old gypsy lady with gleaming white teeth, strained black hair parting over pale-skinned scalp and glasses–funny-looking glasses on a gypsy old lady–flashes the cards from hand to hand, fingers crooked and quick as queens, deuces and one-eyed jacks slip by. Canasta. Do you want to play canasta she asks and begins to lay the cards down one by one, hands trembling, skin loose and wrinkled with age and weak blue veins, green ring glowing in its gold setting. Yes, let’s play canasta. her hands continue to lay out the double-decked game. What do I do? she lays down the last card before answering. Watch me. We try it once together. she picks up her hand and looks down at it, head drawn back to let her eyes see through the bottoms of thick ugly lenses, lips moving as they silently read the faces of her cards, hand shaking very lightly as she moves a card from here to there, another from there to here, and back again. satisfied, she looks at me over top of her glasses, little old gypsy lady all business now. Let me see what you have. draws her head back again, points a crooked finger here and there and shows how to set my hand. Now pick up a card.
She is far-sighted & false-toothed. It makes her smile funny & she can read a newspaper from across the room. Her hair keeps falling out & she collects it in a bun. She has a hairy mole on her right cheek. Her skin is wrinkly & her clothes smell old & perfumy. Once she almost choked on a cracker while we were talking. Her scarf has all the kings & queens of England on it. She sings. Sometimes she gets cranky. She loves me.
@ L.A. Wolanskyj