Fiction Saturday – “Fortune’s Kiss – A Fable” Part Three
By late the next afternoon the woman and her girls had loaded three wagons with as many of the furnishings and their personal things as they could manage. What they couldn’t carry they left behind and just before sundown they slowly pulled away from the big home on the hill, down the one-way street and then left onto the dusty road leading out of town and into The Interior.
The wagons were barely out of sight when the Haters held a special meeting, declared the home on the hill to be an abandoned property, took possession in the name of the People and named the home to be the new official residence of the Mayor. All extremely legal and notarized.
The road that led to The Interior was dry, dusty and slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding forest and brush.
The road led nowhere. The Interior was a place where there was only emptiness and History.
Earlier in the century fortunes were made and lost there as the price of gold and other precious things rose and fell with the schemes of speculators. Land and people were used up and then abandoned as the veins petered out or the pools got deeper than men could afford to drill.
At the end of her second day on the road into The Interior the woman pulled over her small caravan and gathered her pilgrims around her.
“What do you see?” she asked them.
“Where?” said one of her girls.
“Here, right at your feet.” she said, pointing down at the ground.
The girls all looked downward, trying to see what the woman, obviously wanted them all to see.
“Dirt”, “Weeds”, “Ants”.
“Yes, but what else, underneath the dirt and weeds?”
One of the girls, a large, bony redhead who laughed a lot, squatted down and scraped at the dirt with her finger.
“Bricks. I see bricks”, she said, looking up at the woman and smiling.
“Exactly”, said the woman, “Bricks that lead off through the brush there. Donna-Marie, you and Celia come with me. The rest of you wait here.”
The three of them slowly picked their way through the high grass and weeds and into the thin forest that stretched off farther into The Interior.
After about fifteen minutes the girls who had stayed with the wagons could hear excited voices and Donna-Marie’s booming laugh as the three explorers appeared out of the brush and waved.
“My little Angels, we have ourselves a home. These bricks lead right up to the front door of what once was, and will soon be again, a large and inviting home.”
With some effort and care the woman got her girls and the wagons up the pathway to the home.
The red brick mansion that sat waiting in the blistering heat and stillness of The Interior had been built on the backs of near slaves who had labored and died for passage and promises. They had come there over sixty years earlier to try their luck in the Great Scramble that had brought unimaginable wealth to the few who were smart enough, ruthless enough or fortunate enough to be standing on the right clump of earth when the hidden riches decided to show themselves.
The Scramblers had all brought with them the mental blueprints of the palaces they would build when their pick turned over the nugget the size of an egg or the drill bit broke through the last strata of shale and into a lake of Sweet Crude.
Like the Rubber Barons of Manaus, the new millionaires took their sudden riches and attempted to buy new backgrounds and values. They sent their shirts to Paris to be laundered, bought solid gold toilets and moved into immense Rococo homes that had stained glass windows and spiral staircases leading up to bedrooms where they slept off the effects of their good luck and failed to notice when the mines began to produce less gold and more bankruptcy.
When the money stopped cascading into their hands the palaces crumbled and the men drifted back to the mines hoping for another bonanza. And their pretty, young, wives, whom they had imported along with their other golden toys, sailed for home or drifted like their husbands until they either died or found other means to support themselves.