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letter-249066_1280J arrives late at night, frozen through. A backpack filled with old clothes, a guitar without strings, a pair of Harley Davidson boots, one with a broken zipper. No gloves, light jacket.

Shower to warm up. Help in the kitchen. Enchiladas, sour cream, egg on top. Like in Texas, he says. I want to go to Texas.

I will send you, I say.

 

My house, cornered. Yellow kitchen, aqua hallways, Dinky cars and trucks from France.

Watch the boy. Watch that J. A street kid. How they are. Right? Telling stories, and none true.

Stories, that’s what? A crime?

One time, J says, and says.

The father gone. (The father always gone.) The mother wasted away, meth, crack. The brothers and sisters scattered like seeds. Some fall on fallow ground. J left standing. J saying, Can I get strings for my guitar?

Strings. Yes.

The luthier at the music store. J stands, one foot behind him, listens to T’s stories. This guitar here. That one there. The luthier, T, with guitar, shows J the First Lesson.

You have, T says, the debt. You must give the First Lesson.

I have the debt, J says. Happy. A possession mightier than.

J chords in my living room. D and G and C. The debt wavers around his head.

I have the debt too, given to me at the age of 13. Come, girl, let me show you a chord. Let me show you a pick, hold it this way. Hang on tight.

I show J a chord. E.

Watch him. Does he lie? His fingers do not. A kid out of foster care. You know how they are.

Neighbors whisper.

D and then G and then C.

Hot showers. Me, childless, I wonder. I watch. Everything in its place.

Pickles at the store. A delicacy to J. Sunflower seed bread.

You should shop like poor people, he says. You get four carts for that much money.

I will try, I say.

A ticket to Corpus Christi, a place J remembers. Where things are. His birth certificate. Proof.

We should shop like poor people.

What? You crazy woman?

Yes, I say. Me and J, crazy, J gone to Texas. Home a quiet place with windows.

Shelley Hunt lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, François Camoin, and their sons. She has published stories in Mississippi Review, Hotel Amerika, Quarterly West, and Sudden Fiction Continued. A student at Antioch University’s MFA in Creative Writing in Fiction, Hunt is currently at work on a novel.

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