Friday, June 7, 2013

Opal Dreams

by: Krystalyn
My buddy, he don't say much to me. Ain't much to say anyway. The heat sucks the thoughts right outta our brains. Turns 'em into one word grunts.

Lift. Swing. Clang. Nothing. Lift. Swing. Clang. Nothing.

No change in sounds as the ax hits naught but rock. No swirl of color hidden in the cracks that grant us a one way ticket out of this hell hole.

Opals. That's what we was promised when we come out here and bought our small patches of claim. I traded a car for mine. My buddy, he traded his family. After about six weeks of him coming home with nothing but dust in his pockets, his girl and their two little ones piled themselves in their trailer and took off for elsewhere. That's when he stopped talking. There are times when I don't know if that's sweat or tears running down his face. When I see those wet streaks, I hand him my handkerchief and ask if he wants to get the dust out of his eyes. He's always grateful. I tell him he'll get his girl back. He just needs to be patient and keep swinging.

I ain't got a girl, but I know one back home. I want to take her out of that pit, buy her a big house, and treat her like a queen. I think she'll have me too. Back in school those blue eyes used to find mine in the hallways, and I'd like to catch fire. Those looks told me I was bound to do great things.

If I find an opal … when I find one, I ain't saying a word to anyone. I plan to bend over, real casual-like, pretend I'm taking a breather, and pocket that opal like I'm just grabbing some chaw. I'll finish the day like everything's normal. I can't make a fuss, because there are those out here that'll stab you in the neck before they'd drink to your fortune. I ain't one of 'em, but they're here.

Once quitting time hits, I'll head on over to the trading post. I'll say I need a drink, which is true most days, but I won't sidle up to the bar. I'll slip into the back room where Manny does his dealing. At that point, everyone will know what's happened, but by then, it won't matter.

Manny will make me an offer, and I'll spit on the floor to show him what I think of that offer. I'll say what I think the opal is worth, and he'll hem and haw about how I'm trying to rob him blind. Fifteen minutes later, we'll settle on a deal straight down the middle, and I'll leave with a pocket full of riches. I'll pass some over to my buddy, find myself a new car, and beat a path out of here.

Lift. Swing. Clang. Nothing. Lift. Swing. Clang. Nothing.

The shadows are getting long when I hear the cry. A guy whoops for joy at the claim next to my buddy's. We ain't friends so I keep my eyes on my own space and bring the ax down again. My buddy stops moving though. A tear crawls down to his beard. I pull out my handkerchief and offer it to him.

“Keep swinging, man. Our time's coming.”

He brushes my hand away. He's only done that once before. When we was at school, some kid kept taking his lunch. The kid didn't even eat it. He just ripped the bag apart and stomped the food into the dirt. My buddy put up with it until one day, he'd had enough. I tried to stop him, but he had the rage in his eyes, and I knew there was nothing to be done. He beat that kid into a pulp and left him face down in the school yard. The kid never bothered him again.

While the guy next to him dances around, flashing that opal of his to everyone in sight, my buddy's eyes once again fill with rage. Just like before, I know there's no stopping him. But still, I try.

I grab my buddy's arm as he heads toward the guy.

He yanks free and hollers at me. “I been digging twice as long as him. It's my turn, man. It's my turn!” He pounds his chest. The tears drip down his face, and I know he's hurting something terrible.

“Think of Annie,” I say. “Think of your kids.”

He calms down, and his eyes harden. That scares me more than the rage, cause it means he's not angry anymore. He's resolved. He swipes his arm across his eyes, and he gets real quiet. “I am thinking of them.”

He hefts his ax onto his shoulder and races toward the guy, who's still dancing around like a fool.

I chase after him. Ain't no words gonna stop him now.

He reaches the guy and shoulders his ax like a baseball bat. I grab the tip of the ax and haul my buddy backwards.

He curses me and punches the air outta my stomach.

I let go of the ax.

He prepares to swing at the guy, but it's too late. The guy's done caught on to what's happening. With his own ax, he catches my buddy across the face. Blood and teeth burst out of my buddy's mouth. He falls to the ground, and he don't breathe a stitch more.

The guy smartly pockets his find and heads straight to the trading post.

I ain't sure what to do next. Call Annie. Arrange a Christian burial. I don't do neither. I ain't got the money. What I have is two claims now, two plots of land to work, and a family that needs my help.

I walk back to my ax, pick it up, and start swinging.

Lift. Swing. Clang. Nothing. Lift. Swing. Clang. Nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Woo. A serious tale of loss and frustration. Love the line about not knowing if the streaks are tears or sweat down his face.