Rouge de Billion

Nicholas A. White

When I was a boy, I searched for buried treasure under stumps in the backyard. My dad told me stories of people who buried their teeth in blankets of wool before their death: Ancient methods of preservation to keep their souls lingering on the earth. I searched each day for proof.

After Grandpa got sick, he joined me. We flipped fallen trees together. I did most of the work, and on the good days, he would joke about his failing strength. The world was stealing from him the ability to search for its treasures.

We found an arrowhead lodged between two concrete blocks one day. He said it was impossible—concrete came after the Native Americans’ time, and the arrowhead was a cruel trick played by the neighbors to convince us of something beyond our reach. He said it was a rouge de Billion.

I asked him what it meant.

“Imagine the world like a big airplane, and we’re all flying together, but there are some people aboard who like to convince everyone else we’ll crash.”

“I’ve never been on an airplane,” I said.

Grandpa seemed offended by the news, and he shook his head while staring into the woods, apparently unable to find whatever he searched for.

“Okay,” he said.

The next day, he ignored the arrowhead when I showed him the cracks in the side, the imperfections in what was otherwise a flawless black triangle. He dismissed the possibility of it being something extraordinary.

He died soon after.

Mom told me it was expected, although it didn’t make his funeral seem any more acceptable. I blamed God. I blamed the cruelness of the world. Most of all, I blamed ourselves for living after his death. It seemed unfair.

Grandpa visited me one day, beside a bonfire in college, while me and a few friends got drunk on beer and smoked cigars beside the flames. Grandpa told me we could only live for a certain period of time, and although we all wished to live forever, there were restrictions on our lives beyond our control. I told him it wasn’t fair. His smile looked like two vines of poison ivy closing together over a rose bush, the thorns crashing into each other like an army of little arrowheads fighting for sunlight, and I knew in that moment nothing would be the same, the Native American legacy had ended, and the treasure we’d searched for had disappeared as suddenly as a moonrise in the middle of the afternoon.


Nicholas A. White lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Fiction Southeast, Thrice Fiction, Real South Magazine, and elsewhere. Find him at