Miss Lora was the type that spoke in all lowercase letters, sitting on her rickety porch swing, chewing tobacco and spitting at any kids who got too close. She couldn’t see well anymore, but refused to wear the glasses that hung ’round her neck. She was type of person that made you want to know, but afraid to ask. You just knew there was a story there worth telling, but nobody had the nerve to ask. At least not until Sally came around.
Sally was just as much of an odd duck herself. An 8 year old with an 80 year old name. I mean really, who names their kid “Sally” anymore? It’s not like she was named after anyone, either. Sally was just a child born to mother who didn’t know what to do with a child. One of those children who learns to take care of her mother instead of the other way around.
Sally’s eyes went straight to her soul. No one had an unkind word to say to her and everyone went out of their way to make sure she had enough. The butcher always wrapped up extra for her, telling her it was ‘just scraps’ even though it was the best cuts of meat. The people at the farmer’s market would send her home with bags of vegetables, fruits and homemade goodies, because they ‘couldn’t sell them anyway’ even though they most certainly could.
For her part, Sally was always watching, always unfailingly polite and always especially thankful for everything she was given. It’s like she knew that everyone was helping her out, but she couldn’t afford to say no. That seemed ot make her even sweeter.
It was one Saturday when Sally was walking home from the farmer’s market when she saw Lora on the porch. Sally always waved and said ‘hi’ of course, but this time Lora actually hollered at her, “who’s there now?” She croaked, her voice rusty from lack of use. “is that you frank? ornate?” Her words spoken slowly and clearly yet somehow always managed to bleed together like syrup on a hot pancake, soaking into the air around her.
Sally could see her peering through the railing on the porch, so she took her basket of produce and skipped up the steps. “Hello Miss Lora, it’s not Frank or Nate, it’s just me, Sally. I live down the road there,” she said, taking a careful step onto the porch.
Sally was quite surprised, since her neighbor had never acknowledged her, even though she walked by every day to and from school and on Saturdays when she went to the farmer’s market. She reached Miss Lora and held out her basket, “I’ve just come from the farmer’s market, Miss Lora, would you like to share a bite to eat with me?”
Lora’s eyes squinted up at the child, her wrinkles becoming more pronounced as she tried to focus. Sally set her basket down and took Miss Lora’s glasses, slipping them onto her nose. Lora was taken aback and flinched in surprise at first. Then she realized she could see clearly. This child here, standing right in front of her was the first person she’d spoken to in months, longer than she could even remember, really. She patted the seat beside her, “listen here youngin i don’t mind if i do shareabite to eat.”
Sally sat down and pulled out two muffins from the basket, handing one to her new friend. They sat there on the porch swing, swaying slowly back and forth, eating their muffins, content in the silence.
“Do you like the muffin, Miss Lora?” Sally asked.
“oh i do littleone, it reminds me of when i used to bake muffins for my own little girl.”
“You have a little girl?”
The old woman’s eyes took on a faraway look and she was silent for a bit. Sally sat patiently, not bothered by the old woman’s need for silence. When she spoke again, she blinked back tears, “well, she ain’t here no more but i’ll tell you what…” and then, noticing that Sally was still listening to her, Miss Lora seemed to come alive. She started telling little miss Sally stories of her daughter’s younger days and they sat there on the porch swing until the sun started to set.
Sally stood to go, fascinated by the old woman’s stories, “I have to go get dinner for my mama,” she said, “but if it’s okay with you, I’d like to come back tomorrow. Maybe you could show me how to make muffins like you used to?”
A spark of life appeared in the old woman’s eyes. A wide smile broke across her face, “i’d like that, little miss.” she said. And she watched the little girl walk all the way down the sidewalk until she disappeared around the corner.