(1 of 1. Originally posted on 04/22/2023 for the prompt “Forgotten Lyrics.”)
“That’s not how it goes.” Ron shook his head at Kayla.
“It’s a nonsense song to begin with,” Kayla rolled her eyes. “So, what does it matter whether I sing the ‘right’ words or not? I never forget anything important.”
“Hey, I already apologized about the wine. What do you want me to do? It’s an hour back to town by now.” Ron waved at the trees in the general direction of town. “We have enough water to get us by.”
“If I’m going to have a picnic without wine, I’ll at least have a song. Even if it is a silly one.” Kayla took a deep breath and started over, with different words this time. “Pink frock and purple smock, a fair maid with a wart…”
“No, no, no. Stop! Seriously…” Ron put his hands over his ears.
Kayla broke off in a fit of giggles.
“The original song is not nonsense, it’s a clue.” Ron struggled to hike and talk at the same time. The fact that Kayla could sing while hiking actually impressed him. Not that he’d ever admit it. “Black Tom, a famous local pirate, wrote it to help remember where he hid his treasure. It goes like this: Ships dock around the rock, a fair maid calls to port…”
“First, why would he teach other people a song that might help them find his treasure? And second, why hasn’t anyone found it by now?” Kayla looked back at Ron and raised an eyebrow. “Because it’s nonsense. Sheep rock around the clock, with mermaids at resorts…”
“Wait, stop!” Ron dropped his backpack next to the trail and dug through it to find his map. “Sheep rock. There actually is a formation called Sheep Rock, just off the coast. What if he changed the words? What if the lyrics really are nonsense, but they’re close enough to remind him, like a mnemonic?”
Kayla walked back to examine the map. “There’s not much of a port around here, just that old dock. Here’s Mermaid Falls…but it’s not close to the dock.”
“Yes, but look. If you go from Sheep Rock toward the dock, you pass Mermaid Falls on your left.” Ron traced a line along the map with his finger. “Sheep Rock toward the dock, with Mermaid Falls to port.”
“…cross river wide, whate’er betide, beneath the royal court…”
Ron held his tongue about her knowing the right words. Of course, she’d been singing it wrong on purpose. He should have known. “Okay, so you cross the river. It’s a tidal river, easy crossing at low tide in that spot. ‘Royal court’ may be a reference to the British? There’s an old British fort at the top of the cliffs here. Cross river wide, at lowest tide, beneath the British fort.”
“…Mark Twain will once again go forth as seagulls fly…” Kayla’s brow wrinkled in concentration. She leaned on Ron’s shoulder, attention focused on the map.
“Mark Twain, the author? Couldn’t be. He wasn’t born yet when that song was written.” Ron scratched his head. “No…it’s a measure of distance, of course. Depth, really, but close enough. Two marks would make twelve feet. Once again? Two marks, twice? Twenty-four feet, as seagulls fly. Go forth. Maybe north? Twenty-four feet north from the river, as seagulls fly? We’re close! Come on…”
“…I’d sail ahead, to fathoms dread, and look to sin would I…” Kayla started to sound a bit breathless, singing while almost jogging to keep up as Ron cut through the brush with new-found enthusiasm.
“Sail ahead?” Ron struggled to read the map without slowing down. “There’s a spot here marked ‘Sailor’s Head.’ So you go twenty-four feet north from the river crossing, then turn toward Sailor’s Head and go…how far? ‘Fathom’ must be a distance reference, same as ‘mark.’ To fathoms…two fathoms? Another twelve feet? Almost there…”
He measured off from the river bank, twenty-four feet north then twelve north-east. The forest looked the same here as everywhere else. “…and look to sin, would I…what does that mean?”
“Does that look like an eye, to you?” Kayla pointed at the hollow in an old oak tree. “…and look, ‘tis in wood eye…”
Ron raced over and reached into the hollow. His excited expression melted into amusement as he lifted out an old bottle. “Rum? Black Tom wrote a whole song, just to remember where he hid his rum…”
Kayla fell on the ground laughing. “Must be good rum! At least we’ll have something to drink with our picnic.”