The Path Home
by Sheree McDonald
(Montrose, Co, USA)
Careen didn’t know it, but she had an audience. A young woman sat on a bench not ten feet away from where the old woman stood talking to herself. She had never seen anyone carry on with their self to such an extent and in public for that matter. The young woman had not realized she had been staring until Careen spoke to her.
“It sho is a fine day ain’t it? I sho is glad the good Lawd gave me some good walkin’ weather. I’s had to come get some medicine for my grandson. Now’s I going to get him a windmill so’s he can have something to smile over.” Careen spoke to the young woman just as she did everyone, as though they had known each other their entire lives.
The young woman, startled by the old woman’s openness, hesitated in responding. Finally, “ Yes, it is very nice weather, ma’am.”
“Ma’am?” Careen asked. “Lawd that be the first time a white woman say that to me. Where you from child?”
“Connecticut.” The young woman stated.
“I ain’t been much of anywhere come to think of it. Just this here town, those there fields and my own house. Careen said with a hint of disappointment. “I’s wonder if all folks from Connecticut is as nice as you be.”
“Only the ones worth talking to.” The young girl said.
With that, Careen's smile spread across her face exposing a set of startling white teeth. The old woman's smile provided a contrast between the whites of her teeth and the rich dark tone of her skin. The crevices of the wrinkles that formed around her eyes became more visible as she smiled.
“Say, I wonder, ifa you be willin' to give a old lady a lift home. My feet sho be hurtin’ from such a long journey.”
The young woman not sure what to say, after all she hardly knew this woman, asked simply “How do you know I have a car?”
Careen laughed, “Well you been holdin them set of a keys real tight like you’s afraid Ima gonna rob you o’ yo’ clothes and all.”
The young woman’s cheeks turned a deep crimson. She let her eyes fall and her head drop like a child that had just been caught doing something wrong. She nodded in agreement.
“So it’s a deal,” Careen said as she stuck out her hand and shook the young woman's hand strongly.
“I’s gots to go to the toy store but I’s only be a flash. With that, Careen turned and walked toward The Treasure Chest about a block away.
The young woman was completely baffled at how not fifteen minutes earlier she had been a stranger, now she was taking her home. Careen returned with a windmill in her hands. The plastic blades were a vibrant blue and had speckles of glitter. As the wind blew the windmill looked like a star shining in the sky.
“My grandson sho gonna like this ain’t he?” Careen asked.
The young woman nodded.
“You knows something? I ain’t even knowed yo’ name miss.” Careen said.
“Gloria,” the young woman stated.
“Well, Gloria, what brings you to my neck o’ the woods. I never be seeing you here before.
“I grew up here," Gloria said. “If you’ll just tell me where you live we can be on our way.”
“I lives about thirty minutes away walkin on foot, goin that way,” Careen pointed to the west side of town.
As Gloria drove she noticed a path that seemed to follow the road. She wondered if it was the same path that Careen had went down. She didn’t have to wonder for long.
“That there be my path, Gloria girl.” Careen said.
“Sure is worn down isn’t it ma’am?” Gloria said.
Careen laughed, “Yes, that it sho be. Reminds me of life. Life can take you anywhere you wants to go, but the path home is always the one you most travel.”
Gloria thought about that for a moment. She agreed with her more than she could say.
“Stop, turn left." Careen said.
With that, they were off the main road and were going up a long drive-way. Just at the end of the drive way there was a small cabin. It was a quaint home, but Gloria could tell that it was well cared for.
“Well Gloria girl, I thanks you so much for what’s you done for me today. People who meets me likes to call me Careen but friends likes to call me Sister. I be expectin' that be what you call me from here on out.”
Gloria smiled, “You’re welcome Sister.”
Careen replied, “You's best come visit me the next time you be passing through.”
“I will,” Gloria said. She knew she meant it. There was something about Careen. Something that made her feel like her path home wasn’t as worn as it should be.