One time I heard Dorianne Laux speak, back when I was still in school, and I remember her reading something that was in the first person, and when she was done, she said something like…”Now how much of that is true?” and gave us the little smile. That’s why I love fiction. What is true, what is fiction, what is from real experience, is it all real, is it all false? Today, I will write fiction. “Fiction.”
We took a trip to the gold country in northern california. I stood out in the river, my little bare feet slipping on the rocks, panning for gold. Just like they used to. But I couldn’t get any. I’d scoop and shake, scoop and shake, but all I got was sand. I furrowed my brow. Mom said that all of the gold miners must have taken it up way back when, that it wasn’t because I was a bad gold miner or anything like that. Mom could tell I was kind of bummed so she bought me a little jar with flakes of gold in it from the hotel’s gift shop. I loved it. I held it tight for the rest of the trip, the rest of the car ride home. It was warm from my hand when I put it on my dresser.
I looked at it all the time when I was younger. I would lay in bed and stare at it. Sometimes I’d shake it up and watch the gold slowly settle. The moment that it was all at a rest, I would shake it again. Shake, watch, shake, watch.
I took the jar in to show and tell, and quietly told my class about my trip up to gold country. I was one of those real shy kids. “And I had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch with a carton of milk. And in my lunch bag my Mama had put this little jar of gold. Because it’s hard to get gold now a days.” My classmates looked on, starry-eyed. I let them all pass it around, some of them shook it up and watched as the flakes floated down to the bottom, just like I did.
I met him when I was older. He came to visit me over the holidays, flew into San Francisco. The jar was still on my dresser, but moved towards the back, dusty. I still looked at it. I still liked it. But I was older.
He sees the jar and picks it up. He shakes it, like I used to. I tell him the story of where I got it, like I did in show and tell.
“That’s nothin’ but fools gold,” he says, and laughs twice. Ha. Ha.
I am silent. I take it from him, examine the gold like I’d be able to tell if it was real or not. I place the jar back on my dresser.
He laughs again. Ha. Ha. Ha.
I ask him what he’s laughing at. “Nothin’,” he says.
And I believe him.