By Judith Ashley
About this time last year, Sarah and I met with our co-author and fellow Genre-ista, Diana McCollum at Detroit Lake, a small town situated in the Cascade Mountains about half-way between where we live. Sarah and I carpooled so we could take care of Romancing The Genre’s business on the way home.
What was on our agenda?
Brain storming the list of Guest and Genre-ista themes – and for August, 2014 we chose Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
What’s missing? We covered travel by air and land but we missed water. Why is that important? It’s important because in the time period of Sarah’s short story Curse of the Neahkahnie Treasure a major mode of transportation was by boat/ship.
So I’m amending this month’s suggested Genre-ista theme and including “ships and boats” because I want to stick with the theme and want to introduce you to this well-written, entertaining, creative short story.
A friend of mine, who has never met Sarah or read any of her work, called me up shortly after Love & Magick: Mystical Stories of Romance was published. Our conversation went something like this:
Friend: “I had to read the first page of the first story a couple of times.”
Me: “Why, what was wrong?” (hear a tad of anxiety in my voice here?)
Friend: “Nothing was wrong. I had to read it more than once because it’s so powerfully written.”
Me: “Yes, it is. Sarah’s a great writer and Curse of the Neahkahnie Treasure was the perfect story to start us off.
I’ve included the first couple of pages of the story below.
Curse of the Neahkahnie Treasure
by Sarah Raplee
Father was dead.
Sorrow as strong and bone-chilling as a Pacific gale snatched Samantha Moore’s breath from her lungs. A wave of dizziness threatened to overwhelm her. She forced herself to draw another breath, and then another.
In the weeks since her beloved father had been knifed and robbed in broad daylight, she’d discovered grief lies in wait like a panther, ready to pounce and tear one’s heart out without warning. Warm tears trailed down cheeks chilled by the damp spring winds of the northern Oregon coast.
Turning away from the bustle of stevedores unloading wagon loads of supplies onto the dock, she pretended to study a huge sailing ship floating at anchor. One swipe of a dirty cotton shirtsleeve removed the evidence of tears, as well as a good deal of sweat and windblown brine from her face. Boys are not supposed to cry. She must take her emotions in hand or she would draw attention to herself. The last thing she needed was to be identified as a young woman.
A sunbeam found its way through the clouds to glint off the rippled water of the mighty Columbia River. Gulls soared on the wind. The odors of fish and pitch mixed with the tang of salt water. Astoria, Oregon, was only seven miles from the Pacific Ocean. Here the river stole salt from the sea tides the way Samantha planned to steal food and coin from the tides of people swarming the docks.
She pressed her lips into a grim line. She had never in her life broken the law, but she hadn’t eaten since stowing away on a schooner in San Francisco two days ago. The men who had murdered Father had taken his money as well as his life. She was out of funds and alone in a strange land. And she must honor her father’s dying wish.
After glancing around the docks to make sure no one paid undo attention to her, she surreptitiously ascertained the safety of her precious, accursed secret cargo. Placing a hand at the small of her back, she arched as if to stretch out a kink. First her backbone poked her palm through the fabric of her shirt. She explored the hard outline of a small spyglass case with her fingers. She had sewn a secret pocket for the brass cylinder into the rear of the baggy drawstring trousers she wore as part of her disguise.
Her mouth twisted into a grimace. Father had died because of the furled map hidden inside the metal cylinder, a map he’d discovered hidden in the false back cover of a hundred-year-old book. He was conducting research for a historical treatise on Spanish exploration in the Americas when he noticed the back cover of Las Expediciónes del Pirata Don Carlos Moreno was much thicker than the front cover. So, being Father, he investigated and found the treasure map. Unfortunately, being a man of science, he had dismissed out-of-hand the inscription on the map that stated the pirate had cursed the gold so “no man may take my treasure.”
All things considered, Samantha had come to believe the curse was real.
To find out what happens next, Love & Magick is available through Windtree Press and other major e-retailers.
© Excerpt from “Love & Magick” Copyright 2014 Sarah Raplee
© Copyright 2014 Judith Ashley
Check out more of Sarah's writing at Free Reads from the Genre-istas.
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