CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and NINETY-FIVE
“How did you know that my ancestor drank himself to death after finding the gold?” Jacob asked.
“Oh …” Abi gave Jacob a slight grin. “Let’s just say that I’ve heard the story before.”
“What does that mean?” Jacob asked.
The SUV hit a rock and Jacob’s entire attention was drawn to the road. When road cleared, Jacob looked into the rearview mirror. Abi was biting her cheek and looking out the window.
“It always felt a little weird to me,” Jacob said. “When Blane was in treatment, I went to codependency counseling — still do sometimes. They said that the story is one of addiction. The miner was dry and then drank up to his capacity before he went mining.”
Abi didn’t say anything.
“Are you saying that the story isn’t true?” Jacob asked.
“I’m only saying that I’ve heard it before,” Abi said.
“I think you’re not asking her the right question,” Yvonne said. She turned around in her seat to look at Abi. “Jacob wants to know what you’re really saying. He’s able to hear a truth under your words, but he lacks the human capacity to ignore it or know what question to ask.”
“Your daughter is like that,” Abi said with a nod.
“What can you tell me?” Jacob asked.
“This story has been told since the beginning of time,” Abi said. “The miner finds gold or diamonds or silver or salt. He goes into town and talks about his luck, the fortune he found, the secret he’s holding. Sometimes, he’s killed for the information, which is later found to be false. Sometimes, he drinks or drugs or whores himself to death. In every telling of the story, this man arrives with a fortune and dies hours later leaving everyone wondering where the fortune came from. Is that the story your mother told?”
“Yes,” Jacob said. “What is happening here?”
“This is a story of someone misusing their skills to turn a lesser valuable substance into something of great value,” Abi said.
“Alchemy,” Jacob said.
“Exactly,” Abi said. “Changing one true thing into another thing breaks the fundamental laws of this world. It depletes life force. Your ancestor died of exhaustion. The other things only eased his way to death.”
“Huh,” Jacob said.
“My question is how does this story relate to this mine?” Abi asked.
“That is a good question,” Yvonne said.
“My great-grandfather was deeply upset by his brother’s death,” Jacob said.
“Went looking for the gold?” Abi asked.
“Spent the rest of his days tracking his brother’s actions,” Jacob said. “This mine was one of his mining claims.”
“From the brother’s claims?” Abi asked.
“Yes,” Jacob said. “They found diamonds — blue ones. Just a few. Twenty or thirty total, I think. They found a small a vein of silver, just enough to make some money. There’s a story that this mine holds something more precious than diamonds or silver.”
“Another family story?” Yvonne asked.
“Exactly,” Jacob said. “It’s to be mined by the ‘right heir,’ whatever that means.”
“Are you that heir?” Abi asked.
“How would I know?” Jacob asked. “In the last year or so, we’ve been approached by a couple of mining companies. This area has a large supply of precious metals used in electronics and bicycles, of all things. They’ve depleted the mines that are currently in use. That brings them to us.”
“Why you?” Abi asked.
“We own this whole mountain,” Jacob said. “Between the mine, my mother’s family property, and my father’s family property, we’ve got the whole thing. The only piece that doesn’t belong to us — where we’re driving, in fact — belonged to Levi Johannsen. He won it in a card game when my mother was a child. He and Delphie lived nearby.”
“Delphie owns the rest now?” Abi asked.
“Lipson Construction comes up every year to maintain the road since she inherited,” Jacob said.
“Huh,” Abi said.
The road changed and Jacob was too distracted to speak. When he glanced at Abi again, she was looking out the window. She turned to look at him.
“We must expect anything,” Abi said.
“Always,” Jacob said.
They drove the rest of the way to the mine in silence.
Denver Cereal continues on Monday…
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