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[Academy Submission] All the Gold Money Can Buy


Eskeocha

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The town of Mastikan, Eskeocha in the summer

 

All The Gold Money Can Buy

SLAP…

SLAP…

SLAP…

The echoing of the ball resonated around the room as Javed caught it, then threw it up again in a repetitive pattern.  It was a slow day at work, the kind where tossing a baseball to oneself is considered the most thrilling form of excitement.  Javed sighed as he continued his one-man game of catch, no longer paying attention to the ball; he had been doing this so long he knew exactly where the ball would land.

The door on the far side of the room opened with a click, and a young woman walked in.  She had dark brown, straight hair and a very small face.  The was short and thin, and wore the same blue button down shirt and neon yellow vest as Javed, the uniform all tour guides at the Mastikan Gold Mine would wear.  “Javed, your 2:30 tour is all signed in,” she said to the man in her thick Eskeok accent.  He put on a fake smile as he looked over at her.

“Thanks, Ileva,” he responded in the same language.

With a sigh and a slight groan, Javed stood up and made his way out the door and into the lobby.  He walked down the cream colored hall, past black and white photos of miners and large finds, nuggets of gold the size of fists.  As he shuffled towards the main hall, his boots squeaking on the tile all the way, he thought to himself, please, just today, let something new happen.

“Hi!” Javed said with a large smile and wide eyes as he addressed the nine people in the room, all here for his tour.  He had been doing this job for many months, and had become expert at switching his “tour guide” personality on in an instant.  “My name is Javed, and I’m a tour guide here at the Mastikan Gold Mine!  I’m very excited to lead you today as you learn all about the history of mining in Mastikan, explore the mine, and even try mining for gold yourself!  Before we officially start the tour, I must ask, has everyone here signed the waivers?”

This part of the process was always very boring, but very important.  If something happened and a waiver was not signed, Jared’s job and money would be on the line.  Once he confirmed that the whole group had signed, he continued on.

“Welcome to Mastikan Golden Tours!  As I said, I am Javed, and I will be taking you around the mine area, as well as into the mine over the course of the next two hours.  To give you a little background, Mastikan Golden Tours was founded in 1991 after the shut down of the Mastikan Gold Mine as a way to bring more opportunities for education to the people visiting our borough.  It was founded by Arneau Comora, who for the first six years, he and his daughter would take guests on tours around the mine to learn about the history.  In 1997, the company was granted permission to open the mine, and in 2007, permission was granted for us to allow our guests to do some mining themselves, giving us the opportunity to take you through the full experience we can share with you today.  Now, to get to the mine, we’re going to head out this door to the van, and I will drive us out to our destination.”

Javed began shepherding his group out the door with an internal groan.  It was going to be just another boring day.  “So!  Where are you all from?”  he asked as they left the building.

 

———

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A photograph of a portion of the interior of the Mastikan Gold Mine

 

The drive out to the mine was less than memorable.  Javed could not remember where any of his guests were from, nor what they looked like.  They all asked the same questions every group did - “What’s it like living in Mastikan?”  “How big is Eskeocha actually?” and “So, how tall is Mt. Caskada?”  Javed gave his standard answers, half focusing on his questions and half on the 45 minute drive.  There was one decent stretch of conversation, however, that did peak his interest.  A man, a father of two, spent a decent amount of time asking Javed where he was from, what he studied in school, and a few other questions about the guide.  He was very nice and wound up tipping exceptionally well, though Javed had no reason to know that yet.

Upon arriving at the mine, the van pulled up in the small lot with the crunching of tires on gravel.  Javed pulled into a corner under the shade of trees and everyone filed out.  It was a sunny afternoon, so upon exiting the van with a furrowed brow, the guide squinted as the natural light of the sky beat down on him.  What he wouldn’t do to remove his vest and shirt and be wearing only his undershirt.  It was still only 56 degrees, a much higher temperature for this area of Eskeocha, but he was sweating nonetheless.

“We’re about to enter the mines,” he said, “which were originally operated in full by colonists who arrived in the nation hoping for riches.  In the entire time the mine remained open, miners never found gold until the final three years of operation, after which it closed down due to safety concerns.  Don’t worry,” Javed assured concerned faces with a chuckle, “today’s technology and safety standards have ensured it is okay for us to go in.”

He began walking down the path, towards the mouth of the mine, pursued by his crowd.  Aside from one couple in the rear, everyone kept pace.  As soon as everyone was inside, Javed began his tour.

The guide spend the better part of an hour putting on a show.  As dull as his mood was, he felt it had been one of his better performances.  He added mystery and intrigue, and drew in his guests with long passed stories.  He pulled them in with the story of the 1956 cave-in.  He gave a quite compelling reenactment of the first jackpot, the first time anyone had found gold in the mine.  He even mentioned the romance between the mine foreman and a young miner, something he only did when he was feeling hot.  The crowd laughed, gasped, and asked plenty of questions.  By the time they got to the end of the tour portion, his mood had lifted.

“Congratulations team,” Javed remarked as the group made their way into a larger cavern, “It’s time for what you’ve been waiting for!  In this cavern, you can spend the better part of the next half hour mining for you own gold!”  It was most people’s favorite part of the tour.  Granted, most visitors never walked out with more gold than a single grain, but there was something about swinging pickaxes at the walls of the cave the visitors loved.

The guests, all 16 and above, the required age for participating, all went to work hacking and swinging at the walls.  There were laughs, grunts, and the occasional gasp of someone who thought they struck it rich.  About four people got their hands on tiny specks, but no one else seemed to find anything.  That was, until the kid took his turn.

A short teenager, a young blonde boy in a gray shirt and jeans grabbed the pick axe from his older sister and, grasping it firmly by the handle, slammed the point down at the rock.  In that initial hit, a few pieces of rock came off the wall and revealed a small shimmer.  It’s was no more than the size of a fingernail, but it was bigger than most people ever found.  “Hey, hey, look!” the kid yelled.

Javed ran over and took a look, surrounded by the other guests.  Sure enough, a pebble of gold jutted out of the wall.  “That’s the biggest anyone on my tours has found,” Javed said in amazement.  Seeming pretty proud, the kid beamed.  Javed continued, “you’d better keep digging it out, you only have ten more minutes and can’t leave with anything you haven’t pulled out.”

The kid hacked away more and more, then the strangest thing happened.  As more rock came off the wall, more and more gold was revealed.  The find got bigger and bigger, until finally, with only 30 seconds left, out came a golden nugget the size of an adult man’s fist.  It was massive!  No one could believe it!  Not even Javed!  He continued to mutter to himself in disbelief as he walked out.  The gods listened to him.  They made something interesting happen!

Javed finished the tour, returning the group to the building in Mastikan, where the dad placed a one hundred chipre tip in his hand.  He barely got out his thank you, then proceeded to mumble about the jackpot as he walked back to the back room.  He sat in the chair, picked up the ball, and, not remotely paying attention, began tossing it up again.

SLAP…

SLAP…

SLAP…

 

Events of this story occurred in the Mastikan Gold Mine on July 16th, 2020.

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