Writings by Michael Gillam Flynn 

The Dirt Thief

By Michael G. Flynn

 

The girl entered from nowhere, and I jumped a little. I was sitting on the patio of a Greek cafe, and her features and coloring indicated she was a member of the owner’s family. She held up a broom, and said, in a buttery voice, “May I steal your dirt?” When I inspected her up close, I realized she was no ordinary girl; she was a goddess. Her raven hair spiraled around her face and down her back in glossy tendrils. Her full lips pursed together like a strawberry and her dark eyes radiated mischief.

Initially I did not understand her request, and then I stammered a reply. “Uh…sure.” I shifted my feet out of the way to let her sweep the leaves that had blown under my table.

“If you find any diamonds, let me know,” I said.

She laughed, and the sound was golden. “Mostly it’s just dirt,” she said. “The most valuable thing I’ve ever swept up is a quarter.”

“What did you do with the quarter?”

“I pocketed it, of course.”

“Ah ha!” I said. “You're the famous dirt thief.”

She laughed again, and continued to sweep, careful not to blow any of the debris in my direction. She scooped leaves into a pile and tossed them into a compost bin. I was afraid she’d go back inside the restaurant, and I wanted to keep her with me, hold onto our moment like a falling star.

“If you find any diamonds,” I said, “Do we get to split them?”

She smiled at me, and said coyly. “That depends.”

“On what?” I asked.

“Are you a worthy man?”

Worthy. Now there was a word I don't think I’d ever been called. My father often called me worthless, senseless, and lazy, and my ex-wife once called me noxious. No one had ever called me worthy. “Worthy in what ways?”

She rested the broom against the wall. “Can you keep secrets?”

“My life is nothing but secrets,” I said. It was true. I led a double life, one that made it impossible for me truly pursue this young lady beyond our sunny afternoon repartee.

“So, if I tell you I committed crimes far worse than stealing dust under one’s feet, you would take that secret to your grave?”

I crossed my hands over my heart. “Scout’s honor.”

She lowered her voice and leaned into me. “Even if I were to tell you the crime was so heinous you would no longer be able to sleep at night?”

I narrow my eyes at her, chilled, and a little afraid now. “Do you mean you’ve killed a man?”

She tosses her curly head back and roars with laughter. “Of course not,” she said. “I’m only messing with you.”

I looked into her eyes again, the pupils so dark it was hard to read the difference between malice or mischief. But I trusted her laugh, and that seductive voice. Devil or angel, it didn't matter because, I’d never see her again after today. My train would be leaving in three hours. I was just wiling away the last few moments in this town before sequestering myself to yet another city where nobody knew my name. My true name.

Yet something glued me to my chair. Her rhythmic sweeping motion, the way her hair bounced in unison to her steps, her lovely voice, and most of all the way she looked back at me and smiled. As I sat there, I felt as if a gentle hand caressed my shoulders and told me things were going to get better. I felt forgiven.

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