The Lady in the Red Hat

Happy Halloween from and @SweetNan1 on Twitte                                                                                              Happy Halloween


How did I know someone across the street was going to die, you may well ask? Because I saw the Lady in the Red Hat. As soon as I saw her, It all came flashing back to me. My mother had seen her. My grandmother had seen her. My great-grandmother had seen her. And now, this “knowing” had come to me in a burst of energy that almost knocked me off my feet.

Like a vein of gold, psychic energy runs through my family as far back as we can trace. It is more prominent in the female side in an everyday sort of way, but the male side carries it in a different form. I have two brothers, David and Brother Jim. Brother Jim, a minister, is strong in his gift, and uses it to assist the people, sometimes complete strangers, who by some means are drawn to come to him for guidance. His kindness and patience is endless, as is his wisdom. His gift of prophecy is strong, and to me, frightening.  I believe he has a pipeline to heaven.  He knows.  He just knows.

My brother David passed away some years ago. He grew up to be a big, ruggedly handsome man who worked jobs involving hard physical labor, and he liked to drink and fight. About six months after his death, he proceeded to call each member of the family. We all recognized his distinctive raspy voice immediately; there was no mistaking it.

I told one of my longtime Twitter friends about these phone calls. He was amused to no end, and remarked that it must have been one hell of a phone bill.  Well, I guess it was toll-free. At any rate, David is now my spirit guide. He does come through with some good information sometimes, but as he was in life, he is irresponsible, playful, and inconsistent. When I need him, I can’t find him most of the time. Then when I am busy with other matters, he pops up, wanting to talk, tease, and vent his frustration and anger. Some newbie to his plane had made sarcastic remarks, and David was making plans go “kick his ass into the next galaxy!” Oh, yes, that’s my brother, all right.





But back to the lady of death, I think my grandmother saw her more times than any of us. She and my mother have left me a clear picture of what happens when the lady in the red hat visits. Picture a quiet neighborhood street in the 1940’s – a pretty tree-lined street with attractive, well-kept wood and brick houses. Almost all had big front porches with steps leading down to a sidewalk and front yard. A popular trend in those days was a rose garden in the side yard, and these lent both fragrance and beauty.

There were not very many cars in view. If the family had a car, the husband drove it to work every day. The women stayed home to cook and clean. There were no TV antennas sprouting from rooftops, although some families did have primitive black and white sets with rabbit ears to coax scratchy images to appear. I remember when I first saw a television screen. Liberace was performing, and I asked Mother, “Who is that pretty man?” Some households also had a telephone shared with their neighbors via a party line, and although nobody would admit to doing it, listening in on other people’s phone calls was a major source of entertainment, followed by gossip and much hilarity.

I wondered a great deal about the family legacy left me. I can’t say I was obsessed, but certainly intrigued enough to border on it. I know my mother had more to impart to me before the cancer took her so suddenly. But I had quite enough on my hands trying to balance my normal life with my paranormal life. It is like walking on eggshells all the time to keep the two from merging, however slightly. I supported myself by working as a medical assistant during the day. I seemed to be good at it, and have a naturally gentle nature. However, I had to struggle not to show reactions, good or bad, because the minute I touched a patient, I knew much more than I wanted to know.

And at night, I gave psychic readings. I had a select following who were willing to come to my home for a reading, even if they lived in another state, or indeed, another country. They knew if they “outed” me, they would never receive another reading, and all had profited in some way from their readings.


When I saw the lady in the red hat, I was relaxing with a cup of tea at a table next to a front window. What came to mind were the Salvation Army ladies of yore with their neat gray suits, dark stockings and dark low-heeled shoes.

She walked at a moderate, purposeful pace, looking neither left or right. She walked down the sidewalk and when she came to the Misses Jensens’ home, turned without hesitation. She made her way up the walk leading to the front door, climbed three steps to the front porch, and proceeded to knock on the door.

I was mesmerized, and at the sight of the red hat she wore, air seemed to whoosh out of me, my legs grew weak, and my whole being dissolved into a hazy gray mist.

I wakened later, lying in my own bed, with no recall of undressing and going to sleep. Clarity began to trickle back like rain dripping off the eaves. I knew the younger Miss Jensen, Margaret, was dead. She had had an aneurism near her brain stem, and it had suddenly given way.

This was not unusual knowledge for me to have. All my life I have known when a person would die and the reason for the death, but in this instance, it felt different. Very different.

The usual preparations were made for Margaret Jenson. She had some relatives coming from out of state to attend the funeral, so it took slightly longer than usual. Condolences were sent, flowers were ordered and delivered, mountains of paperwork was signed and filed, death certificates requested and paid for. The will left everything to Margaret’s sister, Eileen. They had lived in the home they owned jointly for almost thirty years.

I hated to go to funerals. The psychic sensations of both the living and the dead would envelop me so strongly I could barely function. I had not been to a funeral since my mother died; it was just too painful. But I had known Margaret and Eileen for years and years, and it would have been unthinkable not to attend my neighbor’s funeral.  As you may have noted, funeral attire has changed greatly. No more stark black suits and black hats with thick veils, just simple dark colored clothing was suitable now. I remembered that I had a blue and gray silk dress that was just a little too long for me put away in a spare closet; if my memory served, that would do very well with some medium heeled black slingback shoes that were comfortable.  I would not attempt to walk on grass in high heels again.  I learned my lesson on a rainy day long ago at Forest Lawn

I had an odd feeling as I went to the spare bedroom and looked in the closet. I couldn’t bring myself to look for the blue dress. My eyes were drawn as if by force to the top shelf where a red pillbox hat with a small red veil rested upon a box.


It has taken me years to come to terms that I am the Lady in the Red Hat; the Lady of Death. I never have any memory of my visits to various homes, and I don’t know if I am visible to others during my calls. Now I know why I sometimes wake up in my own bed soaking wet or freezing cold. It was more than simple sleepwalking.

It causes me to wonder if both my mother and my grandmother, and perhaps even farther back than that, served as the Death Lady. I tried to ask David, my spirit guide, about it, but he just laughed at me and said I would find out when I was supposed to find out. But he did tell me that there were many, many people who performed the death notification function, silently, unknown, and so secretly they themselves didn’t know.

I would advise you to go and look in your closet. You may want to fortify yourself with a little cooking sherry first.

Bye for now from Sweet Nan.



Casual Clairvoyance: The Art of People Watching

Do you watch people?

Do you watch people?

Happy to see you!

Welcome from Sweet Nan!



One day I saw a pregnant woman getting out of a car.  She looked happy and pleasant, if a little uncomfortable and awkward.  As I watched, almost feeling her discomfort, a pale blue light appeared around her, and an adorable baby face peered out at me.  “Hello, beautiful boy,” I thought at him.  He gave me an angelic smile before fading out of view.

This was a good bit more than I had bargained for from simple people watching, and I felt kind of stunned as the pregnant lady continued on her way, apparently unaware of anything unusual.

You just never know what you might see when you catch sight of someone (or something) out of the corner of your eye.



Hey, admit it!  You know you like to watch other people.  “Oh, is that orange thing a wig?”  Or, “What on earth is that woman wearing?”  Or, “OMG, she’s falling out of her top and her pants are so tight she might as well be naked!”

All my life, I have loved to watch people.  I love to see what they are doing, what they are wearing, who they are with, how they treat other people. and discover rich insights into what makes them tick.

In the not-too-distant past, people watching was a favorite pastime for many people.  If was interesting and free, and could be done almost anywhere; a mall, a park, or at an airport.   Waiting in a parked car provides a good spot for a little innocent spying on people passing by.



But times have changed, and not for the better.  We’re not in Small Town America anymore.   Everything seemed to go faster.  Little towns became cities full of criminals and thugs.  Crime rose with overpopulation.  More people became suspicious and dangerous.  Street gangs fought and marked what they perceived to belong to them with vulgar markings on public or private buildings.  Sexual predators abounded.

If someone doesn’t like the way you are looking at him, or doesn’t like the fact that you are looking at him at all, he might take out his gun and shoot you.  People watching was no longer a viable form of entertainment.

I am stubborn, and didn’t want to give up people watching.  It was one of my favorite sources of entertainment.  So, I began to watch surreptitiously.  I learned to appear to focus on some object near a person I wanted to watch, but taught myself to actually watch my target out of the corner of my eye.  Most people didn’t notice; I seemed to be looking at a tree or at cars going by.  If my target did seem a little squirmy, I stopped immediately and moved on.  Some people can feel when they are being watched.  Don’t forget that; it’s important!

Watch and Be Watched

Watch and Be Watched



In my new form of people watching, I began to notice tiny flashes of light, sometimes transparent colors, and a sense of something moving as I practiced my little hobby.  I put it down to my imagination or my poor eyesight, and continued my harmless venture.

But the day I saw the pregnant lady and her unborn child made me realize I had found more than I had bargained for  It appeared I had opened a gate that I could not close. I continued to see more about people than I wanted to, even though I did not try.

I saw a toddler with golden curls and a pink dress playing happily, but angels hovered all around her with sad faces, and I knew the child was going to die.

An elderly lady leaned on a walker as she waited for the elevator.  Her aura was beautiful, gray with streaks of pink and gold.  A peaceful feeling emanated from her.  She knew she would die soon, and had come to terms with it, even looking forward to death.  She was sure she would be with her Heavenly Father.

I  was not at ease with this state of affairs, but I could not seem to turn the faucet off.  Against my will, I would occasionally see something, usually not anything terrible, but I felt uncomfortable now when I saw sadness, anger, fear, or even happiness

I was sitting in a crowded medical office one day, occasionally glancing around at various people.  As my glance passed by a rather mild looking middle aged man, a bright orange halo appeared all around him.  I’m sure I gaped in surprise, and then he glared straight at me.  I felt horrible, hateful, murderous thoughts being aimed at me.  This man wanted to kill someone!  And he fully intended to do it!

I admit to being frightened, and could not think of the right thing to do.  You can’t call the police and tell them a man is going to kill someone based on reading his thoughts and his aura.  Then I realized I had become a target; he realized I knew something was going on with him.  I felt it was dangerous to leave; he might follow me.  So I put on my glasses and became extremely interested in the book I was reading, too engrossed to look up.  In actuality, I did not absorb a single word.

Finally, I was called inside for my appointment, and when I came back out, the man was gone.




Sometimes a person will feel he is being watched, and look directly at me.  When this happens, it is wiser just to move on.

So, if you wish to practice casual clairvoyance, just follow my directions, and learn to watch people surreptitiously out of the corner of your eye.  If you practice for a while, you will begin to see colors and auras.  You might want to stop right at that point.

I have not been able to stop the process entirely, although I can control it better now by practicing mind control.  But be careful what you wish for;  you might very well get it!

I would like for you to take everything you read with a grain of salt, including what I tell you.  I would like to help you have a little psychic fun, but don’t give the paranormal world more attention than it deserves.  Pretend it’s a new girlfriend or boyfriend, and keep it firmly in its place!

Bye and thank you from Sweet Nan.

wtf doing cat







The Christmas Apprentice



“Oh, hello Christmas.  Long time no see.”   I crawled out of my lounge chair to give him a hug.  I was not really surprised to see my old friend.  He had never failed in his visits, always bringing a word of comfort and friendly greetings. “I’ll get us a couple of hot buttered rums.  Was looking for an excuse to have one anyway.”



“Oh, delicious idea.  It’s not been so long, though.  Only a year, remember?  I came to see you a week before Christmas last year, but I’m running behind schedule this season.  We have only three days before the big day this year.  How have you been feeling, my dear?


“Oh, all right for my age, I guess.  I was 75 in August, you know.  The arthritis makes it hard to get around as much as I’d like, but the pacemaker is keeping me going.  Do you want to know about my new support hose?  I am disappointed in their quality, considering their price.  I think the only thing they support is the bank account of the department store where I bought them.”

Laughing, Christmas said, “I always look forward to my visits with you.  Instead of asking for things, you always find a way to make me laugh.  But I look in your face and I see that you are tired, my dear.  I know that look because I am tired, too.”



“Seventy-five years of being obnoxious will make anyone tired, you silly old goat!  But how can you be tired?  You are a spirit!  The Spirit of Christmas can’t get tired!”

“Oh, but we can, and I am.  I want very much to retire.”

Long silence.  “I am astonished!  Christmas retires?  What about all the little children?  What about all the people of the world who believe in you?”

psc-kind-woman psc-vic-chile

Christmas laughs again, his jolly voice booming in the small apartment.  “Surely you don’t think I am the only Spirit of Christmas?  There are many!  Can you really think just one person, uh, spirit, can do this enormous job?  The Santa/toys thing is just the tip of the iceberg, and people have made it so commercial, it has lost most of its meaning.  The real job is 365 days a year of providing comfort and cheer, and sometimes relief, to everyone.  That part of the job is still rewarding, but the sadness and pain one sees eventually wears the spirit out.  I have been serving humanity for only 580 years, but I have become…What is the phrase?…Oh, yes…Burned out.  There seems to be a significant amount of rum in this hot buttered.”

“You don’t just appear at Christmas?”

“Not at all, but it is the most difficult time of the year. People get so emotional, especially when I have to take someone away.”

“Take someone away?  As in death?  Don’t tell me you are the Spirit of Death!”  Long pause.  “Are you here tonight to take me away?”

“Now, don’t be upset with your old friend, my dear.  In fact, I have a job opening for you – A very good job with benefits you can’t even imagine.  I need your help.  I am asking you to come with me and be my assistant for a year.  I will show you the ropes, and after a year, you will be the Spirit of Christmas.”

“No.  No.  I don’t want to die.  I’m not ready.  I won’t come with you.”

“Look at your television screen for a minute, dear.  I want to show you where you will be in six months if you don’t come with me now.”  He patted her arm consolingly.

She couldn’t help but look.  Was this some kind of crazy You Tube trick he was pulling on her?  But, no.  There she was, sitting in a wheelchair, alone in a bleak room, eating something from a tray, but spilling most of it down her front.  She could barely see, and her body ached from head to toe.  She felt herself wet her pants.  “Oh, my God!”


“You see?  We need each other.  I have chosen you to be my assistant for a number of reasons.  You have a sense of humor that will see you through the most difficult times.  You are basically kind and compassionate, and have honest, down-to-earth common sense.  You are somewhat irreverent, in the sense that you are not impressed at all by wealth or fame, and you know how to tell difficult people where they can go when they are wasting your time.”

I gazed at my old friend Christmas, partly in wonder, partly in horror, and with a generous portion of curiosity.  “Then, in fact, I would be Death.  I used to watch all those old movies, Death Takes a Holiday, that Twilight Zone one where Robert Redford posed as a policeman.  And the Meet Joe Black movie – it’s almost like this.  And the ghost stories.  All the ghost stories.  Am I dreaming a ghost story right now?”

He shook his head and smiled.  “You’re going to be just fine, you know.  You’re with me. Now go brush your teeth and get into your bed.  You won’t need to take your pain medication or your sleep medication tonight.  I’ve got you.”  He smiled and kissed her lightly on the forehead.

“Can I call my daughter?”

“No, but I’ll be extra gentle with her.  It’s better this way.”

I shuffled away towards the bathroom.  The pain ruling every step was gradually turning into a pleasant floating sensation.

He looked at his hot buttered rum, which had gone cold.  “Merry Christmas,” he whispered.


All is well.  Good night and Merry Christmas from Sweet Nan.








Confessions of a Telephone Psychic

1c2d580c4ac14c3c87fd1ace869722f3I used to sit by my window looking out at the world, with a deck of Tarot Cards on the table beside me.  I was waiting for the phone to ring so I could give a psychic reading.

rocking-chairfortune cartoon

You’ve seen them in the newspapers, and on late night television. Madame Zora, Sees All! Free Psychic Reading with Gifted Maria. Lady Luna will help you with your career goals. Your personal guide will help you keep your lover. Psychic Reading, first five minutes absolutely free!

Have you ever succumbed to curiosity and called one of these all-knowing seers? If you did, I’ll bet (Number 1) You had a heck of a telephone bill, and (Number 2) I’ll bet you enjoyed the reading, and it left you feeling better and looking forward to good things in your future.

eye jeweled


This is exactly how your psychic guide wants you to feel so you will call back again. If your caller does call back, and if they ask for you by name, said psychic reader will receive a whopper of a bonus! I recall receiving a $100 bonus each time a customer called back and asked for me.

I guess they don’t realize that a real psychic would not be doing any kind of telephone work at all.  Wonder why they’re not at Santa Anita betting 100 large on Charlie Horse?


And well deserved, too. This job sounds so easy – just sit at home and take calls according to your own schedule. You can sign in and out as you please. Sometimes you will sit there for hours waiting for a call, and other times, you just get one call after another, until you are exhausted.

crystal blue gold

It’s more of a nervous exhaustion I am speaking of. You know your instructor/boss may be on the line at any time monitoring your work.

I began by calling about part-time work, and was signed up to become a Certified Tarot Card Reader. I attended classes for a couple of weeks, ostensibly to learn how to read Tarot Cards. This sounds like a scam right up front, but I was not asked to pay for classes or anything else. They did require that I buy a deck of Tarot Cards, but I could have purchased them anywhere. They were not trying to get money from the Psychics-in-Training; they knew we didn’t have any money. They were teaching us to make money for them.  I did have to get a dedicated telephone line to be used only for readings.

I graduated from class with a Certified Tarot Card Reader Certificate and a very foggy notion of how the Tarot Cards worked.


The first time I logged in to receive calls, I sat for 5 hours without a call.  Finally, when I decided to try again another day, I received four or five calls, one after another. I was very nervous, but I got most people past the five minutes free time.  I soon figured out that the deck of cards were simply in the way.  I found out that I could just listen and pick up signals from people.  Love, work, or money.  Is he cheating on me?  Am I going to get a good job?  I began to ask small questions:  “Did you hear a funny noise in your car lately?”  Yes or no, I would advise them to have the brakes or blinker fluid or something checked.

Young women liked to hear that they would be married soon to a person they do or do not know at this time, with a description of the gentleman forthcoming.  I would give little flags, “He dresses nicely and likes to wear a lot of red.”   Or, “Pay more attention to smells.  He uses a distinctive cologne, and when you smell it, you will know.”


Some people had health concerns.  You don’t tell anyone that they or anyone they know is going to die.  Never, never.  You try to say something consoling and get off the subject quickly.   “That’s a nice TV set in your living room.  Is it new?”  Or, “Do you knit or sew?  I’m picking up a great sense of detail and patience.”

Sometimes you have to reach pretty far out.  “I see a crack in the sidewalk near you, and somebody is going to trip on it and fall.”  Or, “I feel that you are tired. You might be a little anemic.  Do you take iron or anything?”  People love to be told they are tired or not feeling up to par or that they are working too hard.  They love to be told they take care of everyone else and neglect themselves.  I might throw in a flag like, “You haven’t had any new clothes in a long time!  You need to go shopping for yourself.  Your colors are blue and pale yellow, and you need to wear them to keep your energy up.”

To worried moms whose children are playing sports:  Yes, they will get hurt, but not seriously.  Kids are kids.  They are going to get bumps and bruises, and they may even break an arm.  But that’s all in the process of growing up.  Try to stop worrying and just enjoy your happy and healthy children.

To an elderly lady missing her recently deceased husband:  “He’s always near you, dear.  Didn’t you just feel a little light touch on you shoulder?  He’s there, smiling down at you.  He wants you to be happy.”  She became one of my regular callers.  She always said how much better she felt after talking with me.  Is that bad?  I don’t think so.  She was lonesome and could afford to pay for my company.

Men are more likely to ask about jobs, careers, or money.  I advised one young man that he would have to work at his low-level job in a retail store for some time to come, but to be patient and plan for the future.  I told him I felt he would have his own business with three years, and that he should work towards that goal. He wanted to know what kind of business, so I told him what men like to hear; that he was strong and athletic, and I thought his business would have something to do with his physical strength.  He was overjoyed!  He wanted to own his own martial arts studio, and kept asking me how I knew.

It’s very difficult when you have a caller who is obviously watching the five free minutes tick by, and refuse to give any hints.  I had several things I would do here, give them their lucky numbers and lucky colors, and their lucky day of the week if they are still there.  Sometimes it works.  One caller said, “What about my poker game this Friday?  You said Monday is my lucky day, not Friday.”  I told him that the poker game would likely be called off anyway for some reason, probably bad weather.

I see this is running along at length, so I better close it up.  It’s fun to write about, so if anyone is interested, I might do a Part Two in the near future.  Wear your good colors, now, to keep your energy up, and don’t forget to wash behind your ears.

Bye for now from

Sweet Nan







Valentine in the Mist


Been alone too long.

It’s risky, I know.  But there are some good men on the Internet.  Good men looking for women my age.  Faded a little, but still pretty damn good looking.  Good enough to attract Lucas, a silver fox I can dream about.  Wonderful looking man, good manners, well educated, obviously.  Owns a house in Carmel by the Sea, a yacht named Valentine in the Mist, and runs his own public relations business.

Lucas says he can’t meet nice women because they’re all after his money.  Even as he laughed about that, I wondered how he could be so open and honest with me.

He sends me e-mails and texts and flowers.

  rosespinHe says he has actually known me for a long time, and he has adored me from afar for years and years.  What a romantic!   Nothing at all like my first husband, Walter.  Walter had money, old family money, but that was where the resemblance ended. Walter didn’t want me, he just wanted a baby machine.  He wanted sons to carry on the family name and the family estates and the family businesses.

Walter was old and looked old.  And acted old.  He even smelled old. When we were first married, he explained to me that most of his assets would be shared jointly with me until the first son was produced.  At that time, the assets would be shared between his son or sons and his family,  with a small share going to me upon his death.

I agreed this arrangement was perfectly fair and generous, and he entrusted me to deliver the document to his attorney.  Unfortunately, I was distracted and unable to complete this task.


Everyone knew Walter had a bad heart.  So when he drank too much and had a heart attack and died in the hot tub, it was never questioned.  The only surprise to the family was that he had left everything to me.

I lived well for years.  Traveled.  Never had to work.  Vacation homes.  Maybe enjoyed my cocktail hours a little too much and became a little bit blowsy.  Getting a little low in the finance department now.  Never was much good at investments.

But that’s okay.  Lucas is my new valentine.  He says he adores me and we will be together always.  I have the table set for our Valentine’s day dinner, champagne chilling, candles lit.  Now just waiting for Lucas to ring my doorbell and be one with him forever and forever.

Everything is ready, but I must find the room freshener.  What is that odd, musty smell?

V day 11  Logo Combo

Bye for now from Sweet Nan.  yellow_bird


The Vanishing of She Who Smokes



We’ve known one another for a long time, although we have never actually met in person.  She is my neighbor who lives across the way by the alley. She is a middle aged lady who comes out of the house to smoke cigarettes.  She is neither tall nor short; she is neither fat nor thin.  There is nothing remarkable at all about her appearance.  You could pass her a hundred times in the grocery store and never remember seeing her.

I don’t actually see her most of the time.  In the beginning, I would catch glimpses of her as she came out of the ramshackle rental house right by the alley.  She would come outside about once every couple of hours.  She would walk around a little bit, and then sit down in one of those old plastic lawn chairs with raggedy ribbing.  Her face remained expressionless as she lit up her Marlboro or Winston or whatever it was.  There was no appearance of pleasure, relief, or enjoyment.  She just sat there and smoked, as if that was her life’s work. After she finished her cigarette, she would get up in the same leisurely, yet matter-of-fact manner, and go back into the house.

Her little trips outdoors to a weedy patch that would like to be called a yard rarely varied, although I have seen her pick up a piece of trash and put it in the trash can.  It seems she might linger just a little bit when the day is very nice, but for the most part, the time remains the same.

She looks clean, which surprised me at first because of her residence right next to the dirty alley.  She seems to be always dressed properly for the weather, too.  Another constant about her is that she projects an aura of sadness.

Gradually, I began to sense her presence.  I might be in the back of the house where I could not possibly see her, but I knew when she was there.  I would go the front kitchen window where I could just barely see her out of the far corner of the pane, and there she would be.

I gradually came to believe that she know I was there, too.  Even if I could only see a glimpse of her from my window, I think it would not be possible for her to see me.  She could probably see a little part of my tinted window, but with reflections and glare, no more than that.  Yet, she often looked right directly at me.

As the seasons changed, even as little as they do in Southern California, she seemed to come outside a little less often,  She would be wearing a jacket and a scarf to cope with the wind and the chill it brought along with it.  Still, we were in strong communication.  Wrapped up in warm pajamas and fuzzy slippers, I would rush to the kitchen window as if summoned.  And through the gathering darkness and drizzle, she looked back at me,

Winter had come, and the cold and rain along with it, day or night.  I began to worry about her.  She would still come out in the wind or drizzle or pouring rain, day or night, and sit in that old plastic lawn chair and smoke her cigarette.  She still never appeared to be distressed, but only projected that mild aura of sadnsss.

Naturally, my imagination went wild.  Why did she live in that slum?  She had decent clothing and could afford to smoke.  Most people had to give it up a long time ago as cigarettes became more and more expensive and the health do-gooders were shaming everyone with graphic advertisements on television.  Yet there she was, looking up at me while she drew on her smoke.

I wondered who she lived with.  Did she have a mean husband who made her go out into the rain to smoke?  Had she been taken in by relatives who were less than pleased to have her there?   I had visions of Cinderella scrubbing the hearth, and I swear I felt her laughing at my nonsense.  I am certain she was feeling my puzzlement, as well.

There came a time when she came outside less, and I failed to rush to the window when I knew full well she was there.  It seems that our communication was slipping away somehow.  A void appeared and grew like a crack in the alley.

I realized that I was no longer feeling her presence.  I was feeling an echo of her presence.  I was feeling her absence.  She was gone.

I saw some furniture stacked in the alley this morning.  That’s what happens there when someone moves, gets evicted, or dies.  The property manager takes the best of the stuff left behind and puts the broken lawn chairs and other trash in the alley.

I hope she has moved somewhere and is still alive and having her cigarettes in a better neighborhood and that she is being treated kindly.  But the absence of her presence is strong.  She has vanished.

There is just one last thing that is strange about my communication with the lady.  I asked several neighbors about her, and they said they had never seen her.  I saw the property manager out in the alley where she had lived, and I left my gated community, went across the street and into the alley where I approached him with my questions.

He first said that he had taken nothing from his tenants that did not belong to him, and then he told me that no such person had ever lived there, and further, that I was either mistaken, blind, or crazy.

I confessed to all three.  Vanished, but I can sense her laughter as she smokes.