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What We Keep


THEY ARE IN A BOX, they are condoms, and they are used. Part of the pleasure in having a secret is telling it. Some secrets, they lose power with time. They become the stories that everyone tells. Some secrets, they only grow brighter with age.
That was my secret. The condoms, that is. They are what I'd never told anybody.

They are each sealed in their own air-tight bag, because latex breaks down over time.
The box had a latch that locked, but the lock was lost long ago. When I lived with my parents, the lock was important. There is no way to explain to your mother that you've kept something this disposable. The condoms, that is. Condoms were meant to be thrown away.
              My brother collected baseball cards. His bedroom was everything he owned spread out across the floor with no order that I understood. He could find anything he wanted to find when the need arose. The baseball cards, though, he kept safe in a folder with nonstick, nonacid plastic pockets to protect them.
He would sit Indian-style on his bed, pull a card out, stare at it, and then put it away.
"What do you do with the cards?" I asked him.
He didn't look up. "Memorize the stats," he said.
"Don't you already know them?" I asked. I crossed the room and sat next to him on the bed, my weight on the mattress causing the two cards he had set in front of him to slide together.
"I know them," he said, straightening out the two cards. They were face down, only the boxes of statistics to look at. Numbers that told a story.
"So, are you testing yourself?" I asked.
"Leave me alone," he told me.
I tried to leave him alone, but I was too young for that. Instead, I tried to interest him in my favorite game. Would you rather?
"Would you rather have a Mickey Mantle baseball card?" I asked. He looked up at that.
"Or?" he said.
"Or, would you rather meet Mickey Mantle?"
His eyes dimmed and he looked down at his cards. "Do you know how much money that card is worth?"
              It is a wooden box, the size of a thick paperback novel. A carving of the waterfall at which I bought the box from a novelty shop adorns the front. They didn't call it a novelty shop, though. Souvenir is what the sign said. But fake Indian jewelry and wooden boxes made in China are not souvenirs.

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About Bryan Howie

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Bryan Howie lives in the American Inland Northwest, where he has been searching for a muse in the trees and rivers. He loves photography and motorcycle riding, but has a hard time doing both simultaneously. His short story “Your Mother’s Smile” was featured in Volume 6 of The Best of Carve Magazine and can be found online...read more at http://solarcide.com/special-guest-content/guest-stories/your-mothers-smile-by-bryan-howie/.

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