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Paul Valleau's Wallet

Rina Palumbo

My mother worked for a commercial cleaning service, and I helped her on weekends and in the summer, and once when she was pregnant. It wasn't such a bad gig as these things go; I would pocket whatever was left behind: earrings, photographs, half-smoked joints and of course, cash.  I'd spend the money, smoke the stubs, and stash everything else in a Ziploc bag that I stuffed into an arm of my Communion dress, white lace and scratchy taffeta, dry-cleaned and hung on a wire coat hanger at the back of my closet. So, when I saw a black leather bifold wallet on the floor under a club table, I smiled, opened it up. I stared at the two twenty, one ten, and three one dollar bills. There was a photo ID. I knew him. One of the cute boys. Blond wavy hair, slight build, smart but mostly quiet in class, ran cross-country. In the coin pouch, a white latex condom, out of the wrapper. It looked like a deflated balloon. It felt like the intestines that my father,  a butcher, cleaned, rinsed, and soaked in brine before they were stuffed with sausage meat. It smelled like plastic and talcum powder. I folded it back into the coin pouch, thinking I would give the wallet back to him on Monday before class. That Monday, I held it out to him. I had put everything back. Except for the condom. I remember how it felt when he touched my hand.

Rina Palumbo (she/her/hers) has a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and is working on a novel and two nonfiction long-form writing projects, alongside short fiction, creative nonfiction, and prose poetry. Her work is forthcoming or appears in Milk Candy, Bending GenresIdentity TheoryStonecoast, and AutoFocus, among others

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