“Good as Gold”
“Good as gold”
By Avery McGinnes
Ed. note: For the past two years, the Block Island Yacht Club has sponsored a writing contest open to Block Island High School students. Stories had to adhere to a few guidelines, such as not naming living residents of Block Island, having an island setting, and with each story beginning with the same paragraph that had been written by the contest’s judges.
The judges selected five winning entries written by André Miller, first place; Avery McGinnes, second place; Laura Johnson, third place; Allison Pineda and Maya Veldman-Wilson, tied for fourth; and Mac Brown. The writers were awarded cash prizes by the BIYC.
This week, we are publishing Avery’s winning entry, “Good as Gold.”
They knelt in the sand, the box between them. It was algae covered, slippery to the touch, its brass catch and hinges corroded from years in saltwater. How it got there, wedged among the rocks off Clayhead, was anybody’s guess. They were snorkeling, poking around in the crevices when it came loose and tumbled to the weed-covered floor. Even in water it was heavy. They both had to carry it to shore and deposit it in the sand.
“How do we open it?” he asked her.
“Maybe we shouldn’t,” she replied, “Who knows what’s inside?”
They took a second to go over the possibilities of what could be inside, but came up with nothing.
“We should hide it. We can come back for it tomorrow with help,” Lily said and continued on, “It is too heavy for us to carry anyway.”
The boy nodded in agreement. “Up there? Maybe we can drag it?” James asked as he pointed to the bottom of the cliff. Driftwood and other miscellaneous objects that had washed up scattered the shore and made for an ideal hiding place.
“Perfect,” Lily responded.
Moving the box was more difficult than either of them expected. The algae was slippery, and the rust lining the chest made moving it a precarious job. It was no easy task to drag the bulky chest through the soft sand. The more Lily and James pulled the chest upwards to the base of the bluff, the more the chest would bury itself in the sand. After twenty minutes of pulling, the chest was safely covered in driftwood and the scattered dune grass.
In a state of absolute exhaustion, James dropped to the hot sand. Lily plopped herself next to him. She took this moment to reflect on what just happened. She looked over at James lying down with his hair fanned out in the sand. They first met in kindergarten, and had been best friends ever since. Throughout all thirteen years they have been friends, nothing new or exciting has ever happened. This was just part of living on Block Island, this was their last summer together before they left for college. Lily has liked James for years, and more than just a friend, but she would never jeopardize their friendship by saying anything. Without James, Lily would be completely alone. She pushed the thought out of her head, it was just too painful. Plus, she had more important things to worry about — what are they going to do with this chest?
James, lying in the sand, could not keep his mind from running wild. The box that they had just pulled out of the ocean was the predominant thought. But Lily was on his mind too. For years he has liked her, and in a different way than she likes him. At least that is what James believes to be the truth. He has been in love with Lily for years… Needing to think about something else, he jumps up. He whipped the sand off his shorts, and made sure to avoid eye contact with Lily.
Lily watched James hop up and shake the sand out of his hair. The view made her smile as she stood up to join him.
“What now?” James asked. “Should we tell the police, or our parents?”
“I don’t know, I think we should spend the night to think about it. After we calm down a little bit we can figure it out,” Lily replied. “Let's go home.”
“Ok, I guess that works,” James says trying to hide his disappointment. The last thing he wants is to have Lily drop him off. He does not want to be without her, especially tonight. They start the walk back to the car in silence. How surprised he would be if he knew she was also thinking about him.
The beach is covered in loose rocks making each step a balancing act. The background noise of rocks being tumbled by waves soothes the tension between the two. The walk becomes enjoyable. The sun casts its rays down, warming everything in their path. There is even a lack of wind, a rarity on Block Island beaches. At this point, everything is perfect. The ocean is a bright blue, matching the cloudless sky. There is a faint smell of salt that lingers in the air. The sound of chirping birds is overlapped with the calling of the gulls that are soaring through the sky and diving into the water. Lily and James disregard the looming exhaustion and take in every slight detail around them, relishing the moment. Before either one of them is ready for the walk to end, they arrive at the car.
“James, should we be worried about what we found today? Do you think we should even open it, what if it is something bad?” Lily asked with a tinge of doubt in her voice.
“Oh, come on, how bad could it really be? Don’t worry, it’s probably just some old junk. But who knows, there might be treasure.” James laughs as he says it, but the sarcastic tone does not keep him from hoping to find something exciting in the box.
That night, after Lily had dropped James off at home, he lay in bed tossing and turning. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw the barnacle-covered box. His curiosity got the best of him, and his sleep. He was anxious to go back to the beach and open the chest with Lily. She was going to pick him up at 8 a.m., all he had to do was wait. Unfortunately, it was harder than it seemed.
Little did James know that Lily was doing the same at home. She was thinking nonstop about the mysterious chest. She was up most of the night going through all the possible things that could be in the box. Even after hours of mental debates, she came up with no conclusion. Finally, Lily fell asleep with the box and James on her mind.
Honk! Honk! A car horn sounded.
It was eight o’clock in the morning on the dot. The door flew open and James came rushing down the stairs and jogged over to Lily’s car through the newly cut grass. He flung himself into the front passenger seat and handed Lily a coffee, barely managing not to spill it on her in the process.
“Ugh! Life saver! Thank you.” Lily thanked him graciously. “Are you ready?”
“Yup, let’s go,” James replied, “So are you ready to open this thing?”
“I am ready if you are.” Lily said, as she put her car in drive and headed off to Clayhead. Although few words were spoken, there was a general feeling of excitement. They turned down the long windy dirt road leading to Clayhead.
The car crawled along at a mere 10 miles an hour to lessen the consequences of the large pot holes dispersed all over the road.
The closer they got, the more James’ leg shook with emotion. They reached the dirt parking lot, Lily put the car in park and reached over to put her hand on James’ thigh. He looked up at her slightly surprised but smiled and gave her a nod before getting out of the car. Surprised with her actions, Lily followed him and tried to hide her flushed cheeks.
Together, Lily and James started the hike back to the chest. The sun was beating down, but there was a welcome breeze that kept the temperature ideal.
As they walked along the beach, Lily fought the urge to grab James’ hand. The tension between the two was undeniable. Just as the chest’s hiding place came into view, Lily slipped on a loose rock. James reached out and grabbed her by the waist, keeping her upright. Lily laughed nervously and looked down to hide the pink that had flooded her cheeks. James’ arm lingered before he pulled back. He blushed too.
“The chest should be right up here, I think.” Lily said trying to divert their attention from each other.
“Yeah, there it is.” James replied right before he rushed over to it. Together they began to pull the box out of the dune grass and remove the wood that was disguising it. The chest was locked, but the hinges looked as though they would pop off any moment from years of being in the sea.
“I’m done waiting. Let’s open this thing,” James said as he looked up at Lily. A moment later he took a rock and hit the hinges as hard as he could. It took only two whacks before the first hinge broke. James hesitated and looked up at Lily before hitting the second. She gave him a reassuring nod.
Her small gesture gave him the needed confidence to break the second hinge. The brass hit the rocks with a metallic clang. Lily sucked in a breath, scared to make another move.
“Like I said, I’m sure it is just some old junk. There is nothing to worry about.” James said in attempts to comfort Lily. She looked at him, nodded, and tried to stop the shaking in her hands. “Want to do the honors?” James said as he gestures to the box.
She looked up at him again and managed a small smile as she put on a brave face. Lily knelt beside the chest and with a breath she took the lid and slid it off to the side. James knelt beside her as they both peered over the side, not making a sound, acting as though they were scared that something was going to jump out at them.
To their relief the contents of the chest stayed inside the box, and made no sudden movements. Inside the chest was a brown leather-bound book and a small black satchel. Lily stuck her hand in and slowly reached for the book, pulled it out and carefully examined it.
James grabbed the satchel, wasting no time. As he looked into the surprisingly heavy but small bag, his eyes widened. Lily saw his excitement and eagerly asked what was inside, forgetting about the book in her hands. James dumped the contents into his hand, and out fell 13 gold coins.
“Are those real!” Lily blurted out, “They can’t be real, right?” she continued on in absolute shock.
“I don’t know a lot about gold coins, but they look real to me.” James replied with a huge grin on his face.
They both looked at each other in shock, unable to grasp what they had just found. It took a couple of minutes for Lily to come down from her high and realize she had forgotten about the book. She poked James’ arm to get his attention.
“Look at this. It looks like a diary of some kind.” Lily exclaimed.
She opened it up and slid closer to James so he could read along with her. Lily began to read the first page out loud.
“Dearest Varina, I am writing to you from my ship lost at sea. My heart breaks for you every day. Although far away, my thoughts still go out to you. I am half in agony and half with hope, my eyes desperately wait for the sight of you. I will not cease searching until I find you. You are the object of my desire and I pray that you are safe and sound. I love you forever and always.”
Lily stopped reading to look up at James, tears brimming. James saw the emotion written over her face, and leaned in to comfort her.
He stopped halfway to look closely at Lily. She looked down, not wanting James to see her upset. As she slowly looked up again, something changed in James’ face. He looked at her in a way Lily had only dreamt about. Lily’s breath caught as he moved closer until they were only inches apart.
They looked each other in the eyes and James reached out to Lily’s face and brought her in for a kiss.