Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Prosperity (05/11/06)
TITLE: Fanny Cranston
By Marita Vandertogt
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Fanny Cranston made people laugh. She did it on purpose just so they’d throw money at her. She’d sing loud, a female version of an off-key Willie Nelson, plunking a broken four string guitar outside of the Zellers store. She did it on a Saturday morning when people were waiting to get in, just before it opened. Blessed are the poor, she’d say, but even more blessed are them that gives, she’d add. Come on folks. And people would throw money, but just the nuisance change that rattled in the bottom of their purses, or their pockets. Every time a coin hit the box, she’d sing louder. Then scoop the change up and tie it in a bag around her waist, sling the guitar over her shoulder, and walk away. Nobody was sure where Fanny lived. It didn’t seem all that important. Fanny could take care of herself, at least she seemed the type.
Fanny wore cherry red lipstick when she performed her music. She’d pull a tube of it from a pocket of the dress she wore and push it across her lips without a mirror. Then she’d smack them together to blot the colour and smile. God loves colour, she’d say, sitting on the ground, her legs covered with long white hockey socks and a pair of black rubber boots, even in the summer. For the most part, people just sort of smiled and walked past Fanny, especially on the days she paced around the parking lot outside of Sobeys, reading out loud from a vinyl covered Bible, gray hair hanging around her face in long braids that never seemed to get washed. On those days, she didn’t wear the lipstick, or play the guitar. On those days, she just read, out loud, to whoever wanted to listen, her voice softer, her smile gentle. Sometimes some street kid would sit beside her, dirty jeans and tattoos all over their body. And sometimes old Jake would show up, just to listen. Can’t read myself, he’d say, leaning back on a car, his eyes closed. On those days, the bag around Fanny’s waist always hung empty. Some kid, or sometimes even old Jake, would walk away smiling, tipping their head in her direction as they left. It’s okay, she’d say. God gave it to me, I’m just passing it on. There’s plenty more where that came from.
Fanny’s only family seemed to be a scruffy white Pekinese dog she called Peeks. On hot summer days, she’d wheel Peeks, up and down the street in a shopping cart with wobbly wheels. She’d walk as fast as she could go, her black boots slapping against the sidewalk, sweat making her own face shiny, just so Peeks would get a breeze. But he’d just lay in the bottom of the cart, panting with the heat anyway. Social Services tried to help once, find her a place to live, and get her some hot meals. I got what I need, she told them. I don’t need anything more. If I had more, I’d be worrying more, and truth is, right now all I got to worry about is whether it’s gonna to rain today.
But Fanny Cranston stopped coming around last summer. She didn’t show up in the Zeller’s store with her guitar and cherry red lips. And nobody saw her or the dog on the street, walking with the grocery cart, wheels rumbling every which way. She wasn’t lying under the spread out newspaper on the park bench either, where she usually slept until the sun woke her up in the early morning. They did finally find her though, in a ditch, just outside of town. She was covered with bits of grass and gravel where she’d rolled down. They didn’t do much of an investigation. Just a little blurb in the paper. “Woman found lying face down in a ditch on Harper’s Road.” That was all really. They figured she died of a heart attack or something, though the bag that was tied around her waist was slit open and empty. The guitar lay a few feet away, and the lipstick tube had leaked a red stain into her raggy cotton dress. Nobody knows what happened to Peeks either..
The spot outside of Zellers has a new person strumming a guitar, his case open for the shiny quarters and dimes to land in. Blessed are the poor Fanny Cranston. Blessed are the poor.
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