Bret didn’t care that they didn’t look at him. He didn’t care. No, sir. Not a bit.
He walked along the wet sand, the man closest the water. In the revealing dawn the length of the beach appeared to be populated by a new and unusual creature. It stood on two legs, walking hunched and swinging a long devise in front of it, the circular ear listening for treasure. Had anyone not seen a group of metal detectors before they would have thought that some alien species had invaded. Instead, it was the local group, Detecting is our Life, or DOL as they liked to call themselves.
Bret had been a member for six months, joining because his wife had nagged him to do something.
“You can’t always be on your own,” she had whined one day. “It isn’t right. People are talking.”
Bret stayed silent. He really didn’t care.
“Please,” she said, but when she got no reaction her mouth formed a hard line. “If you don’t get out and stop the rumours I will leave you. I don’t have to live like this.”
Bret never asked what the rumours were, but the prospect of losing his wife was too much to handle. The next day he joined the DOLs. He was already an avid detector so he simply supposed that they would get together in groups and work as a team. For the DOLs though it was more than that. Peter, the overly cheerful chairman had confronted him at his first find a few months ago.
“Bret, what you got there?”
Bret had looked at the squashed metal cup and grinned. “A Medieval cup.”
“Really?” Peter had said, snatching it out of Bret’s grasp. “Goodness, but that is something.” He had waved around the others and they had all admired the find. Bret had been congratulated and slapped on the back. Finally, Bret had asked in his quiet way.
“Can I have it back?”
“Why, old boy?” one had asked, Bret couldn’t remember his name, only that he would drink copious amounts of cider and always seemed to have a red nose.
“It might be worth something,” Bret said.
Peter had come over then and looked into his eyes. There had been a smugness that Bret hadn’t much liked. “It doesn’t matter. We always donate our finds to the museum.”
And with that Bret had lost his cup, his chalice. And since he hadn’t mixed with the group. But that morning his wife had started crying and going on. He needed to get out of the house. Which is why he was standing on the damp sand cursing his luck. The rest of the group were well up the beach, but Bret had no intention of joining them. Not after being shunned. They had barely spoken to him once he had arrived. He’d tried.
“Is the cup with the museum?”
“Why?” sneered Peter. “Want it back?”
“Um… No… I….”
“Maybe he wants to flog it,” one said, a man he’d never seen before.
“Or polish it up and gaze at it in his own collection,” said another.
“No…” Bret tried.
“Look,” Peter said. “Just stay out of our way. You don’t fit.”
And they had walked off in their designer gear and Bret supposed that he didn’t look much like them. In his rolled up trousers and rubber boots, and an old mack clinched at his waist with bailing twine he looked more homeless than a middle class hobbyist, but he could never understand why anyone would ruin a perfectly good pair of clothes. He was comfortable in his detecting kit and it never crossed his mind that anyone would judge him because of it.
Sloshing through the water Bret realised that he was ahead of the group and alone. He didn’t care. This would be the last time he came to one of their gatherings. Of course he wouldn’t let his wife know. She didn’t need to worry or worry him. Smiling he turned his concentration to the rhythms and clicks coming from his earphones. A larger wave rushed over his boots but he didn’t mind. He was searching for something and one day he might just find it.
But then one day he might work out what he was looking for.
This short story was inspired by the daily prompt – finders, keepers?
The photo is from here.