Joan sat in her corner booth, as she did every Wednesday at eleven in the morning, and pondered life as she knew it. Was it possible to feel completely exposed even as one lived in a cage? She lifted the plain white porcelain cup and sipped her coffee, staring blankly over the rim of the mug, completely ignoring the papers scattered across the table before her.
A bright spot of color caught her eye, and she let her curiosity get the better of her. She lowered the coffee mug and leaned to the side, struggling for one last glimpse of the red plain coat that had so inexplicably intrigued her. Nothing. Joan sighed with disappointment and dropped another spoonful of sugar into her coffee. She stewed for a moment before deciding to learn from this experience, and turned her contemplation inwards.
She felt frustration: understandable, yes. Excusable? Not so much. Joan took a few deep breaths, emptying her mind of the frustrated thoughts and feelings, sending them out into the ether to be countered by positive ones.
She felt curiosity: where had the person in the bright coat come from, and where had they gone? What were they doing? She shook her head. She had no need to know these things; her life would be neither more nor less full with that knowledge. She breathed the curiosity out as well.
She felt confusion: what was it about that shade of red that had caused her attention to latch on so tightly?
Joan laughed at herself and finished off her coffee in one final slurp. She gathered her papers together and crammed them all into her satchel, not bothering to straighten them, heedless of how many would have dogeared corners by the time she got home today.
In four minutes she was blocks from the coffee shop and halfway through the park, striding along as fast she normally did. She checked her watch, then looked up to see, straight in front of her, the red coat. She laughed aloud, and the old man feeding the pigeons looked up, sharply, quizzically, before dismissing her as just another lunatic.
Last night I went for a walk.
Because my A1C has just increased .2 after coming back exactly the same every time my doctor checked it for years, and I don’t want to lose my feet.
That may sound like a bit of a leap, since I’m not diabetic, but I have too many friends and acquaintances with fewer than ten toes, and my mother is diabetic, and both of my grandmothers were diabetic, and I have PCOS.
I dithered for a while over what to listen to. Finally, I decided on audio books.
I’ve never been able to get into audio books, so I knew I had to listen to something I’ve read many times, something I knew and knew well. So I went with Anne of Green Gables.
It was an excellent choice.
The street was perilously puddlesome, so in the interests of keeping my feet dry, I walked in small circles, looping from one of our driveways to the other, round and around.
I walked, and I listened, and I relaxed into the familiar rhythm of the story. As always, my heart warmed when Matthew picked Anne up at the station, when he decided that he kind of liked her chatter, and when she fell silent at the beauty of the White Way of Delight.
Two chapters took me about a mile and a quarter, and then I came inside to cook dinner, which I am dutifully tracking.
“Let’s go to the thrift store,” Tracy suggested, a twinkle in her eye.
Adam nodded. “That sounds like a good idea.”
Socked and shoed and smartphones in hand, Adam locked their apartment door behind them as they set out on their daily adventure.
“What goodies do you think we’ll find?” Tracy asked. “We haven’t been in weeks. I hope they have some books I’d like, and maybe a pair of shoes for you.”
Adam nodded. “Don’t spend our pennies just yet, hon. My shoes are still perfectly good.”
They joined hands and moseyed down the block. The thrift store was just around the corner, three streets down. Tracy dodged a freshly spit chunk of gum, and Adam had a near miss with a wad of chewing tobacco, but they made it to their destination unscathed.
“Out of business?” they exclaimed in unison, reading the sign taped to the door.
“That’s so sad,” said Tracy. “I loved this place. We both did!”
“I know,” Adam agreed. “But it happens. Let’s keep walking and see where we end up. Maybe grab a bite to eat or something. We’ll find another store.”
They walked together another two blocks, and Tracy was still shaking her head at the store going out of business.
“Look!” Adam pointed across the street.
Tracy immediately brightened. It wasn’t the same store, but she could see the same old lady behind the cash register. They looked both ways and crossed to admire Adam’s discovery.
He pushed the door, and the bell tinkled brightly to announce their entry.
“Mrs. Watson, I’m so glad to see you!” Tracy greeted the older woman warmly. “What happened?”
Mrs. Watson shook her head sadly. “It just wasn’t paying the bills, honey,” she answered. “I was at least able to sell most of my inventory and move in with my son, and then I saw this store was looking for help. I offered them a good deal on what I had left, and they hired me on to keep the shop during the day.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear it worked out, for the most part,” offered Adam.
“Thank you, honey,” Mrs. Watson answered. “You two have a look around. There’s lots that I’ve never seen before here. And you know I’ve seen a lot!” She chuckled.
The pair began to peruse the ancient bookshelves lining the walls of the store, Adam checking out the knick knacks and mismatched china sets while Tracy lovingly ran her fingers along the spines of the books lined up on display.
Suddenly Tracy paused with a gasp. Slowly she reached up and pulled one volume off the shelf right in front of her eyes. She stared down at it for a moment, simply feeling the realness of the cover. Adam glanced over and saw that she had something in her hands, so he joined her.
“What did you find?” he asked.
“It’s–it’s my favorite book. I don’t even remember how many times I read this when I was a kid. I haven’t seen it anywhere in years, and it’s been out of print forever. My grandmother gave it to me, and–” Tracy’s jaw dropped. She had opened the cover and frozen.
Adam watched her closely. “Well, what is it?”
A smile spread across Tracy’s ace as she turned the book so he could see. “It’s my book.”
And sure enough, Adam read the inscription, written in a spidery, faint hand: To my favorite granddaughter Tracy, on her fifth birthday. I love you, Grandma. He wiped away Tracy’s tear with his thumb and led her to Mrs. Watson’s cash register.
“I can’t take money for your own things, honey,” said Mrs. Watson.
As Tracy was still speechless, Adam thanked her and then guided his girlfriend home. She never loosened her grip on the book, or lessened her smile.
“Do you want to go over there? On the other side of the fence? There’s more birds over there, and I’m hungry.”
“No, those birds are not for eating, silly. They’re just enjoying their day, like we are. Let’s keep on our walk.”
“But please? They look so tasty and fresh.”
“No. You had a lovely meal before we left for our walk, and if you behave, we can have a treat when we get home.”
“A mouse treat? I love those.”
“Not a mouse treat. I have some yummy fish shaped treats for you.”
“But those don’t wriggle when I pounce on them. Maybe just one bird?”
“Not even one bird. Come on, it’s time to go.”
“Maybe I’ll catch a bird tomorrow.”
“Maybe you will.”
We went for a walk.
I remember the cattle guards lining the sides of the road:
I never saw a cow on the road.
They must work.
We were walking home.
I tripped and fell.
I’ve always been clumsy like that.
A rock pierced my knee.
My mother carried me the rest of the way home.
All the way home.
I stared at my leg
and the blood trickled down.
All the way down.
I wasn’t wearing socks.
I stared at the tongue of my shoe:
one red stain at the center.
Such a straight line of blood
all the way down
I’d never seen
so much of my own blood.
I still have the scar.
It looks like a nose.
For a prompt.
Only in big cities can you walk for hours and hours and technically be in the same place. I left my apartment this morning and had a sudden thought: how far can I walk? I turned left, and set out on my day’s journey. As I walked I wondered if I should have worn a different pair of socks. The socks I had chosen this morning were cute, sure, but their rainbow polka dots were thin and provided little protection against the rigors of the road. I mentally shrugged and continued on. The acceptable lack of intimidation encouraged me, until lunchtime’s call brought me back home.