Lost Treasure, by Katrina Johnston

Dear Notebook: My Mom nags at me all the time.

Dear Notebook: Today, I found some neato rocks on the beach. And a piece of dark green glass. Some people call it sea glass. I call it beach glass. Maybe it’s from a wine bottle? It’s not pop-bottle color and not like 7-Up. Darker. It’s smooth and cloudy like beach glass gets because it’s changed from a long long time in the ocean. Someone else might say it’s only a rock, but they’d be wrong. It’s really cool. I’ve already got a whole whackload. Mostly from last year. I’ve got white glass, and brown glass from beer bottles – and bits of green. Not much blue.

Also today, I found a weird yellow chunk of something that’s not a stone. It’s flat on one side and glitters. Maybe it’s a piece of marble or part of mosaic tile that fell into the ocean from a far away place – like India or Pakistan.

Dear Notebook: Mom says I have amassed way way too much junk under my bed. That’s where I keep my treasures. I’ve got lots. I’ve collected huge barnacles and pieces of wood and shells and dried-up curly kelp. I’ve even got a dead starfish and a couple of sand dollars and oodles of broken shells. I’ve got some claws and shells from crabs that seagulls have eaten up. Mom says those things are really smelly. But I like the crab claws. Eight bags of glass – I mean beach glass. And, I keep finding more and more.

Mom isn’t happy. She had to vacuum under my bed and move all my stuff and shift the boxes because they were in her way. “Peggy – you need to throw some of this away,” she said. “Or admire it on the beach and leave it there.” She’s on a cleaning binge because we’re having special house guests  again. Like they’re ever, ever, ever going to even peek inside my bedroom. Duh?

This time, it’s Auntie Darlene and her new boyfriend. His name is Ogden. That’s a weird name isn’t it? They’re getting married sometime next September.

Dear Notebook: Auntie Darlene and her boyfriend, Ogden, arrived today. Auntie gave me a puzzle book – sort of like a crossword game but with numbers and pictures. And a new super ball, like a baby toy; a rubber ball. Sheesh! It’s kind of grey and small. I’m way way too old for bouncy balls! Really lame. But I didn’t say anything except a polite, very polite thank-you to Auntie Darlene. Uncle Ogden is a crazy old dude. He’s really tall. I don’t mean he’s crazy looney. He’s just old. He’s got bushy eyebrows and googly glasses. He asked me to call him Uncle – even though he’s not related to me and not my honest and for true uncle.

We only ever have really boring adult visitors over here at Cordova Bay. Every summer I have to leave my friends back home in Kitsilano in Vancouver and we take the ferry across here to Victoria. I really miss Shelly and Jennifer, my two bestest friends. My parents bought this old cottage. Now we spend all of July and August here. I’m the only kid. My parents think it’s cool. Mom calls it “the summer place.” I call it the “boring place.” Besides, I’m really not a kid. My Dad agrees with me. My birthday was three weeks ago. Now, I’m twelve.

Dear Notebook: Wish there was someone fun to hang out with.

Dear Notebook: I really like the beach, especially these days when we’ve only just newly arrived and it’s getting warm. I really like finding stuff. I try to look beside the big logs first. I even wade in the water sometimes but it’s way too cold and dirty to take a dip.

Dear Notebook: Mom is nagging some more. She said I should bring a book with me for the after dinner times when the adults are all sitting around and yapping and drinking wine. Except she said “conversing.” But, Auntie Darlene laughs way way too loud. She sounds like a cackling witch. So Mom said to bring something else to amuse myself while the adults talked. It’s kind of a funny thing to do, but I brought the whole gigantic container of Legos  that I’ve still got from when I was a little kid and used to build towers and castles and palaces and factories. Zillions of Legos. Sheesh.

After supper, Uncle Ogden got right down on the carpet beside me and he started building Legos. He made this nifty condo with balconies and window ledges all around. It sort of looked like flower pots. He made a big garage and even a Lego car. He’s really neat.

Dear Notebook: Mom says I’m always bringing home way too many rocks and more smelly things. “No more,” she said. “Enough already.”

My best treasure is a neato pink rock. Kinda big. It’s got all kinds of swirls and lines and there are some little pieces of other rocks trapped inside. I showed it to Uncle Ogden. “Inclusions,” he said. “When a rock like this has these other little pieces locked within, they call that ‘inclusions.’ The inclusions make it special.”

I put the pink rock on my desk along with the other two amazing things that are my best treasures. I’m too fried to write more words right now. I’ll tell you about the other treasures tomorrow.

Dear Notebook: The other things are: a T-shaped bone about as big as part of my hand. It’s all light and spongy-looking, like it’s got holes along one side but the rest of it is smooth. I think it’s from a whale or maybe some weird fish? It’s not a bird bone because it’s not hollow.

And a big chunk of blue beach glass. Blue! Usually, nowadays, I only can find a little chip of blue – a crumb no bigger than a broken corn flake. But this is a big honkin’ wedge-type piece, and it has some lumpy engravings on it and I think it might be some squiggly oriental writing on the side. The words or numbers are almost worn away from lots of time in the ocean. I can’t make it out. Bet it’s gotta be from somewhere cool – like maybe – like the Philippines or Japan or Egypt? I guess.

Dear Notebook: Today, Mom had to change her hair appointment. I was supposed to go with her to shop for Auntie Darlene’s wedding present. We had to make other arrangements. I was surprised when Uncle Ogden said he’d like to come with me down to the beach. So, we walked down to the beach along the access road and then we looked amongst the seaweed. It was so funny. Uncle Ogden found this thing – it looked like a shell or stone, but it was all wet and squishy. He picked it up and squeezed it really hard.

“Oops,” he said and threw it aside. “Nasty. It’s just as I suspected and I should have let it be – a piece of water-logged and bloated garlic. My fingers reek.” He held out his hand for me to smell. “Take a whiff.” It was really yucky. Uncle Ogden went down and rinsed his fingers in the water and then he came back to where I was. We started drawing lines in the sand with wooden sticks.

“I’ve got an idea,” Uncle Ogden said. “Let’s carve some fake footprints, like big monster ones.” So we did. I carved out the bottom of a foot. I pushed the sand aside with my shoe and then I got down and shaped it smooth until it looked exactly like the bottom of a bare-naked foot. “The toes should look realistic,” Uncle Ogden said and he scooped out five places all lined-up as if they were toes. That footprint looked really funny! Then we moved a little way forward and carved out another footprint with the toes lined-up the other way. Then another and another. It looked as if a monster had stomped along the beach leaving footprints in the sand. I bet some little kid will be really super amazed or scared when he or she finds those creepy footprints!

We came back in time for dinner. Another boring “adult” time. It’s late. I’m in my room. I’m supposed to be turning out the light real soon and sleeping. Uncle Ogden and Auntie Darlene leave tomorrow. Wait, there’s someone at my door …..

Dear Notebook: I’m sitting near the window in the living room.

Dear Notebook: This is what I remember:

“Peggy?” It was Uncle Ogden at my bedroom door. “Are you sleeping?”

I jumped out of bed in my pajamas. “No, Uncle Ogden. I’m not tired. Mom said I could read for awhile.”

“Can I come in and see your room?”

“Yeah.”

“You’ve got a nice room. Your bed quilt is really pretty.”

“Mom’s always nagging me,” I said. “Not about my bed or even making my bed, but what I keep under it.”

“Moms sometimes do that.” He nudged me on the arm, like we were pals. “What secrets have you got under your bed?” And, he lifted the bedspread and bent over to take a look.

I zoomed around to the other side and bent over until we both looked at the piles of stuff.

“I’ve got tons of things from the beach. I’ve got some rocks that look like fossils with lines tied around them – like they’re strangled. Or like a caveman tied a string or a vine around them. Some of the rocks look like little birds eggs and some like Indian arrowheads. Lots of weird rocks.”

“Hey,” he said, “Speaking of the beach – we had some fun down there today, didn’t we?”

“Yeah, that was a cool idea you had to make those footprints. Do you think some little kid will find them and wonder if there is a sasquatch stomping around? Do you think the footprints are real enough to fool anyone – like maybe even  – anyone?”

“Maybe so,” Uncle Ogden said. “We made ‘em look pretty good. Can I sit with you on the bed?”

“Sure.”

“You, know what,” he said. “You’re my favorite almost-grown-up girl. You’ve got such pretty hair.” And, he reached out like he sort of touched my head like he was going to pat my hair. “I can see you’re going to be a pretty young woman. Uncle Ogden opened the top button of my pajamas and sort of rubbed his hand right there! I sat there like I was frozen and stupid. Dumb!

“I’m truly exhausted,” he said. “Real tired, and I can’t sleep a wink in the other room because Aunt Darlene is snoring super loud. Pretty funny isn’t it?”

“I guess.”

“I’ll  just stretch out here beside you on your nice little bed. I won’t take up very much space. You can fit right close beside me. C’mon. It’s our secret. Lie down here beside your Uncle.”

Dear Notebook: —– I don’t want to write.

Dear Notebook: —–

Dear —–

Dear Notebook: Today I feel awful sick. I feel real funny. I mean my private parts feel really strange and I’m all messy but I didn’t wet my bed or anything ‘cause I’m too old. I don’t want to remember.

Dear Notebook:  Mom and Dad are driving Auntie Darlene and her boyfriend to the airport. I wouldn’t say goodbye. I turned my back until they left. Mrs. Bakki, our housekeeper, she’s still here. She said she’d stay at the house and keep a listen for me until I felt better.  She’s in the kitchen.

Dear Notebook: I am sitting in the bathroom. The toilet seat is up in case I have to barf. I don’t want to go and watch TV. I’ve got my three best treasures with me. I brought them in here and set them on the edge of the sink. The blue glass doesn’t look so pretty in the bathroom light. I opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out this jar of Vicks. I can’t help but notice the jar looks just the same as my blue beach glass. They both have these numbers on the bottom and when I compare them – I see that’s where the glass is exactly the same.

Dear Notebook: I tried to watch TV.

Dear —–

Dear Notebook:  Mrs. Bakki said the bone is a pork chop bone from someone’s barbecue.

Dear Notebook: I took my pink rock in both my hands. I don’t know exactly why I did. I stared at it for a really really really really long while. I bent it. It broke. It snapped in two pieces.  Too easy for a rock. Because, it’s not a rock.

Dear —–

Notebook: It’s nothing more than a petrified wad of old chewed-up bubble gum with bits of sand and dirt stuck all over. Gross. I threw the pieces in the garbage.

Dear Note —–

Dear Notebook:  I yanked out all the boxes and bags from under my bed and threw them all into the garbage. I hate the beach. I hate Victoria.

Notebook: I am lying on the living room couch. I don’t care if a lot of teardrops and snot are making the pillow wet and soggy and Mom is nagging at me again. I’m pretending that I don’t hear. I wish she’d just sit with me for a little while.

But, she’s got to nag and nag some more.

***

Katrina Johnston is the winner of the CBC-Canada Writes True Winter Tale (2011). Works of short fiction are featured on-line and in print. The goal of her story-telling is to unlock and better understand the magic and complexities of human connections. She lives in James Bay in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Comments

  1. You have really captured the voice of a twelve-year old girl – blending her innocence with her remarkable insight and wringing out our sympathies.

  2. Thank you Donna. I appreciate your comment.

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