The Young 49'er

The Young 49'er

A Story by C.F. Boehlke
"

Writing prompt: "You are digging in the garden and find a fist sized nugget of gold."

"
There are few things in this world that I loath more than the feeling of dirt beneath my fingernails, gritty and an undeniable, physical proof of my station in the ranks of the lower class.

I'm poor, and I've always been poor. The dirt under these brittle nails of mine is probably more valuable than my bank account. My mother had made sure that I was educated, what with all of that studying of the social sciences and geometry. She gave us her all, cooking and cleaning and homeschooling us kids between beatings hand delivered by her no good husband. Thanks to him, I learned the only line that mattered in this life: the poverty line.

The years had passed and the little ray of sunshine that use to be me had to grow up. I found a no good husband of my own and we both made a friend of alcohol. He drank to avoid getting old and I drank to avoid him. It was no matter. My plumbing was as dry as bottom shelf vermouth; there wouldn't be any life emerging from my lady bits to ruin with our bad habits, anyway.

Cheers to that, I tell myself, yanking on the thick roots of a dead plant. A neighbor lady had given me some flowers to add to the garden I'd cultivated in the small spanse between each of our kitchen windows. Of the two of us broken women, I was the only one fit for getting down on my knees, but we were equally invested in this small patch of flora. Some mornings, if our men were sufficiently passed out from the past night's booze-capades, we would open our kitchen windows wide, sipping on our coffee in silence and peering down into the spattering of blooming petals.

On a good day with just the right amount of wind, we could even smell them through the smog.

Finally shaking the dead roots loose, I yank it from the ground and scooploose dirt from the hole, listening to the urban symphony of garbage trucks, blaring rap music, and the occasional gunshot. The kids would be getting off the bus soon. Killing time. Every once in a while, one of those poor b*****d children (most of them literally were b******s) would get caught in the crossfire. Yet another neighbor would lose all reason to live.

My fingers hit on something hard. What is that? I wonder. If it was another root I might lose my wits. My hands couldn't handle much more of this. It's hard to justify the purchase of gardening equipment when it will mean going without food, or more importantly, booze.

I prod at the clump but it isn't going to crumble. Wiggling my fingertips beneath it, I tug until it comes out of the ground. This isn't dirt, I realize, but the mystery item is so caked with years of sediment that I'm going to have to rinse it off to reveal its identity. I head back inside, stepping lightly and listening intently for any sign of my husband's awakening.

Turning the water on and placing the item beneath its rust-colored stream, I watch the mud slide away, wondering what sort of paraphernalia or illegal weapon I would find. In these parts, people just don't stumble upon good things.

It's the color of urine and anything but that. My mind reels with revelations as I comprehend the existence of what I hold in the palm of my callused hand. Here, in the hand of a lowly urban waitress, was what had to be a nugget of gold the size of my fist. Here, in the palm of a disillusioned victim of circumstances' hand, was a ticket to freedom in the form of thousands of dollars. Here, in the palm of my hand, was concentrated danger in the form of a lump weighing no more than one pound.

Turning off the tap and setting the gold down in the sink, I snatch a tumbler from the doorless cupboard and pour myself a stiff drink. Downing the poison in one fell swoop, I give myself permission to dream. I dream of food in our cupboards and tan lines from time spent on sandy beaches. I dream of a working furnace and of sunsets unobstructed by crumbling brick buildings. I dream of a trip to see her children, for the woman next door, and orthotics for her shoes.

I dream of a full night of sleep, unclouded by substance abuse and without heart seizing panic attacks induced by the only mountain I'd ever seen: the hundreds of unpaid bills and collections notices in our dank den.

Setting the tumbler on the counter and picking up the life-changing weight of precious ore, I return to the garden and get down on my creaking, battered knees. Taking a deep breath, savoring the toxins as they mingle with their predecessors in my lungs, I turn my face to the sky and ask God to forgive me for what I am about to do.

Tears tumble down my cheeks as I replace the gold in the lifeless soil, and take one final look at the only hope I had ever known before burying it with the dirt that I hated so much.

"Forgive me for my fear, Lord."

Patting the dirt firmly into place, I sigh deeply and rise to my feet. Being poor was all I knew how to be. I had spent my life defined by a lack of everything, and at the ripe old age of twenty eight, I was too old to learn any other way of living.

Rising to my feet, I square my shoulders and return to the kitchen to begin my nightly tradition of drowning my sorrows. I knew my burdens were heavy when I realized that not even a sea of moonshine would have been enough.

-CFB

© 2012 C.F. Boehlke


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Featured Review

Written on your phone? Good-golly, that sounds tedious! Very well imagined and written, full of dry wit and humor. Having grown up very poor, I can tell you that your character's path is an understandable one. When one sees nothing but failure and low achievement all around, it's difficult for some to break free of it.

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Great story! I could envision myself right there with her, working in the garden. I think I understand the feeling of being scared by the though of having money. I won't even play the lottery, what would I do with all that money - it often seems to cause nothing, but problem. Maybe it's not that it causes problems, it's just that it can't cure them either. I guess that is what your story was all about. Keep writing C.F., you are wonderful writer. Oh, I noticed the "scooploose" too and couldn't quit figure it out - thought maybe it was a foreign word.

Posted 9 Years Ago


The only thing I found was in line 19, scooploose should be scoop loose... other than that I have to say I actually enjoyed what you wrote... good use of description, and good use of vocabulary to paint a picture in words.

I found myself saying, "Man, why doesn't she just use it to get out of there!?" but also understand the culture of hopelessness you are trying to describe here... and it could be seen as a metaphor that those used to failure will often times find comfort in the same routine that makes them miserable...

Overall... very good job!

Posted 9 Years Ago


I wouldn't worry, it was probably fools gold and only large enough to buy a bag of magic beans.

Yeah, I echo Sam, you gotta have MAD texting skills.

but more than that, this story has clarity and structure, two traits my pieces lack. This clarity and structure lend to a well led pace and entertaining read. Cell phone screens not withstanding. I might suggest a different title though.
Good stuff

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Written on your phone? Good-golly, that sounds tedious! Very well imagined and written, full of dry wit and humor. Having grown up very poor, I can tell you that your character's path is an understandable one. When one sees nothing but failure and low achievement all around, it's difficult for some to break free of it.

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Please pardon any grammatical errors. My Internet it out and this was written on my phone.

Thanks for your time!

Posted 9 Years Ago



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Added on January 4, 2012
Last Updated on January 6, 2012

Author

C.F. Boehlke
C.F. Boehlke

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About
Hi! I am a recent college graduate and Second Place Author in the January 2012 Short Story Contest at Fresh Ink Group. Soon-to-be married, she dreams of seeing audiences worldwide have access to her w.. more..

Writing
Long Live Long Live

A Story by C.F. Boehlke



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