Cubing the Stories 11 (The Blog Propellant)
Five days after the reading of my father’s will, I found myself on a plane to Egypt with an old-fashioned key on a chain around my neck. In his will, my father wrote a list of instructions for me to follow in order to earn my inheritance. His last wishes were that I follow my dreams and travel, so he was sending me to Egypt. While there, I was to visit anywhere I like, but specifically the Egyptian Museum, the Valley of Kings, and the Great Pyramid of Giza where I was supposed to find clues that would lead me to what the key unlocked.
After landing, I took the first few days to get over my jet lag and to explore with no specific agenda. I just wandered around, taking pictures, and talking to some friendly locals about the best places to eat. I felt the stresses of my everyday life slipping away as I lost myself in the city of Cairo.
This morning I was heading to cafe recommended to me by a woman I bumped into at the bookstore. I literally bumped into her as I took pictures (a “shelfie” for my bookstagram account) and dropped the books she was carrying. I helped her to pick them up and we got to talking. I mentioned how much I would like to find a good cup of coffee. The coffee in my hotel room just wasn’t cutting it and I didn’t want to find the Starbuck’s I had heard about. I wanted to really experience Egypt. She said I had to go to Zahrat-el Bustan. I found the cafe, ordered a turkish coffee, and took a seat. I sat sipping my coffee, feeling the caffeine zing through my veins, and writing in my travel journal. As I wrote, I found myself smiling. My Father had been right. I needed to follow my dreams. I rubbed the key between my fingers, looked to the sky, and said, “Thank You Daddy.” Tomorrow I would start looking for his clues and figure out what else he wanted to tell me.
I began with the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. I have always loved museums. My Father took me to many different ones when I was a kid and now I always felt the need to check out the museums in the cities I did get to visit. I roamed around the museum reading the fascinating histories of the pieces presented. As I walked over to see the statue of the Goddess Neith, a man in a suit approached me. He held out his hand and introduced himself as Muhammad. As I shook his hand, he went on to say that he had been a friend of my father’s. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope handing it to me. “Your father gave me this to give to you when I saw you here.” I started to ask how he knew who I was, but he stopped me, put his hand back into his pocket, and pulled out an old photograph of me. It was one my father had taken of me a few years ago when we had gone on a brunch cruise out on the San Francisco bay. It had been right before he’d been diagnosed with cancer. Muhammad and I walked around the museum talking about my father. Muhammad told me so many stories I hadn’t known. They met 45 years ago when my father came to do research for a book he was writing and apparently my father came back quite often to visit and spend time with Muhammad and his family. I wondered why my father had never mentioned it. I thought I had known everything about him. I thanked Muhammad for his time and he invited me to his house for dinner before I left. I accepted his invitation looking forward to learning more about my Father, but what I really wanted right now was to find a place to sit down and read what was inside the envelope. I walked out of the museum and sat down on the nearest unoccupied bench outside. My hands were trembling as I tore open the envelope and pulled the letter out. It read;
My dear sweet daughter,
Just kidding. Hello Lunaloo! I know this must be hard, but I am proud of you for coming all the way here. What do you think? Isn’t this city fascinating? It has become a home away from home for me. Muhammad and his family always welcomed me. I loved to escape here. Being around all this ancient history always got my mind going whenever I was stuck. I think almost every one of my books came from an idea I got while wandering around various parts of Egypt, but the museum was one of my favorites. I spent many hours here thinking about what it must have been like all those years ago when the antiquities seen here were brand new. You know how I used to get. I could day-dream for hours. Muhammad often had to come looking for me when I was late for dinner. He was such an understanding man. I hope you will spend some time here and really take it all in. As you may have guessed by now, I have some friends waiting for you at each of the destinations I asked you to visit. I know I never told you about coming here, but I never told anyone. It was where I came whenever I got writer’s block. I always had to come alone. I didn’t want the distractions or itineraries that traveling with others brought. I hope you can understand. I did want you to see it though. I love you Lunaloo and I always will. Love, Daddy
My eyes teared up a little, but I was able to stop the tears from overflowing. I didn’t want to cry out here in front of all these people. My father’s words warmed my heart. I headed back to my hotel and planned out my next day. I thought I would go to the Great Pyramid of Giza next. I had always dreamt of going there ever since I saw “The Mummy” starring Boris Karloff and started studying everything I could find out about Egypt and mummification as a kid. I wonder if that’s why my Dad brought me here. I dragged him to the library I don’t know how many times to check out book after book about Egypt or even just books where the stories took place in Egypt. I think I was obsessed for over a year before I took a painting class that included a little art history about the techniques we would be learning. I then became obsessed with the painters of old. As all the memories flooded in, I started to feel exhausted physically and mentally and decided to turn in early. Tomorrow had the potential to be another long day.
I made it to the Pyramid early. I wanted to get pictures of it in all kinds of light through the day. I also hoped to get a few shots before a lot of people arrived. I wished I had gone to the cafe first to get a cup of that delicious turkish coffee, but I was here now and ready to learn whatever my Father wanted to tell me today. I sat in silence just staring at the Pyramid when a little old man came walking toward me and introduced himself as Asra. He sat down next to me and handed me a large envelope. As I took it in my hands, I felt that it was quite heavy. Asra was a little out of breath, so I we sat in silence for a few minutes while he recovered.
“Your father saved my life once,” he said. I looked at him surprised. He laughed and continued, “He saw some men chase and corner me in an alley. He followed them in and stood in front of me. They told him to mind his own business, but your father persisted. He asked and kept asking what I had done. They finally told him I owed them money. He asked how much and when they gave him the number, your father didn’t blink, he reached into his bag and he paid the men. After they left, I thanked him, but told him he was crazy for interfering. Your father just laughed and said he couldn’t stand by and watch them kill me. Your father was a good man. I owed him my life and helped him whenever I could after that. He came to see me about two years ago and gave me that package for you. He looked terrible. It broke my heart to see him so weak when all I could remember was that man who stood up for me. He tells me you are just like him; strong, wild, and an imagination that can create worlds far greater than anything he could. He asked me to tell you to stop dreaming of those worlds and start writing those stories in your head down. Inside that envelope is one of his last book ideas. He made a lot of notes and even started writing the story. I read it and helped him edit it as I always have with his books. It’s good, but it’s not finished. I hope you will finish it.” He stopped talking then and I could see tears in his eyes. I put my hand on his and thanked him for being my father’s friend and for all his words. I couldn’t tell him that I was not a writer like my father though. I had always wanted to be, but every time I sat down and tried to get the stories out, they never came. Asra showed me around the Great Pyramid. Telling me more stories I didn’t know about my father. It was another good day and I thought I would be exhausted again as I made my way back to my hotel, but my curiosity about what was in the now very heavy envelope won in the end. I stayed up almost all night reading the story my father had started. I was so engrossed in the story that when a late night lightning storm knocked out the power for an hour, I had used the flashlight on my keychain to keep reading. I was so tired, but I felt energized at the same time. The story had stirred up so many thoughts. I had made notes throughout the night. As I went over them again adding a few things here and there, the exhaustion won out and I fell asleep for 10 hours. I woke up starving and as I left my room in search of food I found a man sitting outside my door. I screamed and started to back into my room and just as I was closing the door, he quickly said, “I knew your father.” I pulled the door back open. “I’m sorry to have frightened you, but when you did not come to the Valley of Kings today, I worried about you and brought your Father’s gift here. I knocked several times, but you did not answer. Are you okay?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. I was just up all night reading my father’s manuscript and fell asleep this morning. I just woke up. Wow, I must have really been sleeping hard. I did not hear your knocks. I am so sorry.”
“Well, I have brought your last present from your Father. How about I take you to a wonderful place I know for dinner and we can talk?”
“Sure, that sounds good.” I doubled checked that I had my room key and left with him. His name was Nofre and the wonderful place he knew was his house. His wife and family were very welcoming and the food was warm and delicious. We talked for a few hours. His stories were funny and spending time with his family was just what I needed after spending most of the last week alone. I kept staring at the box he had brought from my father. It was a large beautifully carved wooden box. I had not missed the keyhole on the front. The keyhole that I bet the key around my neck would fit. Nofre noticed me staring and he got up and brought it to the table in front of me. I took out the key and looked at him, he nodded, and I unlocked the box. Inside were more notes, pictures, drawings, and on the very bottom a laptop. As I pulled everything out and laid it on the table, Nofre told me how he and his father would work on stories together. My father would ask him to take him to see places he’d read about, places that he would eventually include somehow in his stories. They may appear as the city on a space station deep in space or the road trip between two old friends in another or some artifact would change a little, but it would be the treasure the main characters went out on a quest for. They had shared many adventures together and her father had hoped that his daughter would be inspired their adventures too. The drawings included, Nofre had done and sent via texts to her father when he got to weak to travel. His mind had never stopped working. I had known he had kept trying to write, but I didn’t know he had gone to such lengths to get his ideas. I thought he had just come up with them on his own. Now all those talks I had had with my Father about traveling and experiencing life made sense. He’d wanted me to have adventures too. I started crying as I realized how much I had stood in my own way. He had been nudging me for years and now only after he was gone did I see what he’d been doing this whole time.
That night I wrote an e-mail to my boss quitting my job. On the laptop I had found a video from my Father that explained to me about a very large bank account that he had set aside for me to start living. I took his advice and started traveling everywhere I had dreamt about. I worked on the story he had started and when I finished it I brought it back to Egypt and shared it with my Father’s friends. They each read it and gave me some final pointers before I submitted it to my father’s agent. It was 2 long months before he found a publishing house to print it, but I finally became a published author with my father’s name next to mine on the cover. I still wore the key around my neck. It had become a lucky charm of sorts. Standing in the back room at my first book talk and signing, I rubbed the key, looked up at the ceiling, and said, “Thank you Daddy.”