(Written 11/22/17 --Kate)

Veronica Boston emerged from a scorched pocket of autumn, near Highway 77.

Progress on the rocky shoulder was slow for a dame who used to lead a refractory pack. Substructure had shifted, ornaments peeled back on her life.  A cancer and double mastectomy survivor, with cataracts, and the paper chain of osteoporosis, Veronica had no circles, no firm spots left on her body, and little chance of adventure.  She got up several times a night to pee, sometimes just for the fun of it, and  because, though most everything that came from genes, from chromosomes was mush, oddball bent remained.

Today was Veronica's birthday.   She was eighty-nine.

Veronica stood at the edge of the road, her thumb up.

A battered jeep approached, stopped.  A girl with purple hair, a bar through her eyebrow, a stud in her nose, and a "Ride the Wind" tattoo on her forearm asked, "Whatsup, Sister?"

"Could use a ride to town.  Looking for a job.  I heard Wal-Mart is hiring."

"Bitchin," the purple-haired girl said with a smile.  "Hop in, Girlfriend."

And away they went in a cloud of exhaust and a swell of Rap music, both of them laughing, toward town where, of course, there were always the judgmental, the obliging, who would wave, roll eyes and laugh back.