It’s my night at the women’s homeless shelter. I mix shredded lettuce, apple slices and ranch dressing into a bowl the size of the moon. Chicken bakes inside the oven and potatoes wait to be buttered. The women have chosen their beds. An older native woman shakes her head when a younger girl claims the back cot was hers first. She curses and tells the ceiling she’s not getting kicked out when there’s plenty of beds for everyone. If the women are anxious they don’t let on. Tonight it’s about warm food and coffee with the brand name powdered creamer. Oatmeal cookies and sugar wafers. Seconds of everything, no questions asked. Foot soaks and fingernail painting. I take a smoke break with one of the women out back in the alley. We talk about the mentally ill people who scrape down the streets, lost in their own minds. She tells me she would give anything for a salt bath. The women tuck themselves into bed, close to the edge of whatever form of sleep they’ll have for the night. Claudia, the new volunteer, asks everyone what their sign is. She calculates my suns and moons and tells me I’m bound to the earth. I remember as a child being lost in a field of wildflowers, not caring if I found my way out. The women settle down in their beds and make noises of contentment. Bellies full. Bodies warm. I start scrubbing the dishes and see a man outside the kitchen window. He presses himself against the glass and points at the leftover food. His mouth opens and closes to the churn of the dishwasher. Someone in the back room taps out a tune on the piano. The notes rise and fall as the man slams his hand against the glass. I listen to the song and pile leftovers into a bag, not caring that the keys are out of tune.
Hillary Leftwich currently resides in Denver with her son. In her day jobs she has worked as a private investigator, maid, repo agent, and pinup model. She is co-host for At the Inkwell Denver, a monthly reading series, and event/promotional guru for Inverted Syntax. Her writing appears in print and online in Civil Coping Mechanisms (CCM), The Missouri Review, The Review Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Matter Press, Hobart, WhiskeyPaper, NANO Fiction, Monkeybicycle, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Sundog Lit, Heavy Feather Review, Literary Orphans, and others. Her first book, Ghosts are Just Strangers Who Sometimes Knock, is forthcoming from CCM in spring of 2019.