Words of Hope and Faith for the Weary

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Chapter One

The Lust for Gold

The Honeymooners

Trying to keep the chill-out, Cassandra hugged herself while strolling along the creek side, occasionally glancing over at her husband Frank, who was gold panning. A stream of water, leaking out of the rock along the northern mountainside, formed an oblong brook; the travel brochures said it was a good place to locate gold. The water’s crystal clearness made it almost undetectable along the creek’s embankment, and an array of black and gray spotted pebbles, partly embedded in the gray sandy bottom, were visible. The stones reminded Cassandra of fancy marbles. Her socks now wet, the cold water soaked through her leather fashion boots making her feet cold because she often ventured too close to its edge and stepped into the water.

Yellow blades of water grass and weeds along the east end of the creek, swaying gently from the water’s currents almost concealed a beaver dam of broken branches and sticks. Cassandra was amazed at the artistic ingenuity of the skillful little creatures in developing a blockade, restricting the current of water running into a shallow stream curving its way from it; she wondered where the flow of water ended.

The area’s solitude and dimness produced an eerie isolation and was unnerving to Cassandra. She was thankful that the sound of Frank’s splashing and the occasional car passing on the highway above hid the feeling of remoteness. This sense of loneliness and the peace of nature was new to her, in the city, there were constant noises, which made her feel at home. For miles, it seemed dense bushy shrubs, tall, thin birch trees, some with their white trunks peeling, and giant fir trees covered the woods around the east, north, and west sides of the alcove increasing its remoteness. The size and depth of the creek itself imposed no danger, and the area was beautiful; however, Cassandra hated being there. Too cold for her, the chill in the air nipped at her face making it ache across her cheeks and nose; luckily she had brought gloves and a heavy parka; but the moisture in the bay swathing around her, made her clothing feel damp as well as her water-soaked boots. Women’s self-defense instructors would put this location high on their list of places to keep out of, Cassandra suspected. Some unknown warning, continuously nagging at her, caused a nervous tension to develop within her. Cassandra kicked at a loose rock; the tiny pebble soared down into the creek creating a backsplash of water into her face. “Ahhh” she shouted.

A high sloped hill south of the creek, its broken mountain rock covered in green and brown dying tall grass, held a parking lot just above it which exited onto the highway. Cut out through the mountain elevations, the paved road above would eventually take them to Alaska. Both desiring to drive along the Top of the World Highway and stop by Chicken Alaska, they decided to drive thru BC and the Yukon and enter Alaska that way. When reaching Delta Alaska, they had reservations for a one-week train tour across the entire scarcely populated, mostly wilderness state. However, along the way from their hometown of Bellevue WA, Frank insisted that they detour over to the small town of Chilla Falls, where he would search for gold.

“Frankkkkk,” Cassandra whined.

“Lighten up Cas, everything is all right; there is no one else here. We will be fine,” Frank told her. Since arriving at the creek, she had been whining. He was on his honeymoon too, and they both agreed to accommodate each other’s desires this trip, and his was to look for gold. At least if he found a nugget, it would be beneficial to them both, and not end up some useless trinket soon to be forgotten days after returning home.

“Frank this is dreary,” she whined, Cassandra stopped and peered over at Frank. Submerged in water up to his knees, he did not look at her but remained attentive to shuffling the sand in the copper pan he held in his hands.

“So have you thought about a place to live?” Frank asked, emptying the last bit of sand out of the pan back into the creek. Not bothering to look at her, he reached down and scooped up another pile of the sandy bottom.

Cassandra

Frank was the most handsome man in the world, he could have any girl he wanted, but he chose her. Six years older than she, he asked Cassandra to allow him to take her to her senior prom; she thought herself had died and gone to heaven. Tall, medium build, and having big blue dreamy eyes and curly blond locks, he had many girlfriends; however, overweight, short, and straggly red hair, she never went out with a boy until the night of her prom. Shortly after the ball, she dyed her hair blond, put braces on her crooked teeth, and started going to “Weight Watchers,” intent to do what she could to make him happy. Her teeth now straight, and her blond hair styled nicely; she currently weighed one hundred and seventy pounds; she lost twenty over the past year. She was his wife now, and no one would take him away, “Cassandra Stepenmore,” she said aloud, “I love that name.”

“I am glad you do; it is yours forever now,” Frank replied, hoping to draw her attentions away from his gold panning, he asked, “What about the apartments?”

Cassandra grinned. “Well, I think the housing where Sally and Bob live are ok.”

Unmindful of her response, wading into the middle of the creek, Frank reached down and hauled out another panful of the muddy sand and rock. The water deeper in the middle reached his upper legs filling up his gumboots, and wetting his pants; Frank teetered, losing his balance. Promptly regaining his composure, he continued slowly sifting away the sand, hoping to find a piece of golden sparkling material. “Nothing still,” he mumbled softly.

“Frank, are you listening to me?” Cassandra screamed. Frank busily stirred the gold pan back and forth; his attention focused on finding gold rather than listening to her.

“Yes, yes, I hear you, Cassandra,” he replied, still not looking up at her. “This takes patience and total concentration sweetheart.”

“Total concentration, what are you talking about Frank, all you are doing is jiggling a pan around with sand in it,” Cassandra giggled. “Anyway, you are not going to find any gold, let’s just go,” she whined. Frank still did not look up at her; Cassandra realized he was not leaving soon, although the sun was going down behind the mountains and the dimness was covering the area. Cassandra zipped her white hoodie jacket up to her neck, she pulled the hood over her short blond hair and tightened its drawstring around her face.

“Well I am certainly glad I don’t have your pessimistic attitude,” Frank commented.

“Frank, you are always the optimist, it’s just not right!” Cassandra exclaimed walked to the edge of the creek. “Look at you Frank, you are soaked, you must change before you get in the car.”

“I know, I will,” Frank replied bending down to scoop up another pan of sand from the creek’s bottom. The wind picking up, the water’s waves grew rougher, knocking Frank over; plunging down head first, he fell into the cold water. Cassandra began laughing. “It’s not funny Cas,” he frowned struggling to get back on his feet.

“Yes, it is hilarious Frank, you are soaked all over now, and standing in cold water. That’ sort of crazy to me,” she giggled.

“Let me sift through a couple more pans of sand then we will go, I promise.” Already soaked and wanting to find a nugget of gold, Frank hesitated to leave just now. Anticipating having maybe ten good minutes to search before his body began experiencing light hypothermia, he decided to continue looking.

“Franky sweetie, I am cold, and I want to go now. If we leave now we don’t have to drive all night and can stay at an inn along the way,” Cassandra smiled cutely at Frank. “You can get me drunk, and I will dance naked for you,” she laughed.

Cassandra was calling him Franky, this meant she was serious and wanted his attention, “I thought you wanted to get laid in Chicken,” he chuckled.

“I do Frank, but I am tired now and ready to go.” Irritation swelling within her, she twisted her face away from Frank quickly, making sure he understood her disapproval. Her left foot slipped off the large boulder she was standing on, and Cassandra tumbled down to the creek’s edge striking her left knee on a sharp stone as she landed in the water. She screamed.

“Cas, are you all right?” Frank cried out, ran over to her and tried to lift her up.

“Leave me alone Frank, I am fine,” screamed Cassandra angrily. Her knee throbbing from the piercing sting of the sharp rock, she pushed him away from her. There was no blood on her white pant leg, at least the skin had not broken.

“Let me help you Cas.” Legs open wide, she sat submerged in the water; her brown eyes appeared as if she was ready to cry, but would not stand, or allow him to help her. Cassandra’s non-responsive body was too much for him to lift. “Stand up Cas please.” Frank reached down to her.

“No, I can get up by myself, I don’t need your help,” she cried slapping at his hand. Cassandra glared angrily at him.

“All right let me get the gold pan, and we will go,” Frank said relenting to her anger.

Annoyed at Frank, Cassandra sat in the water grimacing momentarily; she dug her hands into the sandy bottom of the creek pressing the particles of sand between her fingers. Something was beneath the sand, and its texture was different; it was not one of the smooth pebbles that lay along the creek bottom. The object was heavy, Cassandra looked down into the water, a golden stone seemed to float in her hand as the waving water obscured its shape. The object’s color was sunshine gold, and it was the size and similar in shape to an extra-large egg, she noticed pulling it from the water. The longer she held the chunk, admiring its uniqueness, its weight seemed to multiply.

“What is that?” Frank called out.

“Nothing,” Cassandra answered giggling. Frank’s curiosity would get the better of him, she knew. A moment later, correct in her assumptions, he was standing next to her glaring down at the golden nugget. “It is stunning, isn’t it?” she said just as Frank grabbed the gold from her hand. “Geez, maybe ask first,” she said watching Frank peer at the Nugget; his face was beaming as if it were his newborn son.

“Cas, you found one,” Frank cried out.

“Yes, can we go now? It is cold,” Cassandra said standing up, “and I am soaking wet.”

The color and feel of the gold were peculiar, and it had a strange presence. Its color was too silvery, and its texture too soft, but a friend of his told him there was a rare gold in the area worth a lot of money. Everyone searched for it, but no one ever found any; Frank thought his friend was jesting with him, but here it was, right in his hand. “Yes, yes, of course, we can,” replied Frank. “It is light yellow sweetheart,” he commented

“It is called sunshine yellow,” Cassandra smirked; sticking out her tongue she blew at him, said “blah” and stood up.

“And you know what, it is the gold Josh and I discussed. I thought he was messing with me,” Frank said minutes later as he stumbled through the worn brush path heading back up the mountain slope to their car, mesmerized by the piece of gold; he was unable to take his eyes off the brilliant piece of metal. “Remember the diner slash store we passed up the road; the sign said they buy gold. Let’s take it there; I bet they can tell me if it is real gold or not. I bet it is though” Frank laughed happily. “We are rich Cas.”

“If this is real gold Frank, it is probably worth some money. Do you think we should tell someone here? Do you think it will be safe? We don’t know anyone here; maybe we can take it somewhere in Washington when we get back.” Cassandra had a troublesome sense about flaunting the piece of metal she just found; in fact, something about the whole day was off.

“Of course, we will be safe Cas. These people probably see nuggets this size every day.” Grabbing her hand, Frank squeezed it, “and you are a married woman now. You’ve got a man to protect you.”

“With this nugget I just found, I don’t need to be married anymore,” Cassandra laughed and snatched the chunk of gold out of his hand.

“Amusing, Cas. You know you love me,” Frank replied.

“Of course, I do silly,” she said playfully, “maybe we can have new wedding rings made from it, so we can always remember our honeymoon.” Cassandra opened the car door and plopped into the seat waiting for Frank; he stood outside the car, drooling over the gold nugget she had found. “Come on Frank, we should go, I want to be in Chicken before dark,” she grinned.