Friday, December 20, 2019

A Lucky Day?

I find a spot in the large lot as close as possible to the supermarket. A truck, maybe an SUV, is parked on the right; an older model sedan to the left. Tight, but not too tight. Enough space for my door to swing open just fine. A shadow sits behind the wheel of the sedan. A better look reveals a heavy-bellied man who seems to be snoozing.

I sit for a moment thinking about my earlier purchases – a bathroom rug, kitchen towels, a sweater – is it too much? Money is tight. With a sigh, I gather the empty grocery bags from the passenger’s seat, brush my graying bangs from my eyes, and swing my legs from the car. With two feet planted on the ground, and leaning forward slightly to hoist myself up, my eyes glaze the wet concrete and land on what looks like a small piece of paper almost under my car. A bill. Never one to ignore even a coin on the ground – lucky penny, I say if anyone sees my awkward stoop – I pick up the money. It is folded twice, halved then quartered. For a moment I wonder about the shadow in the car. Could it be his? Unlikely, I tell myself. 

I palm the money, push myself from my car, and head to the supermarket door. As I walk, I finger the money. Glancing toward my hand, the 100 gives me pause. When I realize two bills are folded together, I freeze. Are they both hundred-dollar bills? What should I do? Turn it into the supermarket manager? Maybe, but what are the odds that someone will ask at this particular store? The supermarket is only one of many in this large outdoor mall.

I head to the restroom at the back of the store. There I settle myself, slip the crisp, new bills into my wallet, and decide that maybe, just maybe, it’s my lucky day. Then, I go about my shopping, filling the small cart with fresh vegetables for the soup planned for the evening. At the checkout I reach for my card, reluctant to use the bills snuggled next to it.

As I approach my parked car, the passenger door to the neighboring sedan is open wide. A large woman leans into the front seat. She is tearing through the car, her grocery bags, her purse. Tissues, a hairbrush, plastic bags, crumpled papers are strewn on the ground between our cars. 

She sees me, or perhaps the man still in the driver’s seat tells her I am there. When she stands and turns, I see anguish in her eyes and tears streaming down her dark face. Her tall body is wrapped in layers of threadbare fabrics: full-length skirt, multiple sweaters, scarf sliding from her head.

“Are you looking for something?” I ask.

Her arms flailing toward the gods, the woman wails, “My two hundred dollars. My two hundred dollars.”

I reach forward and touch one raised arm. “It’s all right. I found it. Here on the ground. I didn’t know who it belonged to.”

The woman stares in disbelief as I open my wallet and pull out the folded bills. Before I can hand them over, I’m folded into a dancing embrace of pure joy. 

“My money. My money. Praise the Lord. Thank you. Thank you, dear lady.”

I feel the woman’s full body shaking, trembling as her arms smother me against her ample chest.

“It’s okay now,” I soothe. “You’re okay now. Here, take your money.”

As the woman stuffs the bills under the layers of fabric covering her chest, she asks, “What is your name, dear lady? We will say a prayer for you.”

“Arleen,” I say and am again wrapped in a warm embrace. Disentangling myself, I slip into her own driver’s seat and wish the woman well.

As I drive home, a wide smile spreads across my face. “She needs it more than me.”


Nancy McBride said...

it's not complicated, is it? Special day for you and her.

arleen said...

Exactly, Nancy. Lucky and special for both of us.
Thank you for reading and commenting! Have a lovely holiday season with whatever traditions you and yours may celebrate.