Sun shines bright in its blue as thick clouds play with Burns, who stares up as he strolls. He’d come up the east coast with nothing but cash, his pack, supplies, and a hat, letting a beard wind its patches through pores, having left his southern home for the road. Neglecting crossroads to mountains and the beach, he gawks at an airplane with a wafty severed wing, huge and puffy but deformed with magnificent tail that compensates for everything as it grows and floats forever. It points at an iceberg, but that splits for the plane. Burns raises his hands to clear the icebrg, carving the plane’s tunnel. This moves hands from their job of replacing his hat to block the sun, but that warms his face from breezes off the Atlantic.
Burns falls face-first into a hole. Its dirt is soft, but his heavy backpack knocks the wind from him. He shifts around to hunch awkward on the pack and recover, when the sun straight overhead blinds him in the darkness. The hole tunnels sunlight at him, blinding until he closes eyes and smiles back at the way it warms his face.
Dirt falls on his face. A man shovels it into the hole. Burns brushes at it, but it keeps falling; he looks for traces of the man but only spots the sun, shovel, and flying dirt. Hey, he calls, but dirt muffles his mouth. He spits it out and stands. Hey!
A clump crashes his face and knocks him back. Dirt flies fast, covering Burns; the man found pirate treasure and rushes to carry it away. He’s worked at another’s greenhouse for years: this treasure will free him. He’ll indulge in its gaudy gold. He’s hasty to cover the hole so no one falls in. He watches only the treasure in his pick-up truck. He left the chest’s lid open to gawk at the sun shining off the gold.
Burns grabs at the hole’s wall to pull himself, but dirt continues bashing his head. He tires of this and gives up. He avoids the dirt and waits for the man to fill the hole. He lurches up, watching dirtclumps against sky and sunlight. The man never looks at the hole, even when Burns peeks his head out over the top. Burns climbs out when he can and watches the man finish.
The man asks can I help you? when he finishes shoveling and notices Burns watching.
I fell in your hole.
Yeah, I found something here. The man stands his shovel up, tight in his hand.
Burns leans at the knife snapped at his belt. You didn’t think to put up a warning?
The road snakes over that way, as the man points. You didn’t notice me?
Your gold must’ve distracted me.
It distracted me, the man says, as he hops into his truckbed to latch the treasure lid closed.
A treasure map led you here?
One passed down to me. The man hops back to the ground, pulls out his keys, and moves near the front door as Burns approaches.
Burns only walks close enough to talk without shouting. I left my family to travel. Maybe I’ll find some treasure without a family map.
Good luck with that, the man says, as he sits in his truck and starts it. Watch where you’re walking, he yells, dropping spare change out his window as he drives away.
Burns spits at it and eases down the road, slunking on his hat.
I woke to this short-short this morning. I’m not sure if I dreamt it or if its subtle development over the past couple months in Carbondale was so clear to me that it wrote itself, but it energized me the moment I opened my eyes.