• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 12
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The Day of the Hanging Key

The key appeared overnight, suspended on a wire across the town's square. It became the immediate focus of attention.

'What does it open?' people asked each other.

No one proposed where the corresponding lock might be. Bewildered, the townsfolk simply looked up at the key and rubbed the backs of their craning necks.

Carla chose this moment to amble into the square and say, 'We should try to retrieve it.'

This suggestion animated the crowd. Carla sat on a bench and watched as two decorators extended a ladder. It almost reached the key but had nothing to lean against, which meant that nobody could ascend.

'Someone small could go up it,' one of the decorators said, as she attempted to keep the ladder upright. Nobody volunteered.

Carla removed her hat and brushed some talcum powder off it. The fine particles drifted towards the decorators and up their noses. They sneezed, and the ladder crashed to the ground.

'Send for Salvador,' Carla then said, replacing her hat. People nodded in agreement. They began shouting Salvador's name and looking for him.

The notion of a mysterious hanging key piqued Salvador's interest. Although reclusive, he strode to the square and assessed the situation.

'Give me an hour,' he said and disappeared.

With nothing to do, the crowd grew restless.


The Day of the Hanging Key

Carla took a book from her bag. Before she started reading, she told a nearby woman that people should perhaps fill in the time by eating. The idea spread and an impromptu, festive picnic took place in the square.

After an hour, the sky momentarily darkened.

'He's here!' everyone declared, staring up at Salvador. He waved from a wicker basket suspended beneath a teal and crimson balloon.

Salvador manoeuvred his balloon to within an arm's length of the key.

'What's it like?' someone called to him.

'It's rusty,' he replied, 'and looks like a key to an old box.'

While the onlookers absorbed this information, Salvador stretched out his hand.

Carla closed her book with a bang. The resulting rush of air rose to the balloon and tilted it. The wicker basket trembled with the sudden movement. Off balance, Salvador withdrew his hand.

The spectators caught their breath. For one perilous moment, they thought Salvador would topple from above into their midst. He managed to clutch the basket's side, though, and save himself.

'It's too dangerous!' he said. 'I'm leaving!'

To the sound of a collective sigh from below, Salvador took his balloon away from the square and the key.

With a look of satisfaction, Carla rose from the bench.

'Where are you going?' a boy asked her. 'We haven't recovered the key. We must work together and stay here until we do.'


The Day of the Hanging Key

'We won't retrieve it,' Carla said. 'Even so, we should come together once a year and try. This dangling, oxidised key has brought us together and exercised our ingenuity.'

Thus, the annual Day of the Hanging Key came about.