The Grey Lady
Anni Wood

Her life was a collection of candy striped bags packed tightly around her feet. She rubbed thick white cream into hands that were no longer young or supple. Occasionally she hawked or spat on the pavement before continuing her daily ritual. I'd never seen her wear anything but a grey cotton frock whose hem dangled in the dirt.

"Grey lady" I whispered. "What do you do all day? Where have you been and where are you going?"

Occasionally, she'd mumble and discuss ideas or sing songs to herself. People gave her a wide berth. When she did that, I'd laugh. I remember the day I smiled at her and was rewarded by a huge wink and toothless grin in return. My mother dragged me away, but even today I can still remember those callused hands patting me on the head. They felt as delicate as the lace on my baby sister's bonnet.

First published: May 2001