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There are two glasses left

There are two glasses left. The other two must have been broken. I can’t remember how, can’t remember when.

But I can remember seeing them in the floor at Fred’s Dollar Store. I can remember how grown I felt buying them.

I got my first house early in life. I couldn’t afford it, but that didn’t matter in the 2000s. At the time I made two dollars above minimum wage.

I learned quickly that while that was enough to be approved for a mortgage, it was not enough to pay for one. I needed two incomes.

I carried bed frames for Harden Manufacturing in Haleyville Monday through Thursday. They were heavy enough to need two people – one on each end, sidestepping to the shipping rack.  Usually my partner was a man who told me to call him Garcia because I’d never be able to pronounce his real name.

Garcia had grown up on a huge ranch in Mexico. As an adult he worked in Chicago for a large bank until he saw how prevalent gangs were becoming. For the sake of his children’s safety he’d left a good job – to sling furniture where his brother lived.

Once I put in 40 with the beds, I’d pull shifts at Fred’s the rest of the week.

My favorite cashier was a woman who was clearly addicted to her anxiety medication. She would use anything as an excuse to take more. Within 15 minutes of clocking in, she’d say loud, for everyone to hear, “Y’all boys are driving me crazy. I’m gonna have to take a nerve pill.”

One Saturday morning I stocked the kitchen aisle as she nodded off in the break room. There they were: four sets of four basic drinking glasses. I looked at their tag on the shelf: $5.99. It took an hour’s pay to make them mine.

I’m not sure I owned a new thing before those glasses.

All my furniture was given to me by friends and family. My kitchen was full of wornout pans, souvenir plastic cups and whatever else they’d left on my porch. My clothes came from people I knew who had lost weight and given me garbage bags of prestretched huskies.

My most prized possession was the Ibanez dreadnought I’d grown up listening to my uncle play before he’d passed it on to me. Before I was a glass owner, even my guitar was a handmedown.

There’s a line in a Jason Isbell song I love that says, “Back when you didn’t own a beautiful thing.” I hear that line, and I see those glasses.

I see a boy who couldn’t grow a beard yet, in his little kitchen, in his little house, putting them in his cabinet, as proud as he can be. I see those glasses, and I see the beginning.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville. He can be reached at wcstults@yahoo.com.

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