For What It's Worth

Contributor: Lindsey Barlow

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He was following her now; he had seen the gold in her pocket.
It was two o'clock in the morning, and the child was six, and the gold was shimmering like honey on a tongue that whispered, "You've never seen anything like this before."
And for a homeless man, that was sublime.
So he stumbled, following her ribbons and bows while they fluttered over the shimmering streets, and then the gravel, and dirt, and grass, like birds and butterflies and bees and bats in the night. Fear, for once, never occurred to him.
He knew she saw him. He had caught her emerald eye, and she giggled, this girl with gold in her pocket.
Just after an hour of walking, they had reached the woods, and he set his rum down - the bottle had grown so heavy as he walked. And when he stood again, the forest was transformed. The rocks were pearls, the apples were rubies, the moss was opal that climbed up bark of bronze and gold, and all about him was a twilight of misshapen gems and fortunes that glowed. All, that is, but where his rum sat.
In that little spot, the dirt was dirt, the grass was grass, and there was no sweetness etched into their being. This image stirred him.
"Sir," the girl with gold chimed, "are you sad?"
He felt his eyes well with warm tears, and when these tears fell, they cooled. Diamonds tumbled down his cheek. He caught two of them just as they plummeted from his chin, but one bounded askance, and this one he missed. It dropped onto the ground beside the bottle without a sound. In the grass, the diamond trickled back into a tear.
"No, I'm not sad. You are too young," he replied to her, "and this place is too beautiful to understand me." He looked round himself at the natural palace. "But I understand. Now, I do." He glanced back at his tears and marveled that the smallest drops of him could be so priceless. "It has taken me so long to see that worth was not where I placed it.
"My debts... they aren't so heavy now. My thirst is nearly gone. I suppose it does not matter, after all, how late one travels that path in the dark night. The end of the right road overflows all."

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Lindsey Barlow is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington, and she is currently an Adjunct Professor of Writing and Grammar at Cedar Valley Community College. Her short story "The Trade" was previously published in Oak Bend Review, and her non-fiction article titled "Driven by the Spirit: The Alcoholism of Man in Boardwalk Empire" was published in Popular Culture Review. She currently lives in Dallas, Texas.
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