The writer wandering through crowds is suddenly happy for he sees a lumpy profile of stainless steel and girls in black aprons and knows that he has found a secret chamber of invisibility. He orders a drink, takes a seat and opens his notebook. Coffee and writing is sweetest when taken alone in a place like this where there is a busy pedestrian thoroughfare, and better still, a strange town where he will not be interrupted.

As the jumping, morphing text appears on the page, he is picturing a young mother who has run out of patience with her employer, her husband and her god and is about to light a fire that could burn her world to the ground. Some of the ‘significant others’ in her circle have noticed and are trying to stop her. Meanwhile she talks to herself, speaks to sea gulls, talks to the ocean and even to god, hoping to somehow sort out the mess in her head.

While all this is going on, and in between sips of delicious coffee, an old woman walks to the coffee shop and sits at the table next to the writer. Her hair is grey and thinning, her face is hanging with lank layers of wrinkles and her body half hidden under a rumpled pile of flower-patterned frock. He smiles at her. She introduces herself as Maggie and asks what he is doing.

He feels trapped and then laughs inwardly as he recognises a familiar situation: writer hides, writer writes, fellow homo sapiens feels the surprising warmth of un-self-consciousness in a swarming mall and gravitates to the homey contentment of the man’s forgotten selfhood, which has conquered the ‘sexed-up grocery shop called a mall’ without even trying.

Before he has time to go back to his woman in the story, this woman is already talking again, telling him of a womanising father who ignored her mum and how as a little girl she was always being overlooked by men who wanted her beautiful sister and of an atrocity committed by a priest against dozens in her city, some of whom she knew personally. The writer wonders at her ability to tell and tell and tell all.

In a desperate attempt to to make this a conversation and not just a monologue, he interrupts and talks over the top of her, but to no avail. Then he tries a piece of verbal gymnastics.

He asks, ‘Excuse me could I ask you a question?’


‘Do you have a faith?’



‘The priests, you know like the one I was telling you about.’

‘Could I ask you another question?’


‘Picture this: someone is walking along a road and getting thirsty and they come to a town and go to the only tap in town for a drink but the tap is filthy so they leave it in disgust and keep walking even though they know the river is just down the hill. Why would they do that?’

The man thinks that his ‘brilliant’ point is obvious but she doesn’t seem to notice. Instead she keeps talking. So he interrupts her again.

‘Surely,’ he says, ‘from what you’re telling me you sound like a believer who doesn’t need a priest or a church.’

She stops and looks at him: ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘I talk to Him sometimes.’

‘I knew it,’ he says.

‘I really love the Lord’s Prayer you know,’ she says and smiles for the first time.

‘Could I show you something?’ he says.

‘What is it dear?’

‘This,’ he says as he takes out a bracelet of gold, grey and red; white, rainbow and blue; green, red and purple beads and begins to tell her a story about god’s love.

At that exact moment, a curtain seems to part in Maggie’s soul and it’s as if a little girl comes walking out after years in hiding. Now, Maggie, the delighted girl, listens in silence and is overflowing with gratitude when he offers her the bracelet and shares a prayer with her.

‘I hope my friend doesn’t see this or she’ll take it,’ she says.

Several days later the writer is still thinking about the fact that the story he is writing revolves around a woman, her family, her god and a wicked priest. He hopes that at the end of her life she will have as much shy love, faith and hope as Maggie does.