A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

All You Truly Own
by Zack Savage (Oct 2011)


Burtrom Wunderlust was an odd man by any means or measure. He is one of those men who seem to be swept carelessly upon the currents of time, yet they never seem to crash upon shores of inconvenience or dashed upon the rocks of misfortune. Burtrom is one of those men who seemed to float in and out of existence; he only materialized when somebody in society chanced to run into him. They would ask with surprise- “What have you been up to Burtrom… Where are you working…?” he would always shrug off the questions with simple answers and then proceed to turn the conversation around, winning over the sentiments of the audience with his affable manner, his ability to listen, and his carefree demeanor- after making and remaking many friendships in a few hours, he would again vanish as if he had never been.

Burtrom spent his whole life wondering around; and he wondered in the truest sense of the word; as he walked aimlessly (as it seemed to onlookers) he seemed to be questioning anything and everything which fell within his inquisitive gaze.

The only certain thing of Burtrom, (if it counts, for it didn’t count to others, for it only applied to him) was his time piece. Burtrom consulted his watch with regularity of a man who prides himself on punctuality; yet if anyone could find fault with Burtrom, it would be in is inability to keep appointments or time. Be that as it may, Burtrom would be seen (wherever he chanced to be at the moment) walking around and taking in the scenery, he would stop, consult his watch, look around him, and then drop the watch back in his pocket as he took to a new direction.

This odd behavior was not endearing to onlookers; besides being puzzling, most found it irritating. His friends would eventually shrug it off; for it made who he was; and although none could really define who Burtrom was- they all knew that they loved his company.

As people age their stories seem to lose their luster. When people began to settle into trades, they would tell Burtrom all of their woes and then listen to him relate with some analogous story about how he learned the intricacies of the Bum economics, with its alcohol based exchange system, and its incredibly steep Labor Curve (as the price for labor goes up, their supply remains roughly unchanged); and when people began to settle into marriage, he would listen to their complaints and then tell them about this girl he had known once or twice, who taught kindergarten but still held onto the dream of becoming a professional wrestler; And when his friends settled into parenting; Burtrom would listen to their tales like a man possessed with wonder, and then relate how he had once known a family in Tibet who were able to do what had once been thought impossible- potty train a monkey (name Beatrice) with bananas and kitty litter.

As time passed on and more of his friends settled in, Burtrom remained unchanged, unchanged as the question he was asked when he ran into acquaintances- “When are you going to settle down Burtrom.” He would always laugh, shake his head, pause as if to say something, and then laugh again as he finished his drink. This response became so common place, and Burtrom’s unchanging aversion to normalcy finally convinced people that he would never settle into it.

By Burtrom’s 45th birthday, people had accepted that Burtrom would die as he had lived- incredibly. And the toast he gave at his surprise birthday party only solidified this belief- “May it be said that I have lived like a man, and let me pray that I can someday die like a God.” Burtrom smiled at as he lifted his glass to a toast that he believed to be exceptionally clever, and froze as his eyes caught the sight of rare beauty. He nodded his glass towards the intoxicating gaze and then finished his drink. Smiling widely, pleased to see that the object that had so quickly inspired his desire now smiled back. Burtrom knew something of portent loomed within the myriad of feelings which flew within him, but he could have never known that the step that he took toward this young woman would be the steps that lead him off his life’s path.

Her name was Alithea and as the people who she attended the party with knew, if Burtrom had a counterpart in the universe, it was this woman. In all of Burtrom’s years he had never know such a being; in all his travels he had never beheld a beauty which sated his gaze so; in all the conversations he had held, in all different languages- he had never heard such marked intelligence and force of reason- her stories seemed to possess you, her perceptions seemed to have come from unfathomable depths of mind; all with an easy, incredible, unpretentious air.

For those that knew her, Alithea was the only one who could ever settle Burtrom; and likewise, Burtrom is the only one who could exist alongside Alithea without dragging her down; however for those that didn’t know, Burtrom was far too old for such a lovely young woman (Alithea at this time was 25, making Burtrom twenty years her senior). As in many such relationships there were whispers, perhaps out of jealously, perhaps out of pure inability to grasp what a woman such as Alithea could want from a 45 year old man.

The people that understood laughed over the raucous caused over the “scandal” caused by the marriage of Burtrom and Alithea, and relished explaining to people whom they knew couldn’t be satisfied- “Alithea is an old soul and Burtrom ages at half the rate of a normal man.”

The people who truly knew the newly wedded couple smiled to listen to those who didn’t, because they knew how horribly wrong they all were when they whispered at the reception- “I can’t imagine it lasting;” “I give it a year, Burtrom can’t be in one place for more than hour, he is going to get board;” “what is a young woman going to find in an old man who has no money.” People will talk far more than they will ever actually know; and for those that do know, they eventually begin to tune those who don’t out.

It was at the reception that Burtrom confirmed what so many had believed impossible only a year ago; and he did so with is usual eloquence and candor-

“I think you all know that I believe we humans are but particles in Brownian Motion, shuffled about this world by the caprice of time, chaos, and chance; and I think you know I have lived my life that way, in way which lead me to believe that things couldn’t get much better; like a rogue planet I careened through this universe scoffing at those that had surrendered their freedom for orbit, when without warning I felt myself ensnared by a force far greater than I had ever known, a force which I had never believed existed , a force far greater than myself, a force I believe which transcends time, chaos, and perhaps chance- love.” Everyone toasted, to the bride and groom, all incredulous except those that knew- Burtrom and Alithea were meant for each other.

What can be said about their marriage that hasn’t been stated in hopes and dreams that people place upon marriages between the rich and famous that are as finite and flimsy as wishes. The fact is that the people who had known were right- Burtrom had found something in Alithea that quenched his every desire, and Alithea had captured a remarkable man who seemed to encompass all that the world had to offer in his probing gaze. I could go on and on about the history of their marriage; and my guess is I could also sicken people with corny illusions and sappy metaphors about how right and rare their relationship was; but the truth is, that the story is not in their marriage. The story is about the odd way Burtrom had lived his full life and the force that had finally taken him from his course. We know that love had finally ensnared him; some may say broke him, but what had steered him before. To answer this question we must fast-forward to the present; for the answer lies in Burtrom’s pocket watch, the watch that people would see him consult randomly during his ramblings, the watch that was given to him by his father on his death bed, who likewise received it from his father and his father before him; the watch that at this very moment was being passed on.

Burtrom lay in his bed- dying not as he would have wished (as a God), but with the same easy grace which had lived. He looked up and smiled at his younger wife, who was still marvelously beautiful beneath the thirty years passed. Beside her sat his son named Claiborne and his Daughter Saxon- both pictures of the parents in younger years. The old man smiled as he turned to his son- “Clay would you get me my watch in that drawer over their?” He hurried over to drawer and quickly returned, for he could feel something of gravity in his father’s words.

Burtrom turned the watch over in his hand, opened it and peered inside. He stared inside for a moment and then clicked it shut- “It’s time.” The children and mother looked at him, not understanding.

He looked up at them with a smile that sits upon a man’s face when he looks back at his life to see no regrets and then looks up through the haze of death and sees the things he love’s most gazing down.

“Claiborne…. Saxon…. You know I love, and it’s my hope that in some form I will never stop.” They began to weep and shake their heads, trying to believe that it truly wasn’t their father’s time. Burtrom held the watch out so it was flat in his palm and continued to talk- “This watch was given to me by my father as it was given to him by his father and his father before him. My father handed it to me like I am giving it to you two, and he said- “Live your life by this watch, if you are ever feel unsure in life, look in here and remember, this is your time.” I did as he said, and I lived every day to the fullest, remembering that my time on earth was short, consulting my father’s watch anytime I was unsure of my time. It wasn’t easy, and at time it wasn’t right; but sometimes it’s hard to know what’s right or wrong until the passage of time give you the proper perspective. Looking back I know this watch lead me right, and I need nothing more than the three people standing before me to confirm by belief. This watch lead me through the time, and it lead me to your mother, and it is my hope that you two can be so lucky.” For the first time ever they witnessed tears in their father’s eyes. Burtrom smiled through the tears, took one last breath and passed on, with the ease had passed through life.

The watch found its way into the pocket of Burtrom’s son, where it would be transferred to a drawer in his dresser, where it would stay for the hectic and sad days which follow a loved one’s passing. It would be a week after Burtrom’s death that he grabbed the watch from his drawer and took it with him on his way to visit his sister; for he felt that they should look at it together.

They sat on the couch together and exchanged the common pleasantries of loved ones, but it was obvious that they were anxious to uncover the mystery hidden within the small watch, for their dialogue was uncommonly terse. After a brief silence Saxon asked- “Did you bring it?” Claiborne nodded, “Did you look inside,” he smirked- “I told you I wouldn’t- don’t you trust me?” Saxon smiled- “Well lets open then, I haven’t been able to sleep I have been so curious about what’s inside.”

Claiborne pulled the silver watch from his pocket and turned it around, he then slowly unhinged it has brought it up so both could easily see inside. They sat in silence as they looked inside- surprised at what they saw.

The time piece no longer told time, it had long ago stopped turning, but pasted in the lid was a piece of paper, which two columns of neatly written text in old cursive, scrunched together closely so that the verse could fit within the limited space.

Saxon had finished reading; a poem which had been cornerstone to their fathers philosophy, verse which had inspired that path which guided him to happiness, the path which had eventually lead to the creation of them. Saxon looked over at her brother who was nodding to himself while he mused over the words scrawled within; which she knew he would take to heart.


Your Body and Mind,

All man can truly own.

So try not to be blind,

To what so few have known.

Remember, this is your time,

More than hands on a clock.

Forgetting is a crime,

Like useless idle talk.

Make the most of what you own,

With whatever time may give,

May your body be like a stone,

And may your mind truly live.


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