But then there were loud knocks on the door.
Pointing at his knapsack, so he’d close the flap over the white boxes, she cracked the door an inch and there stood her neighbor Ruth:”How many times do I have to tell you not to smoke in the building!?? Marijuana‘s just as bad as cigarettes! This is a nonsmoking building!”
“Oh Ruth! I am so sorry — next time we’ll smoke in the courtyard!”
The dealer friend, looking oddly respectable, apologized too. They’d just forgotten.
“I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” her neighbor replied, already placated by their very sincere apologies.
“Come in for a drink,” she urged but Ruth had a headache. They air kissed after she apologized one more time.
In a couple of weeks she had $2,350 as her half and –for luck, she decided– she put a thousand of it (all in twenties) in a covered blue china jar that sat on the ledge by the front door and held spare keys and coins and now a nice wad of cash. Every morning she put a few in her pocket and was delighted to surprise the bums. Sometimes –usually to older women– she would give two. She was careful to only enjoy this not in her own neighborhood.
Her tips improved too.
In fact, everything improved.
One evening, leaving the meeting of a charitable board she found herself on, she volunteered to drop the mail in the box on her way home. Glancing through the envelopes (which were mostly donations) in the elevator down, she saw one from the man she least liked on that board. He was a real estate weasel, very young, one of the Lewises, one of the city’s great real estate families. Tossing the rest in the mailbox, she tucked that one envelope in her purse.
The cheapskate had given the homeless shelter a check for a hundred dollars.
She felt no surprise. As she set down the moist envelope, she thought: what a pleasure, steaming an envelope open: why had she never done it before? She studied the check, and slowly the outside tips of her lips curled up. Her heart felt light and she hummed as she searched among her pens until she found the same sort of black felt-tip, and then she added three neat zeroes, canted backward just the way his two lousy zeros were drawn, and then in a similar blocky script tucked “thousand” in the space he had left behind “One hundred.”
Resealed, the envelope went into a mailbox in the morning.
[to be continued] —BKE