The Mound by Mike Bozart - HTML preview
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And then his lanky, now a bit of a wiseacre, dark-haired, thirteen-year-old son kicked the new size 4 ball over his head – and over the goal – into Dutch Buffalo Creek, which formed the farthest property line of their Mount Pleasant (NC) back yard. The father had been practicing soccer/football with his son for about twenty minutes on a mild March Saturday morning before the ball went splash in the sediment-laden, slow-flowing drink.
“You toed it again, Billy,” John told his son. “You’ve got to strike the ball higher – and without your big toe – to keep it down, son. Even a regulation soccer goal’s crossbar is only eight feet high.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, dad.”
John, a 47-year-old Caucasian father of one with a brown-to-gray Van Dyke beard, was soon parting the brush on the creek’s western bank. He then stepped down to a flat rock and turned to his right to look downstream for the ball. And there it was, merrily floating away at a knot per hour (1.15 MPH), already about twenty feet from him.
Dad quickly began to rock-hop down the wide, yet mostly shallow, piedmont creek. He caught up with their red-and-white soccer ball in sixteen seconds. As he plucked it from the ruddy stream, he noticed a mound next to the eastern bank with a yellow arrow stuck in it. Was someone hunting deer around here? Maybe that crazy dude in the blue shack.
He had a flash of déjà vu. He stood transfixed as a thought parade commenced. I’ve seen this very mound before. I know I have. But, where, though? Wait, it was in my dream last night! Yes, that’s it. And, it looked exactly like this. Wow! This is eerie. Is this some kind of augury? Is there something special about that mound? An auspicious omen? Well, there are white quartz rocks on the creek-side of the mound. Might there be a nice gold nugget somewhere in that mound? Ha. Maybe just wishful thinking. I’ve been thinking about gold ever since Scott panned out a half-ounce of fines a mile upstream from here. Jeez, what am I thinking? It’s probably just a pile of rocks and sand. There aren’t any creek-embedded gold nuggets left in North Carolina. Or, are there?
Suddenly his reverie was broken by a very familiar voice. “Dad, what are you looking at?”
He was startled, as he didn’t even hear his son following him downstream. “Oh, nothing, son. Just admiring the scenery.”
“Dad, you have been staring at that mound for the last thirty seconds!”
“Really? I guess I got lost in a daydream. Just getting old. Sorry about that, son.”
“Well, what were you thinking about? Is there a body buried under that mound?” He must have recently watched some crime show on TV.
“No, I don’t think anything sinister like that, son.”
“Hidden treasure?” Getting warmer.
“Close. I had a dream last night, son, and this very mound was in it.” He saw this mound in his dream?
“Well, what happened in the dream, dad?”
“I started digging up the mound and found a large gold nugget in it.” Wow!
“Yes, son. It looked just like this mound. Exactly like it.”
“Hey, let’s get some shovels and see if your dream is correct! This could pay for my first car.” What?!
“But, son, this isn’t our property. I could get arrested and you could be sent to some juvenile delinquency camp.” I doubt that. He’s just trying to scare me.
“It’s just overgrown county-owned property, dad. No one comes back here.” He’s probably right.
“No one but us.” And bow hunters.
“Exactly, dad. Let me run back and get a small shovel. I’ll do the digging. That way if the law comes, you’ll be in the clear.”
“Ok, ok. But, the digging will have a time limit of ten minutes.”
“Just ten minutes?!”
“Ok, make it fifteen. Final offer. Fifteen minutes max.”
“Make it twenty!” Oh, boy. So demanding. Just like his mom.
Billy then dashed back upstream to go fetch a shovel. I guess I secretly want to see if anything of value is buried in that mound. What if there were really a gold nugget six inches down, and we lived and died without ever taking a spade to it? Must rule it out.
The father turned his gaze back to the arrow-struck mound. I guess at this moment, this mound is kind of like Schrödinger’s cat, the quantum physics paradox. The gold doesn’t and does exist in that mound until we do some digging and alter its indefinite state. I guess we could get the old metal detector out of the shed and run it over this mound before wasting time digging. Ah, it will just be a good life lesson for him: Don’t get lost in a crazy dream; stay grounded.
Three minutes later the son was back with a medium-size garden shovel. Billy quickly began to dig away at the downstream side of the mound. This is pretty easy.
It was mostly sand at first. Then he hit some clay. And then his shovel struck a hard object. Billy paused.
“I think I hit a rock, dad. Or, maybe it’s the gold!” I sure hope it is! / It’s probably just a chunk of quartz.
“Let me shovel it out for you, son. Take a break. You’ve earned it. I got it from here.”
“Ok,” the son said as he handed the shovel over to his dad.
John then jumped onto the top edge of the shovel’s pointed blade with his right shoe. It sliced through the sand, silt and clay like a cold knife going through hot butter (or maybe the reverse). And then there was contact, quickly followed by a loud BOOM!
John had cleanly severed a flexible polyethylene natural gas line and ignited the rapidly escaping methane as the metal shovel blade sparked against a piece of white quartz. His body was launched twenty-two feet into the air. Unfortunately, he landed head-first on a large piece of slate in the stream. John was dead on contact.
Billy was knocked back, too, by the ferocious fiery explosion. However, he was only knocked back ten feet, landing on a soft, muddy, undercut bank in a curve in the creek. He was dazed, but still conscious, and not hurt that bad.
A nine-foot-high, narrow, hissing, bluish flame raged out of the mound. Interestingly, the yellow arrow was still where it was, as if nothing had happened.
Eleven minutes later, Billy’s mental faculties returned. He got up and looked for his dad. Soon the tragedy was realized. He freaked out.
Billy then began to run upstream back to the house. About halfway there he noticed a yellowish rock in the water. He reached down and grabbed it. It was a four-pound gold nugget that had been sent airborne by the natural gas explosion. He now had at least $80,000 in his hand.
Billy, controlled his grief enough to act smartly. He hid the gold nugget in his bedroom closet. Then he called his mom, who was at work in Locust, and told her what happened.
Five years later, at the age of eighteen, Billy returned to the infamous creek mound on a warm April afternoon. The gas line explosion, excavation for repairs, and sixty-one months of rainstorms and high water levels had worn the mound down to half its original size.
He looked at the creek. The water level was way down, and the color was more of a translucent light green, as it had been rainless for a week.
Suddenly a young robin alighted on the mound, searching for a shallow worm. Billy then noticed that the yellow arrow was gone. Dad never knew that that arrow was mine. He never knew that I secretly bought a beginner-level bow-and-arrow set. I remember shooting that arrow on that February night five years ago. I can still see it striking the underside of that large branch. And then it deflected straight down, just like a hard soccer shot nicking the bottom of the crossbar. Funny how I couldn’t ever find it. But then, dad sure did. And, he’s gone. Died exploring his dream. Gosh, I miss him. He sure left a nice gift for me. Maybe it’s time to sell it.
A gust of wind rippled through the new leaves on the willow trees. Billy’s mind began to drift with the languid current as he watched a leaf floating … and then sinking … to a soccer ball remnant.