Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The Staring Lady
Ettie was distinguished by her three toes and by being forgettable. As an infant she developed a bit slower than usual though she took a deep delight in the simple experiences she learned. She laughed aloud when she began walking and giggled at the sunlight that moved across her living room floor but no other sounds, words or otherwise, came from her lips. Unlike most babies, Ettie would stare for hours at still scenery or become engrossed by plants, snails, and the color of the sky. Her parents were loving though completely puzzled by her tendencies.
When Ettie grew to childhood she became completely silent and began to fixate on mundane objects. Rather than a few minutes of watching shadows shift and cocoons open she would spend hours watching spiders spin, house construction, or ivy crawl up a wall. Her special education teachers labeled her severely retarded and transferred her to the severe disabilities room. Her parents managed to keep her fed, bathed, and dressed but they felt a keen disconnect from their daughter. By the time Ettie was old enough for high school, she rarely smiled, never spoke, and hardly looked at anyone but her family.
Soon Ettie's observations replaced all vestiges of personal interaction. She would stand watching the snow on the mountains for weeks of waking hours or stare at the same compost pile each day for a month . She moved only to take care of her personal needs, she never responded to people, and was generally ignored by everyone.
One day, during rush hour, Ettie surprised several downtown passer-bys when she lifted her arm to point to the highway overpass that she had been watching for most of the last year and a half. Some smiled at the odd change in her but most just glanced at the overpass and hurried on their way.
(Ettie watched as tiny, almost unnoticeable cracks leaped and spread across the concrete overpass. Like the flash of a sapling sprouting or the dance of a grassy field shooting up in the spring Ettie reveled in the designs that were animating before her eyes. Then she remembered the blurry shapes around her. She had long since ceased to pay attention to them but she knew that this particular pattern could harm them. She lifted her arm at the last moment in hopes that they would notice the cracks...)
Ettie's arm remained raised for several days before the overpass collapsed in the worst disaster in the city's history. After a somber period of mourning some people began to blame the strange lady believing she had cursed the bridge. Others figured she had tried to warn them and took a short-lived interest in her. Most scurried back to their every day lives and, once again, stopped noticing the odd, three-toed lady.