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She took to walking about the town. Sometimes she seemed to speak with the people she met, but those with whom she spoke could not later recall what she had said, having only a sense of her musical, somewhat fragile voice. There were also many with whom she had not spoken, and among those people, opinions about her varied. She would pass silently, and smile, awkwardly or placidly, and those she passed thought her foreign, perhaps, or simple minded. She would wander through the narrow lanes, brushing her fingers along the pickets, absorbed in the texture of the wooden slats, and those who watched her thought her touched, or terribly sad. After a short time, certain women came to feel that a place must be found for her, that the hotel presented too much uncertainty. “We don’t know what she has come for. She has not spoken.” “But what will she do? The peaches are put up and the apples are not yet ready to pick.” “We don’t know. She has not spoken.” “But what will she do?” (Lucy Harper, regarding her own apple tree, considered the woman and knew, as all the women knew, exactly what would bring a woman through fire to such a town, but there was nothing to be done.) *** She didn’t complain, or seem uncomfortable, but the hotel keeper was unnerved to have her step so silently through the lobby and along the wooden walks. So he asked the ladies of the town if they might have a pair to spare. “No, her feet are too long and narrow.” “No, her feet are surely too wide.” “Her feet and mine are not the same size.” “They are sure to be too small.” “Too large.” “The heel is unsuitable.” “The toes too pointed.” “Too high.” “Too thin at the sole.” “Nothing sturdy enough.” “Nothing so dainty as she would care for.” In the end, he worked up a phrase to say to her, at the right time, to his great regret—No, dear woman, there are no shoes in this whole town to fit you—but the proper occasion never presented itself, and eventually the project was forgotten. *** One evening, John Harper walked back through the pumpkin field, wondering if it should be planted in pumpkins again in the spring, or be allowed to Kenny Gordon

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Permafrost Magazine Summer Issue, 36.2  
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