She calls almost every day, my “old friend from Oak Terrace.” I can tell by the tenor of her voice, as soon as she greets me, what kind of day she’s having: Sometimes it’s a joyful chirp, quoting scripture and gushing about choir rehearsal; others it’s a smoker’s croak, bitter and depressed and “just about ready to give up.”
My friend’s name is Linda Jean Cray. She’s 45, heavyset—though she’s lost a considerable amount of weight recently—with stew-brown hair that flows just over her shoulders. Her smile reveals badly-worn, discolored teeth. A single, front tooth, apparently the survivor of the bunch, remains intact, recalling some cartoonish caricature of a baby.