“Truth in a Bottle” Short Story

By: Carrington Chung

“What is it ?” Diana asks looking down at the hole.

“It’s a bottle — obviously,” Cassie said rolling her eyes “with some sort of paper in it.”

I pick up the bottle, took it inside and carefully placed it on my pitch black countertop. I shook the bottle and took the piece of paper out from inside, brushing it off carefully. I hold a magnifying glass up to the document and I try to decipher the writing on the aged, yellow piece of paper.

“It’s an old document. Seems official too, like it’s from the second half of the 20th century.”

“Elijah how can you even tell ? Does it have a date ?” Denzel inquires.

“Yeah, at the top it says February 1963,” I reply.

I scan the paper to find pictures of some sort of vest but I can’t be too sure, I’m not a fashion expert. Flipping the paper on the back, at the top it says “Stefan Chamberlin.” The paper has all sorts of measurements and drawings all over it. A light flicked on in my head and I remembered the name. Chamberlin was the name of the person who lived in this house before my friends and I moved in. I always liked this house because of the big backyard. Mr. Chamberlin had spent most of his time out there.  Mr. Chamberlin passed a couple years back though and now I live in his house. Funny how life comes full circle.

“Cassie come check this out. What is it?” Christopher calls from across the room

“It’s Kevlar, you know the bulletproof vest military guys use.”

In my head I was thinking “Why is Mr. Chamberlin’s name on this document, and why does he have this at all?”

“Yo, wouldn’t it be so funny if the old guy who lived in this house before us actually invented Kevlar,” Denzel exclaims.

We all laugh at Denzel as he always has these “great epiphanies,” but to be honest this one makes some sense to me. I mean I know Stephanie Kwolek invented the vest but it just seems sketchy that Mr. Chamberlain would even have this document.

“That’s not actually that stupid Denzel. We should dig into this.” I said.

“Elijah, he’s joking and even if we wanted to what are we supposed to do with a random document and an assumption? It’s not like we can ask Chamberlin– he’s in the ground remember. ” Diana states.

“We can ask Selena,” Christopher says.

“Selena who?” I ask with great interest.

“Selena Chamberlin. The old man’s daughter. She lives up in New Jersey. Let’s pay her a visit. College classes aren’t gonna be back on until September and we’ve got nothing but time.”

“I’m down for a road trip! Let’s get packing!” Diana squeals

I know my friends are doing this just to get a free road trip but to me this is important. This could rewrite a moment in history making me question everything in history and whether or not what they tell you to believe is true. I cared about old man Chamberlin even though we never spoke. Some people just have unspoken connections.   

“OKAY! Load up the RV! Jersey here we come!” Diana hollered from the driver’s seat, the week after.

Seeing that we had time on our hands and Massachusetts was only 4hrs away from New Jersey, Cassie, Denzel, Christopher and I all start to brainstorm as to why old man Chamberlin had original sketches of Kevlar.

“Maybe it’s not his,” Denzel and Christopher agreed.

“It has his name at the top but if it was his the patent would be in his name and he would have been credited for the original invention. If Chamberlin actually invented Kevlar the prints must have been stolen or maybe he couldn’t carry out the designs for some reason,” I state trying to come up with logical explanations.

“Elijah I agree but we need to come up with a plan as to what we are going to say to Selena, I mean we can’t just show up at her door and ask about her dead father and demand explanations of his property that we dug up. I say that we explain that we knew her father and we were curious as to the origins of this documents if it is okay with her,” Cassie says confidently.

Cassie always comes up with plans as she is the most level-headed out of all of us. She always knows what to do and is in control of everything. She used to be student body president, head cheerleader and captain of the volleyball team in high school. Leadership runs through her veins like blood pumping to your jugular.  Denzel, Christopher and Diana are the wild ones–reckless and you have to keep them on a tight leash. Bless their hearts but if you don’t keep them in order they can burn down a building. We all met freshman year of high school in detention when Diana, Chris and Denzel were in trouble for burning down the chem lab. Cassie, of course, was in charge of them because she was teacher’s aid and well, for me, I guess being late first day of school, at a new school, in a new state wasn’t the best way to make a good first impression but hey one hour of all of us in a room birthed a great friendship.

 

At the door of Selena Chamberlin’s House

 

“This neighborhood is horrible. I think I just stepped on a dead rat.” Chris whined

“Doesn’t matter — just knock lightly,” Cassie says

*tap tap*

“Oh please,” Diana says

*BOOM BOOM BOOM*

“Diana!” Cassie snaps

The door slightly opens and a hazel eye is in between the crack of the door

“What do you want ?” The shaky voice says

“Hi Miss Chamberlin, I’m Elijah and these are my friends. We live in your father’s old house and we had some questions to ask if you don’t mind,” I ask politely

“My father is dead I can’t help you,” Selena states

I shoved my foot in the door before she could close it completely.

“Wait — it’s about the Kevlar Document!” I rush to mention trying not to pay attention to the pain in my foot.

She looks at us up and down then down at the document then back at us and next thing we knew, we were in Selena Chamberlin’s living room.

“My father created the original design for Kevlar bulletproof vests in 1961 and finished the sketches in February 1963. It was named Kevlar after my grandfather, Kevlar Chamberlin. My father worked so hard on those. It was his passion to invent but his designs were stolen by the hands of an insecure Cullen– Stephanie Kwolek,” Selena explains

“Why would she steal your father’s designs?” Denzel asks

“Stephanie and my father were in a relationship for a while after my mother fled ship when she had me young. My father grew sick at a young age and he thought it would be a good idea to break up with her so she wouldn’t have to have him as a burden but Stephanie took offense and was madly in love with my father. She knew about the Kevlar designs and stole them and took them as her own. I guess for insurance my father buried one of the design sheets. My father’s early dementia made him forget that he ever created the designs and Stephanie ended up taking credit, recognition and money from my family which are three things you can see by living standards, that I need.” Selena explains

We were all in shock at this story. In shock that what we read in history books may not even be the real thing I mean when you think about it, history is written from one person’s perspective; a perspective that may be different from yours.  

“Well here we have the original document! It’s yours! You can use this to get the money you need and get your father’s recognition!” Diana suggests with wide smile.

Selena stares at her through her aging, hazel eyes and with a crooked smile but a smile that meant well. She looked about late 40’s to early 50’s and her house is dank and dark and I don’t think she was ever married since we call her Miss Chamberlin.

“That’s very kind sweetheart but I’ve already gotten my closure about my father’s death. No need to reopen closed wounds,” Selena says with her hands crossed in her lap.

“Are you sure you don’t want to at least keep the document ?” Cassie asks

“I want you kids to keep the document. It is truly something special to hold a piece of history in your hands especially true history, the kind with an untold story to go along with it,” Selena says showing her pearly whites.

After leaving Selena Chamberlin’s house I felt as if I had learnt an important life lesson, that you should question everything twice before you perceive it to be true.

“Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see” -Benjamin Franklin.

 

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