A paper blew past, a scrap of garbage. We stepped over it as we walked to the riverbank.
It tumbled to the feet of the old homeless woman sitting on a bench, hair in lanky grey tangles, layered in grotty clothes, bundled against the world. She bent over – I swear I could hear her creaking – and grabbed it, caught against her feet.
She unfolded the scrap of garbage, smoothing it on her knee as if it was somehow precious. She sounded out the words.
“She can’t even read,” someone muttered.
We laughed, all of us, at this pathetic old lady as she ran her finger along one line and then the next.
She reached the end of the sentence, nodded and smiled as if it meant something. She leaned back, her head to the sun, eyes closed, ecstatic. How could a scrap of paper make anyone smile like that?
As we stared, her skin began to glow. Her smile deepened, her eyes still closed. Light poured out of every part of her body, golden bright and brighter, until she was gone.
We leapt back, horrified. Silence thickened around us. Everyone ran, except me. I waited until the silence eased, and picked up the paper.
Maureen Bush loved writing as a child but had nothing to say, so she went on to other things, including a Masters Degree in Environmental Science. She worked as a public involvement consultant and trained as a mediator, then discovered she liked writing even better. She’s published five children’s novels: Feather Brain, (Orca, 2008), Cursed! (Orca, 2010), and the Veil of Magic series: The Nexus Ring (Orca, 2008), Crow Boy (Coteau, 2010), and The Veil Weavers (Coteau, 2012).
She can be found at http://www.maureenbush.com
(photo, ”Paper’, by Maureen Bush)