|The REAL Jersey Shore. Yeah.|
it was just after lunch when we found the map.
the clan was assembled in the sand as always:
sarah's lips stained red from cherry ice, a popsicle herself,
tiny and poised on paired stick legs;
cousins, browned like sausages in the sun,
digging holes with neon plastic buckets;
mom, smile lines burned into the crooks of her eyes,
holding out chilled wet grapes.
there was a hermit crab captive in my hand
all wet, small, flailing legs--
a slimed almond in its shell
using tickle as torture.
we were digging near the water,
dad and i and a few of the others,
he waist-deep and handsome in a wet hole,
the pile of sand nearby as tall as i;
and bill, with his slick green beer bottle illegally in hand, towering above it all.
then the map appeared,
conjured from the end of the old iron shovel, or it seemed.
mom was the one who pointed it out,
it teetering suddenly on the top of the pile as if dropped from the sky--
bill’s smile hidden behind ever other adult.
i dropped the crab.
the cousins let me unwind the scroll,
coarse and wet and bound with twine,
breaded with grains of damp stone and singed black at the edges--
the oldest didn't wait for the small ones.
we raced, speedo-ed gazelle on baked plains, tracing black ink to the first stop:
a clue on a chipped shell by the grass!
then another stampede to the ancient gazebo
for the note taped to weathered wood seats.
laura released the paper with shaking fingers.
kyle, the youngest, cried--we understood.
the excitement was too much to bear.
the entire beach was watching.
we found the X by the fence near the dunes,
where the bound plywood met the rise of sand in its drunk, erratic path,
a barrier to the barrier to the land.
"dig!" we cried to my father. "dig!"
and he did,
meaty shoulders driving the blade until it landed with a thud
on something that wasn't sand.
bill helped him heave the structure up and everyone gasped when they should,
an ebb of sound cresting through the modest crowd like a wave.
a small plane went by then,
pulling an airborne restaurant ad that went wholly ignored,
efforts outdone by our bounty.
it was a chest of bleached wood
pale and dry and entirely unmarred,
exactly as we'd seen in books,
and fastened shut with cheap rope.
one of the men loosed the top, then let us lift the lid.
our famously unsilenecable brood fell silent.
for a moment.
then the cries of glee broke free
and naked arms and legs splayed every which way,
the tallest going so far as to pull the youngest forward for a fair view.
we were family, after all.
chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil,
stacked to the brim and glinting in the sun.
all of us--
parents, offspring, in betweens--
glinting in return,
kings and queens of the day.