Via Dolorosa by Karen Jones

Children laugh, shout, “Haw, Fur Coat! That you away to the opera, aye?”  They congratulate themselves on this fine joke, like it’s the first time it’s been made in the fifty years since Dolores wore her lover’s gift.

Dolores sighs, reaches to an imagined itch at the matted yellow streak down her back where her neighbour’s PETA-obsessed daughter pelted her with eggs. The eggs didn’t hurt. Remembering the girl as a child who ran to her for bear hugs – that hurts.

Dolores hirples around the village, scattering luck from the penny-sized holes cut in the pockets of her fur coat, stopping at the Gospel Hall to read the sign: THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH. How many times has she seen that one? Yet here she is, still living.

“Warm today, eh, Dolores?” The young priest tending the gardens at the Gospel Hall is the only one who calls her by her name. Villagers ignore her, their forgiveness not as forthcoming as his. Youngsters know her only as Fur Coat. She nods to him, sweat running from her matted, liquorice stick hair.

The priest’s housekeeper talks as though Dolores is not there – or not all there. “That coat could walk away itself.  How can she stand it in this heat?”

Dolores drops another penny. A girl’s voice calls to her, “Fur Coat!” She turns to see PETA-girl proffering a coin. “Dropped this.”

Dolores smiles her empty-mouthed smile. “Find a penny, pick it up, pass it on to have good luck. Mind now, lassie; pass it on.”

The girl glares at the coat, sniffs, turns her back, puts the penny in her pocket.

Dolores hears the penny mingle, jingle with other change. She shudders. She knows the cost of keeping things to yourself. But some knowledge can’t be passed on.

Karen Jones is a prose writer from Glasgow with a preference for flash and short fiction. She has been successful in writing competitions including Mslexia, Flash 500, Words With Jam, New Writer, Writers’ Forum, Writers’ Bureau and Ad Hoc Fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and ezines, most recently in Nottingham Review, Lost Balloon, and Reflex Fiction. Her stories appear in anthologies including Bath Short Story Award, To Hull and Back, and Bath Flash Fiction Volume 2. She recently judged The Federation of Writers (Scotland) Flash Fiction Competition and was a reader for TSS Publishing.

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