“Hey Annie? Whadcha buy for me today, a diamond watch?” Maime laughed as she nudged Big Elonzo’s elbow and pointed towards Crazy Annie. Big Elonzo was her man and Maimie had scored large for him that night. He shook her purse and grinned widely showing one shiny gold tooth.
“That’s okay, Annie, Maimie done fine tonight. Fine enough she don’t need no diamond watch from you. Fact is, I’m taking her off the corner for awhile and keeping her for myself, ain’t that right honey?” Elonzo winked, took the money from Maimie’s purse, circled his arm around her waist and guided her towards his place. “You do your shopping for someone else tomorrow, Annie, you hear?”
Maimie stumbled along, then looked back at Annie, tears spilling from glazed unfocused eyes and shouted,
“Annie, you just keep on with your shopping and bring me something nice tomorrow likes you always does.”
Annie heard sniggers from those standing on the corner. Accustomed to ridicule, she lowered her head, pulled the bottle of cheep vodka from her bag and took a swig. As dusk turned to dismal nightfall, Royden Avenue began to take on it’s dark personality. Tonight, like most, drug deals would turn bad, a ten year old boy would be shot by mistake in a drive-by in front of Los Amigo’s grocery. Gangs would slide the street slowly in cars with tinted windows, headlights low, and then take off, tires shrieking around the bend on Berkley Street.
Annie headed through the back door of a burned out building and felt her way through the dark down rotted steps to the basement. Here she had blankets, a flashlight and a refrigerator box which stored her meager belongings. She let herself slump onto an old mattress and sat silent, listening to the sounds of Camden. Latino music blended with Gangster rap. Each drunken brawl, occasional gun shot and heated quarrel pushed Annie’s mind away from reality. She squinted at her bottle of vodka and remembered how she had been served the finest alcohol at exclusive clubs in Philadelphia. The noise of cars rushing over the Ben Franklin Bridge from Jersey lulled her mind into the past.
Anna Whitall Smithson had been given every material item she desired. Anna Whitall Smithson had not been given the love she needed. She came from a Main Line family and attended the best of private schools. Mummy and Daddy booked European trips frequently. During time at home, they kept appointment calendars full. Feeble attempts at love were made by sending Anna on shopping trips with Nanny ... F.A.O. Schwartz for dolls, then later in life to Tiffanys for jewels. The last spree had been the purchase of her own elegant brownstone in Rittenhouse Square. Need of a hug was met by something mink thrown around her shoulders. Shopping days followed lonely nights. Soon the cursing anxiety inside required more. Anna found “more” on the shelves of liquor stores ... and became Annie.
Crazy Annie, a haggardly old lady with nothing left but the brown bags she picked from the trash and filled with “expensive gifts” for friends. She shopped the streets of Camden by day and distributed her diamonds and luxiorious presents by night. Then she drank to ease the anxiety that caused her hands to tremble and shouted obscenities to her soul.
Another swig of vodka brought Annie back. She emptied her bag onto the mattress. The plastic loops from a six-pack would make lovely bracelets. She decided she would keep the blanket given to her from the mission lady. A smashed flower, pressed through the chain fence of Mia Casita Day Care by a smiling child, would become a bouquet of orchids for Maimie. Content with her day’s purchases, Annie unrolled the blanket. It was then she noticed the black Bible that tumbled out of the blanket. Annie opened it and read the note inside.
God bless you . Read the marked scriptures and find peace. Grace Missions.
As she read the first marked scripture in Romans, Annie felt her heart quicken and urge her to the next. Each of the four marked verses brought a hope Annie had never before experienced. She knew then what she had to do. Annie picked up her bottle, smashed it against the wall and searched her belongings for a pencil. With steady, deliberate hand she wrote in the Bible.
December 24, 2007
No more shopping days left
Annie dropped the pencil and bowed her head.
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