She’d been badass once. Had you’d ambled through the New Hampshire woods when oak tree leaves were the size of a mouse’s ear and stumbled upon her as she foraged for morrells, you’d have known that immediately. (But that would never happen. She would have heard you a mile away.) Ballsy. Brash. Maybe even beautiful. Instantly you would have seen that beneath her filth and rags, her witchy, twitchy carapace, baglady hair and scorched, patrician nose, here was someone who’d had it going on. Once.

Had you dared to look deep into her furious eyes—blue-green, they are and, yes, beautiful—you would have seen brilliance and, less obvious but undeniable, amusement. As if chuckling over some cosmic joke. (But you wouldn’t have dared to stare; no one does.) Perhaps she’d snickered at the carelessness, the sloppiness of time, how things move on, willy nilly, and what once mattered just doesn’t anymore. Like that Japanese soldier who’d needlessly hidden on a tropical island for years and years after World War II ended.

That’s a good one.

Sometimes she foraged; mostly she stole. Over and over she broke into summer cottages, some more than others, the pattern never clear—even in July, even in August while people slept. Canned goods, books, stacks of old New Yorkers, winter gear, booze; she took whatever she wanted, read people’s mail, messed with their stuff; their minds. More than one family moved away after finding the contents of their kitchen drawers and cabinets emptied on the floor. More than one family wept after she’d stolen their heirloom quilts. (She had a thing for handmade quilts.) More than one family would arrive on Memorial Day weekend to discover she’d somehow evaded their locks and their state-of-the-art security devices to get inside, built herself a fireplace fire, sipped their scotch, played their CDs. (She had a thing for Miles Davis, too.)

Brazen. Creepy.

Witchy.

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