It was a fine
Wednesday morning in mid-November. Merle took the bus
into town. The streets and stores weren’t packed. Queues were still
short. Expensive presents waited. Her pocketbook bulged with cash.
It was 1948 and
Barrett said the future looked good. A future of jet planes,
television, and happy housewives. She read his postcard over and over
as she sat in the barred light. It said ‛you can’t really steal a
flower for another will grow’. It had not been a flower he had
stolen. He would steal the flowers off your grandmother’s grave. It
was in the blood, he said. She shoved the postcard in with the money. He didn’t get out till next Christmas, or so they’d
told her. She didn’t want him visiting, her creepy brother, and
finding out about her illicit relationship with Gill.
The children would
love that swimming pool, she thought. Though it might
take some pumping up. She clacked deeper into the treasure cave of the store. No
dragon but a floorwalker watched her with steely eyes. She would not
shoplift these days. She and Barrett were put up to it by Mother and
Father. It wasn’t desperation, they always had money. They were
never caught. It was only at Christmas, which their parents hated.
They had had nothing. They had come up in the world illegally.
Their kids would know what it was like to be never quite legitimate,
despite being born in wedlock. It was 1948, though, not 1918. The
century marched on. The second war was over. The third had not yet
She considered stealing a little Mexican doll but thought better of
it. People scurried by like ants at a kids’ birthday party. Money
changed hands, including hers. She had everything delivered. Nothing
to carry as she sashayed back, willowy, to the bus stop. A job well done. Now
she had stock in the store and stole freely from everyone.
Rich brats could do that. Life was expansive. She handed cash
to a black beggar. The stars and stripes flew above the portico of a skyscraper
across the street, glistening in the cold air. She hummed ‛All the
things you are’, loving Charlie Parker’s version. He’d stolen
someone’s heart. She fished out the postcard and dropped it back in
It was a fine
Wednesday afternoon in 1948, Gill was waiting, she was going home.