This Is West — The Exchange


Ours is a town of little oddities but this is by far the most perplexing event of my entire life. Because there, amidst the dead grass and dust I call my backyard, an unexplained can of meatless, dollar store chili is tumbling from one end of the fence to the next like it thinks it belongs there. The wind’s been strong the last couple of days, but not nearly strong enough to vault a can over a six foot fence. There aren’t any gaps, either, so it isn’t like an animal could’ve carried it in. And who in their right mind would just toss their garbage into a stranger’s yard? No, all logic is telling me that someone has been eating their vegetarian chili on my property and I feel attacked.

It bears the worst of my simmering frustration for almost three weeks before I go and pick it up, the sun-baked reddish-brown residue inside crumbling from the edges of the razor-sharp lid clinging to the can by one metallic thread. I hold it in my hands and I am overcome. Three weeks I’ve suffered, periodically agonized over its existence. I’m ready to be free. I toss it into my neighbor’s yard and forget it ever existed.

(Fiction and Photography by Kayleen Burdine)

Published by

El Portal

Eastern New Mexico University’s literary magazine, El Portal, offers a venue for the work of writers, artists and photographers. ENMU students, national, and international writers are welcome to submit their original, previously unpublished short stories, plays, poetry and photography. No entry fees are charged. Cash prizes are awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners in each category (only ENMU students qualify). El Portal is published each semester at Eastern thanks to Dr. Jack Williamson, a world-renowned science fiction writer and professor emeritus at ENMU who underwrote the publication. El Portal has been published since 1939.