Flash Fiction Friday Story: Copper Dance

Quarry by Alex Malyon via www.DeviantArt.com

Quarry by Alex Malyon via www.DeviantArt.com

Salvatore Petrovici wiped the sweat from his brow, the dust and stone grit like sandpaper. The sun beat down on him fiercely as he worked the rock face, hotter than he ever remembered the sun in his native Italy to shine. A stonemason, he and many others had been hired by the Heartstone Mining Company to come to the Arizona Territory and cut rock.

The task for the last week was to large pieces to use at mine entrances. It was always a danger with these. A stone half the size he just finished cutting would crush a man to death if it wasn’t removed from the quarry wall with care. He finished attaching the cables to the stone and waved to the crane operator. The rock channeler, now blessedly silent, sat behind him. The crane sitting on the quarry floor made enough noise all by itself. Sal, as the American’s called him, stood back ten feet, out of the way, but close enough to see the rock as it was lifted from the track.

The crane operator waved back. Sal watched the tension increase on the cables while the rock groaned, cracked and popped, clearly heard over the whine of the crane engines. The cut stone rose one inch, then two. Higher the crane took it, then swung slowly to the right, away from Sal. Wait! The operator hadn’t raised the stone far enough, it was going to hit the quarry face.

Sal waved wildly, but the operator wasn’t looking at him. Shouting was useless—he was too far away to be heard over the roar of the crane engine. CRACK! The stone hit the rock face. It bounced back toward Sal, swinging now, out of control. He had little room to run—the channeler took up the whole width of the ledge behind him. The cables groaned as the crane operator tried to control the stone, now a pendulum, heading straight for Sal. He dived for the ledge floor, hoping the groaning cables would continue to hold the stone the three feet off of the ledge. He flattened himself and whispered prayers to Jesus and the Mother Mary as the stone passed six inches over his head.

The crane operator jerked the stone both up and back and just missed crushing the channeler. The stone swung back, higher than the first pass though Sal felt the breeze of it passing on his cheek. This time it cleared the rock face and the crane operator got the swinging stone back under control. Lying on the ledge, Sal watched as the stone was lowered to the waiting wagon and waited for his heart to slow its panicked beating.

He rose from the ledge, covered in rock dust, and crossed himself as he offered a second prayer of thanks. The quitting whistle sounded and Sal was glad. He was too shaken to work after that close call.

In the bar that night, the crane operator apologized. “I’m so sorry, Sal. The gears jammed. I had all I could do to get that damned rock under control.”

Sal clapped the man on the shoulder, a fellow immigrant from the north of Italy. “You did fine. I’m still here, you’re still here. It’s good.”

The man bought Sal a glass of wine shipped it in from the mother country by the mining company just for the Italian workers. Both men were toasting when the mining supervisor burst through the door. “Drinks on us, boys. We found another vein of copper!”

Cheers went up all around the room. Several of the miners broke into dance at the news. A new mine meant more work for all of them. Sal sighed as he sipped his dark red wine and watched the copper dance. He missed his wife and children. It was time to bring them over from the old country. It looked as though there would be work here for a long time.

 

The End

658 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Gold Dreams

Australian, Gold, Nugget, NeroDesign

Australian Gold Nugget by NeroDesign via www.DeviantArt.com

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?”

“A little.”

“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.

 

The End

963 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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