It was the barest glimmer of gold. Barely a speck. I took the empty cup and dug into the coarse sand, trying to recapture that gleam.
When I found it, it was surprisingly large, more the size of a half dollar, and gleaming brightly in the setting sun. I held it up to show Georgia. “Oh, Wes, that will look good on a chain around my neck.” But, feeling more than a bit possessive, I told her, “only if I find its mate so we can both have one.” We used empty cups to filter the coarse sand but found no mates to the doubloon. With a sharp eye, the Cap’n told us that it was that.
“Best to throw it back.” We had no intention of throwing it back. “Some of Kendrick’s gold, I expect. It’s best to throw it back now rather than curse it and throw it back later.
Over the next hour, the story came out. The pirate Kendrick’s had lost the sloop Belle Isle offshore on the Widows, he and the crew had gotten off, but the Belle Isle was lost with all the proceeds from raiding along the coast that season. A week of salvaging had brought almost no results, and Kendrick cursed the wreck and whoever salvaged her cargo.
“So better to toss it back now than later; it’s done nobody good in the past. Others have found it, and none have kept it. Sooner or later, it winds up back here being sifted in the sands near the Widows. They had a doubloon up to the town Historical Society when I was a boy. They had a program on Kendrick and his gold, and then the building burned to the ground. The doubloon was there in the middle of the wreckage, unmelted. They were smart and tossed it back here where it belongs.”
There was no way either Georgia or I would toss it back into the tide. Over the next two days, we spent every spare moment sifting sand, looking for a matching piece. I held onto the original. Georgia looked at it with envy, and every time I allowed her to hold it, I felt a bit bereft for not having its solid weight in my palm.
On day three, the car broke down, and we walked to the little shingle and sand beach. Unfortunately, Georgia fell and sprained her ankle hopping from stone to stone on day four. However, the Cap’n maintained that it was not mere misfortune. Day five was marred by food poisoning. It was Sunday, and I ate what everyone else ate; lobster. But only I got sick. My dreams were marred by Kendricks visiting me and demanding his gold back.
On Monday, I woke from food poisoning to find the gold gone. Georgia had taken it to a jeweler for fitting into a necklace. That evening we had the worst fight ever, and I almost struck her. With an insane fervor, I raged at how stupid she was to leave the gold with a complete stranger. I immediately drove over town and retrieved the coin from a bewildered jeweler.
When I returned, I found the Captain and Georgia talking to a reporter from the local paper about how we had found the coin. I refused to speak or allow the coin to be photographed. Later the Cap’n found me down by the float replacing a worn line. “Give it up now, Wes; this is how it starts. It’s just small stuff, and then it builds until something fatal happens, or it gets returned to the tides.”
I stood up and made to hop aboard the ketch. I slipped and, in catching myself, wrenched my arm and fell between the float and the boat. A swell first moved the ketch away and then crushed me against the float. I saw nothing for a long while.
When I woke, I was in the emergency room. I reached for my pants on the chair but found the pocket empty. I began yelling. The Cap’n was the first to appear. ” you can quit hollering. It’s gone. I deep-sixed it in the tide not long after bringing you in.”
Something about the term deep-six brought back memories of my father talking to me about Davy Jones and how lost sailors and possessions gone overboard all belonged to Davy. Sometimes, the tides tossed up Davy Jones’s Locker items, but they were on loan only. So sooner or later, they would find their way back to the sea.
Speaking to the Cap’n, I found that agreement on this was a rare time my Marine Engineer father and Master Mariner father-in-law were in agreement: cursed items belonged to Davy, and it was best to leave them where found. Or return them ASAP.
After that, Georgia and I stayed away from the little shingle and sand beach. It took me several weeks to recover from my mishap, and after that, I have been careful regarding what I remove from the sea.
Last month there was an article in a glossy New England-themed magazine. They now think that they’ve located the Belle Isle and her cargo using exceptional underwater imaging technology. So I took a chance and wrote to the head of the expedition, explaining my experience. I received a thank you note and an invitation to the exhibition opening.
I instead think that I won’t go.