Zeke Stanford pushed open the doors to the Oxbow Saloon and stopped to let his eyes adjust to the dimness. His fully packed donkey was tied to the hitching post in the mid-day Arizona sun but Zeke wanted a beer. Right now.
He left the door and walked to the bar. “Beer.”
“Just get in, Zeke?”
“Yeah, Earl. Just want to cut the dust before I go to the assay office.”
Earl put the mug of beer, foam dripping down the side, in front of the man, his eyebrow raised. Zeke picked it up and drained half of it in one swallow.
“Oh.” His eyes closed as he savored the brew. “That hits the spot.”
“You find something?”
Zeke opened his eyes to look hard at Earl. “Maybe.” He drained the rest of the beer. “See ya later.” He dropped a coin on the bar and left.
Back out in the sun he untied the donkey and pulled the lead rein. The donkey snorted and balked. “Come on, Jenny. We go to the assay office, then the livery, all right?”
The animal shook itself, dust rising from it in great clouds. Jenny snorted again then allowed itself to be lead. Zeke looked around the dirt street. There were a few men out on the porches of the Oxbow and the bar next door and the one across the street. It didn’t seem as though they were watching him any more than anything else moving in the street. Earl’s question had raised his hackles though. It didn’t happen often but claim jumpers could be anywhere and Zeke had worked too hard for him to trust anyone right now.
The assay office was just down the street. He tied Jenny to the hitching post there and went inside. There sat a man at a table, a ledger open in front of him, making an entry with a fountain pen, the gold tip glinting in the sunlight coming through the dusty window. “Howdy.” The man capped the pen and looked up expectantly.
“I have a sample for you to test.” Zeke glance out of the window, then the door behind him before he pulled a small bag from inside his leather vest.
“Well, young man.” The assay man stood up. “I’m John Markum. Let’s see what you have.”
“Zeke Stanford.” Zeke handed the man the small bag and watched as John took it to a work bench where there was a scale and glass stoppered bottles of liquids.
John hefted the bag then poured the contents onto the bowl of the scale. He added and took away weights until the scale balanced. He turned to look at Zeke. “Could be gold. The weight seems right.” He picked up the bowl of the scale and took a pinch of the contents and placed it in a glass bowl. John handed the scale bowl to Zeke. “You can pour the rest of that back into your poke.”
While Zeke did that, John selected a glass bottle from the bench and with great care, poured a little of the liquid into the glass bowl. It began to fizz, the gold specks dancing around in the few drops of liquid, a little smoke coming from the bowl.
“Is it supposed to do that?”
John grinned. “It is if you want your sample to be gold.”
Zeke finished pouring the gold from the scale into his bag. His heart was racing but he wanted to keep a clear head here. He’d seen men whoopin’ and hollerin’ about their strike. Next thing they were dead a few miles from town, their pack animals and equipment gone. Zeke eyed the assay man. “Good. You have the papers here to file a claim?”
“I do, young man. I do.” He walked to his table. Underneath was a filing cabinet. He opened the top drawer and pulled out a sheet of paper, placing it on the table top. John pushed his ledger to the side. “Have a seat son.”
Zeke pulled his bag closed and put it back into his vest pocket. At the table he sat down.
“You read, son?”
“Well this says that you’re filing a mining claim. You have to put down the location son, or it won’t be official.”
Zeke nodded, it made sense but he was reluctant to reveal the mine location. He picked up the fountain pen. Someday it might be my gold that makes these nibs. In the place John pointed out, Zeke wrote out the location of his mine. He signed at the bottom and sighed.
“I’ll make a copy, Zeke, and send it to the territorial capital for filing. I’ll make a copy for you, too. The original will stay here.” He held out his hand. “Congratulations, son.”
Zeke shook hands, a little light-headed. It seemed too easy after all of the digging and shoring up and cold nights.
“That’ll be twenty dollars, Zeke. And you can stay at Mrs. Entrada’s boarding house. It’s clean and not expensive. She gives you dinner along with the room.”
Zeke pulled out the coins and handed them to John. “Appreciate the recommendation, John. And I take it this business between us is private?”
“Aye. I wouldn’t be in business long if I told everything I know.”
They shook hands again. “Thanks, John.”
Zeke left the office and pulled Jenny along the street. He wanted a bath and a good dinner. Zeke thought about all the things he could do with the gold. A nice house for his Ma. Ranch hands for his Pa. Who knew, maybe he’d ask Mary Younger for her hand. He’d love to see her in a fancy house and pretty dresses. Yep, that was something to look forward to in his gold dream.
Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html