Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Robert Verdon, #359, Christmas Shopping

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 begun.

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 a mailbox.

It was a fine Wednesday afternoon in 1948, Gill was waiting, she was going home.


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