“Got it!” She shouted with glee at the wall this time whilst jumping up.
“The old bat down by the river with all the cats, she’ll give me a roach if I feed her moggies, genius!”
Mary set off in the glow of the orange street lamps, striding purposefully. It was seven and would take an hour to feed the gazillion or however many cats were there tonight.
There was a light shining from the window so she knocked and opened the door . The stench of cat piss hit her as she opened the inner door and the noise of mewing kitties enveloped her.
“ Nancy, it’s Mary from the estate. Will ye be wanting yer cats fed Nance?”
But Nancy wasn’t listening; in fact she hadn’t listened all day, not since dawn when she drew in her last breath. She stared at Mary, and conversely Mary stared back.
Mary momentarily wondered should she call the doctor or the ambulance or something. Something she decided and poked Nancy who was sitting immobile in a green frayed fireside chair. No response. She slapped her across the face as hard as she could. The head moved to one side with momentum caught in that spin, forever, paused.
Something else she thought, scanning the room. Nancy’s hash box was always kept in the centre of the mantelpiece, it was an old tobacco tin that had been covered in sanded down and varnished matchsticks, like parquet flooring. Mary knew all this because her dad had one and she used to stroke the glossy top. He took it with him when he left, not that he was there much, spending more time sent down than out for good behaviour. That was where he made the tin, she had thought to ask Nance who made the tin for her but she’d forgotten. Who cares, she thought as she stuffed the tin down her knickers and went in search of Nancy’s handbag. She knew where that was because Eileen and her used nick the odd bit out of it every now and then.
She emptied the purse out onto Nancy’s lap, making use of the tweed skirt she was wearing that was taut across the thighs making a perfect table for change gathering. In the notes compartment she found a fresh crisp €20 note and grabbed all the silver from her lap leaving the copper in a sagging pile. Stuffing the coins into her jeans and stashing the note inside her bra. She would have chips on the way home.
“Thanks,” she said to Nancy. Still inert. Still dead. She scuttled out of the house leaving the door open as she rushed into the night.