by Kim Glover

The sparkling emerald rock glows in contrast to the red desert, and his little hands shake excitedly, holding it to the sun.

He doesn’t know it’s already eating his insides.

He plops down, dumping the contents of his Howdy Doody lunch box. Cloaks his talisman in burlap.

He will never show his brothers, who will steal, taunt, tattle. This is his charm. His luck. His secret.

It lives in his bedroom in a cigar box under his bed. He gets it out to admire the green glow in thick darkness. Holds it near his heart when he ponders or prays. Licks it, polishes it as he begs the universe for just one kiss from Lucy Reed.

It takes thirty years to kill him, black cancer hungrily devouring him. He faithfully clutches it with his last breath.