Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #8

With Nonchalant Flair
by Bill Lapham


Workers at Ground Zero in New York City had uncovered the rotting hull of a wooden ship during the digging of the foundation for the Freedom Tower and professors from New York University had judged its age to be about two hundred years. Historians and archeologists from all over the country raced to the site to examine the piece before it completely fell apart in the fresh air while NYU scientists continued with the excavation effort. Time and oxygen were their dual-fisted enemies.

Joe Higgins, Professor of Archeology at the University of Michigan, wasn’t interested in the hull of the ship. He wanted to see what was under the hull when they lifted it. His research indicated that the long missing Mirror of Portugal, a 30 carat table-cut diamond stolen from the French Crown Jewels during the revolution might have been smuggled aboard a British merchant ship bound for New York in 1799. His credentials would gain him access to the site on the day of the lift.

While everybody was marveling at the sight of a 200-year old ship’s skeleton being lifted out of the mud, Professor Higgins was milling about looking for a mud-caked egg. And there, in a place that would have been under the captain’s quarters, he saw it. Bending over with nonchalant flair he plucked the stone from its centuries old nest, wrapped it in his handkerchief and stuffed it in his pocket.

At least that’s all he could remember from his hospital bed.


(Bill Lapham is a student veteran at the University of Michigan-Flint. His work has been featured at the Six Sentences, ThinkingTen, Flashshot and MuDJoB (July 28) blogs, and has received an honorable mention at the JM Prescott blog.)

20 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Intriguing to bring in current events and play off them.

Must say I'm confused by the last line though. I feel like I'm missing something important.

Nicely done pairing of fact and fiction.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

Sounded like a mystery book! Very cool.

Aimee Laine said...

I liked the imagery of finding it, but didn't get the last line. Did the 200 year old ship fall on him?

JR's Thumbprints said...

This has a serious journalistic quality to it. Interesting approach.

maybe genius said...

Agreed, interesting approach. I'm also left confused by the last line, but I liked the information-packed flow of the piece otherwise.

Michael Morse said...

I liked the non-fiction feel to the story, but I too wonder what happened to land him in the hospital. I like to guess and wonder, but there are so many possibilities here.

Jade L Blackwater said...

Like JR, I like the analytical writing style for this type of prose.

I think you could leave out the final line, and leave us hanging at the pocket, and this piece would be even more compelling.

Nice story start!

Peter Dudley said...

I left a deeply insightful comment yesterday, but blogger ate it. So you'll just have to accept the tripe I type now.

I hadn't thought of this story without the last line, but others are correct--it's sort of complete, though somewhat lacking in tension, without the last line. But when you give us the hospital bed, you turn this into the introduction to a much larger piece. This really is the prologue, and the story is about who--or what--put him in that hospital bed, and why.

Well written, technically.

Bill Lapham said...

A friend said my last sentence was "a leap too far." Could be. I was looking for a twist at the end.

Of course, it's only after the entry is made and the scoring is complete, that I think of an alternative ending.

...and as he stuffed it in his pocket, he answered his cell, "Higgins..."

The voice said, "Monsieur Higgins, wondering if we might have a word," in a thick French accent.

But that might have been too many words. I still like it the way it is though. It's intriguing. How'd he get there? Any number of ways, actually.

Deb Smythe said...

I figured somebody knocked him on the head and stole the diamond. Very clean writing. I thought the style of prose matched the academic-type MC. Nice job.

Katherine Tomlinson said...

Love the level of detail--really sells the story. Love the idea of the alternate ending--those pesky French! I found myself wondering what your professor was going to do with it.

MRMacrum said...

Tight and well written. More detail in the beginning than I think it needed. And not enough at the end. But I did like the unique newspaper story aspect of this.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

Hi Bill!

Nice use of what's happening... What happened to the Professor after finding the egg? Did he still have it in the hospital?

Dottie :)

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm really wondering what that stone was, now!

Joni said...

I love the play on current events.

It appears something big is afoot, and I'm craving to know what it is.

Vincent Kale said...

I liked the tying in of current events and the mystery twist at the end. However, while the writing was solid, it felt like too much information for so short a piece.

JaneyV said...

In my mind the ship fell on top of him - a kind of Karmic twist for his deviousness, or perhaps the ship felt the precioussss belonged to her after so many years of incubating it.

JaneyV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurel said...

This reads like "the back of the book" to me, set up for a novel. Intriguing premise!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

The last line sure opens up a huge amount of possibilities! This could be a great start of something bigger!