Thursday, March 20, 2014


      Lisa tried to think of everything Pastor Glenn had said to encourage her. It was hard. Her thoughts kept going in circles, leaping off track, bringing up bits and pieces from totally unrelated conversations. As if her brain thought those sound bytes would help her make sense of her life.      She was nearly to Rick's Bakery, ready to take the back stairs to her apartment, before she remembered she had meant to get her mail before she went home. There was nothing to be done but retrace her steps now. Lisa sighed and turned around and went back up the hill to the post office.       Her stomach ached strangely. Lisa thought about her leftovers, now sitting in Jeannette's wastebasket in the church office. She hadn't eaten much. She should probably get home and eat something, but the thought of food made her feel nauseous. Sweat beaded her face and for a few moments, the chill air felt good. Lisa told herself all she needed was some fresh air and exercise. Maybe the walk would help her build up an appetite.      "Hey, kiddo, how's it going?" a scratchy voice greeted her. A lumpy figure lounged on one of the benches by the sidewalk.       Maggie, one of the town characters, seemed to have no past, no home, and always seemed to be available when people needed help. The children at the Mission loved her and called her Maggie Raggedy. Lisa smiled and waved to the woman, dressed in mismatched boots⎯one bright green rubber and the other dull black, three sizes too big⎯several layers of sweaters in a rainbow of colors and lengths, baggy camouflage pants, and two stocking caps jammed down on her shaggy, iron-gray head.      "Fine," Lisa said. "Nice day to be out, huh?" she called as she passed the woman and continued up the street.      "Yeah, if you're a penguin. You take care of yourself, you hear me? Don't go straining your heart any."      Lisa frowned, wondering what had brought that on. She turned to look back and ask, but found Maggie had vanished. It didn't surprise her. Maggie could move faster than greased lightning when she wanted to. Lisa liked the ragbag woman. She cared, she was trustworthy, all the children in town loved her, and she was easy to talk to. What, she wondered, would Maggie say about her problems with Todd?      The short walk up the slight hill to the post office seemed to take forever. Coming down the steps outside after checking her box, Lisa suddenly ran out of breath. She clutched at the railing, a dizzy giggle catching in her throat as the world twisted around her feet. When she hit the steps with her knees, she slid down three to the bottom and her body went limp.      "Kiddo?" Maggie appeared in Lisa's field of vision. "Hey, it's going to be okay. You just get some rest. Maggie'll get help."

Lisa tried to say something, but the words died in her throat and her eyes closed against her will.

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