These Things I Keep

By Jeff Burt


My homelessness ends. I have a job and a bed. These little things I keep:

Eight crocus bulbs from an Orchard Supply that I’ve planted twice in the woods and gone back and dug up, replanted and watched bloom.

A pie tin from the soup kitchen to remind me of the pastor who serves every Wednesday and the day we sat down with a whole pie and ate it, just the two of us, and he listened to as much as I would say.

A scruff of deer hide that fell to the ground when two friends and I chased down a doe that had been hit by a car and we carried it over two miles to an emergency vet office at three a.m., and then celebrated out in the street with a shot of vodka when the tech told us the doe would make it.

A possum’s tail, an emblem, perhaps my totem, found when a storm was hammering the mountains and the lightning looked like the claws of the same hammer, the interrogating glare of headlights and the whining saws of tires as I walked in the dark, drenched, the seeking of muffled light and muffled shadows, learning the value of pipes, gulches, gulleys, the first quick step into foliage and culvert the headlights will not, cannot investigate.

A pack of personal opiates, not heroin, or methadone, or valium, or Vicodin, but addresses and numbers of emergency shelters and hospitals and urgent care, the back of a business card with large number 9 written in ink for the day I ran out of food and the number 12 written in larger ink for the day I became humble enough and hungry enough to stand in the line at the soup kitchen, a tooth a friend pulled out of his mouth to remind me to always brush my teeth, and the Swiss Army knife a contractor gave me after I pulled him out of a quagmire of mud.

A tea tin from Hector filled with marbles he said he’d lost.

Two river stones from the garden of Mrs. Linares who gave me work, talked and ate with me. Two smooth stones that changed my life. Two stones that carry the wearing of the river.

Jeff Burt lives in Central California. He has work in Per Contra, Clare Literary Journal, and won the 2016 Consequence Magazine Fiction Prize.

Photo/Image by Lesley C. Weston

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