Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: LUST (all-consuming desire; excessive craving) (01/08/15)
By Ann Grover
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It had started in July, when ships docked at the wharf, each one laden with a king’s ransom in gold. I joined the dazzled crowd, enraptured by stories of creeks lined with nuggets as big a man’s fist.
Even Alice agreed to my going to the Klondike, and she willingly handed me her wedding ring to finance my ticket. She didn’t come to the dock to see me off; instead, she bade me farewell from our doorway, Georgie hoisted onto her hip, squalling, as usual, and Margaret clutching a bit of Alice’s sagging dress in her dirty hand. I wouldn’t miss their incessant whining. Instead, brooks bubbling melodiously over hidden treasures would charm me.
When I returned in triumph and wealth, we’d leave the ramshackle hovel we’d been forced to inhabit and move into a comfortable house with inside plumbing and a vegetable garden. We’d dine on roast beef on Sundays, and the children would go to a good school. For Alice, a new dress and a bauble or two. For myself? Why, I’ll never work at the cannery again, coming home reeking of sweat and offal. It’ll be the high life for me, all right.
The last bit of water slipped over the lip of the gold pan, and I peered at the grit. Amid the grains of sand were one, two, twenty flakes. I added it to my hoard and scooped up another panful.
When the sky darkened to indigo, I fried some bacon to go with coffee and biscuits left from breakfast. Evaluating my stores as I ate, I reckoned a trip to town might be in order. Besides getting grub, I’d visit the assayer, and by the looks of my grimy hands and grizzled chin, a bath and shave wouldn’t be unwelcome, either.
A Yukon summer night is never truly dark, so I set out after a few hours of shuteye. I was hardy, leaned up by the trek over the Chilkoot Pass, bearing over a ton of goods. If I’d known such a strenuous endeavour lay before me, I might have reconsidered, yet the promise of gold granted me enormous strength and fortitude. The bones of lesser men littered the trail, a testament to their sorry frailty.
Dawson City was a kaleidoscope of commotion. Music plinked rollickingly, and from every doorway, women beckoned. Spruced up and wearing new clothes, I walked onward, not tantalized by their scanty dress, past shops and hotels and saloons, to the assayer to trade in the gold. My gold. My gateway to success. Finery. Wine. Comfort. My desire tasted sweet and exquisite on my tongue.
“Hey, Jack!” Someone hollered my name from the Bonanza Saloon. “Ain’t seen you in a coon’s age. Come on in, sir.”
It couldn’t hurt, could it, to pass an hour with Charlie and the boys? I’d travelled the pass with them, before we went our separate ways. Likable enough chaps. I caressed my satchel and reassured by the bulge of my gold pouch, I headed into the saloon. Charlie, Rowdy, Percy, and Snag slapped me on the back.
“Just in time, mate. Steak, buttered potatoes, and apple pie. Whadya say?” Charlie said. Quickly, I calculated the cost. Beans and ham would have sufficed, but why not?
With plates heaped high and glasses of whiskey coming steadily, we boisterously shared our mining exploits. I spoke guardedly, however, stroking my satchel now and then.
“Hey, boys, how ‘bout a friendly game?” Percy suggested, and a deck of well-worn cards appeared. I had no interest in games and stood up to bid adieu.
“Don’t be a killjoy, Jack. You’re gonna get bushed if you don’t give yourself a little rein occasionally.”
We played several rounds, and I was surprised by my unexpected and remarkable success. Slyly, Charlie urged, “Let’s get serious, fellows. Don’t be bashful now.”
I held a mitt-full of kings.
My heart thundered and my head whirled in euphoria as the house of my dreams grew two stories taller. Wisteria and rambling roses festooned the broad, pillared porch, and one of those newfangled automobiles stood inside wrought-iron gates ... no, two automobiles ... and a stable filled with thoroughbreds.
I drew out my pouch of gold and laid it on the table.
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