I’ve found some decent-sized nuggets over the years. But today I’m not detecting in the goldfields. No, I’m about fifty kilometres south along the Old Melbourne Road. That’s where he said it was.
It was hard looking into those eyes, the way they always lacked something. Luckily, I didn’t inherit that trait. He knew I came with the question. I was just hoping he’d give me the answer. I was also aware the clock was ticking down, not because I had to leave, but because I guessed he didn’t have too many breaths left. ‘He could go anytime,’ said the nurse. So I asked him the question.
I get a beep. It’s a strong signal. I glance at the screen. It’s indicating gold. I feel a rush. I check the screen again. It’s quite deep, half a metre, at least. I waste no time and start digging, shovelling dirt off the top layer. I stop and swing the coil back over the surface. The signal gets louder. I remember to go easy. I take the trowel and carefully scoop. The beep intensifies. I reckon I’m only centimetres away now. I gently scrape. My heart pounding. I take a deep breath and blink away a tear. I’ve dreamed of this day for so long. I softly rub the soil away.
There it is, glistening as only gold does, the grey-white digit poking through. It looks just as I remembered it, when she held my small hand all those years ago.
Michael Mcloughlin grew up in Liverpool, UK, and migrated to Australia in the mid-80s. He’s had many occupations, including mental health worker, home renovator, roofer, landscape gardener, factory worker and fruit picker. His flash fiction has been published online and in anthologies. He lives in Tasmania.