A great mollusk shell, a mottled black on the outside, a shiny silver grey within. Hung on a borrowed hearth, it boiled a handful of Indian beans and some unjerked meat -- an unlucky possum caught in my last snare. A pinch of hard-to-come-by salt.
A preacher in the last town of any size asked me how I could be content, with my sins surely outnumbering my friends by a long mile. A religion of every living thing, I told him, and the sun and the moon as well. The turning of the days. Even the railroad smoke rising in the furthest visible valley south.
It don't bother me that on this trail the heavy boot of a youngish man will collapse my skull out of nothing but carelessness. My Chinese playing cards scattered in the brush. Under a coned hat, a traveling tinker on top; the emperor face down with me in the mud.