I remarked to John about her a few days ago when we drove past, marveling the way she commanded attention, turning her ankles out, tapping her toes, waving her arms, blowing kisses at children walking by on the sidewalk, posing thumbs up at the edge of the curb; her performance a transcendence of what would seem an excruciating fate: begowned on a derelict block in the outer Mission in turquoise draperies with her pony-tailed head encircled by a turquoise Styrofoam corona, and a red sash crossing her breast with gold letters, LIBERTY INCOME TAX.

This morning I walked past her on my way to a café for a scone.  It was barely 10 and there weren’t many people out but her bounce was undiminished. She puckered and bobbed and waved as if she were the queen of the galaxy.  I half expected her to blow some kisses through the plate glass of the café window but she went dancing by, perhaps because the place was empty except for me and another customer on his laptop.

Leaving the café I approached her and asked, “How do you stay so cheerful?”

A shadow went over her features, and she looked 10 years older.  She was at least 10 years older than what I would have guessed earlier.

“It’s part of promotion work, smiling,” she said and showed me all her teeth.


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