Summer, 2004
24-Hour Short Story Contest

3rd Place Winner!


It had taken him almost an hour to climb over the rocks to the hidden beach. His metal detector was strapped to his back and he didn't think many other treasure hunters would go to this much effort. It was low tide, so he started at the water line and began sweeping the detector back and forth. On his fifth pass, the detector gave a strong beep...

Treasure Moments
By Gayle Rodcay, Loveland, CO

Gabe fingered the bits of metal in his pocket-rusty nails, a metal lipstick case, with the lipstick long melted away, a handful of beer bottle caps, and 17 cents in coins-remnants of other lives, other times. He had thought this section of secluded beach might yield more than these meager findings, but the treasure hunting trip had served it's purpose. He'd gotten far away from well-meaning friends and relatives, and spent the morning dredging up memories and bits of conversations from Austen-shattered remnants of his life.

The lapping of the waves had nearly lulled him to unconsciousness when Austen's voice interrupted his reverie. "Hey, is anyone in there?" The words that had wakened him every morning for so many years had always been accompanied by a set of impish dark eyes peering down into his. His heart lurched as a pair of dark brown eyes came into view. Not Austen's, not his little girl's.

He shook off the fog of his noontime nap and watched the dark-haired little boy, all of about four, scramble over his outstretched legs to reach for the metal detector at his side.

"Hey, did you find anything cool?"

Gabe emptied his pockets onto the sand and laughed as the boy turned away, disgusted, and started wrestling with the metal detector. Gabe didn't know why he kept such pieces, but he had a whole box full at home. Souvenirs of days spent with memories of Austen.

Gabe hadn't yet turned to see who might belong to this little bundle of inquisitive energy. He stood and helped the boy right the detector and turned it on. The boy stumbled a few steps and was rewarded by the beep beeping of hidden metal.

"Mom! I found treasure!" A laughing voice from behind me said, "I get first dibs."

"No! I found it first!"

The boy began carefully excavating his find, while I turned to acquaint myself with mom. The same dark eyes that had peered into mine moments ago now stared at me from the face of an angel. Short dark hair framed soft features and perfect skin. But her eyes. Deep, penetrating, intelligent. At once wary and protective, yet hiding a twinkle that he was sure was part of every look toward her son.

"Look!" The boy held out a nickel for his mom to see, then immediately snatched his hand back and put the coin in the pocket of his shorts.

"I think that belongs to Mr. Umm? "Reynolds, Gabe Reynolds," he finished and offered his hand.

"Melinda. Nice to meet you Gabe. The midget thief here is Connor," she said as she scooped him up and planted a kiss on the squirming youngster's mop of dark hair. The scene sent a pang through his gut-it reminded him of Sara and Austen and why he avoided people now.

"Can I go looking for more treasure?" He looked expectantly from Gabe to his mom but without waiting for an answer turned, then tripped over the unwieldy tool.

"Here, I'll help you steady it," Gabe heard himself offer. What was he doing? He came here for solitude. Oh well, he'd humor the kid awhile.

And suddenly, dusk was creeping over the beach and Melinda and Connor were preparing to launch the small sailboat that had brought them to his beach. The day had passed so quickly, and surprisingly, he felt sorry to see it end. He'd spent the last months just trying to occupy time, the faster it went the less time he had to feel the painful loss that hovered around his every waking second, but he didn't want this day to end. Melinda had somehow managed to get him to open up about his life, the sudden loss of his daughter, Austen, 18 months earlier, and the long-suffering of his wife Sara, who had died 3 years before that.

Was it better to have said good bye everyday for 237 days or to have never said goodbye at all, he had mused bitterly, cynically. He hadn't realized he'd said it out loud until Melinda's hand reach for his. No words, just a touch.

And he'd learned that Melinda was raising Connor as a single mom. That his dad's involvement had been about as fleeting and memorable as the mosquito she shooed off Connor's chubby arm. H

e wanted to say something to make the mom and boy stay. But he didn't. He helped them shove off into the water.

"I hope you find your treasure, some day," Melinda called out to him as he waved from shore. "Perhaps we'll help you again some day."

That had been a week ago. He was still kicking himself for letting them simply sail right back out of his life. But that was silly. He had spent an enjoyable day with two charming people. That was that, nothing more. So why was he back here a week later, searching for treasure on the same beach? Austen had been particularly persistent this week. She was always tugging at the corners of his memories, but this week she never let up. And it was she that had brought him back to this section of beach again. He felt close to her here. He smiled as he watched her kick at the waves as they lapped at the shoreline, lulling him back into his mind-numbing fog.

"Hey, is anyone in there?" Austen's words once again broke into his afternoon nap. He looked up into two dark impish eyes peering deep into his. "Find anything cool, yet? Let's go find treasure, Gabe. I knew you'd be here." Connor tuned and waved at his mom, still tying up the sailboat.

"See Mom, I told you he'd be back, looking for treasure! Show me what you found, Gabe!" Gabe grabbed at his chubby little ankles and wrestled him, giggling, down into the sand. And Austen's butterfly kiss on his cheek simply completed the moment-a moment to treasure.

What Gayle won:

$200 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)


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