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The Wrong Treasure

The story goes like this…

A mad, ferocious wind, a wind like a horde of wasps, buffeted the Sea Queen’s Trouble as it sailed the death-cold waters of the Sea of Ice. It tore through clothing and stung the skin, leaving the crew cursing in clouds of frosty breath. The wind even slipped through the hull like an angry ghost, leaving no crewmember untouched. Captain “Fearless” Fraser sat in his cabin, wrapped in furs. trying desperately to keep out the cold, while he pored over the letters and maps he’d acquired in far Port Manatee. Despite the wool cap he wore pulled low, his ears were numb and he barely heard the knocking on his cabin door. “Come in,” he rasped. The door squeaked open and the first mate, Barrow, poked his head in, his normally ruddy cheeks as blue as a late summer sky. “Mr. Barrow,” Fearless said, his frigid, quivering lips barely able to navigate the words, “what is it?”

“The lookout, sir,” Barrow stuttered. “He’s sighted a small island on the horizon. According to the course you set, it looks to be the island we seek.”

“Why the hell didn’t he announce anything?” the captain barked.

“He did, sir. But the wind, Captain, it swallowed the words. Only a few of us even heard him.”

“Damn!” the captain spat, the words falling to the floor like a chunk of ice. He rose stiffly and ordered his mate, “Get the men to rowing. We need to pick up speed and get out of this wintry waste as fast as we can. And the rowing will hopefully bring some warmth to their limbs.” He stroked his frost-flecked beard. “In fact, tell them their captain will join them. That should help with morale as well as warm up my chilled bones, eh?”

“Aye, sir.” Barrow nodded and ducked out of the doorway.

Ah,the life of a pirate!

As the ship neared the island, streaks of shining gold began to shimmer through the chill, silver sky. The bitter, angry wind melted into an autumnal breeze as smooth as whiskey. It could scarcely be called warm, but it was warmer than the freezing winds of the Sea of Ice. By the time the Sea Queen’s Trouble had anchored near the island, the crew’s bodies and spirits had thawed tremendously. They grew smiles in the smooth, sunny coolness, and the smiles burst into grins at the thought of the great bounty of buried treasure their captain had promised they’d find.

Fearless Fraser clapped his first mate on the shoulder and said, “Get a trio of able-bodied men, give them shovels and picks, and get a launch ready. I’ll lead them to the island. You’ll have command of the ship while I’m gone.” Squinting an eye at Mister Barrow, he added, “Keep the ship steady and square, lad. When I return, we’ll all have more riches than we’ve ever plundered before. And get the ship’s contract ready. We want to be sure each man gets his fair share of the treasure.”

“Aye, captain,” Barrow said with a curt nod and a grizzled smile.

And so Fearless Fraser and his men landed on the small, sunkissed island. Past the sandy shore, the pirates saw a lush, spring land, bursting with trees, flowers, and ferns, green, yellow, pink, blue, violet. “Cap’n!” young Black-Eyed Jake said. “Sure’n this is paradise!”

“Indeed, lad,” Fraser replied with a nod. “Where else would we find such a treasure to rival all treasures?” He led them further inland, following the rough-sketched map in his hands.

“What d’ye think it’ll be, sir?” Pip Hurley asked. “Jewels?”

“More gold coins than any of us can imagine?” Black-Eyed Jake said.

“Ha!” Othello Long barked. “I can imagine quite a lot.” He scratched the top of his shaved head and gave a toothy grin. “More than can fit in any chest buried in th’earth.”

Captain Fraser laughed heartily. “I’ll tell you, boys,” he said, “Whatever this treasure is, it is legendary. More than gold or jewels. Richer than the sweetest rum.” He stopped abruptly and pointed at a small patch of bare land surrounded by three tall trees. “And here we are! Hand me a shovel and let’s start digging, my boys!”

Even in the cool weather, the digging became hot, sweaty work, but with four people digging, it went by quickly, and the drive to find this legendary treasure was a great motivator. Othello Long led them in a song, and the time and effort flew by for the pirates before they hit a large, wood chest buried deep in the ground. With a little more work, they got the chest completely dug out and hefted it up to sit next to the hole. “Do we open it now, Cap’n?” Pip Hurley asked.

“It’s tempting, lad,” Fearless Fraser said. “But let’s get it back to the ship, where the whole crew can see it and the treasure can be distributed fairly.” The three crewmen nodded in agreement, although they all frowned at having to wait further to open the chest.

But get it back to the ship they did. The rest of the crew were breathless in anticipation. They all gathered around the captain as raised his shovel and brought it down on the chest’s great, brass lock, knocking it off with a loud clang like a church bell. He knelt down, opened the chest, and saw inside was…a small piece of parchment with florid writing on it. The parchment read:

“Congratulations, friends, on journeying this far, finding this sweet island, and procuring this treasure! And the treasure you have found is HOPE and the FREEDOM to always ever seek more HOPE! For HOPE is the LIQUOR OF LIFE! Good fortune to you!”

Captain Fearless Fraser scratched his lip with a dirty, calloused hand. “Well,” he said, “this is some bollocks.” The crew collectively let out a great, dark sigh of disappointment. The captain nodded to Mr. Barrow, and the two of them picked up the two ends of the chest and hurled it over the side of the ship. “Good riddance to bad inspirational shite!” he declared.

And so the Sea Queen’s Trouble sailed on in the hope of finding better treasure…

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