My first job was as a treasure hunter. I was only 8 then, and walked before the sun came out around the city, looking in other people’s trash for treasures. Every morning, always too early, I would go all over looking for things or pieces we could clean up and sell. Times were rough, and finding anything that could have any value was always a victory.

Marco, a cousin of mine, who was one year older, used to come with me. He always had the most fantastic stories about the pieces we found. I thought then, and also now, that his stories were always attempts to distract me, as he was the older of the two and probably worried about me. “This glass pitcher here belonged to a princess,” he would say, “and this pen to a famous writer who is still looking for it in one of his books.” Marco made up great stories, and the days went by faster because of his tales.

Eventually we both grew up, and thanks to our family’s efforts we were able to study and get better jobs. I moved far from Marco, but his stories stayed with me wherever I went. I traveled around the world and recognized nicer versions of the treasures we once hunted, and I thought of Marco’s stories.

Some of those stories I forgot, but others I remembered word by word. It wasn’t until I traveled to Italy when I realized how much they had affected me; the day a friend of my wife invited us to a formal dinner. When we walked into his house I couldn’t help but noticed something familiar in the living room. It was a pair of lamps and a piece of coral identical to pieces Marco and I had found back in the day. That time Marco had said the lamps and the coral belonged to a priest in Italy, and one day they would go back to his family.

I couldn’t believe it, it was the same pieces, but now the coral had been put on Lucite, and everything looked brighter. I couldn’t help but ask our host the story of the lamps and the coral. He explained they had belonged to his uncle, a priest, a long time ago, and for a while they disappeared, but someone in the family was able to track them down and brought them back. Our host’s mother had given them to him. As he told the story he could see the excitement in my expression.

I excused myself and ran to call Marco, he would be happy the treasure that he had once found had been returned to its owner’s family.

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