Passing Through

Lisa Murphy-Lamb is author or Jesus on the Dashboard, the director of the creative space Loft 112 and the mother of two boys. She likes Canadian fiction, the colour of farmers' markets and a good cocktail.

Cecilia B. Armstand steps out of the hotel wearing a paisley scarf pulled tightly against the rain except it isn’t raining as expected and so she loosens her grip and blond hair swirls the crown of her head. She swipes at the orbital locks, manages to tuck some behind both ears and swings her bag onto a shoulder. As soon as she completes this action, the rain begins and her bag feels cumbersome and so she hoists it a second time and bows her head into the rain instead of fiddling with her scarf.

She steps off the last stair, looks both ways and decides left is the direction she needs to take. She cannot read a map, a trait passed onto her by her Aunt Vicky, the one who raised her from age twelve to sixteen, the one whose kitchen was adorned with plastic citrus fruits displayed on kitchen shelves, plated like takeaway dinner options. Plastic pork chops and turkey drumsticks hung on the wall like a butcher shop display.

Cecilia passes a McDonald’s and a toothless man perches at the window eating french fries. He gums at the long potato fingers allowing ketchup residue to paint his mouth like a whore. Cecilia wants to rush at him with church pamphlets and abortion propaganda, though she knows ketchup around his mouth has nothing to do with sin or abortion, it’s just the image of him that is connecting the two in her mind. She instead turns her cheek and walks, leaving him to lick ketchup from his fingers.

A women brushes past her walking a gleaming Weimaraner. Both have skinny asses. Cecilia knows the feeling in her stomach is jealousy. Her own ass is wide. She inherited this from her Aunt Pearl who raised her from age two to nine after her mother went missing. They lived beside a doughnut shop where Aunt Pearl worked after Cecilia went to bed and woke to day-olds for breakfast, that her Aunt Pearl brought home after her shift, mostly the powdered ones with jammy centres. Occasionally a cream doughnut wound up on Cecilia’s plate which made her gag.

“Sissy,” her aunt would laugh, “Pass it my way. I’ll finish it for you.” Pearl would slide another doughnut Cecilia’s way and Cecilia would stick her finger in the doughy centre, looking for a stain of purple or red.

The dog stops to sniff and the lady waits beside forcing Cecilia to step off the sidewalk into murky curb-water. Cecilia cannot be angry at this dog for she was raised by one when she was homeless at age ten. A large mountain dog, Nanny, tucked her nightly into a bed of cardboard. And there was Peter and an older girl. Those years had been magical, unlike the sad stories told by other homeless children. She’s lucky and Cecilia knows it. It could have been a time of church basements and men with unnatural and unkind tendencies and hunger, hunger, hunger.

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