Copyright © 2007, Luisa Adams
A WINTERS TALE
October Dreamtime. One dark and stormy night I sit like Snoopy, poised over the typewriter waiting for inspiration to strike. The mood is right for such a tale. The rain pounds upon the roof of my cottage like a blacksmith’s hammer echoing in the forge. The world at the enchanted lake has turned to the color of ashes. Indian summer of the early weeks becomes the somber face of winter. Being stuck inside due to foul weather does not meet my expectation of roaming free in nature.
At my husband’s practical insistence, the trunk of my car contains foul weather gear. I never believe for a minute that I would need it. But after a few days of a fullfledged case of cabin fever, I carry the unwelcome box to my room.
On the morning of the fifth day with no letup, I bundle up, layer upon layer, ending up with a yellow rain slicker and rubber boots. I need to roam free of the tiny confines of my cottage. Stepping outside, I head down to watch the water rush out from the spillway at the far end of the lake. How dense the world becomes with the weight of winter bearing down on the forest.
I feel grumpy, not at all my metaphoric self in days of warm sun and gentle breeze. The turbulence of wind and downpour stirs the lake like a giant cauldron. With the gradual opening of a valve, the runoff from the dam causes the shoreline to recede and expose a wide swath of wet earth normally hidden from sight. The ground, freshly washed by rain, pulls me toward it like a magnet. I want to walk where no animal or human prints press into the soft surface. I feel the satisfaction of clomping around in the mush to make my own wiggly lines of defiance.
Head down, lumbering like a slow turtle in my shell of raingear, my eyes settle upon a triangle of debris. I press the tip of my boot into the mud. A greenish edge, like a leaf, pushes up to the surface. Something familiar stops me, like an obstacle in a sleepwalker’s path. I bend to touch the narrow line of green with my fingertip. A dirty, crusted ten-dollar bill shows its face. I stand dumbfounded by the incongruent relationship of money to mud.
Walking a little farther, I step on a similar outline. With my finger, I uncover a five-dollar bill that is solidly encased in mud. In the land of enchantment, this would be the place where the rainbow touches the ground. Before I contemplate this possibility, the storm suddenly picks up momentum and blinding rain sends me home clutching my treasure.
I wash the bills and hang them up to dry. That night, snuggled beneath the flannel sheets, I ponder the meaning of the hidden treasure. The pounding rain continues on my rooftop into the early morning hours. As I sleep, the torrent washes away deeper and deeper layers of the lake’s exposed muddy bottom. The next afternoon when the wind falls silent, I don my yellow slicker, feeling a thrill of the original prospectors in this region.
Walking slowly, this time with concentration, I uncover a twenty-dollar bill, some tens and ones. All are intact and faded. As I dig with a small stick, I find bills that flake like a dry leaf when I touch the green edge. The deeper layers of material commingle to become composted particles of sand. My unorthodox “beachcombing” reveals a total of one hundred dollars in paper bills.
Where does this windfall come from? Perhaps a buried chest breaks open with the deterioration of a rusty lock. At the very moment a mighty wind roars; the money lifts and funnels tornado style and bores into the lake like swirling dervishes. There it grows moist and heavy and drifts to the bottom where it remains safe in its resting place beneath the brownish waters, so near shore yet so far from discovery.
The cool mud protects and preserves it. Several mild winters pass; its hiding place goes undetected. The combination of heavy rains washing away layers of sand and my presence as a cold weather beachcomber delivers the bounty. Even Snoopy in his finest hour couldn’t have completed his famous first line with a better story.
I am giddy with possibilities. When my husband calls, I tell him the secret of the lake. He mumbles uh huhs to feign listening to my interpretation of symbolism and buried treasure. While I speak, he is actually busily sketching a diagram of the spot I describe. As a practical man with an eye for details, he remembers the place well.
He announces results of his investigation with authority.
“It is the Snack Shack.”
“What is the Snack Shack?”
“The money is there because of the Snack Shack.”
“That’s ridiculous. Who would hide the money from the food sales in the lake? They wouldn’t find it again.”
“Don’t be silly. Nobody hid it. Swimmers lost it before they got a chance to spend it.”
He sounds smug and self-satisfied. I hate the fact that his explanations always make perfect sense. I follow the thread of his reasoning and decide that since women do not have pockets in their swimsuits, it means that men and boys provide me with the treasure. I imagine them securely tucking bills into swim trunks for a nice lunch of hot dogs, chips, and ice cream after paddling around to cool off. The greenbacks acquire their own fins and float lazily out into the dark waters to settle on the bottom. Add swimmers’ heels and toes as digging devices and indentations are created for burial sites.
Once the spell is broken, I just can no longer conjure up a long lost buried treasure chest or the ideas of a sign from another dimension. But I refuse to let it ruin the fun. It is my story and I can tell it anyway I want.
When I get home, I do just that. I show off the watermarked bills, recount the dark and stormy night, and leave out my husband’s precise triangulation of the spot in relation to the Snack Shack.
One creative friend suggests that it fell out of a tree where the burlap money sack had been stashed after the robbery for which the bandits were apprehended and never got back to claim the bounty.
My favorite dramatic interpretation describes a midair heist with the criminal parachuting to freedom. Unfortunately, he fails to secure the moneybag that flies open and sends greenbacks floating to earth like leaves from a deciduous tree.
Copyright © 2007, Luisa Adams