This is my first ‘flash fiction’ ever! It is for Friday’s writing prompt: Imagine there was another “gold rush” in America. What would it be like? Place yourself as an outsider watching from afar, on The One Minute Writer.
The man across the table was a codger with greying hair and side burns to match. His stern look said everything that it should about the time and life of his ancestors. He sat resolutely, as if waiting for purpose of life to be revealed presently. He wore a faded and tattered outfit, certainly given to him to complete the illusion of the old west. All that was missing was the token Panama hat covered in dust.
Had he known just how foolish he looked, he might have opted to at least smile knowingly. But, that was not so with DeWitt. DeWitt, as his equally faded nametag read, was playing the roll precisely as if he were really there in the original gold rush. He was the quintessential Gold Miner.
“Come again?” I asked.
“It’s called the new gold rush, son.” said the old man with strong indignation.
“I thought that’s what you said. I wanted to be sure before I, um…” I stopped speaking when I noticed DeWitt appear to become more agitated.
“Before you wut?” snapped DeWitt.
Honestly not wanting to offend the old man, I smiled nervously before replying. “Where do I sign up?”
DeWitt produced a sheath of papers attached to an antique clip board and shoved them into my hands. “Fill them out. Next tour begins in 20 minutes.”
He returned to his desk as I sat across the room, as far from ear shot as possible. I began to thumb through the paperwork and I noticed a theme. The theme was not really a “new gold rush” as DeWitt put it, but a mockery of the entire time period. It was obvious that once Dr. Rasmus was able to duplicate the chemical composition of gold in a lab, the precious metal was not as precious as it once was. I chuckled, and continued to complete the forms as requested.
As I signed the last of the numerous waivers and releases, I glanced up and noticed the room had filled with many other visitors. All of them equally fascinated at the thought of an actual gold mine tour in the 22nd century. Time has moved on from the past so much so that in the bustle of city life, age and wisdom were relics in an age of newness and youth. Even in history classes, not a whole lot was taught of the time when greed and lust ruled the land. Now, what ruled the land was technology in a minimalistic culture.
Had I not have traveled 100’s of kilometers to see this place with my own eyes, I would have most certainly turned back. But, as I was already here, I was going to follow through with the ridiculous task of reviewing this nostalgic enigma of the wild west. “It’s called the new gold rush, son” again resonated in my mind, and I uncontrollably chuckled. DeWitt seemed to know what I was thinking just then, because of his wicked glare across the now filled room.
I stood up and negotiated the crowd over to his desk. I slid the completed paperwork across his desk and waited silently. He snatched them up and flipped through them, nodding in approval on each sheet. When he reached the end, he tossed it aside and looked up at me.
“Now alls I need is yer’ admission fee.”
Having not really thought about the fee, I asked “How much?”
“Well, that all depends, son. Do you want the full guided tour, with all the bells and whistles or do you want the bare bones tour with just a map and a flashlight?”
“Have anything in between?” I asked.
“Nope. One er the other. But I have to say, it’s not a big savings for the Bare Bones tour.”
“Then I guess I’ll take the full tour.”
“That’ll be $975. Just one, right?”
I about fell over at hearing the price. “Come again?” I asked.
“Are you hard of hearin’, son? That’s nine hundred and seventy-five dollars.” DeWitt obviously playing out the extent of the cranky old codger to the end.
It was at that very point that I realized just what the New Gold Rush was all about. It was nothing more than enticing folks like myself out to the edge of civilization, and raping them financially. I thought for a moment before replying.
“I’ll just take the bare bones tour.” And I handed him my expense card.