I took this picture at work today. Looks like the thaw, combined with the rain brought us another piece of junk. I hate it when people drop things in our waterways. Still, one man’s junk is another man’s story prompt.
Fishing was lousy. Seven turns of the glass at least, and it rained the whole time. The scarf I used to cover my head was soaked before I cast out my first shrimp. One sand dab wouldn’t feed my sisters, let alone me and ma. Logs drifted past on their way to the bay, and I imagined the fish hid under them to get out of the rain. Then one came by that didn’t float right. It rode low in the water, and barely broke the surface. It had square corners too.
It rode until it lodged in the sand. I dropped my stringer and pole on the shore and ran after it. Maybe someone tipped a wagon upriver, and dumped something valuable in the water. Whatever it was broke loose and drifted again, but not far. The snag of a tree root grabbed it and anchored it until I could catch up.
Its lid was gone by now, and I looked inside. Something looked back.
A skull, not bleached and white like a proper skull, but muddy and covered with sand from upstream somewhere. I approached on tip toes. I’m not superstitious, mind you, but this isn’t something a kid finds everyday.
It was a casket. Nothing fancy, just a wooden box, and the person inside not more than a skeleton but for a few bits and pieces. Those pieces were covered with crabs, and none of ’em were big enough to cook. I looked at the poor skull, and it wore a big tricorn hat. The head rolled toward the sea, and revealed the fellow’s broken neck bones. “So it’s the sea you want, is it?”
I flipped the crabs into the bay. Sometimes people gets buried with coins and such. He didn’t need ’em, and my ma could sure use ’em. I patted down his rags, and found iron shackles around his wrists. I poked and prodded, but turned up nowt.
I looked around his eye holes, ’cause sometimes that’s where the coins goes, but there weren’t any. His hat was oily and stiff, but nothing was tucked inside. I tossed it on the shore. He wore better leather boots than I did, and be damned I decided to take ’em.
They were tall and fine, and turned over at the knee to make a large cuff. I tossed ’em beside the hat, and decided to push the box toward the sea. Better the sea than another hole in the ground for this one. When the water reached my belly, I let him go. He rode higher in the waves somehow, like a small boat. Almost like he appreciated me setting him on his way.
I wrung the hat out first, and it weren’t in bad shape. Maybe after it dried, I could make some use of it. I poured another crab out of the first boot, and knocked the boot against a rock to make sure there wasn’t any more.
A couple of bones poured out of the second one. Could be I tugged too hard getting it off, but these boots were mine now, by right of salvage. At least that’s what I told myself. I reached inside to make sure there weren’t more pieces. I pulled out a soaked piece of parchment.
The parchment had some kind of writing on it, but it made no sense to me. There was a drawing of the local area too. I recognized the old West Road, and Barrow Point, but not much more. That and a big drawing of a skull, with an X to mark something north of Barrow Point. Maybe ma could read it after it dries out some. She used to know the letters, and maybe she could remember some of ’em. Might be it’d tell who he was, and I could make him a little marker of some kind.
Okay, so my favorite Superbowl ad was the one for the new pirate movie. Somebody needs to come haul their junk out of the stream.