It took Allyd Seacombe ten days to clear the rocks from his claim before he could even think about gold. After that the torment started. He chipped away, lived on mutton-bone soup, read his bible by candlelight and thought of green hills and far-off girls, hair thick and wild, eyes full of life.

Around him a tent city grew. Nights filled with the cursing of drunkards. The only fortunes made were made in stories.

Three months passed with scant specks to show for his labour. Allyd traded a wooden pail for a chair, positioning it opposite his own when he ate. He took to placing bundled clothes on it so he could imagine someone there—a woman with whom he could discuss his tribulations.

He fashioned her form from hessian bags, dressed her in a torn pinafore he’d found on the roadside and made a flour-sack head. Onto this he stitched a sweet smile and longing eyes. He told her his secrets.

Allyd returned from town one winter afternoon to find her torn apart.

The next day, after drinking heavily, he took a swing at a trooper and was shot.

Half a world away the memory of him setting out to find his fortune faded, as memories do, and was gone.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (


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