Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Survivor lost

     Auntie Gertrude died last week. She left one hundred, maybe two hundred cats behind. No one is sure because most of them are wild. Everyday Auntie Gertie drove around Kalaupapa dumping cat food out of her old truck to feed hoards of feral cats. She had the food flown in at an exorbitant price and she made her rounds in spite of having lost a foot and all the fingers on one hand to Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy). But that isn’t what made her driving unusual, she was also legally blind. The streets of Kalaupapa are paved, grass grows up to the edge of the pavement and there are no curbs or traffic lights. It’s a quiet town with few cars, actually the perfect place for brail driving. Auntie Gertie felt when she was off the pavement as she made her way around with her truck full of cat food.  
     The residents of Kalaupapa are either survivors of Hansen’s disease or staff provided by the State to care for them. No one under sixteen is allowed. The peninsula is surrounded by ocean and sealed off from the rest of Molokai by vertical cliffs. The lung burning switchbacks up the cliff face make mules pant. Auntie Gertie only hit one person, as far as anyone knows. It was his fault though, since, duh, everyone knew to get out of her way. There's probably a plan for the cats, but I don’t know what it is. Her beach house sits on a small rise on the way from the airport into town, with a graveyard on the back lawn. I painted it a few years ago and sent a print to Auntie Gertie. I knew she wouldn’t be able to see it, but I figured if she could still drive maybe she could imagine what it looked like. 

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