Shelley Wood
June 2016 Second Prize

Rags, Riches

by Shelley Wood

So hot, so hot: heat being ladled from the sky. Danny—not his real name, but the name everyone knows him by, even the cops, even Danny himself—Danny woke late-afternoon to find the shade had stolen itself away, leaving him lying on the pokey-dry grass in the blazing sun like a man on a griddle. A man on a griddle: head muddled, head duddled, head fuddled from whatever he’d drunk-smoked-pricked through his thick hide leaving him sizzling in his own stink at the base of a tree that must have turned away, nose wrinkling, yanking its shadow clean off Danny and setting it down somewhere else.

Danny can’t stand his own stink. The whole sour-salt-sweet-cheese-rank-rotten-apple-funk-shit-wreck of him. These days, Danny doesn’t hear so good, can’t taste for crap, but his sniffer works just fine, works like it’s the only thing left on him capable of putting in an honest day’s effort.

Kids are clowning around on a raft in the bay, squealing and leaping into the shimmering waves. Two tight-skinned teenagers pull themselves up the ladder, their golden limbs slick like creatures newly birthed. Danny has to glance away, wondering if, in a different life, he’d ever learned how to swim.

Soon enough, Bylaw will come by and nudge Danny’s shoe telling him he’s gotta-getta move-on. Danny is goddamn tired of moving on.

But here’s the heat again now, inching around the tree and bringing Danny’s stink with it. Walking’s the only thing left. Walk into the lake and keep walking until the waves have scrubbed him raw, his clothes have washed clean off his ruined body, and the slivers of glinting silver have shaved him smooth as a baby. Surely if he just keeps walking he can surface on the other shore, bejewelled.

About the Author

Shelley Wood

Shelley Wood’s short stories have appeared in F(r)iction, the Nashwaak Review, the New Quarterly, carte blanche, and Room. In the past few months, she has won the Tethered by Letters contest and the Cobalt Review’s Frank McCourt prize for Creative Nonfiction, and was shortlisted in the Writer’s Union of Canada Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers. She divides her time between New York City, where she is the managing editor at, and Kelowna, Canada, where she is researching a suitable home for her first novel.
share by email