Parson’s Fortune (a serialized story)…conclusionPosted: July 26, 2014
This is the conclusion of the four-part story. The story takes place in a small Kansas mining town in the mid 1930′s. Pull up a crate and read the final installment of–
Parson’s Fortune (conclusion…)
The light gleamed on three gold coins cradled in Pete’s grimy, bloody palm. Charlie grabbed one up and turned it over in the light. “Twenty dollar double eagle. Lord amighty, Pete, we found Mull’s gold.”
The two boys jumped around and yelled out their excitement for a minute and then hit the floor to search for more coins. They crawled over every inch of the floor, kicked at the rock walls, checked for other alcoves–nothing, no more gold.
“He must’ve moved it somewhere,” Charlie said finally.
“Or he spent it all before he died, more likely,” Pete said, brushing his hands on his backside. It don’t matter right now. We gotta get out of here.”
“Damnation,” said Charlie. “All right. Let’s keep going.”
They abandoned the alcove, taking the passage until it closed down to a crevice neither could fit through.
“Damnation,” Charlie said with a kick at the small hole. “We gotta go back, try the other tunnel.”
The flashlight began to flicker as they retraced their steps to the fork and ducked into the other tunnel. It was tighter at first but opened into a tall passage. The direction wasn’t taking them closer to the surface, but they had no other choice than to follow where it led. It was slow going. It felt to Charlie like hours of walking. The flashlight was fading. And then the hole began to shrink.
Neither boy had spoken for some time. The seriousness of their situation grew heavier on their minds. Charlie stopped. Pete bumped into him in the dimness.
“This ain’t looking so good, Pete,” Charlie said, slumped down to avoid the low ceiling.
“You feel that?” said Pete. He stepped around Charlie and sniffed the musty air. “Something’s changed. The air’s moving.” He took the flickering light from Charlie, walked forward twenty feet and disappeared with a yell.
“Pete!” Charlie held his hands out to protect his head and rushed forward into the darkness.
The faint light reappeared, and Pete’s voice called out. “Hold up. Watch your step.”
Behind the beam of the flashlight, Charlie could see Pete’s head on the floor looking up at him. As he got closer he realized that their tunnel emptied into a bigger room, the floor of which was four feet lower. Pete was standing in the other room looking back into the hole at Charlie, who came forward and jumped down beside him.
They swept the light around the walls. The hole they had come through looked small now.
“This ain’t no cave,” said Pete. “It’s a mine. Look there at the timbers.”
“Well then it’s got a way out, don’t it?” Charlie grabbed the light from Pete and started through the new tunnel. The walls sparkled with the shine from bits of galena and pyrite reflected in the beam. After a good ways, the floor sloped upward and ended at a shaft flooded with light from the clear day above.
The boys were too exhausted to celebrate. They squinted up to where the rock turn into bright sky thirty feet above them.
“Where you reckon we are?” said Charlie.
“Question is, how do we get up there?” said Pete.
Charlie searched the rough walls of the shaft. “Here’s something.” He pulled a rusty wire cable from a crevice and tested its strength, his eyes following it upward. “I think it goes to that derrick up there, or what’s left of it. We can climb it easy.”
The two tired boys, caked with flint dust and striped with rust from the cable, lay on their backs on the rocky ground fifteen minutes later. The sun soaked into their damp clothes as they caught their breath.
Pete was the first one up. “We gotta get to Jack.”
“What if he figured we’re dead and just lit out,” Charlie said, struggling to his feet.
“Well, we gotta find him anyway.” Pete shaded his eyes and looked for a landmark. The underground march had taken them north and west about a quarter mile from the pit and around the side of Cemetery Hill. “Let’s try the pit first. He might still be there.”
They crossed the rocky flats taking care to avoid abandoned shafts.
“Who’s that?” Charlie pointing to someone walking toward them.
Buck picked his way over the broken ground. His long white hair spilled from a worn miner’s cap affixed with a carbide lamp. He stopped when he spied them and let the boys close the distance.
“Saints and sinners. You ain’t drown nor otherwise dead after all. Young Jack was sure as Sunday he’d sent you to a watery grave. You boys injured any?”
“No sir, just chewed up a bit,” said Charlie. “Where is Jack? Did he go tell everybody?”
Buck looked them over from toe to crown. “He came and found me first, seeing as how I know you and why you were out here in the first place. I told him to hold up and let me see if I could find you before setting off the whole town. He is sure enough scared to death.” He shook his head and squinted out the sun with one eye. “You boys got no idea how lucky you are. Hells bells, there ain’t one in a hundred could get in and out of there in the water. By the looks of you, you didn’t come that way.”
“We found a cave,” said Pete as he shoved his hand in his pocket. “Seems old Parson Mull didn’t have no fortune after all. This is all there was.” He held out the three gold coins in his rusty palm.
Buck picked one up and held it by the edge, his stubby finger pointing straight up. He examined it closely and set it back in Pete’s outstretched hand. “Well, would you look at that,” he said, and then he leaned toward them. “And here all this time I been thinking I had got it all.”