Nate Carlson was psyched to take his metal detector to the beach. The walk to the beach was a short one because the beach was right behind his house. “The beach is my backyard!” Nate used to tell his friends when he was little. He supposed he got that line from his parents, who said it all the time. It was true, anyway, and pretty awesome. There was a small lawn between his house and the beach, but that was it. Nate felt that wonderful familiar feeling of anticipation as he approached the sand. It was a cloudy, windy day, so he had the beach to himself.
Slipping off his shoes, Nate stepped onto the cool sand. He switched on the metal detector and started walking, scanning the sand back and forth.
A large black bird swooped near his head. As he ducked, he thought of his twin sister, Lissa. That bird would have sent her running home. Birds totally creeped her out, especially when they flapped too close to her head. He looked up to see a few of them circling above. The others were dive-bombing the water, catching food. They would drop straight down out of the sky, beak forward, disappear into the water, then come up with a crab struggling in their beaks.
It was cool to watch. He had never noticed this type of bird before, but then again, he never paid much attention to birds.
Beep, beep, beep! Nate’s thoughts about birds were interrupted by the sound of the metal detector going off. Nate bent down and dug around a little. All he found was an old, crushed tin can. He left it there and kept walking, looking at the variety of shells along the tide line. His favorite were the jackknife clams, which were long and thin, and the jingle shells, which his mother called “angels’ toenails” because of their golden shiny hue. Nate’s mom said a lot of things that, in Nate’s opinion, were pretty corny.
Beep, beep, beep! He dropped to his knees and dug around, not finding anything at all. But when he scanned the spot again, the detector kept beeping. He dug deeper—still nothing. But when he scanned the spot again, beep, beep, beep!
He dug deeper than he had before, the sand growing colder and damper the deeper he went. He felt around in the sand for something, anything, but couldn’t find the source of what was setting off the detector. But still … Beep, beep, beep!
He had dug maybe three feet down with his bare hands when a tiny flash of gold caught his eye. He fished around until his fingers closed around something. Pulling his hand free, Nate looked in his palm and saw it: A small, perfect ruby ring. This may actually be treasure, Nate thought. He sat and stared at it as he brushed the sand off with the bottom of his shirt, squinting to get a better look. He realized that the late afternoon sun had gone down, and the sky had suddenly grown quite dark. A strange feeling settled over him just then. He looked around—had anyone seen him find this ring? Should he show someone? The strange feeling grew deeper, and on some level, Nate realized he felt very nervous all of a sudden. Were there rules of buried treasure? Should he call the police?
What is going on with me? Nate wondered, trying to dismiss the feeling and focus, instead, on his discovery. But before he could do either, a loud crack startled him. He looked up to see a brilliant flash of lightning over the ocean. I’d better get home fast, Nate thought. He had promised his parents he’d never use the metal detector outside on the beach in stormy weather. The sun had been shining just a few moments ago, but a storm was definitely coming. Nate knew it wasn’t safe to be outside with the metal detector during a lightning storm. Quickly shoving the ring deep in his pocket, he ran to gather his shoes and head inside.
I am the owner of actual buried treasure, he thought as he walked, the ring safely in his pocket. But what do I do with it? Maybe I should give it to my love. He almost laughed out loud at the thought. Ha! There are no girls at school I even like that way, much less love.
When Nate got home, he deposited his metal detector on the enclosed porch in the back of the house and headed inside for a snack. Standing in the kitchen at the side of the house, he saw a moving van parked on his street. Three men were carrying boxes and furniture into the empty house on the other side of the graveyard. If Nate’s backyard was the beach, his “side yard” was a graveyard, which was just as unique, but not quite as much fun, since his parents didn’t exactly let him hang out there. At the other side of the graveyard was a large house that had been vacant for months, since old Mr. Reiney had passed away. But it looked like someone was finally moving in. Nate was curious and headed back out the door to investigate.
Crossing the graveyard, he saw a couple about his parents’ age, an older woman, and a girl about his age standing on the porch of the house. As he approached, the couple waved and the girl smiled.
Nate wasn’t shy. He waved back and smiled at the girl.
The man was the first to speak. “Hello there!” he called. “Come on up to the porch!” He and his wife and the old lady and the girl were all looking at Nate.
The girl was beautiful, with long, curly blond hair that swooped over one eye, and the lightest, brightest blue eyes Nate had ever seen.
“I’m Richard, and this is my wife, Sally, and my aunt Mimi,” he said, gesturing toward the old woman, who smiled but didn’t say anything. “And this is our daughter, Bethany.”
Bethany smiled at Nate. “Hi,” she said simply. Nate stood and stared at Bethany, trying to think of something to say. His mind was suddenly blank.
Think, Nate! Speak! Say something! “Hi,” he finally said to the small group. “I’m Nate Carlson, and I live over there on the other side of the graveyard. My parents run the bed-and-breakfast, but we live there too.” He pointed to his house. “I guess the neighbors in between our houses can’t really introduce themselves,” he added, then cringed at his attempt at humor. Did that sound lame? he wondered.
But Bethany laughed, so Nate relaxed.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Nate,” Richard said. “You two look about the same age. Are you in seventh grade?”
“Yes.” Nate nodded.
“Well, I guess we’ll be seeing each other in school then,” Bethany said. She gave a quick wave and went into the house.
“Well, bye,” Nate said to the group.
“Great meeting you, Nate,” Bethany’s mom said.
“You too. See you later.” Nate turned and headed home, all the time forcing himself not to turn around to see if Bethany had come back out of the house.