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A story of a Mad Woman, and a strange circumstance NO LEFT TURN ON GROVE STREET (A story of Madness, and Magic) “I’ve got a LIFE!” It was one of those belligerent ‘Up YOU’ declarations Vera constantly used to harangue the passing public. Locals were seldom bothered by it. The ones who were, had long…
A story of a Mad Woman, and a strange circumstance
NO LEFT TURN ON GROVE STREET
(A story of Madness, and Magic)
“I’ve got a LIFE!” It was one of those belligerent ‘Up YOU’ declarations Vera constantly used to harangue the passing public.
Locals were seldom bothered by it. The ones who were, had long ago learnt to duck into a doorway, or examine the contents of a shop window untl the mad woman had passed. Most though, would simply smile and say “hello Vera”. “I’VE got a LIFE!” She would proclaim.
Still. Queen Street had plenty of strangers to play with, and Vera delighted in THOSE reactions. Perhaps it HAD started as a bit of a neurotic lark all those years ago. Then at some unknown point it had become a habit, and then an obsession. Not that Vera was nearly as old as most people thought. The ratty grey hair, hunched shoulders and trolley pulled on two wheels made a certain impression.
In the absence of pedestrians to harangue, she muttered along harmlessly enough.
“I’m wrong you’re right, left, right, left, right-handed rap knuckles left-headed muddle minded, muddle muddle don’t do that you naughty girl. I’m a lefty never righty don’t do that you naughty cat use your right in spite of left, I’m wrong you’re right goodnight good day I say spit in your eye you say hello I say goodbye…”
And then the muttering would stop while she raised her shoulders, opened her throat and shouted at the unwary pedestrians. “I”VE got a LIFE!”
This she did now into the burnt oil air, at nobody and everyone, and as if in reply the traffic noise swelled into a giant’s snore. Over-revved engines, the hiss and shriek of compression brakes from juddering juggernauts crumping to rest almost too late at the quick-changing lights up at the Grove Street intersection. And the sound of blaring horns, and the shrill of a siren somewhere too far along the vast length of Queen street to bother being curious about.
And now softly Vera said, with a deep exhaled sigh.
“I’ve got a LIFE! I have! I have!”
Today she decided… as she did every day that she would break as many trivial rules as she could. She would show this RIGHT HANDED, RIGHT MINDED, RIGHT THINKING do everything RIGHT world that LEFT mattered too.
Vera had begun to obsess before daybreak. Today she had woken from dreams again. In which the Penguins in their prim stern way had tortured conformity into the girls hunched earnestly over excercise books. In the dreams left-handed Vera clung tenaciously to her minority. Flinching eternally.
LEFT was to be todays obsession.
At Grove Street she became angry. They had fixed up the intersection, and there it stood, like a halting hand raised by some ruthless authority. NO LEFT TURN AT GROVE STREET.
“No left turn!!” The warning incensed her, lit her up, cranked up the obsession just one more notch.
Vera had never intended to turn left. Had the obsession not been in absolute control she would have continued her daily muttery shuffle along Queen Street for another two miles or so, and parked her stick-thin overclothed body outside Queen Street Railway Station. She would have sat with her back to the cold tiled wall in the station entrance, with her legs straight out, forcing harassed commuters to step over them. Occasionally forcing an apology out of a deliberate trip-up that seemed purely accidental. It was the way she would shift slightly, wrong-footing some tired commuter, and then she would utter a curse, drawing up her ankle and rubbing it. Guilt settling on the culprit, most would proffer a few coins to the ‘old lady’.
Vera would snatch the cash and look accusingly. “I’VE got a LIFE!” she would shout.
“No left turn… you better learn” she muttered adding to the rhyming litany of nonsense thoughts now pouring from the unstoppered faucet of thought that forever tormented her poor brain.
“I SHALL turn left!” She resolved. Then she said it aloud to all and sundry. “I SHALL turn LEFT!”
Vera decided that she would turn left, and then left again, and then left again. She would turn left at every opportunity to turn left. Today would be LEFT day. That would show them.
Queen Street, as everyone knows has no modern city bypass, and for five miles traffic either banks up like slow moving sludge through a sewer pipe, or snarled in a series of stop-start jolts from one red light to another. Queen Street always has some kind of roadwork trying to solve the problem. Now there was NO LEFT TURN AT GROVE STREET, and further down the road, a roundabout that allowed a left at Ceder. Cedar had a roundabout to Bentwood, Blackbutt, and Rosebush. Rosebush had a roundabout to Grove, while Bentwood and Blackbutt angled off into various parts of the city.
It helped with the traffic snarl somewhat.
Grove Street residents had been angling for this for a long time. Now that it was one way the residents of Grove Street would not have to deal so much with the honking, screeching city, with its acrid taste in the air. They would be able to play their radios and tv’s at normal volume. And rents might rise too!
Queen Streets eternal road-works never REALLY worked for long. With every minor improvement to speed up the throughput of traffic, more vehicles appeared to take up the short lived advantage. Just beyond Grove Street, road crews were, as always jackhammering at the patched and lumpy asphalt.
Vera Hanover Dunn died crossing the road to turn left at Grove Street, at the bottle-neck of witches hats laid out by the road crews working just beyond.
At the too-quickly changing lights Albert Robinson, for the first time in his 27 years chose to wander from the straight and narrow path of rules and conformity to get home to his nice new little apartment on Grove Street. He never heard Vera’s last words, or saw the gaggle of curious and shocked spectators who leaned over, looking down at her fatally injured head. He never saw this, because he died instantly and brutally headbutting the windscreen despite a properly closed seat belt, which, remarkably for a brand new car, was faulty.
Vera saw faces all in a circle looking down. She saw them through a dreamlike film, their mouths moving, but she could hear nothing. Vera felt no pain, just a curious darkening, as if someone was closing shutters one after another. Shutters being pulled down gently to block out the screaming sunshine that was too bright.
Vera saw her hand reach up and touch the cheek of a young nun. Not a torturing penguin. “Oh Lord! An Angel! So Beautiful!”
The girl covered Vera’s hand with her own cool palm, against her cheek, and leant forward, knowing that Vera wished it, until the not so old woman’s warm breath sighed against her face.
“OH!” She whispered. “I’ve got a LIFE! I have! I really have got a LIFE.”
Vera could not hear the young nuns prayers, but she knew. She KNEW that all her lefts had become right. That all her trivial rebellions had led her here to this here and now, where LIFE became eternal, and unquestioning, and painless. And RIGHT.
LETHAL INTERSECTION CLAIMS TWO MORE VICTIMS:
Barry placed the half-folded local paper beside his breakfast plate, reading aloud to Lauren, who shared the cheap two bedroom apartment with him on Grove Street.
“It says there’s been sixteen victims in six years.” He said. “You’d think people would learn from it wouldn’t you Lor?”
Lauren smiled her secret smile, and crumbled an assortment of herbs together into a little porcelain bowl. With her index finger she dibbed into the litle mound, and placed a long black scented candle into the indentation before lighting it.Quickly she scraped a mixture of white ash, and black candle wax into a plastic bag and flipped it into the bin-tidy. “The sign might help.” She said casually. ” But people will just have to learn that no one has ever turned left at Grove Street.”