Archive for April, 2009

The Treasure Hunter


Jason walked down the beach slowly, purposefully, swinging the metal detector back and forth in rhythmic four-foot arcs, covering every square inch of sand. The steady tone in his headset assured him he was missing nothing.

Jason had been hunting for buried treasure since he was a little boy, digging holes in his backyard despite his mother’s firm warnings, turning over every interesting-looking rock, reading endlessly about pirates and their treasures. He discovered beach combing with his wife, and they spent every vacation at beach resorts. When his wife died and he retired, he bought his first simple metal detector and was hooked on the hobby. Now he held a top of the line White’s Spectra model, a considerable investment that had almost finished paying for itself in the eight months he had owned it. It was like another pair of eyes to Jason, probing several inches into the sand for the valuable secrets that lay buried there. His ear was attuned to the slightest change in the detection tone; he could quickly identify and dismiss such junk as bottle caps and pieces of foil. He almost never stopped to dig without finding something interesting.

He had been searching for several hours this morning, methodically working back from the low tide mark. Suddenly he paused and swung the detector back, narrowing the arc until it was hovering exactly over the source of the strong signal he was hearing. Keeping his eye on the spot, he grabbed his sand rake and dug down several inches to reveal a large coin.

Jason picked it up and examined it closely. It looked nothing like the gold doubloon he had found last year. It was definitely not gold or silver. It was quite hard, and had a faint bluish tinge. It didn’t look tarnished, but he rubbed it between his fingers to see if the blue color rubbed off. The coin quickly grew warm in his hand and began to emit smoke. Startled, he dropped it and watched as the smoke grew thicker and condensed into the form of a rotund man in a sequined robe and a fez.

“Congratulations, Jason,” said the apparition, “I am the Genie of the Coin of Zander!”

“Holy Crap!” said Jason. “Is this some kind of joke? Am I being punked?”

“No,” assured the genie, “it is quite real. No one can see me but you. You have released me from the coin, so I will now grant you one wish.”

“Isn’t that supposed to be three wishes?” asked Jason.

“You’re thinking of the Genie of the Magic Lamp,” said the genie. “The Coin of Zander is much smaller, so we only do one wish at a time. Now, what do you desire?”

Jason thought for a long moment. “Well, I supposed I could wish for great wealth.”

“Yes, more riches than you can imagine could be yours,” replied the genie.

“Of course, I don’t really spend very much. I earn enough with this metal detector to pay my bills and have all the spending money I need. Maybe I should wish for love…”

“Certainly, Jason. The undying love of the most beautiful woman in the world.”

Jason shook his head. “No, I don’t think I’d want that. No woman could ever replace my late wife; it wouldn’t feel right.”

The genie waited while Jason thought some more. Finally, he grew impatient.

“Jason, you must decide. I cannot stay here much longer!”

“But I can’t think of the thing I want the most!” Jason protested. “I don’t want to waste my only wish!”

The genie smiled. “Perhaps you should let me decide for you. I know what you want the most.”

“Really?” Jason asked hopefully. “How can you know when I don’t even know?”

“Come on, Jason, you’re talking to a damn genie here! I’ve been in the wish business for longer than you can imagine!”

“OK, then, you decide for me,” Jason said with relief.

“Very well,” said the genie. He waved his hands and the coin rose up from the sand into the air. He clapped his hands together around it, held them for a few seconds, and then opened them with a flourish. The mysterious coin had vanished. Slowly, the genie began to fade from sight.

“Wait,” protested Jason, “tell me what wish you have granted!”

The genie smiled. “I’ve hidden the coin somewhere on this beach. Go find it again!”

And then he disappeared.

The Wreck of the Witch Hazel


“Hazel’s Marina to Witch Hazel. Hazel’s Marina calling Witch Hazel, over.”

“This is Witch Hazel, go ahead, Suzanne.”

“Joe, you’ve been out there for seven hours. Why don’t you let it go until tomorrow, over?”

“I won’t be much longer, Suzanne. I think I’ve figured out how to get this thing off the bank, over.”

“I still don’t understand how you put it up there in the first place, Joe, over.”

“Never mind that, Suzanne. I’m going to get her floating again tomorrow, don’t you worry, over.”

“OK, Joe. Anyway, I wanted to let you know there’s a message on the machine for you. Someone from Exxon Mobil wants you to call him. What’s that all about, over?”

“I didn’t want to tell you until I knew it was going to work out, Suzanne. We just aren’t making it with this marina, and now that Witch Hazel’s on the bank I haven’t been able to do any fishing. I applied for a captain’s job, over.”

“Well, I have been worried about our finances, Joe. I think it’s a good idea to find something else, at least for a while. I hope they’re calling with good news. Why don’t you come on home and we’ll celebrate. I’ve got a pitcher of martinis waiting for you, over.”

“OK, Suzanne, I’m on my way. Keep ’em chilled till I get there, over.”

Mark Twain at the Library


twain-1Astonished, I immediately recognized the man the minute I saw him in the library. I had no idea how he had done it, but I knew my eyes did not deceive me. I approached him quietly, hoping not to frighten him.

“Mr. Clemens?” I whispered.

He looked at me, confusion in his eyes.

“Or do you prefer Mr. Twain?”

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he murmured.

I nodded quickly to reassure him. “I understand,” I said. “You prefer to remain incognito. What is it, research for a new book? ‘A Connecticut Yankee in the 21st Century’ perhaps? That would be fantastic!”

A glimmer of understanding crept into his eyes. “Yes,” he said, slowly and carefully, undoubtedly trying to speak in our modern vernacular. “Yes, a new book. You mustn’t tell anyone!”

“You can trust me, Mr. Clemens! You’re my favorite author.”

I had grown up with Tom Sawyer, admiring his spunk and wishing my life could be as much fun as his. I had thrilled as Huck Finn and Jim made their adventurous way down the Mississippi. And now the creator of my boyhood heroes sat before me in the flesh!

“Is there anything I can do to help you?” I asked.

“Well,” he said reluctantly, “I did make one tactical mistake in coming here. I’m a little ashamed to admit it.”
“No, please tell me!” I implored. “I’m sure I can help!”

twain-2“I failed to consider that the currency might have changed since the 1890s,” he explained. “I brought plenty of money with me, but it’s all unusable. If I tried to spend it, I’d be arrested as a counterfeiter or locked up as a lunatic!”

I hurriedly pulled out my wallet. “That’s no problem, Mr. Clemens! How much do you need?”

He glanced at my open wallet, no doubt fascinated with the modern currency.

“I’m only going to be here for a few days,” he said. “I suppose prices have gone up in the last century. How much do you suppose a simple room and a little food would cost for that long? Twenty or thirty dollars, perhaps?”

“Oh, no,” I explained, “prices have gone up much more than that. I’ve got $64 here; you might be able to get by on that if you stay at the YMCA and don’t eat too much. I’m sorry that’s all I have.”

He accepted the money gratefully. “I don’t know how to thank you, son. I’m going to dedicate my book to you!”

We spoke for a few more minutes about his life in Missouri, and what changes he had seen since coming to our time. I could have talked with him for hours, but then he stood.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “could you excuse me for just a few moments? I need to use the facilities.”

I pointed out the hallway that led to the restrooms and he headed that way. After I waited several minutes without his return, I walked down the hall and glanced into the men’s room. It was empty. He must have had something more important to do than waste time with me, and he was too polite to say so.

I wandered over to the fiction shelves and scanned the Mark Twain section, but I didn’t see any books that I didn’t recognize. After some thought, I realized he probably ran out of money and had to cut his research short. I cursed myself for not having more to give him. I had cost the world another masterpiece! Worse yet, it would have been dedicated to me!