Knapsack: mottled mug, wool blanket, box of matches, faded poetry. Open sky: dusty road, green leaved trees, cooing doves. And me. Just me.
Circle embracing an X. Pie smells great wafting on the evening breeze. Maybe there's a roast in the oven, too. Three knocks, one quiet and two hard. A navy apron speckled with flour dust. Two big-eyed children peeking out from behind it. "Please ma'am--"
"Come on in. Soup's hot." Then, "Marv, put on another plate. Someone else came in sniffin'."
Sparse sitting, but cozy cushions along the windowsill. "My feet, ma'am? Should I be washin'?"
Not even a glance at the dirt. "Naw, I've got kids'll do worse damage than anything you might be dragging in."
Man sits rocking in the living room's rocker. Smile as big as day on his face. "Ain't sat in one of these since my kid brother died," he says. "Don't mind much if it makes me look like a lady."
I thinks, he's a honest one. Another wanderer, that's for sure: thick toe nails, chin stubble, eyes lighter than the sky. So I sits down in the clumsily stuffed chair nearby, the one that the man of the house obviously uses-- worn seat, cigarette box, history book nearby. I pick up the book, cross my legs, and frown seriously. "'Suppose I don't mind much looking the man," I says in return.
Soup ladled into bowls splashes playfully. Small voices chirp excitedly. I gets up, so does the man. "How long it been?" He asks. I shrug. "Dunno. Betcha even if I hads eatten yesterday that soup'd smell like heaven." Grin gets bigger on the man's face. How wide his cheeks go?, I wonder.
Straightback chair don't sit like a fallen log. Off goes the navy apron, down sits the man of the house. The bigger of the two kids looks like him: lopsided mop of hair, restless eyes, long fingers. Wanderer lifts up the bowl direct to his lips. Family laughs at him, the little kid pushing a spoon in his direction. He complies. So do I.
Pie tastes better'n it smells. Man of the house invites wanderer and I to the living room, where we sits on the floor. Kids clamber up onto cushions on windowsill. They fight, then laugh. Mother bustles about the kitchen: swoosh goes the skirt, clink goes the bowls. Smile pulls at my mouth. Ain't been in a home for a long time.
The man reads. As if it were the wind through the trees, the man's voice fills the house and silences the kids, the skirt, the bowls. Silences my heart.
Wanderer now leans left against the side wall. Think he's sleeping. Mother pulls out his knapsack. I pull out of it his blanket. Out falls a harmonica, a watch, a mirror. A mirror. Funny wanderer, this one.
"That there's the warmest corner of the house," says the Mother. Over I move. Beneath the wool of my blanket I'm soon fast asleep, too.
Morning sun creeping across the floorboards. Gold on dust. I wakes. Wanderer is gone. Left his knapsack all undone. Out the window clothes getting pinned on the line. Wanderer appears from behind it, laughing as he swings the bigger kid 'round and 'round like them merry-go-rounds. Makes me laugh, too.
Breakfast is good, better'n good. Crisp edge on the eggs, creamy milk, pancakes moist as the morning dew. I think of what I'm to be taking with me in my knapsack. Mother gives me two hardboiled eggs, pieces of old bread, an apple. Small kid gives me a hug. I thinks of what to carry in my knapsack: can't bring fresh pies. Can't bring warm milk. Can't bring a home.
Wanderer don't even roll his sack. Just a throw, and a tie. I roll slow.
Outside: sun warms, trees sigh, river murmurs, breeze whispers. Wanderer smiles at my wide eyes. "World looks like a newborn baby every day, don't she?"
I couldn'ta said it better myself. Out comes a poem: "All the world's a gift and it only matters what you carry."
Road crunches dry beneath calloused feet. Ours. "I roll a mirror so as I don't forgets myself."
Never thought of that. World's a beauty, but so's us. Ain't no point in forgetting that.
"Next town over's got lunch if you goes to church," says he. "Only takes a day to get there."
I smile big. Four feet crunch the same road. Found what I want to carry with me: a mirror for my soul so's I don't forget myself.
All the world's a gift and
It only matters what you carry.
You's what I'll carry with me and
You's what I'll not forget to see.