Flash Fiction: The Memory Card
©2015 by Ilona Elliott
The old lady crossing the street with her ancient shopping cart full of bags is silent and disheveled. Her feet are flapping around in black athletic shoes meant for someone else. She leans on the cart as much as she pushes it, slowing her progress. Her asymmetrical hair cut did not come from a salon, but from the dull scissors of a young pregnant girl at the mission.
When the bag lady reaches the sidewalk on the corner, she stops and checks her cart full of sacks, a compulsion she cannot help. They’re everything she has. There is one bag in particular that she favors above all the others. She constantly monitors its position in the cart, close to the middle under a good thick layer of cheap white grocery sacks. Only she knows it’s there. She shuffles around in the cart for several minutes until she finds it. As she runs her hands over the heavy black bag with gold lettering she admires the braided rope handles, the fancy script, the quality material. She doesn’t immediately remember why this bag is special, why she guards it so loyally and regards it so lovingly. At the moment she just enjoys its presence in her cart. It feels so luxurious. Maybe one day she will have the presence of mind to open the bag, to stop and examine the tattered envelope inside. Perhaps she’ll open the envelope and slip the card out.
The beauty of the embossed black and white paper, the silk ribbon and red velvet embellishments will surely catch her attention. Certainly she’ll be curious enough to open the card and read the greeting. Happy Mother’s Day. Maybe a miraculous tear will stain the loving wishes and signature of her daughter, the beautiful, schizophrenic child who disappeared on these same streets decades earlier, precipitating her own flight into mania. And she will remember.
Maybe one day, but not today. She rearranges her precious cargo, carefully placing the black bag back into the depression she removed it from. She smooths the pile of sacks over the top of it, and straightens herself briefly before grabbing onto the cart handles and moving down the sidewalk towards the Starbucks on Fifth Street. She was going to look for something there, if only she could remember what it was.