When I was a junior in college, I took an expository writing course taught by a graduate student named Trey Greer. On the first day of class, he assigned a five hundred-word essay: describe something, anything. At the time, I was convinced that I was a real writer, an undiscovered Eudora Welty or William Faulkner. Understand, I had absolutely no interest in writing. I wanted to be a Writer; and so I put off the work of the essay until the last possible moment. The night before it was due, I went grocery shopping. And sitting outside the Winn-Dixie , perched on top of a hundred-pound bag of Purina dog chow, was a woman with a tambourine.

"Girl," she said, when I walked past her, "give me some of that change."

I stopped and stared at her.

"That's all right," she said, "go on and look at Bernice. She don't care." She beat the tambourine softly against her thigh and started to sing a song about the moon rising up in the night sky like a gold coin and how it was hanging up there all shiny and new and nobody was able to get hold of it and spend it. She called it a "smug old moon."

When she was done singing, she held the tambourine out to me and I dropped some money in it and turned around and went back home and wrote an essay describing her. I wrote down the words of the song that she sang. I described her broken fingernails (painted purple) and her blue eye shadow and how she sat atop the bag of dog chow as if it were a throne. I wrote how, after I dropped my money in the tambourine she said, "God bless you, baby."

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