Was she crazy? No, it really was a fifty-dollar bill on the pavement. When Mrs. Sares bent down to pinch the bill to pick it up, a stab of pain shot through her back. She was too happy to mind the discomfort. Mr. Parker had refused to give her credit yesterday, and she had trouble trying to think of how she could prepare a presentable luncheon without the veal she couldn’t afford.
Earlier in the month, she’d conveniently forgotten to pay the electric bill so she could use some of the money to buy the veal, but that damn electric company was getting too smart. They’d called her up last week asking, “Mrs. Sares, did you lose your bill again?” and made it quite clear that they would turn off her electricity if she didn’t pay her bill right away.
Mrs. Sares turned away from the street and studied her find. The fifty looked real enough. There was President Ulysses S. Grant doing that strange thing with his eyebrows and the bill had all those funny colors they use.
She didn’t think that Mrs. Thomas and Betty Lou Giovanni had seen her pick it up. They were playing Scrabble at the scarred card table underneath the only tree on this block of Bochent Street. As Betty Lou raised both hands in the air, Mrs. Sares imagined that she was complaining about Mrs. Thomas using a foreign word or maybe it was slang this time. Last Saturday, she’d heard her yell, “Zaffer. That’s not in the dictionary.” But after a brief look-up, zaffer must have been a word because Betty Lou had stomped up the steps of their brownstone. Mrs. Sares checked it out herself when she returned home. Indeed, it was a word, something to do with cobalt.
No one else was in sight. The neighborhood was wrapped in a peaceful cocoon, everyone minding their own business. She stuffed the bill into her coat pocket, straightened her backbone, and walked briskly down the street to confront Mr. Parker again.
The neat blue sign stating the store was “Open” was in the window of Parkers Fine Meats but when she peeked inside, Mr. Parker wasn’t around. Well, that was fine, just hunky-dorey fine. It’d taken her hours last night to find a recipe that would allow her to turn chuck roast into something halfway refined (she hadn’t known how luck would come her way), and she hadn’t woken up until eight. Now, when she was in a hurry, the rude man wasn’t even tending his business. She would never be ready for her bridge party by 11:30.
“Yohoo!” She stretched her five-foot frame as far as she could to look over the counter until another stabbing pain in her back reminded her of her doctor’s admonitions to either take some exercise classes at the senior citizen center or stop complaining. That young man was the real pain. How dare he insist that she mix with those people?
Something was dripping somewhere, a soft, hushed shadow of a noise. There was a click as the second hand passed XII on the large clock on the east wall where customer and butcher alike could easily check the time. And still, no Mr. Parker. Why someone, anyone could just come in here off the street and take anything they wanted. It would serve Mr. Parker right, him being so stingy. He wasn’t like his father at all.
She eyed the meat through the cool glass. If only she hadn’t been going on to the girls, she would never have ended up in this mess. Her poor departed Mr. Sares had told her time and time again to not worry about what other people thought. No sense eating tough meat, she’d bragged! That was over at Mrs. Pochenski’s last week. First the woman had the effrontery to serve cabbage rolls on their previous visit to her wretched little house on the edge of town, and then, in response to the silent accusations of cheapness, she’d given them a tough sandwich steak last week.
Where was Mr. Parker? Didn’t he worry that someone would rob him? Why even she could nip around the edge of the cabinet and grab a veal tenderloin. She tried to look behind the counter again into the back room. Not a soul was in sight. “Yohoo!” she yelled again.
Already her watch said 10:00 and the ladies in the bridge club would be knocking on her apartment door at 11:30. She would take the veal and pay him later.
Her body was in motion before she’d even completed the thought. When her foot hit the tile floor behind the counter, it flew out making her gyrate in mid-air to avoid an impossible gymnastic split. She landed on her left hip, her skirt soaking up the cold water that covered the floor.