by R. A. Bolden
Sheila thought about what her Grandma said as she dug in the sand, “Our family was slaves. They were brought to America in chains around 1798 to help build this country.”
“Why were they in chains?” Sheila asked.
“Because they belonged to the people who owned the land. They were bought and sold like cattle.”
“Isn’t that wrong?”
“Yes it is, but thank God those days are over,” her Grandma said, “but it’s important for you to know your family’s history.” Grandma pointed towards the back door where a small dog was wagging his tail and said, “Now go outside and play. Rover’s waiting for you.”
Sheila continued excavating the sand and thinking about what Grandma said when Rover found something.
“Careful, the artist-prince may be inside,” Sheila said taking the box from Rover. She always talked to Rover. Over the summer they’d become mates and now they were playing their favorite game, digging in the dunes close to the beach behind Grandma’s house. They went digging every day before lunch because later, Grandma would make her practice the piano and there’d be no time for finding buried treasure.
Sheila took the box and walked to the top of the dune to open it. This ceremony seemed necessary, as they’d never found anything like it before. Rover lay down next to her with his brown head on her black knee. His dark puppy eyes stared up at her. The small metal box was tarnished and gray like an old tobacco tin.
“Do you think the artist-prince will be inside?” Sheila asked.
Rover’s ears moved which meant yes.
“I hope so,” she said placing her eight-year-old hand on the lid, saying the secret words she’d invented: “Ocean treasure deep an artist-prince I hope to meet.”
The metal box trembled and a small boy stood next to her on the sand. All was quiet. Rover didn’t even bark. To Sheila, he seemed weird. He wore knee pants, leather boots and a white cotton shirt with balloon sleeves that formed a deep-vee from his neck to his navel. He had a voice that sounded kind and educated. Sheila knew he wasn’t from around there.
“Hello,” he said, bowing his head. “I have a lot to thank you for.”
“Where are you from?” she asked.
“I’m from Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome,” he said, gesturing towards the horizon with a honey-colored hand. “I’m a different thing to different people.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m the only son of Aladdin,” he said. “I was freed by Hercules and re-imprisoned in this box by the sorcerer William Shakespeare who made me write those plays before I came here on a ship that foundered a long time ago.
“What’s your name?” Sheila asked.
“Latif,” he said proudly, holding out his arms.
“I’m going to call you Ken,” Sheila announced. She’d already decided her artist-prince would be called Ken.
“Very well,” he said, showing perfect teeth. “If that’s what you like.”
“Rover must like you because he didn’t bark.”
“He can’t see me,” he said. “Only you can.”
“How did you come here?”
“When the burglars robbed William, they put the box in their bag and I was off.”
“What if the box was open?” she asked.
“Then I couldn’t be put inside.”
Sheila took the lid off the box, walked to the ocean and threw it as far as she could. Then she put the bottom of the box in the hole they were digging and covered it over.
“I don’t want you to be a slave,” she said, wrapping her black arms around him. “Slavery’s wrong.”
RAUF BOLDEN is an American born in Colorado. He studied languages at University where he became a polyglot speaking German, French and Dutch. As a yacht master, he spent twenty years sailing more than 100,000 nautical miles while circumnavigating the planet with his wife Jeannette Dean, an internationally known sailor and writer. They plan to sail around the world again being very much in love while continuing to write fiction and feature articles. Their motto for life is, "Never Ever Give Up.”