The Road from Laneston
by Shannon Szabo-Pickering
My sister Maisey and I sat there, hanging above Laneston, paralyzed by fear. Grandpa had warned us. The staircase was old, rickety and overgrown. Climbing it was too dangerous, even if we thought we knew better.
Laneston rested beside a hill covered with thick dense brush. It was a former gold mining town, abandoned and largely forgotten by time, located down an old deserted road littered with relics of a distant past. Grandma had lived there until the mine closed, stripped of its worth, its entrance along the hillside now lost in the thickets. Once the mine closed Laneston’s residents, once part of a thriving community, had no choice but navigate their way into the outside world.
When Maisey and I were young, our grandparents often brought us there. Grandma clearly loved this place. While gazing upon it her eyes shone like diamonds. In those moments, she was the most beautiful person on Earth.
Despite the gold being long depleted, magnificent finds awaited us. Old mining tools, bottles and cans, even old licence plates remained shrouded in the ground, waiting to be unearthed. Each time we visited Laneston we excavated some artifacts and diligently placed them in the Laneston Museum, which was really just a wall in our basement. When we returned home, treasures in tow, Mom would look at my grandparents and with a smile remind them that we had enough clutter of our own. Grandpa would apologize with a sparkle in his eyes and a jovial smirk that no one else could emulate.
Although we loved treasure hunting, the old staircase was truly Laneston’s crown jewel. It rose along the hillside, crisp and white against the dark brush. From its precipice we would be able to see all of Laneston, though what lay beyond remained unseen from below. Maisey and I wanted to climb it more than anything. We wanted to look down on Laneston, revealing secrets seen only from above; to explore this mysterious place and forge a path into the unknown.
Grandma and Grandpa forbade us from climbing it. It was in need of repair and partially engulfed by weeds and brush. It simply wasn’t safe to climb.
One day, my grandparents left us to explore Laneston while they went on a picnic. As they left, Grandpa reminded us to stay away from the staircase. Perhaps when we were older, he suggested, we could return and restore it. We longingly gazed at the staircase, so white and pure, the sky filled with jewel tones as the sun slowly set. Despite what Grandpa said, we knew it was time. We were ready for our own journey.
As we started to climb, we quickly realized that weeds obscured the remaining stairs. The sun was setting and darkness was quickly enveloping Laneston, its secrets now veiled. The staircase swayed. Its steps creaked and quickly darkened, now invisible in the shadow of the hillside. There we sat, unable to move up or down, uncertain of how we would find solid ground before Grandma and Grandpa returned.
Suddenly, Grandpa’s car came out of nowhere. Its headlights illuminated the staircase so we could find our way down. I jumped into the back seat, overwhelmed by guilt for betraying them. We silently drove down that old abandoned road, away from Laneston, never to return.
* * *
I sat at Grandma’s funeral salvaging these long forgotten memories. Just 6 months ago, Grandpa had passed away. Grandma would soon lay beside him, her too lost to time. Treasure forever buried.
Time had slowly distanced me from Laneston. As often happens, I saw my grandparents less frequently as I got older. They forgave us for our mishap, but life simply became too busy for Laneston excursions.
Then, about 10 years ago, Maisey and I had a falling out. Mom had presented us with two pearl necklaces. We could share them or each take one. We wanted the same necklace and bickered relentlessly while Mom patiently listened. Eventually she stood up, seized the necklaces and told us that we weren’t yet ready to possess them. The true value of these prized heirlooms had alluded us. Maisey and I blamed each other for the loss and rarely spoke to each other afterwards.
A few years later, while visiting my parents, they asked me if I wanted to take anything from the Museum home with me.
“I don’t have enough room,” I replied, curious as to why they were asking such a question.
It turned out they wanted to renovate the basement. In other words, they wanted to take down the Museum and place it in storage, hidden from sight. Shock went through me. Disbelief. I was unsure of how to respond.
Eventually I granted them permission to do so.
“Well, your riches are safe with me,” Dad replied with an expression strangely similar to Grandpa’s signature smirk. I remained silent. I was too angry to humor him.
Occasionally I would walk past an antique store filled with old artifacts. Memories overwhelmed me and thoughts of Laneston filled my soul. I would quickly shake them off. Surely, I was too young to feel nostalgic. Now those long forgotten days became engraved memories. Tears filled my eyes as I realized I never knew Laneston’s whereabouts. To my knowledge, only my grandparents held this wisdom and it was now forever lost.
After the funeral Dad pulled Maisey and I aside. He held an old toolbox and revealed that Grandma and Grandpa wanted us to have it when the time was right. We could share it, or each take some of its contents. He opened the box and in it lay a hammer and axe, an antique shovel and an old mining lamp. Although these artifacts were unfamiliar, I knew exactly where they came from.
I looked at Maisey and her eyes shone like diamonds. She met my gaze and we smiled at each other knowingly.
I am currently an aspiring freelance writer with experience in business writing and journalism. You can find examples of my business writing at www.slideshare.com/shannonpickering1
On its surface, “The Road from Laneston” is a story about how our relationships between people, places, and our own memories change over time. It is my first attempt at short story writing since high school. The name Laneston is derived from L’anse Aux Meadows, a former Viking colony in Newfoundland, Canada that remained undiscovered for centuries. The name Maisey finds its origin in a Scottish word meaning Pearl. While reading “The Road from Laneston” I invite you to impart your own meaning onto the story, and perhaps uncover some distant memories of your own in the process.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'I’ll Climb Alone'