The flashing sign outside the clubhouse read, “VOLUNTEERS NEEDED THIS SATURDAY TO CLEAN AND RE-SAND THE BEACH, 9AM – NOON”.
I live in the middle of a 34,350 acre state forest at the top of New Jersey. 34,347 of those acres is dense, bear infested woods. The remaining 3 acres are comprised of a lake and a beach. Well, “lake” might be stretching it. In most other areas a body of water the size of ours would more likely be called “a large bathtub”. But by calling it a “lake”, building a “clubhouse”, and strewing a few handfuls of sand around the perimeter, our Property Owners Association can deem the surrounding neighborhood a “Lake Community” and collect fees accordingly. I myself have never used the beach, never dampened my Speedos in its algae choked waters, and certainly never volunteered for past clean up and re-sanding operations.
But this year I did.
Last Friday on my way home from work I spotted that sign, and just across from it a large mound of fresh sand ready to be spread. I gave a mental shrug like I always do and drove on.
But a mile down the road it dawned on me: I own a metal detector! If I could get in there and comb the beach before the new top layer was applied, I bet I’d find all sorts of riches that had slipped through the grubby fingers of my neighbors’ kids. I imagined some 3 year old girl grabbing a sparkly bauble from her mom’s jewelry box on the sly, then throwing it at a seagull later at the beach, along with half her baloney and mayo sandwich. Soon that negligent mother’s missing treasure could be mine! BWAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA!
I hightailed it the rest of the way to DangerHouse, quick changed into my filthiest outfit (which is any of them, honestly), grabbed my detector, then hightailed it back again to the club house. First up: get permission.
I walked into the clubhouse office – a card table and a grey filing cabinet with some plastic sheeting duct taped around 3 sides of it – and asked the lady sitting there if I could look for buried treasure on the beach. “Yeah, whatever” she said. She didn’t even look up. I could have probably asked if I could eat her firstborn and the answer would have been the same.
Whatever. I had permission, and that’s all that counted. Time to unearth bootie!
Three hours, 417 mosquito bites, and one bloody ankle later, this was my haul:
1 stainless steel spoon
That was it. A dollar thirty seven in change. No jewelry, no lost Aztec hoard. Not even a crummy wheat penny in the bunch. All the coins were vintage 1990 or later.
Still, I can’t complain. I actually had fun out there. It’s very exciting. The anticipation builds and builds as you walk slowly along, sweeping from side to side with your machine. You hardly feel at all like the loser dweeb you look like to others. And then……..BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!! The machine goes nuts and you just KNOW it’s gonna be a gold bracel….oh, it’s a penny. Oh well, try again. Yipee!
So yeah. More fun than it looks. And it actually didn’t hurt my busted elbow too much, since – like other vigorous elbow activities *cough*- I’ve learned to heavily favor my other arm.
Once it got too dark to dig any more holes I drove home where I proudly showed NewWifey(tm) the fruits of my labors.
“That’s it?” she said. “THAT’S why you wanted a metal detector? So you could make 45 cents an hour, plus cutlery?”
“Yeah but honey, I had a lot of fun! I mean, other than slicing my ankle on the dock. It was a hoot imagining I was about the unearth a chest of Spanish doubloons that some pirate hid in the 16th -”
“Doubloons.” she said. “Hidden by a pirate. 400 years ago on the shores of our community pond. Our LANDLOCKED community pond.”
She went back to her magazine. “Men!”
Eh. Whatever. She’ll be singing a different tune when I come home someday with one of King Tut’s lost gold chariots, or the lunar module, or something.
I showered up – after carefully hiding my stash in my night stand – and went to bed.
The next morning I got up, dressed in filthy rags again, and went back to the beach. This time to help clean and spread sand. Figured I might as well pay it forward, seeing as how I’d just plundered the place of vast riches.
When I arrived there were only two other people there. One was the Lake Community Property Owners Association president, who was wondering where all the other volunteers were. The other was a DPW guy they’d brought in because he had a back hoe. I grabbed a rake, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow, and went to work. First things first: shovele up the 5 or 6 cubic yards of goose shit that comprised 80 percent of the visible shore line. After that we trimmed back some of the weird freshwater kelp that was encroaching on the beach from all angles. Then we smoothed things out a bit and filled in some of the bigger holes. Once that was done it was time for the backhoe to start placing bucketfuls of sand in mounds up and down beach.
While the DPW guy was trundling back and forth doing that several other volunteers showed up. True to our backwoods location, the first two guys to arrive immediately popped open a bottle of beer each and started guzzling. It was 9:30 in the morning. 10 minutes later a short fat chick with greasy hair and half a mouth of black teeth pulled up, and she got out of her car swigging beer from an oversized novelty red Solo cup. Gotta hand to them though. Once they wiped the foam off their mouth and got to work, they got to work. Maybe I should try that pre-task regiment….
Finally a fourth person showed up, a very nice, proper looking lady who appeared to be in her early 60’s. She was wearing casual capri pants with boating shoes, a light top, and a bonnet with a large scarf wrapped over it, knotted under her chin to keep it in place. She carried her own rake and shovel, each of which had pink handles.
While we stood around waiting for the backhoe to finish dumping piles, we chatted for a bit. The bumpkin trio groused about how the town wouldn’t let them run a natural gas line to their outhouse, and the association president bored everyone with a detailed rundown of expenses for the fiscal year. I bragged a little about my prowess at cunnilingus, and then – and this is really god’s honest truth – the prim lady in the bonnet said,
“Now if anyone comes across any loose change while we’re spreading sand, it’s mine. We gave our granddaughter a metal detector for her birthday, and last week I came out here and buried several quarters and a bunch of pennies so she could find them.”
I didn’t say a word. Just nodded like everyone else in the circle, and shut the fuck up.
Ten minutes later each of us was at our designated pile of sand, raking away. After about an hour the entire beach was done, and it looked great. Nice and evenly coated, with a deep squishy feel, and no syringes.
Also no loose change. For some reason, none of us volunteers found any. As we were wrapping up, Grandma said “That’s odd. I even looked in the places I knew I buried coins. Oh well, they probably sank deeper in the sand since they’ve been there so long. I’m sure she’ll find them with that machine.”
We all nodded, then said our goodbyes.
Back home I told NewWifey(tm) what had happened.
“I can’t believe you didn’t say anything!” she said. “You’re stealing from a little girl!”
“Yeah well, she’s probably gonna grow up to be a whore and a meth addict and I’m gonna be paying a LOT more in taxes just so she can get publicly funded rehabbed and then live in public housing with her 7 illegitimate kids and – you know what? I just want the fucking $1.37, alright? I worked hard for it, I cleaned a beach for it, I deserve it. Fuck that kid. Besides, you know as well as I do that grandmother is probably out there right now re-seeding that beach with coins so her precious little…..” I trailed off, an idea suddenly forming. “Good night honey. I’m going to bed.”
“Bed?” she said. “Now? It’s only 8:30!”
“I’m getting up early” I said. “I gotta get back to the beach and run my metal detector before any little kids show up. Who knows what I may find!”
And off I went, with dreams of Pieces of Eight, and Knights Templar gold bullion, lulling me to sleep. And another dollar thirty seven. Fuck that kid….
Ah well. That’s enough for now. No treasure tomorrow, just work. And maybe more cunnilingus. That’s gold in anyone’s book. Wish me luck finding it.