Suitcase Suzy

Suitcase Suzy was an older woman who played the fiddle for people whenever there was free beer involved.

She had been hounding me for weeks to come by and play music with her. I finally gave in.

She lived with her mother in a house infested with flies and overrun by cats terrorized by puppies.

Everything they ever owned was on the front lawn because, as Suzy said, you never know when the weather will be right for a garage sale, but the weather never changed and it never rained.

At the house, swatting flies and playing the songs of paradise, Suitcase Suzy’s mother asked if I would take a puppy or find a home for one or all before animal control spayed them.

It’s better they should die than be spayed, she said. It’s horrible what they do.

I agreed and killed a mosquito gnawing at my elbow.

The mother said she was computerized and I thought the old woman had a hearing aid or a ticker in her chest. She was mostly blind but had a better sense of space than most.

I had seen her around town pushing a cart, with colored packaging material from presents that would never be poking up around a second-hand sunhat. The tin foil of the day. The old lady had style even if it was never in style.

When I tried to shake her hand, she pulled it away and said she was afraid to let people touch her, repeating she was computerized.

You think about that, she said. All right, I said, and I did, with one eye always on the old lady.

Suitcase Suzy started to complain about her mother’s government conspiracies, questioning who was really in charge. But she didn’t bother me. I’ve seen my share of people who no longer trusted the government. She was nothing new.

Suitcase Suzy lured me out of the house before the mother computerized me. Come back, I heard the old woman call, and I didn’t know if she meant then or later.

Outside Suzy apologized and I waved her off with a hand to let her know there was nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes I wonder if my hard drive has any bugs.

It wasn’t until later I found out the old woman and her husband had been university professors in the fifties. Blacklisted by McCarthy, careers ruined, every street light became a camera, every move watched. Then her husband died.

That’s when she went underground and out of mind, became programmable.

Receive, store, transmit.

So much for the land of the free.