying your store.”
“Buying? What if the store isn’t for sale? Besides, do you really want an antique store; or are you just trying to get me to accept the money?”
“Well, I don’t think I’d be buying the store if it weren’t for the money; but I do need a steady job, and I think I like it here.”
“You seem like an honest enough young stallion. The store is yours for fifty thousand jangles.”
“Fifty? But that’s only half!”
“Oh, you’ll be happy to have the other fifty thousand. This job doesn’t pay very well. Why don’t you come back an Friday and we’ll take care of the paperwork?”
Brightblade could hardly believe what had just happened. “Sure,” he mumbled. “See you Friday.”