SECONDHAND • by Renee Carter Hall

She bought the first one at a yard sale when she was twelve: a turtle made of seashells, glistening with shellac, on a wooden base that said “The Bahamas.” In her landlocked bedroom, she held it in her palm and basked in tropical warmth, and the sound of the ocean swept everything else away.

Two years after the wedding, she found the magnet with the dice and the roulette wheel, “Las Vegas” in splashy script. Tracing her fingers over it, she tasted apple martinis in a dingy kitchen that held nothing stronger than cheap beer. She sat for hours listening to the click of the chips, the rasping flutter of shuffled cards, everything bold and bright, everything possible with the next hand.

The pewter Eiffel Tower came from a thrift shop, buying clothes for the youngest. When he finally went down for his nap and the third load of laundry was in the dryer, she held the model close to her face until she could see the lights, the people waiting to go up. She sat at a café sipping strong dark coffee while golden light fell through the afternoon. There was no rush, nothing more to be done but let the conversations wash over her like ripples slowly expanding: the quiet talk of long friends, the murmurs of lovers, the laughter of children not hers.

The last one she took from her grandchild’s hands, a plastic dome covering a log cabin with pine trees and mountains behind. The letters on the base had faded to “ALAS.” She tipped it back, righted it, and gazed into swirling snow. It was quiet inside, the fire crackling, the quilt heavy. Outside, a storm raged, but it could not touch her, could not touch the calm within, the reveries rising like smoke, sweeter than anything that had ever happened.

Renee Carter Hall works as a medical transcriptionist by day and as a writer, poet, and artist all the time. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of publications, including Strange Horizons, Black Static, the Anthro Dreams podcast, and the anthology Bewere the Night. She lives in West Virginia with her husband, their cat, and a ridiculous number of creative works-in-progress.

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