I remember the first time that I saw Miss Golloway. She wandered into our yard, like she would randomly wander into any yard that happened to be on her way. Usually people looked away or else tried to humour her when they thought they knew what she was saying – because, generally, this was harmless. She would just be standing there, for a few minutes, say something, then turn back and wander outside like her business was done here and where next.
Danny once told me that she had been in his yard five or six times, which may or may not be true. What I know for sure is that I saw her in the vicinity of our house just once, and it resulted in the meteorite incident.
My mother was sitting on the porch making apple juice (the machine was so loud that the cats had been driven up the tree) and my grandfather was on the bench talking politics in a way that was a bit too intense considering the noise and the fact that no one was really paying attention. I was juggling the football in the yard, trying to beat Danny's record of fifty-seven (I would have presumed he was lying, but I had actually witnessed it).
I did not see her at first. I must have gotten close to fifty when I heard it all stop: the squeezer and the lecture on liberal values. And I, too, stopped juggling the ball and turned my body to the gate. The tall lady I had only seen two or three times before, was standing a few metres away from me and looking straight into my eyes. Then she started saying something, and I was so confused and so frightened that I could only look at my mother for a vague sense of comfort and protection.
Later, my mother would tell me that I could not have possibly understood what she was saying and my grandfather said I was a fool – but once the gate clicked closed, I could only juggle the football three times at best, after a dozen attempts, as my feet seemed bloodless and leaden. 'Creature of doom', she had said, with saliva dripping down her chin. 'This boy will see the creature of doom'.
Danny was the only one who seemed to believe me, and told me he suspected she was completely sane and could be very distinct if she wanted, but even he laughed at me when a week or two later I was running across the football field in the centre of our village screaming 'METEORITE!' at the top of my lungs. Sam laughed the loudest, and said it was his dad's fireworks that I had seen. A small ball of light descending from the sky. And my eyes were still full of tears, because I was hurt by the laughter and because my heart still refused to believe.
'METEORITE!' was the heavy beating of my temples, and later that evening, when my sister came home with the tragic news about Connie, I could still hear that scream. Nothing was said over breakfast the next morning, because of Connie, but I felt like I'd slept well for the first time in a week, and this made me feel a little ashamed of myself. In fact, I believe I asked my parents if I could be excused.