Fake Ocelot

by L.A. Craig

Olwyn collects eggshells, three Maltesers, a wishbone from a chicken carcass that the bin men have left. Her stash goes in the shoulder bag she always carries with her name, or maybe not, embroidered on the side pocket. Urban myth says she used to dance flamenco in nightclubs, that she’s related to Egyptian royalty. People whisper mental health. Her skin is leathered, her hair dark, in one long plait down her back, she wears red Converse All Stars with a pencil skirt. Her coat is fake ocelot, doesn’t fit. Olwyn talks to no one but herself.

They say the litter is a distraction, that it helps her forget her dead son. The son who burned in his cot when she left him to go dancing, was murdered by relatives ashamed of his disfigurement, the son Olwyn smothered with trash. All the faces that think they know her story. No more friends in return.

Mothers yank their children in a wide berth around her. Teenagers shout you missed a bit! Olwyn keeps her head down, picks up a Coke can from the gutter, a condom, the remains of a kebab.

Olwyn blows grass cuttings from a baby’s sock and looks up to see a woman ahead with a pushchair, she sprints, plait lashing, to catch up. The mother tells Olwyn to keep her filthy hands off when she tries to lift the blanket to inspect the child’s feet. Olwyn shrinks to the ground, begins to un-stick chewing gum from the pavement.

Some say that Olwyn picks through her treasure, keeps the better bits. Perhaps she takes it elsewhere, scatters it on the ground and starts again.

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L.A. Craig writes in England, on the shore of the cold North Sea. She is tall for her age.
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