“It has to be. The old man said follow the river. There’s not a lot of ways to mess that up.”
‘I don’t know but from what I’ve read in most books, they talk about ‘There’s gold in them there hills.’ and we’re going down from the hills and not up into the mountains Just sayin’”
“I know.” I replied a little spitefully. “You’re the one with the brains. We’re just like pack mules to you.”
“That’s not what I mean at all. I’m just wondering if maybe that old codger was pullin’ a fast one on us.”
“You just don’t trust people. Why would he do that?”
“First- The $25 each we gave him for his mining rights. He just happened to have the deed in his wallet. Second- If there is gold, as much as he implied there was, then why isn’t he havin’ his grandsons go on this grand adventure?”
Just then, there here was a shout up ahead from the lead hiker. “Look! There’s a town just around the bend.”
As we approached the town, there was a freshly painted ‘Welcome’ sign for all to see. Behind the sign, three small one-room cabins.
I started laughing.
“Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Even if there is no gold here… and the old man did swindle us … At least we have great places to sleep for the night.
“We’re good to go. All our domestic necessities in my pack. We’re ready. If she’s there, we’ll see her.” Packing for tonight had to be all cloak-n-dagger. If their parents found out…
“This is the night. According to all forensic records.” It had taken us two years-three summer jobs each (weeding gardens, picking fruit, and shoveling (well, just don’t go there.) for us to finally afford this new gear. “It’s not like they had a very proficient C.S.I. team in 1913,” I chuckled.
“Didn’t really have to, Everything’s in her diary. She stopped writing in it on August 31, 1913. Her body was found two days later. So tonight, whatever happened… happened.”
“Oh, that’s so profound. Let me write that down.”
“You just keep your hands near the recording equipment. We were right about her showing up last time. This year we’ll have proof.”
“Sure we will. We’d have had the proof two years ago if you hadn’t upturned and busted all the equipment. Ruing and screaming out of the house like a mad man from He…”
“We’ve been hiking for over two hours- uphill – the entire way, yet the mountaintop seems even further than it did when we started. Are you sure we’ll get there for sunset.”
“I’ve hike this trail many-a-time, dear. When the lads were only eleven, we made up on to the top to set up camp before sunset.”
“Are you saying I’m slower than the boys were?”
“No dear, you’re not slower. Only less patient.” her husband said with a smile. “At least you don’t keep asking, ‘Are we there yet?’”
“I can clearly see that we’re not there, yet, Sweet’ums.”
“A hint of sarcasm. Still plenty of vim-and-vigor in you.”
“This had better be worth the trip.”
“It will be. And unlike my trip with the lads, we’re carrying only water and a few snacks in our packs. No tents.”
“I think you promised a candlelit dinner at the top. I hope that you’re planning to woe me with trail mix protein bars.”
“No, My Sweet.” Another smile crept across his face as it turned away. “The chopper is already atop the mountain with the rest of our things.” And quickly he continued his assent, not waiting for a reply.
“It used to be a garden. How do you know there aren’t root plants still be harvested?”
“Root plants being harvested … Are you kidding me?”
“Yeh, dummy. You know what a root plant is?
“Of course I know…”
“Alright, kids.” Dad turned his head and interrupted the heated debate. “Either play the game without the bickering, or sit back there quietly and allow the peacefulness of nature to infuse your souls.”
“We’ll stop the bickering, Dad, if you stop with the infusing of souls.” Darla smiled at Leo. Dad had won again with his back-to-nature mantras.
Leo handed the left ear bud to Darla and each began listening to Leo’s new classic from Def Leppard on his MP3.
Darla leaned over and whispered, “Horse, over to the left. I’m ahead by three.” And she smiled.
“Ridiculous? I’m just getting ready to celebrate.”
“The party is tonight. We should be leaving. It’s a three hour drive and I have to go home to shower and change.”
“You can go, but I’d wait. Two more minutes.”
“At least take off that silly party hat. People are watching us.”
“Stop your spinning and dancing. Someone is going to call the cops.”
“Oooo… One minute. One day, I am actually going to be there on the spot. I ‘ve always dreamed of being there for the first ray of light for a new year.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Timbuktu. Where New Year’s begins. Same time zone as Greenwich, England. To be relaxing out on a dune, watching the stars shine like they will never shine here again, awaiting the first rays of the sun for a new year. What could be better? Three… Two… One…”
Christopher blows his noisemaker and spins and dances for almost five minutes- at least it seems that.
Two police officers are approaching.
I grab his hand. “Let’s go. You’ve celebrated enough.”
“Sure. Now we can shower and change and party. The New Year is here!”