Although short and flashy, I really like this piece. It’s amazing to me what some people would rather have than money.
Possessions and Junk
Long ago and before the bombs blasted most of the big cities into garbage dumps, I fussed at my husband about all his fishing poles, knives, guns, dirty camouflage, and muddy boots. His cluttered upset my tidy sense of feminine décor, and I remember thinking that he was too uncivilized, too right-wing, too insensitive for me. The logic escapes me now, but I remember thinking it.
Now, in the darkest hours of the night and with a shotgun stretched across my lap, I stand guard over my sleeping man and all his stuff. Once his equipment would have been banished to the shed, but now these tools-of-survival are too valuable to be locked behind some flimsy tin door outside the house or even in some vacant bedroom. His fishing net rests against the peeling wallpaper; there are multiple stains on the wall that match the long aluminum frame of the pole, and I worry about the sticky glue getting on the net.
I pull a tattered, lace doily off the arm of the couch. I study the intricate knitting and wonder why I bought it. Once, I bought a lot of useless things—fragile, electric, disposable, and decorative junk. All gone, now.
Firelight flicks over my lover’s face, and a new scar races across his cheek. The scar starts below his nose, runs up to his right eye, and then peels sharply back to his ear. The scar is not ugly to me. His healed wounds fill me with pride, and I reflect on how lucky I am that the bobcat did not take his vision. There were no doctors to stitch his wound, so I did it myself. I flushed the pieces with a mild saline solution, stitched it with a sterile needle, and kept the angry flesh layered with honey, until the skin healed over nicely. It never did get infected. He frets over his looks now, but I think he just looks all the more handsome and tough—especially tough.
His boots and socks are drying near the fireplace, beginning to smoke and stink of river bottom. I move them, fetch his other pair of boots, and lay the dry ones near the bed.
We have status in the neighborhood, because we have a lot to trade, mostly meat. I have learned how to clean a gun, gut a fish, sharpen a knife, and stitch a wound without even blinking.
Living in this new reality, I am the one who has become uncivilized, hard, and selfish. He is as he always was; but I have changed, and yet I haven’t changed. I’m still the boss. Tomorrow, I will take our extra fish to the old couple living—or I should say, barely surviving—down the road. I hear that the old woman has skills—gardening, sewing, cooking, and canning skills. I hear that the old man knows how to make a solar cooker. Perhaps, we will adopt the old couple. Maybe, we will even come to love them. It’s easy to love someone of value. I’ve learned that lesson.
I will let the old woman give me some token in exchange for the fish. The old folks have nothing that I want—their garden was raided last night. I will take whatever they offer, anyway. Perhaps, it will be some diamond jewelry, frilly cloth, or paper money. I can always toss it later, or maybe even trade it to some fool. Such things are not worth toting.
The logs in the fireplace crackle with good cheer, celebrating our success. I toss the doily in the flames, watch it flare, and smile at my sleeping redneck.