Mama Junebug

Her name was Nancy Smith, but she liked to be called “Mama Junebug.” She had pink hair, light and frothy like cotton candy; when she went to market, she tied a plastic bag over it for protection, looping the handles together and stretching it tight across her deeply-lined forehead. Her hands were weighed down with rings – emerald, amethyst, sapphire – pushed over swollen, arthritic knuckles, but she said pain was beauty.

I watched her through the kitchen window, the one in front of the sink. As bubbles trickled down my arms, as dinner plates stood at attention in the dishwasher, I saw Mama Junebug start down the street. Back hunched, feet snug in tan orthopedic sandals, Mama Junebug shuffled her way from the verdant green of her lawn – a trophy in our neighborhood, courtesy of local teenage boys looking to make a summer buck – towards the Piggly Wiggly looming in the distance. Glancing up, moving her head slowly, Mama Junebug lifted a hand in my direction.

I don’t know how she saw me, her eyes were blue and cloudy, and she was going blind in the left one. Perhaps she felt her audience and graciously acknowledged me, her movements regal.

Then she turned back, gripped her cart with the rusty basket and squeaky wheel, and continued on her way. The queen of Freemont Avenue.

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