I bought an ipod shuffle used off the internet. It came in a folded manila envelope, and when I opened the envelope I found that the ipod had been wrapped carefully in the style section of the New York Times. The crossword puzzle had been completed save for a few clues, and the letters were written in shaky pencil, as though the author had been writing with their left hand while eating breakfast. I put the headphones in my ears, and pressed “play” on the shuffle. There were a few bluegrass songs and them some John Legend. I looked at the ipod shuffle. What do people use ipod shuffles for anyway? The thing was the size of a piece of candy. I didn’t know anything about ipod shuffles. Could it hold audiobooks?
After the John Legend, there was some weird jam band jazz stuff that I didn’t like. It was like what they play in goodwill. The kind of music that makes you feel hopeless, but not for any reason you can explain. This wasn’t anybody’s workout mix. I tried to imagine the ipod’s owner. I pictured them driving an old dodge truck. They were driving through some kind of field of golden grain, but it’s winter so it’s a field of snow. There are mountains in the distance. They’re on some sort of high plateau, and they’re wearing a denim jacket lined in shearling, and a baseball cap.
They stop at a place where two roads cross each other, and they get out to tighten the straps over the load in the pickup bed. The ipod shuffle falls out of their jacket pocket when they’re squatting in the mud to look at the undercarriage of the truck. The ipod shuffle is picked up by a teenage girl who is walking the two miles to the corner store from the acre of land where her family has a trailer. She gives it to her boyfriend but he just uses his smartphone for music, so he gives it to his mom. His mom forgets about it until she’s cleaning out her dresser drawers in anticipation of springtime and she takes it to her father when she visits him in his apartment, where each surface supports a heavy crystal ashtray and the thick curtains are drawn against the light. Her father has an online gambling problem, which he hides from everyone, and every once in a while he has to sell everything in order to pay his gambling debts. This week he gathers up an armful of items and spreads them on the kitchen table. A watch, a pistol, an old camera lens, and the ipod shuffle. He puts the shuffle on ebay for not very much money, so that it will sell fast.