26th December

The Madwoman

Everything was too much, yet it was not enough.

They needed to escape from the cold leftovers, the empty bottles and the full bottles, the packaging, the piles of presents, the tree, the decorations. The whole family felt this need. Taking the first opportunity, they drove to the mall for the sales.

At the end of the street the madwoman was in her garden, shouting at the crows. The crows were shouting back at her, or perhaps they had started it. They wheeled above her as she scolded them. She did not appear to notice the car going past.

The madwoman was the family’s little joke. ‘She’s crazy!’ one of the children had said once, seeing her dancing along the gravel path. To them she was an entertainment. They did not know her name or indeed anything about her except that she lived in that house and was not like them.

The mall was packed with people like them. Everybody moved at the same bumping, clumsy pace. Families were laughing and bickering. Sometimes a mother yelled at a child. Some people smiled, others looked cross.

There were no seats free in any of the food-court outlets. They bought burgers and ate them standing.

It was so good to get out of the house.

They returned to the car hours later carrying bags full of many things. They worked out how much money they had saved by not buying those things the week before, and were pleased with the bargains they had got. The week before they had bought other things without making such savings, but that was different. It was a different time, a different experience.

When they turned into their street they saw the madwoman again. She was still in her garden, standing on the grass in the half-light. For all they knew she had been out there the entire time they had been away shopping, shouting at birds or dancing along her path or just standing as she was doing now. She was looking up at something in the sky, but it wasn’t crows. The crows had gone.

The madwoman was the family’s little joke, but nobody mentioned her as they drove past.

Reader: Rebecca Wilkie
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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