Lost & Found – The Women

On her way home from school, the girl with red hair and green eyes stops to watch three old women who are sitting around a small fire. The women are enclosed by a circle of stones situated beneath an exit ramp leading to an overpass. They sit in the shadow of an abandoned factory on the outskirts of a dying town. The oldest woman, the one with bright silver hair, is hand-feeding the fire. She tears off small bits of a newspaper and delicately drops them into the flames, like a priest placing holy wafers on the tongue of some fiery beast. The old woman with long black hair is playing incredibly sad songs on a blood red violin strung with the whiskers of coyotes. The bald woman (who at only 103 years of age is the youngest of the group) is sitting with her eyes closed, as she keeps levitating off the ground and threatening to float away. Every now and then, without diverting her eyes from the fire, the silver-haired woman reaches up and pulls her sister back down to the ground.

The girl with red hair and green eyes will be in trouble for coming home late from school. She has chores to do, and she is far too old for this nappy-head lollygagging. Today is Monday, and her mother will still be nursing an aching head from the weekend. Nevertheless, the girl with green eyes and red hair sits down by the fire and warms her icy cold hands. The three old women do not look up; they have been waiting for her to arrive.

The girl takes an orange from the pocket of her skirt, peels it in the afternoon light, and passes it around the group. She makes up words to the music from the violin. The words are the saddest words ever, all about soldiers lost in distant lands, all about children stolen away at birth. The bald woman smacks her lips loudly as she chews, and tears fall down her face. The black haired woman passes around a chocolate bar and a pot of strong black coffee.

The woman with silver hair drops the last piece of paper in the fire and takes the girl’s hand. She reads her fortune as clearly as you or I might glance at the sports column of the daily paper. She tells the girl that she will swim in oceans of sadness and watch the last breath leave the lips of a friend. Her cat will die in a fire. Her mother will one day leave her stranded on the edge of an empty road. She will write some beautiful songs. She will fall in love with a one-eyed man who passes her a pomegranate during a lunar eclipse. After the woman finishes, they all sit in silence for quite some time.

When the girl finally arrives home, her mother greets her with a “where-in-the-hell-you-bin”? The girl cooks tomato sauce on the stove, rocks her baby brother to sleep, and fetches aspirin for her mom. That night, she falls asleep long after the rest of the house is still and quiet. She falls asleep with a book of poetry open across her chest and the full moon shining bright in her eyes. In the darkness outside of her window, black shadows fly across the sky.