THE TIME CAPSULE • by Matthew Schultz

You probably don’t remember. In fact, I doubt anyone remembers. Maybe that dog of yours that Dad found huddled in a Coca-Cola crate behind Steve’s filling station off Highway 83 just south of Thedford. I always did like that dog, but she was a digger! When was that? Must have been almost 1940 –– no, the War hadn’t begun. Anyway, Dad was driving the pale-yellow Model A pickup. Must have been ’37 now that I think about it. How old were you? Six, seven? Seems a lifetime ago. We were living in the cabin my Grandpa had built beside the Dismal River after his war with the butternuts. A hundred miles from nowhere. Or so he thought. So did we.

Well, you can’t dig a proper hole in the sand hills. But that hound sure did give it her best. She pawed out more of a bowl than anything, but when it was all said and done that little divot was about five feet deep. If it had rained at all we’d have had a proper swimming hole. Likely a rattlesnake infestation, too. Instead, you spent nearly the entire summer in that pit just pushing sand around and chasing jackrabbits. But then you started carrying tools with you. Just a spade at first. Then a pick and auger. What were you looking for, I didn’t know. Oil? Buried treasure? I suppose those are one in the same. Never expected you’d find what you did.

But here we are. Thirty feet beneath the surface of the Earth in a cast iron replica of Grandpa’s cabin. He used to talk about his fortress against the fires of Hell. We always thought he was rambling about the church, not a literal underground garrison. Whether he thought to build fortifications against the army of Lucifer or had some kind of premonition about the bomb, I don’t know. When Hiroshima melted in a righteous flash of white light it seemed that either could be true. I’m not sure how that dog knew where to dig or if it was just dumb luck, but she saved our lives. No denying it. And you, too. If you hadn’t excavated the hatch. Well, I don’t even want to think about it. We had a pleasant life, you and I, in the ever quiet beneath a ruined world wrapped in a blanket of atomic smoke.


He removed the stylus from the cylinder and thought to start the recording again to keep the loneliness at bay. Instead, he allowed the needle to drop upon its cradle. He was nearly a centenarian. But he could wait for death no longer. He stood up from the worn wooden chair that had been his chair for so long and gathered his strength. He was ready to look upon the world one last time, even if it was just to ponder some charred battlefield. But the hatch wouldn’t budge. A century of sand had settled atop it. And above the sand, well, here we are.

Matthew Schultz is Director of the Writing Center and Adjunct Associate Professor of English at Vassar College. He is the author of two novels and four collections of poetry.

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