Ruby lives in a one-bedroom apartment with stacks of newspaper lining the edges of the room. She saves them because they might stop making newspapers altogether, and if she gets a puppy, it will need something to pee on. Or maybe she’ll know somebody who’ll get a puppy. She’s always planning for the future. So what if she’s eighty-something? She’s got an easy thirty years left, and that’s without taking into account medical advances. Her mother lived to be 110, and her father—they said he was 105, and he’d told her 114. Who do you believe?
And that was the question. Who do you believe? The scientists, you’d think. But they say one thing, then flip their stories the next time. Like the one about drinking eight glasses of water to be healthy. She knew that was a crock the first time she’d ever heard it. Now they’re starting to say that’s too much water unless you’re lost in the Sahara.
And that reminded her. She’d never been to the Sahara. Probably just as well.
Her name wasn’t actually Ruby. It was Carol. But at the age of twelve, she’d decided she needed an image makeover. That’s not what she called it back then, but that was the idea. She was skinny and plain, and life was dull and predictable. So she started making changes. Insisted everybody call her Ruby. Nobody did, not until later, after she’d moved to Seattle and began working as a secretary.
Then there were three other Rubies. One was called Ruby Em, short for Ruby Emerald. The other was Ruby Doll, because she called everybody dollface. When Carol arrived, they all noticed she liked to chew gum, so they called her Ruby Choo-Choo.
Ruby had never taken up smoking because it would have interfered with her gum chewing.
Ruby was proud of the fact that most people said she didn’t look a day over sixty, though she was now eighty-something. That’s what she usually told people. She was eighty-something. Because who kept track? People thought she was being funny. Let them think so. They’d figure out she was indifferent some other way.
Honestly, there were so many things to be indifferent about.
But not tattoos. Tattoos fascinated her. You only had so much skin on your body, so what made a person choose one tattoo over another? When she saw somebody had a tattoo, Ruby immediately made them show her all the rest. They always obliged. And why wouldn’t they? People got tattoos to show them off. Men removed shirts on the bus and revealed devils dancing across their backs. Women pulled their jeans down to show hearts and butterflies on their buttocks. Ruby inquired about the meaning of each tattoo. This was how she’d learned that Julie in the ice cream shop knew she had an angel watching over her, and Karl on the fifty-two bus had killed a man. Ruby thought that Julie and Karl would be a good match because Julie’s angel would make sure Karl treated her right, and maybe help out a little the next time Karl lost his temper.

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