More cars line the street.
The search party heads
down the hill towards the woods.
Faith tugs on Ethan’s arm
as he checks his compass.
I said it wasn’t far.
I have to go to the bathroom.
Ethan in front of the bush, arms crossed.
Squints up at the overcast sky.
Would you please hurry up?
I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying!
Ethan picks up some stones
throws them at a tree stump.
MOVEMENT out of the corner of his eye.
Spins sharply in the direction of it.
Hey, come on Faith.
Ethan pushes into the bush. Faith isn’t there.
Ethan looks around, can’t place the direction.
Come here. Ethan, come here.
Ethan pushes his way through the bushes.
Faith stands behind a tree
peeks out at something.
Ethan tiptoes up behind her, takes a look.
In the middle of the stream
a wizened old Prospector pans in the stream.
What’s he doing?
The Prospector scoops up a bucket of mud
wades upstream to a sluice box.
Dumps the contents of the bucket in it.
Runs water through the sluice.
Sifts through the gravel on the sluice’s screen.
Mutters to himself. Dumps the screen
into the water, puts it back into place.
Grabs the bucket, wades back out into the stream.
Come on, let’s go.
Ethan takes a step backward… SNAP!
A twig breaks!
Who’s there? Who’s there?
Both kids take a sharp intake of breath
the Prospector scans the bank of the stream
holds his bucket like a weapon.
I see you. Come out, you thieves!
Faith steps out into the open.
The Prospector squints at her.
His expression relaxes into astonishment
What are you doing?
What does it look like I’m doing, little missy?
I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.
The Prospector grunts, amused.
Fair enough, I suppose. I’m prospecting for gold.
His answer electrifies Faith.
Gold? Really? Here?
Well, where else are you supposed to look?
At the end of a rainbow?
(from the bushes) Faith, let’s go!
Who’s that? Come out where I can see you!
The Prospector raises his bucket again.
Ethan sheepishly complies.
The Prospector slowly lowers the bucket.
We’re not supposed to talk to strangers.
A wise policy.
Glances at the sky. Frowns.
A very wise policy. Now the day isn’t
getting any younger, and neither am I.
You two best be getting home
before the weather turns nasty.
The Prospector turns back towards his sluice.
I’m Faith. This is Ethan.
Nice to meet you. Bye-bye, now.
Can you show us how to paw-spect for gold?
The Prospector stops, turns back around.
Why would I want to do that?
The search party fans out.
Ethan and Faith watch closely
the Prospector dumps a bucket of mud onto the sluice.
The water washes away mud
the Prospector sorts through the pebbles and rocks
the children look eagerly into the sluice.
Not this time.
Dumps the contents of the sluice into the water.
Ethan and Faith, disappointed.
Can we try?
Faith kneels along the edge of the stream
screening pan in hand.
Ethan, pants rolled up, downstream with the bucket.
Faith scoops some mud. Shakes the pan
until just pebbles rattle around.
What about this?
Shows the pan to the Prospector.
He shakes his head.
Faith tosses the pebbles into the stream
kneels and scoops again.
Faith, Ethan and the Prospector look for gold.
The children use pans, the Prospector the sluice.
With a great deal of enthusiasm,
the children scoop, filter, and show their efforts
to the Prospector.
with each unsuccessful round of effort.
Ethan leans against a tree on the stream bank.
stares at the late afternoon sky.
The clouds are darker.
Throws a pebble into the stream.
The Prospector watches as Faith
without a great deal of hope
shakes her pan.
Ethan leaps to his feet.
Faith’s face lights up. Ethan comes running over.
The Prospector picks up a little flake of gold
with the tip of his finger from Faith’s pan.
Shows it to the children.
Faith, disappointed. Ethan, unimpressed.
What’d you expect?
Did you think prospecting for gold
was going to be easy?
The Prospector takes out a little leather pouch
carefully puts the flake of gold into it
hands the pouch to Faith.
Not much, it’s a start.
Determination such as yours
deserves a reward. You earned it.
Faith carefully puts the leather pouch
into her pocket.
We, uh, need to go home. It’s getting late.
Come on Faith.
Grabs Faith’s hand.
Thanks for the gold. Bye!
The Prospector waves.
A drop of rain strikes him on the nose.
Scowls up at the sky.
— Matthew S. Spira © 2019