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The Gem  

Over21ish2 55M  
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7/31/2020 11:50 am
The Gem

Clothes soaking wet, clinging the skin, swarms of biting insects and venomous critters practically under every step. I’m sure that if the Marketing brochure for the Archeology degree at college had these things listed, the class sizes would have been considerably smaller. One of those empty lecture hall seats may very well have been mine, as I wipe the humidity inducing sweat from my forehead and silently contemplate my life choices up this point. How on earth did I end up here? Another leafy branch stings and catches the side of my jaw as I move my way through the dense vegetation. Why didn’t I stick to teaching? No one dies from malaria or poison blow darts in front of a chalkboard at the University.

I’ve been racing through the Jungle for the better part of 2 days in an attempt reach the saltmarsh. No doubt, the group behind have realized that what I carry in my backpack has already been stolen from them. How the collector managed to keep it hidden, and in such an isolated location deep inside the Congo for that matter, remains a mystery to me. The Absecon Gem belongs on no one’s mantle, and our small group of thieves is intent on keeping it that way. Alright, thieves might be too strong a word, but after all, Robin Hood was considered a thief, also. I’m not certain how much of a head start I have, but my path isn’t difficult to locate. There aren’t many man-sized and machete cut passages through the jungle in this part of the world. Since it’s easier to follow a route than make one, it would only be a matter of time before they catch up. That is, if I don’t reach the seaplane anchored at the saltmarsh first. My right arm is screaming for rest from swinging the giant blade, but I have no time to lose. The visage ahead seemed to brighten somewhat from the usual dark forest green that I’ve been accustomed to seeing. The slightest scent of salt water was hanging in the air as well, so I knew my destination was close.

Thunk! The sound of an arrow hitting a tree less than a foot away made me aware that I was no longer alone. I began to run as quickly as I could, this time leaving no regard for what may lie ahead of me. In a matter of moments the jungle disappeared and I was sprinting through the waist high reeds of the marsh. Before I could smile with my good fortune, something just didn’t feel quite right. Scanning across the horizon my plane was nowhere to be found. Damn… I had overshot my target. As I was considering which direction to go next, a large group of painted tribesmen with bows and arrows emerged from the foliage behind me. Alongside them, bearing a shotgun, was the collector.

“Lead us on a merry chase, didn’t you, Panama Jack?” he bellowed, “hand over the gem and I’ll let you leave here alive. Whether the cannibals will do the same, I can’t say, but maybe you could reason with them.”
“I hate it when people call me that” I responded, glaring back.
“Well, what do you expect when you traipse around in a hat such as that?”
I kept slowly walking backward until my boots began taking in water. One thing I did manage get right was my timing. The tide was up. Little good that was going do now, there was nowhere else go. I worked the backpack free and held it outstretched threateningly in my left hand while I stood in knee deep saltwater.
“Don’t be stupid” the collector said confidently, “you value the gem as much as I do, you’d never risk it’s loss.”

My sister handed me the scissors as I held the bag over the waterway. “Are you ready?” she asks.
Wordlessly I cut the top of the bag, then turn it over in order to allow all of the contents to pour out. My mother’s ashes proceeded to rain down into the salt water below. The small group of family gathered around took several long minutes of silent reflection. Another wave of grief caught hold of me as I remember she was the reason I am even here right now. I use my shirt to wipe away my emotion and I catch a glimpse of my sister worriedly looking at me. “My allergies are acting up.” I smirk slyly at her.
“This is where mom wanted to be” she pointed at the bay, “I know she’d be really pissed staying over the fireplace. This is her real home, she deserves to be here.”
A couple of fish began jumping out of the water as the outline of the remains could be seen drifting along with the tide. “They appear to be happy to have her back, too.”
Rest in Peace, Mom.

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