Friday, July 6, 2007

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

Found Gold
by Paul R. Lloyd

Wandering along an old worn path through a wood, he stumbled on a tree root but did not fall. Instead, he caught himself by grabbing a low-hanging tree branch over the trail. While turning around to look at the root, he tripped over a rock.

He spun as he fell and pushed out with his hands to catch the ground, hitting the dirt path with a solid thump, kicking up dust and kissing dirt. At first, he lay still, but then he lifted his head, spit out the muck, and rolled over, while clutching his knee.

The pain was excruciating. Good, he thought. The serious injuries don't hurt as bad as the minor ones.

As the pain subsided, he breathed easier and looked at the rock that was his undoing. It was an ordinary stone. Rather small as far as rocks go. Perhaps the path makers had ignored it as too tiny to bother moving off the trail. But there it was, solidly reminding him of his human frailty and blindness.

He heard scampering up ahead and peaked in time to see two chipmunks scurrying out from under a small clump of dried leaves, headed for a gathering of nearby cinnamon ferns. A bit of bright orange in the overturned leaves caught his eye.

Without bothering to stand, he pulled himself over to the tiny leaf pile. He was not ready to test his achy knee yet because, in addition to his fall, an old injury had rendered it not fully trustworthy.

The orange something was barely visible among the brown leaves. Carefully, he brushed them aside to reveal two tiny orange mushrooms standing among the fallen leaves.

The mushrooms appeared like little guardians of the forest floor. Then the more he thought about it, the more the mushrooms seemed like fat diminutive monarchs lording it over the worms, termites and ants. The scurrying creatures paid no heed of their majesties, which was just as well since their regal highnesses merely stood and stared.

He brushed more leaves aside to get a better impression of the mushroom sovereigns when something glittered in the sun a few inches away. Dusting the spot carefully with his fingers, he uncovered a tiny gold cross. He picked it up and marveled at this lost treasure. Somewhere someone was the poorer for it.

He imagined a young girl. Perhaps she was in love. Yes, and the cross was a gift from her true love. He had gone away. Where? To college. He was a student. No, not romantic enough. A soldier. Yes, a soldier. He had been wounded. He told her about it in a letter. She was afraid.

How could she marry a cripple?

She ran into the woods weeping under a tree, providing moisture for mushroom kings and queens to grow. She was frightened, nervous. What should she do? She wouldn't marry him this way. How could she?

She was tugging at her necklace becoming frightened and nervous. Then the necklace broke, the cross was gone. She gasped. It was his cross.

He had given it to her as a symbol and pledge of their love. He had their initials engraved on the back. Now it was gone. With great remorse, she went back from where she had come.

He smiled, closed his eyes and pictured the young girl sitting where he now lay, injured from a trip over a rock. His wound ached when he thought about it. Otherwise, the pain was gone. But he didn't want to get up just yet. He preferred to think longer about the cross. He rubbed the dirt off it and brought out the old shine. He turned the cross over, wiping a tear from his eye as he read the old initials, hers first and then his own.

Submitted by
Paul R. Lloyd

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