Finding the old poem of my mother’s last week, got me wanting to share some more of her writings. The following was initially published in Calliope; 12th Annual Anthology of Women Who Write, Volume XII, 2006, pages 93 to 95.
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Copyright © 2004 by Women Who Write
The cool November wind burst through the Kroger’s door and startled me from my daydream. It had been an extremely slow day; only two customers had checked out their groceries through my lane. Before I looked at the new customer, I glanced down at my watch. When I did, I knew immediately who shuffled through the door. I smiled at my own wisdom.
She had shopped with us daily at the same time for the last three weeks, always pulling the two-wheeled silver cart behind her as she crept from the trailer park behind the store. I knew little about her except that she liked Campbell’s soups and had at least one cat. She frequently purchased cans of Fancy Feast and tuna-flavored Pounce. “Today,” I thought to myself, “I’m going to ask her what her name is.”
Soon I heard her scuff up aisle one and slowly move toward the canned goods section. I watched her as she reached for a small jar of Welch’s grape jelly. Her frail, gnarled hand shook under the pressure of the glass, and I noticed the glimmer of a wide gold band on her left ring finger. Her hands looked like wadded pink
Kleenex. Blue lines and brown spots mixed with the maroon scrapes on her tissue paper skin. Pink scalp showed through the thinning silver hair that poked from under the once white Chiffon scarf she had tied under her sagging chin.
After placing the jelly into her cart, she tugged at the power blue cardigan, her only protection against the crisp fall air. Beneath the cardigan was a pink and white striped blouse that hung out over the elastic waist of the double knit beige slacks. Gray felt house slippers with white anklets covered her tiny feet. She had snipped the slippers to allow the bulge of her bunions freedom from the binding cloth.
Eventually, she came stopped-shouldered to my checkout. “Hi, I’m Ethel. It’s starting to cool off; isn’t it?” I yakked.
She looked up at me. Her thin lips curved into a straight line beneath rouged colored cheeks, and she softly said, “Hello, Miss Ethel. I’m always cold, now-a-days.”
“What do I call you?”
“Do you have a cat, Goldie?” I asked as I placed tuna flavored Pounce into a brown paper bag.
“Yes … Charlie. He’s a 10-year-old, yellow tiger cat. He’s so fat I can’t lift him anymore. Charlie was my late husband’s foot warmer; that old cat always slept curled up against Henry’s feet,” she tittered.
For several months, Goldie came to the store, and we chatted. She even encouraged me to give Bobby, my husband, a second chance after I caught him having a beer with a girl from the Pilsbury plant. Goldie had been so right!
Then one day she didn’t come in. I consoled myself aloud, “Oh, It’s too cold. She’ll be in tomorrow when it’s supposed to warm up.” But she didn’t come in the next day or the next. When I finally accepted the fact that she was gone, I had myself a cry.
Wiping a tear away, I stared outside at the dark clouds. Streams of golden light broke through them. Through the window, I noticed an old, dirty yellow cat curled up in those few rays of sunlight.
At the end of my shift, I pulled on my red windbreaker and grabbed a can of Fancy Feast. I dashed out the door and called, “Charlie, Charlie.” The yellow cat meowed and laced himself in and around my ankles. I scooped him up and went home.
Goldie’s Legacy By Donna LaFollette