IF SHE HURRIES she may still eat today. She shuffles down the empty street, a small Vietnamese woman dressed in a floral polyester dress and a man’s grey cardigan with a long ladder up one arm where the wool has unravelled, held closed by a piece of rope at the waist. On her legs a sagging pair of football socks hand-knitted in bright red and white stripes, on her feet a pair of men’s black lace-up shoes without laces. A burn scar, brown and wrinkled and tight, runs on the left side of her face from her lip to her ear and down her neck, pulling the skin downwards so that little white puffs of moisture punctuate each of her breaths as air escapes the permanent gap that exposes broken and rotting teeth. She clings to two white supermarket bags that bulge with her treasures, and as she shuffles she mutters: “I’m not here. I’m not here. I’m not here.”
She hurries, crossing Queen Street diagonally, anxious to get to the market. She’s late. The sky is just beginning to lighten and she knows the market-gardeners’ trucks have started to arrive, their drivers loud and boisterous, cheerfully unloading their crates of produce in readiness for the day ahead. As she crosses the car park, the lights of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market come on. She’s too late. For a moment, she stands still in the dark, watching. She hears a truck coming up behind her and turns, blinded by its headlights. The truck swerves and she hears the driver’s curse but doesn’t understand his words. She watches it enter the market. There is still a chance.
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