Genie Jacobs


“Clara Bow! Clara Bow! Stubbed her toe in Mexico!” I chanted with my playmates. 


We were standing in line, a safe distance from her mysterious house at the end of our street. The song grew louder and louder as we bravely inched closer. Suddenly the green door flew open and out she came, shouting at us as she swung her broom around. Screaming, we ran in all directions. I hid behind a porch hoping she wouldn’t find me and drag me into her house, but she didn’t see me.


Clara was an old lady with a big hump on her back and a bent-over walk She had frizzy hair dyed a bright red-orange, and it looked like she used white flour to powder her face. Her cheeks were heavily rouged, her lips painted much too big with bright red, greasy lipstick. Her purple ankle socks, coming out of the black-laced shoes, almost reached the hem of the rather short pink dress she was wearing. In anger she continued to yell and swear at us as she mumbled to herself and disappeared into her house.


At a safe distance, we gathered and sat close together on the curb in front of Alex's grocery store. We let our imaginations run wild as we talked about our frightening experience. “She lives alone in that big house with 10 or maybe even 20 cats!”


“I heard that she used to be in the movies a long, long time ago.” 


“My Mom said she has a rich son who is a lawyer, or someth’n.  But he never comes to see her!” 


“I bet she has dead bodies in coffins in her cellar.”


Each kid offered a bit of something scary about Clara. I wondered what this old lady did all day in there by herself. Deep down I felt sorry for her. Poor old lady. It wasn’t right to tease and make fun of her. Someday, I thought to myself, I am going to knock on her door and politely say that I have come to visit. I would even bring her an almond  Hershey bar.


Now that I am an old lady living alone, I think about Clara often. I am sorry that I didn’t knock on her door and tell her I’d like to be her friend. I wonder if Clara would have liked that?