A short story by Sha’Tara
“Life is full of treasures if one can only recognize them.”
That promise, from a happy-ending story read in class that afternoon, kept going through his mind as he ran along the rough, rocky shore. His straight, unruly hair blowing across his reddened face, his eyes watering in the spray, his sleeve wet from wiping his runny nose, eight-year old Jamie thought about treasures: piles of gold and silver coins in an iron-bound pirate’s chest with a huge padlock to guard against theft. He thought if he looked hard enough, he would suddenly spy the corner of such a chest sticking out of the coarse gravel. Imagination, being free, is one of the real treasures of the poor!
Forgetting his hungry stomach, he would regularly stop to scan the rising swells for a familiar boat returning to the jetty, but the waters were too rough and the visibility reduced to the line of shoals disappearing in the in-coming tide. He shivered in the gusty, mid-winter winds. He thought of his father and two older brothers out there on the sea. He sighed, “If only I could help…
His keen eyes saw something dark floating in the water. It was a log! A whole log was being pushed inexorably ashore by the tide and wind. He waited impatiently as it came close enough for him to direct it, then wondered how he would claim and keep it. The tide may wash it away again, or someone else may find it before he could run home and return with his mother. He decided to keep an eye on it and let the tide do its work. His mom would worry and be angry but when she saw the wood, she would understand.
The log floated higher. Too big for him to do anything with, there was nothing to do but wait… All thoughts of pirate treasure left his mind: his real treasure, representing several days of heat, and perhaps some scraps for carving, was that log. He eyed it jealously, scanning the shoreline for scavengers. He was relieved to see no one. Wandering around while waiting, he searched for other treasures. His imaginary hoard now was a whole pile of logs against the slate-roofed cottage just over the top of the low, weather-beaten cliff separating land from sea.
He didn’t find any more wood, but he found an old rusty steel cable tangled in blackberry bushes. Struggling to free it, he had an idea. Laying out the cable, he found he could wrap it around the log then around one of the larger rocks protruding from the gravel. He secured his log, then using a broken piece of stone, laboriously scratched his name in it. His hoard thus properly identified and anchored, he ran home. His mother met him at the top of the path, scolding as he came up. He stopped to catch his breath, then told his story of the log. She didn’t believe him at first, but when he ran to the lean-to for the saw and the wheelbarrow, she grabbed her coat and accompanied him down to the noisy, indistinct shoreline, the clattering sound of their footsteps lost in the raspy, turbulent surf.
Following her son, she looked eagerly for the treasure. Two motionless figures were inspecting something in the gravel and Jamie cried out: “They’ve found my log. Please, mom, hurry or they’ll take it!” Running, nearly out of breath in the biting air, she came upon two men sizing up the log. “Hullo, ma’am” one of them said, looking at her and touching his cap. “Reckon this log’s ours ma’am, we found it first.” She looked at Jamie and he pointed to the top of the log where he had scratched his name: Jamie Willbrooke. They looked at the coarse but fresh inscription, then the same one said, “Smart little fellow you have there, Mrs. Willbrooke, ma’am.” She nodded and waited for the inevitable question. “Maybe, for a chunk, we could help you haul it in, then?”
She nodded once again and took her son’s hand. Holding it gently, she turned her head, permitting only the sea to witness the love in her tear-filled eyes. She too had just discovered an immense treasure.