The Prize

short story by Colin Crawford

Late one night, when the fire crackled extra loud and the river was inordinately quiet, Leo and Diego were sent to go retrieve firewood for the mischievous fire. The twin boys arrived at the wood site and began to chop away at the trees. They sized up their haul and decided to make three trips back and forth with the logs of wood.

Diego exclaimed in a matter-of-fact manner, “Let’s finish up with this tree right over there!”

“Fine!” Leo responded with similar energy.   

Diego decided to chop down the completely hollow, dead tree, with no signs of life. Leo, seeming interested, stated, “Diego, can I please give it a try?” 

As the strong, silver ax jolted into the tree for a final blow, it made a breaking sound unusual for a tree. The boys observed the cracking sound and decided to investigate. 

To everyone else, Leo and Diego were mirror reflections of each other and had always confused the rest of their friends and family. Each boy wanted to differentiate themselves from the other, causing a strong tension between the two. 

To everyone else, the twins of the Benton family were born into a historic family. Many family members and friends believe their ancestors sailed the first ships to the Americas sent by the Spanish Empire. Mr. Benton, however, thought of his ancestors as clueless pirates, chasing any ripple or wave to make a living. As the twins grew, they started their own chase. They chased what was hidden from them, steering through their own swirling waters, diving deeper into the rich history of their famous “conquistadors”, and they questioned their father’s opinion. 

As the morning came around, the boys were awakened by the chickens’ desperate calls for freedom. Now that it was light, Leo took out the bounty from their investigation. The bottle from the tree had a weathered scroll, almost like a map to buried treasure.“The Journey will lead you to a great gift,” read the tidily scrawled words faded into the scroll, “unlike anything you could imagine.” The boys were extremely disappointed. Why imagine anything? Why not just follow the map and be cargado de oro?

They each held the bottle, held the scroll. Leo then tossed the bottle in the chicken coop. 

Twenty years had passed. Leo and Diego had moved out of their home country and moved to Florida in pursuit of better opportunities for life. The twins had adjusted to suburban life, which was unlike their past rural life. Both boys were hired at a doughnut shop, close enough where they were able to walk everyday. On the walk, they had noticed an old man that looked peculiar indeed, and the twins mentioned that he was crazy. As they passed him everyday, the man seemed to be more interested in observing Leo and Diego. The old man had a similar skin complexion to the twins and spoke very little English. One day, the old man finally spoke to the twins and said “Dale pues.” Leo responded in a rude fashion, as did Diego, and seemed not to think twice about the man. 

The twins were happy to see that the old man was not in his usual place the next day. They did not want to address the old fellow or interact with him in any way. On the way home however, the old man slipped a note into Leo’s work bag and vanished. 

Both Leo and Diego went home to their small, stingy apartment where they found the paper. The letter was faded and appeared to be written many centuries ago. The Benton brothers instantly recognized the language on the letter. They thoroughly read it once, twice, and eventually too many times to count. The letter translated to “Down South you will find your ancestors prize”, accompanied by a map that looked like an ancient temple. Anxious, Leo and Diego investigated the drawing and eventually found the approximate location of the temple. 

Leo exclaimed, “We should go as quickly as possible to gather our prize.” 

“We can not jump right into this and leave our life for a fake, unproven prize. How do you trust this man?” replied Diego in a demanding fashion. 

The twins discussed and thought about their decision and came up with different paths. Leo was going to fly to the temple in Panama, while Diego decided to drive his way to Texas, through the border and eventually to his destination of the temple. Leo was highly skeptical of Diego’s ways, but nevertheless questioned it. Leo knew that he would be able to reach the prize before his brother and whatever it was would set him apart from his clingy leech. 

Diego took his beat up car and prepared it with clothes, food and drink prior to his departure.  He decided to leave three days before his brother’s flight.

Diego had been driving for four days now and imagined that his brother was already in Panama, attempting to discover the prize. On the night of the fourth day, an unimaginable storm swept through the mainland of Mexico. This forced Diego to take many detours where he met new people and discovered cultures along the way. As the storm grew even stronger, Diego had to stop and settle in a small town in Honduras. He met two people who worked in the sugar processing industry. The two were husband and wife, offering a place to stay while the rain poured on.

Diego followed the husband and wife back home and met the rest of their family. Immediately, a woman of similar age caught the attention of Diego. As they continued to talk, Diego felt something he had never felt before. He asked for her name and she responded, “Premio.” What an odd name, thought Diego.

Meanwhile, Leo had found a mysterious chest of orbs in the ominous temple. He was too blinded by the beauty and wealth of the wonderful orbs to think straight. He picked up the chest and carried it secretly back to his motel. He thought, “I finally set myself apart, I am going to be way better off and he is not going to get anything.” The next day, he took the chest, boarded the plane and flew back to Florida. 

Diego decided to stay at Premio’s house for about a week. He thought that he had met the one and that he could not leave her. He openly discussed his admirations with the family and realized that they were extraordinary. They openly showed love towards each other and him without any hateful tensions. After long thought and debate, Diego decided to stay with the family. Diego repeatedly tried calling Leo, but Leo would never answer. Despite this, Diego had high hopes for Leo to come and eventually meet his new family. 

As the years roamed on, Diego married his Premio and they raised a family of three. Leo was extremely rich as he lived in  a mansion in Florida. He had sold half of his orbs for major amounts of money. Despite this, Leo did not feel complete deep down. Sure, Leo had all the wealth in the world, but he did not have anyone in his life. This flaming feeling led Leo to a road of misery. 

Diego sat with his family on one particular night where the fire was extra loud and thought back to his prior days. He finally understood the two letters that he gave no thought to prior to tonight. 

Leo’s orbs rested in his various display cases, collecting dust, where he thought he found his true prize. Diego sat by his fire with his family and peacefully thought back to the bottle in his chicken coop back in his home village. 

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