So door to door or she went, in neighborhoods flush and parched, asking people for their rags. Clothes too ratty for the Goodwill, too thin for kitchen floor scrubbery.
People were surprised, to be sure, but Lila was earnest to the point of beguiling, and so they searched their closets until they found something, anything, to drop into her little wicker basket.
Upon receiving each gift, Lila clapped gaily and did a little dance on the giver’s front porch.
Naturally the police were called in.
No doubt some neighbor looking to shave points off his confinement sentence. Hell yes, he’d roll over on some rag-seeking waif.
Lila was dispatched to solitary the crime of thrift, but even after many years in the hole she remained committed to civility, good cheer and the other lost arts.
Jaded prison guards were so taken by her gleaming purity and wide-open heart that they tossed tattered underpants into her cell from time to time.
Lila combined cinderblock scrapings with her own mucous to make a rudimentary cement which she used to craft lifelike dolls from the tighty-whities she’d shredded into strips a la papier mache.
One day the guard they all called Meatballs arrived bearing the usual tray of gruel. He peeked through the food-slot in the standard security precaution manner. But what he saw was more than he could bear. One glimpse of Lila and her little dolls dancing and clapping gaily in unison brought back childhood memories so macabre that he hurled the tray into the air and ran shrieking down the hallway.
Lila was charged with voodoo and convicted by a secret court sequestered behind the prison battlements. She danced her way to the gallows and clapped gaily until the Finality Clerk tied her hands behind her back.
Judges in silk brocade opera cloaks gobbled popcorn and cackled with glee as the hangman released the trap door. Lila’s body plummeted from a height so great that the snap of her neck was heard throughout the kingdom.
And no sooner than she was pronounced dead, Lila’s delicate feet — of their own accord it seemed — commenced a feisty jitterbug in mid-air, high above the Finality platform.
In the audience below, greasy tubs of popcorn tumbled to the floor as the judges rose and — not of their own accord it seemed — began to dance, and clap gaily in unison.
© Lisa Martinovic