Saturday, 13 December 2008

13 December, Advent 13, Joyce Hicks, The Keeper's Keeper

AS TOM walked along the pathway for the last time that day, he was certain Rita would be there. She’d become a regular fixture in Victoria Park of late, and always sat on one particular bench. A strange old dear, certainly, but always friendly.

Sixty-odd he guessed, and overweight, she usually had a roll-up in one hand and a small bottle of mineral water in the other. At least, the bottle would originally have contained water. These days, Tom suspected, it was almost certainly neat gin or vodka. The most outrageous makeup (almost theatrical, Tom felt), and violent red hair with grey showing at the roots, meant Rita could never be overlooked, or ignored. Where, or how, she lived was anyone’s guess. She never discussed it.

“Isn’t it time you were going home, Rita?” he called out as he drew level. “You’ll freeze to death if you sit there much longer.”

“Impossible, dear,” she answered. “And as for ‘home’, don’t make me laugh!”

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