The Old Woman in the Pond

There was, for a time, an old woman who lived at the bottom of the pond. She was terribly obese and covered with boils. Equipped, somehow, to breathe underwater, she would wade in the shallows, collecting loose bits of scum that she took back to her hidden lair. Her skin was ulcerous and pocked all over with carbuncles, as I’ve said, and she had no shame, for she covered nothing of herself. She wallowed daily, naked as the day she was born, if born she was, though who could imagine from what kind of mother she might be from? A cursed and wretched creature, was all my father would tell me. Stay away, he said. And never address her by name. But my mother would pray for her. Rosary upon rosary. A thousand wooden beads. To the virgin mother of Jesus she would whisper her name. Daisy. Daisy it was. Like the flower from a little girl’s hair; or those delicate meadow-born chains. Who she was or how she came to be that way were the questions that haunted me long after she was gone. Many years. So long that I too grew old and bent and took to collecting things that others would not understand. Of course the farm went to ruin, but I stayed on. Digging holes. Searching for something, buried long ago that intuition told me must be there. When I did find it, when the spade hit the top of the little tin box, and made a snare-like rattle of a drum, I only smiled, and I spit onto my fingers a great wet gob so as to wipe off the mud. And there was the word like I saw it in my dreams, scratched in the lid with the point of jack-knife in the time of War Between the States. Daisy, it said, in the hand of child. I sat there on the edge of the hole and studied that box for the better part of an hour before I made my decision. I would never look to see what might be inside.

o O o

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