by Val Bonney
“Move along, Grace!”
A highly polished shoe nudges her rump, careful not to make too much contact. Her old bones are jarred by the wake-up call even through four overcoats. She gives the shopkeeper a toothless smile as he jerks his head towards the road.
Grace gathers up her worldly goods as efficiently as her cold, aching limbs will allow. She checks each plastic carrier before setting off: empty cartons in the red one; beer cans in the green; newspapers in the orange; spare bags in the blue. All present and correct.
The shopkeeper sighs with irritation and unlocks the door cage as Grace ensures her most precious bag still holds all its contents. She riffles through her treasures one by one, recalling how each came into her possession. The half-eaten candy stick given to her by a little boy; the dummy dropped by a baby, whose mother let Grace keep it when she picked it up; the woollen gloves an elderly man had taken from his own hands and passed to her last winter; the bedraggled teddy bear she had found rammed on the top of an iron railing; the pink stretchy bracelet she had retrieved from a drain.
Grace smiles again, counting her many blessings, and hobbles along the street. Behind her she hears metal shutters being raised aggressively and a muttered, “Bloody vagrants!” She doesn’t understand his words but she can tell the shopkeeper is an unhappy man. Tomorrow morning she will smile at him again, and maybe give him one of her newspapers if she can spare it.
Copyright © 2006 by Val Bonney