She was a character — the crone who hobbled around the block pulling a rickety wire cart, broad bamboo hat on her bowed head. Collecting bottles. Once I saw her going past and called to her. She possessed not a word of English, and I had very little Chinese, but somehow she understood me and waited while I went inside for the empties from the party the night before. After that she would often stand at my gate if I was in the yard and smile with her few brown stubs. “Yes,” I’d tell her. Or, “Sorry, not today.”
Who was she? Someone’s granny put to work for her keep? Wealthy immigrants settle in this neighbourhood now. She could just as easily have been a victim of habit. Having toiled through a history that included several iterations of revolution (Communist, Cultural, Industrial), how could she stop now?
But she did. I haven’t seen her for years.
One day I found a crumpled note lying by the gate, indecipherable to me. Yet in those characters I thought I recognized a word. Remember.
And I did.
Caroline Adderson’s first collection of stories, Bad Imaginings, was published in 1993; stories from it have appeared in 19 anthologies world-wide. She has gone on to write internationally published novels (A History of Forgetting, Sitting Practice, The Sky Is Falling, Ellen in Pieces), another collection of short stories (Pleased To Meet You), as well as books for young readers. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband, the filmmaker Bruce Sweeney, their son and their dog.