The house was still there, but time and vandals had taken their toll. The windows were gone. Bullet holes pierced the front door. The rooms seemed smaller, shrunken, familiar yet surreal. Broken shards of our story littered the kitchen linoleum, crayoned drawings untouched in the hall, one rotting house shoe that had once warmed her foot in the bedroom closet.
The old fireplace was cluttered with broken glass. I knelt and reached up into the chimney as far as my arm would go and my hand found the loose stone. The sooty, rusted tin box creaked when I opened it.