They pulled four Krugerrand out of a top row and each looked at one, and to see what it felt like to hold an ounce of pure South African Gold.
“Each coin is an ounce of pure gold. It’s recognized the world over as a reliable measure,” Rob Snitzer said.
“How much is an ounce of gold worth?” Solly Cohen asked.
“About fourteen hundred dollars,” Rob said.
“But that means this chest could be worth millions,” Caroline Rich said.
“We should count how many there are in one row, and multiply by the number of rows,” Phylis said.
“Fifty coins in one row,” Caroline said. “I just counted them.
“It’s exactly fifty Krugerrands,” Rob said. “Six rows across and four rows deep.”
“Six rows across makes three thousand times four deep makes twelve hundred Krugerrands,” Phylis said. “Wow!
“If gold is at fourteen hundred dollars an ounce or so, this chest is worth… uh… “ Rob said
“Over a hundred thousand fucking dollars,” Caroline said.
“One hundred and five thousand dollars,” Phylis said.
“We’re rich!” Solly Cohen sang out.
“Not so fast,” Rob said. “Don’t you think somebody’s gonna miss this stuff?”
“Sure, the guys who dumped it,” Solly said.
“I mean the people to whom it actually belongs,” Rob said.
“We don’t know, so we keep it, right?” Phylis said.
“I doubt it. First of all, what does one do with a Krugerrand?” Rob said. “We can’t just walk into a bank and deposit a few Krugerrands can we? I think we should stash it somewhere safe and see what we can learn about the loot. We wouldn’t want to steal it if it was meant to educate kids in the Congo or something, right?”
“Maybe if we can return it to somebody, we can get a reward,” Solly said. “After all, they’d still have plenty. Better than nothing, right?”
“On the other hand,” Caroline said, “if it’s money for an arms deal, selling weapons to terrorists, we would be obliged to keep it, right?”
“I don’t think it’s right to discuss it now, when we don’t really know what we have,” Rob said.
“What’s our next step?” Caroline said.
“In my opinion,” Rob said, “our next step should be to pack up and take off before that plane returns.
“That might not be for weeks or months even,” Solly said.
“Or it could be any minute now. Let’s hustle!” Phylis said.
They broke camp and packed everything securely in the two canoes. They left the Krugerrands in the chest and placed it on the floor of Solly and Phylis’ canoe. They pushed off and paddled calmly but swiftly along the small tributary toward another creek that will take them back to their car.
The sound of a single engine plane could be heard in the distance. As it drew near, the canoeists found a place where tall reeds grew out of the riverbank and overhung the river. The two canoes were guided beneath the reeds and rested against the bank. The aircraft was low over the treetops as it prepared to land on ‘Treasure Lake’. As soon as it passed, they pushed off again until they heard the plane returning.
“That’s it,” Rob said. “They know the chest is gone and they know it can’t have gone far. They’ll be hunting us down, for sure.
The sun rose into a brilliantly golden sky. When the sun’s warmth reached over the bushes, it set the tents aglow. Before long the bright light and warmth of the morning sun penetrated the two small tents and prompted Rob Switzer and Solly Cohen to rise from their respective tents and start the day. They had gathered firewood the evening before, so they structured the kindling appropriately and started a happily crackling fire. Before the girls emerged from their respective tents, the boys were gazing out onto the water, memorizing as well as they could the location of the chest and the body.
Breakfast was prepared by Solly. A pan of bacon and eggs sizzled fragrantly beside a metal coffee pot that bubbled happily. A discussion went on about what the macabre scene of yesterday meant. They agreed that the most likely scenario was that some criminals had stolen something valuable and discovered an undercover detective had infiltrated them. Or one of their own people was doubted. Obviously, the plane would return at some time to collect the chest after the loot was no longer making news.
“What do you think we should do?”, Rob said to the group assembled around the fire.
“I think we should get away from here,” Caroline Rich said. “If they somehow find out we saw them, we’re screwed.”
“She has a point,” Phyllis Snitzer said. “Maybe we better pack up and take off.”
“I want to go after it,” Rob said.
“Do you have a plan of some kind for this crazy stunt?” Solly said.
“I figure the girls stay here, you and I paddle out. One of us stays in the canoe as a base, and the other dives. I doubt it’s terribly deep there.” Rob said.
Solly thought for a moment, while the two women protested being left behind. He put in a suggestion that they should dive together, and the women should be nearby in the canoes. Fully pack the boats for a quick getaway, and it wouldn’t hurt to have the benefit of ballast for the tricky move of getting out of a canoe without tipping it. Then Phyllis put in that she had diving experience as a camp counsellor and she should be one of the divers too. In the end, it was agreed that brother and sister, Phyllis and Rob dive for the chest while Solly and Caroline manage the canoes.
The siblings stripped down to swimwear and helped launch the loaded canoes. Solly took the stern of his boat so Phyllis could slip into the water at the bow. Caroline was in the stern of the other boat with Rob at the bow. With only a few dozen strokes of their paddles they were hovering over the area where they’d seen the body and the chest dumped. The two canoes circled slowly in ever widening arcs. The four treasure hunters were staring down into the crystal clear water. Phyllis was the first to spot the body with the rope leading to the chest. Rob took out the World War Two army surplus sharpened bayonet that he used as a camping knife. They had all agreed to leave the body there, and take just the chest. They couldn’t do anything with the body anyway. It was better that it stay where it is, deep in cold, dark water.
Using carefully learned techniques for leaving and entering a canoe, the Snitzers slid carefully into the uncomfortably cold water. Phyllis swam to the chest while Rob went to the cadaver and cut the rope from him. He took the free end of the rope up to the surface and handed it to Solly. Solly lifted the trunk up, hand over hand. Phyllis followed the ‘treasure chest’ up from the depths. At the surface, she held the gunnel and helped Solly lift the trunk up and over so he could gently put it on the floor of the canoe. Solly was a powerful specimen of young manhood, and could just manage to set it down without it doing any damage.
“Let’s get out of here now!” Rob said as he carefully climbed into the canoe. Caroline was an experienced canoeist, and held her stern position while Rob became the bow paddle. “It’s damn cold, too! We have to get a few kilometres up a tributary and make camp under some trees with heavy foliage.”
They didn’t go back the way they came because that would have meant paddling upstream, which would be slower and more work. They stroked briskly across the small lake and entered the mouth of a small tributary that fed out of the lake. Their GPS showed that, although narrow, this waterway led to another via which they could return to their vehicles.
As the sun rolled toward the western horizon, the canoeists found a spit of sand tightly surrounded by enormous Maple trees that provided dense cover from overhead. They all were pretending that they weren’t bursting with curiosity about the contents of the chest and busied themselves setting up camp. At last, tents up, fire crackling, food frying, they gathered around and cut the rope from around the chest and opened it. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Krugerrands! In neat, tight, horizontal rows. Eight rows to a layer, eight layers deep.
“There must be hundreds of them,” Caroline said.
“Thousands,” Rob said.
“Millions of dollars,” Solly said.
“What are Krugerrands?” Phyllis said.
“Each Krugerrand is one full ounce of pure gold,” said Rob. The four adventurers just stood in a circle, looking at the loot and at each other, each wondering, “what next?”
There were four of them, and they were going in two canoes. Robert (Rob) Snitzer with Caroline Rich in one canoe, Solomon (Solly) Cohen and Phyllis Snitzer (Rob’s sister and Solly’s girlfriend) in the other canoe. They were perfectly equipped and packed for their adventure, because Rob Snitzer had spent several summers as a wilderness tripper and teacher. All supplies were calculated to be ideal for four campers, each about twenty years old. They set their Magellan to recognize where they set out as ‘home’. After that, they could wander anywhere they wished, because the GPS would bring them right back to their vehicle.
They pushed off from the rocky shore of Whippoorwill Lake, the two girls in the bows of the two boats, and the guys were handling the stern responsibilities. It was mid-morning, and they planned to enjoy a shore lunch at Crayfish Point. The slight breeze across the water was blowing in their direction, so progress went well with a tail wind.
“You set the pace, Caroline,” Rob said as they began their steady paddle strokes. “I’ll match my pace to yours.”
“The same for you, Phyl,” Solly said.
With the easy pace established by the girls in their bow position, Solly and Rob were able to push the boats forward without much strain. After two hours at the comfortable pace, the rocky spit of land known as Crayfish Point came into view. This was as far as Rob had ventured in the past, when he’d taken five canoes full of camper kids on their outings. They had been travelling in familiar territory for the first two hours. From this point forward, they are going to go by instinct, and just choose river branches or marshland routes as they wish, on the spot.
They enjoyed a lunch of German sausages cooked on the open fire, with potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil, roasted in the coals. As they ate, they agreed upon which river branch they should follow. They cleaned up after lunch, securely packed their equipment and pushed off down the unknown channel.
The way was splendid. The river was wide enough for them to comfortably paddle alongside each other and chat. The river flowed very slowly between the wide banks, so progress was easy. The environment was breathtaking. The shoreline on both sides was covered with beautiful wildflowers and stands of huge weeping willow trees. In some places, the river bank was very high, dirt walls towering over the canoeists. In other places, there were thick reeds through which they paddled.
Just before evening, they found a good place to make camp, amid protective foliage at the water’s edge, where the river emptied into a large lake. The foursome decided to make camp to rest before the long paddle across the broad lake. Camp was made; supper of peameal bacon and scrambled eggs was prepared and served before the weary vagabonds entered their pop tents for the night. Rob and Caroline cuddled together in a double sleeping bag. Solly and Phyllis did not. Phyllis was not comfortable being intimate when her brother was a few feet away.
There was a trace of red sky across the western horizon when the natural cacophony of forest and water night sounds was interrupted by the sound of a small, single engine plane. It flew over them at tree top height and landed on pontoons the water. The four campers left their tents and watched the plane from behind foliage, in the fading light.
A door opened on the right side of the plane and a man stepped down onto a pontoon. He moved along the pontoon to a luggage hatch and opened it. The man looked very out of place in a remote forest area. He wore a pale grey suit, a loud tie and heavy city shoes. He reached in and pulled out what appeared to be a strong box. It was apparently heavy, because he did not move it easily. A chain was locked around the strong box and the chain led up into the baggage hatch.
The man reached into the hatch again and pulled a man half way out, who was apparently unconscious – or dead. As he dragged the limp man out through the hatch he pushed the strong box off the pontoon. The chain tightened and the end that was attached to the man dragged him out of the hatch, over the pontoon, and down into the depths.
“What are we gonna do?” Phyllis said.
“We’re gonna check that box out,” Solly said.
“Tomorrow, when the plane’s long gone,” Rob said.
(To be continued)
It was never my intension to be a Transition Man. In fact, I didn’t know I was one until a woman told me I was. Even stranger, I actually never heard of Transition Men until Judy said it to me. She was a very beautiful, tall, slender married suburban mother of two teenage children. She popped up on my monitor back when I had ICQ on it.
“Hi!” she wrote. “This is Judy in Chi.”
“Hello. How did you know I would know what Chi is?” I wrote back.
“Everybody knows Chi is Chicago, don’t they?” she wrote.
“I don’t know what everybody knows,” I wrote.
As time passed, we corresponded, and I guess we both liked what we read from each other. She told me she’d married a guy who had been a platonic friend in high school. Such a pal, it seems, that he took her out to lunch the day after she lost her virginity to some other guy, I assume. Somehow, they eventually married and had first a daughter and then a son, both of who were teenagers and in high school. Her husband had grown indifferent to her, and I suspected he had an outside lover. I still can’t understand a man who would grow indifferent to a truly beautiful woman with a remarkable body and flawless skin. One thing that especially drew me to her was her desire to do ‘everything’. She had a movie-star kind of face, a lovely body with large breasts and nipples, long legs that were very attractively shaped. Long black hair was a perfect top to the whole.
We grew to trust each other, and even feel strong affection for each other on line. Eventually, I had a good excuse to go to Chicago, and after I was checked in to my hotel room in the Ritz Carlton, I wrote to her with details of where I was. She wrote back about her estimated time of arrival, and I prepared by stripping down and putting on my Japanese silk robe. She tapped lightly on the door and I welcomed her in. She was just as beautiful as the photos she’d sent, and I hoped I measured up to the photos I’d sent to her. Apparently, I did.
I undressed her and lay her across the bed and lowered my face between her thighs. She made delightfully encouraging sounds, whimpers and moans mostly until the climax when she stifled a scream. She lay on the bed in a magnificent living graphic pose of beauty, her eyes closed as she recovered from her intense convulsions. I looked down at her in appreciation of her alabaster skin against the dark pattern of the hotel bedspread. I removed my silk robe and draped it over her. I sat at the obligatory hotel room corner table and sipped coffee I’d made with the hotel’s in-room equipment.
Looking at Judy, I was able to fully appreciate how fortunate I was that this fine, lovely, neglected woman permitted me to enjoy these special moments with her. I was attracted back to her internal sweetness and had a sudden impulse. I held hot coffee in my mouth and swallowed it at the last second before I put my lips and tongue on her. She caught in her breath at the feeling and almost immediately had another series of spasms.
As she left the room, five hours later, she said, “I never knew one could make love all day.” Now she knew it.
We met in this way once each month for about a year. During that time, she moved ahead to leave her husband and kids. She found an apartment not far from them with an extra room should they want to visit her overnight. She did not force the sale of their mutual home at that time.
When the affair had run its course, I was becoming interested in a woman closer to home. Judy and I met a final time, happily. I thanked her for the wonderful hours of love-making, and the new ‘firsts’ she had shared with me. She thanked me for being there for her, restoring her excitement in making love, and also the ‘first time’ things we explored together. Finally, she thanked me for being her ‘transition man’, from stilted married woman’s life to a level of freedom and adventure.
I don’t understand the fascination with women’s breasts. I certainly share the fascination, but I have no idea why. We might say, “Well, we were nourished and nurtured with breasts.” That’s true, but then, so were girls and women. Is it possible that women, heterosexual or lesbian, are as drawn to pretty breasts as are men?
The proliferation of cleavage is overwhelming. Many gowns at the Academy Awards were excessively revealing. They seemed to be designed to reveal everything except nipples and pubic hair. I’m sure such private places will soon be also revealed, at the next level of shock intent.
Those are extreme garments and they are worn as a sort of advertising of the wearers’ value. The presence at the Oscars, the impressive designer, the evident wealth to get that ranking designer to design for the ‘star’, all say thumbs up for the woman. But what of the stenographer, the shop girl, the female lawyer, doctor, CEO and teacher?
All mature and younger women exhibit cleavage almost all the time. I like it, I’m pleased with it, but I don’t understand it. A fashionista told me it’s for style. I accept that, keeping in mind that style used to be lace to the jaw. Many garments do not count on cleavage for style, but many more do.
Excepting the ‘plumbers’ cleavage’, which is revealed over the rear of the pants of a kneeling tradesman, most any cleavage is attractive. That leads to more confusion. The time honoured ‘undoing blouse buttons to turn a man on’ indicates that women are keenly aware that they’re carrying a built in magnet for the male animal. Therefore, it seems out of place for female executives, television anchors, and sales persons to be showing cleavage. They are not likely intending seduction… I think. We men are at a loss to know what is meant by a lovely cleavage.
I conclude that there are two parallel paths to peace in the question of breasts. Men must learn to interpret correctly, the exposure of cleavage as either a lure, or merely a style detail. Simultaneously, women must learn how to expose cleavage as a lure or merely a style detail. It might be by square inches of exposure, or exposure based on the woman’s sitting or standing position in front of a standing male. Women at office reception desks would be wise to expose minimal cleavage because many males would be standing looking down over their desk. On the other hand, you could open up, to make the couriers happy.
There’s a big deal on television today. It’s called the Super Bowl. It gathers a vast amount of attention and costs people a vast amount of money. It doesn’t mean anything. The Super Bowl is meaningless, yet a great deal of false meaning has been injected into it. Fanatics pay thousands of dollars for seats that are worth thirty bucks. They could even watch it for no charge, in their own homes, with their own snacks and get a better view to boot.
Any sort of fanaticism is not a good idea. Things like Nazism, Aryan Brotherhood, Super Bowl and so on. This obviously doesn’t include harmless fan preferences like fans of Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Harrison Ford, Dolly Parton and so on. Not all Super Bowl fans are childish and some women do as some men do for the big game.
Although some people paint their faces and even their bodies in the colours of their preferred team, it is childish. It’s fun, it’s troublesome and it’s childish. There are women who cook and serve special snacks to be consumed during the game. It is a game, remember. It’s only a game that for some reason commands great attention and much money.
Well, not for some reason – for the reason that it’s a business enterprise. The people that own the teams, the stadium and the series of games, spend much money to hype up the interest in their business. Fanatical fans should remember that it is not really a game, as in a game people play for pleasure like bowling and poker. It is somebody’s business. The painted faces and heaps of snacks are all in celebration of someone’s very successful business promotion.
We all know that men are childish. It’s true that little boys grow up to be big boys with big toys. It’s true that little girls grow up to be women, and they take care of life more properly than do men. We have to mention that while men behave childishly, women also have their oddities.
Women prepare their faces like painting on a canvas. Black, lengthening material is applied to lashes. Colour is applied to upper lids, sometimes with sparkles in it. Dark lines are drawn around the eyes and beyond their corners. Skin is enhanced with skin coloured crème. Lips are enhanced with colour, sometimes two shades on one lip. Cheek bones are accentuated with highlights and shadows carefully applied.
There’s not room for all the hair and body enhancements to be described, so we’ll end here… except to say that women are odd too, and should willingly forgive men for loving their trucks and painting their faces to show their fanaticism.
I took the Szentendre train twice each week. Early Monday mornings I stood at the station near my home and waited for the train to take me into Budapest, where I was an assistant professor of anatomy at Semmelweis University. Friday evenings I caught a train back to Szentendre. Between the two short train rides, my life was bland, grey, boring, and repetitive. In Szentendre I did my grocery shopping in the open market and prepared my meals for the week in the city. I was able to rent a cheaper flat in the city if I didn’t need cooking facilities. In Budapest I spent most of my time in my flat, and the rest of my time with my students.
Last autumn I began to wonder about my life. I had been on vacation for the summer, and the return to the routine of city life and work was objectionable to me. Weekends at home were no better. Lonely days and nights, some so lonely I just sat around my house and cried for hours. It took all my will to go to the train station in Szentendre that first Monday morning in September. The usual scattering of people was there, waiting for the train to Budapest. I kept my eyes down as always. I was not in the mood for idle small talk. My spirit was in turmoil. I wanted to be left alone, to avoid social contact. At the same time, I wanted love, affection, attention, and sex.
My husband… my former husband… was a dentist. He had run off with his office assistant three years before. I didn’t see it coming, and it put me into a deep depression. I wasn’t interested in anything, and I simply buried myself in my work. It had not always been so, but I was thirty-nine years old, living alone and longing for love. I would have settled for any old fool of a lover, just to be touched by a warm, tender hand again. I was grey. My hair, my complexion, and my spirit were all grey. I was a colourless lump of average looking, depressed, slightly overweight middle-aged female meat, and I felt like shit.
The first week back at work was the usual mess of misunderstandings and scheduling conflicts and what have you. In spite of the lonely, empty house in Szentendre, I was looking forward to getting home to my garden and my sculpture studio. I like to make pottery or sculpt animals and human figures in clay. It’s just a hobby, but it was satisfying in a way, and helped to pass lonely hours. I worked in my garden during Saturday and Sunday mornings and in my studio on weekend afternoons and evenings.
The first Friday night of the new semester, I boarded a later than usual train to Szentendre, because the hectic first week of school left me with some extra duties. Evening was settling in when I took my seat. The coach was empty except for a young man seated across the aisle from me. He looked at me and smiled with a slight tilt of his head. I averted my eyes and stared out the window at the passing scene that was fading in the descending evening light.
I had never seen the young man before, and I wondered for a moment why he had smiled at me. I was one of the first passengers to leave the train. I hurried across the platform toward home, and didn’t see him disembark behind me. When I arrived at home, I made a small supper for myself and did a bit of housework before I went to sleep. Saturday morning, I busied myself with my garden and my studio. The weekend passed with the usual boring loneliness, and by Monday morning I was ready to return to the University. At least I had some human interaction at my job, even though it was only with the students in my anatomy classes or some professors in the lounge.
As usual, I kept to myself on the platform, waiting for the commuter train to take me into the city. Most of the scattered people were reading newspapers or talking quietly to each other. I tilted my face up to the rising sun, closed my eyes, and let the warmth soothe me. I heard the train coming, and I felt the people around me moving about in preparation for its arrival. Someone stood next to me, almost brushing the sleeve of my coat, but I did not acknowledge it.
The breeze from the moving train touched me, and I opened my eyes to climb aboard. I took a seat and looked up to see the same young man I had seen on the Friday evening ride home. He again smiled and nodded at me. I half-smiled in return, took some papers from my briefcase, and pretended to read them. I didn’t understand why the young man noticed me, and I dared not look at him long enough to see if I knew him. I doubted he was a student in one of my classes because I know each of them quite well. I had the impression from my quick glances that he was tall, broadly built, and with a good-looking square face. He had a high forehead under thick, blond hair that he wore tied low down on the back of his head in a long ponytail.
The train rolled into the Budapest station. I did not hurry to leave my seat because I hoped to see the young man from a different angle, when he couldn’t see me staring. I pretended to be searching in my bag for something when he got up and went to the door. His legs were long and his ass was absolutely beautiful. The muscles in his thighs were tight in his jeans, stretching the denim. I could see on the back of his red windbreaker the symbol of the University of Fine Arts in downtown Budapest. He left the train and turned right toward the exit that leads to downtown transportation. I turned right toward Semmelweis University. Before I left the station I stopped and looked back, hoping to see the red jacket in the flowing crowd. I was stunned to see him standing in the middle of the people rushing this way and that all around him while he looked back at me. Flushed with embarrassment, I turned quickly and rushed up the stairs with the crowd and out onto the street above.
The week dragged so slowly, I was insane with impatience for the Friday evening train to Szentendre, so I could see the young man again. By Wednesday afternoon I was beside myself. One of my students even asked if I was feeling well. I hadn’t realised that it showed. I was building up a volcano of curiosity, a lava flow of desire, a fantasy of romance that was ridiculous and I knew it. My mind was filled with visions of myself in my studio, the young man naked on a platform while I drew him and sculpted him and painted him. I saw myself walking around and around him, casually viewing his legs, his ass his arms and chest and finally, his cock, hanging like salami over his plump balls.
Suddenly, in the middle of my final Wednesday class, I had a thought: maybe he didn’t take the train back and forth only on Fridays and Mondays. Maybe he took the train back and forth every day. It’s only a half-hour each way. I spent my weeknights in the city because the University provided a living allowance that almost covered it, and the house was just too lonely to live in alone all the time. At least I could occasionally enjoy a good restaurant meal, or a concert, or just walk anonymously among the strangers in the square.
The final class ended, and I impulsively rushed to the train station and got there just in time to see the train boarding. I looked everywhere for the red jacket, but could not find it. I decided to board the train anyway, and go home for the evening. Maybe the young man had taken an earlier train on Wednesday. Maybe he would be on the Szentendre platform in the morning – with me also there… on the platform. I went up and down through every car on the ride home. I tried to pretend I wasn’t looking for anyone, in case I saw him. It was ridiculous of course, because what other reason could there be for a foolish old woman to be wandering up and down a whole train, if not looking for someone?
He was not there. I walked home on the dusty road, unlocked the front gate and carefully locked it behind me before I went up the stairs to the door and let myself into the house. I felt like a real idiot, going on like this about nothing. I was obviously emotionally screwed up, or I wouldn’t feel weak as a kitten just thinking about…who? Thinking about this stranger who is young enough to be my child. I had to do something to keep busy or I’d go crazy, so I got a bunch of vegetables out of the refrigerator and cut a slab of beef into cubes and made a pot of gulas.