Mrs. Adams walked to the front door, her slippers sliding across the linoleum that bubbled up in the kitchen, a cup of coffee–splash of cream, two sugars–in hand. She wore her favorite nightgown, the sky blue one that her dear departed Harold had purchased for her at the blue light special twenty-three years ago last month; a blue nightgown for his blue light, he always said.
She parted the lace curtains that had belonged to her grandmother and looked to the darkening skies; the weatherman on The Weather Channel, her constant screen-companion, had said that rain could be coming. She looked to the stoop: the morning paper, wrapped in its orange plastic bag, on time for once. She marked this down in the “on time” column of the small steno notepad she kept by the entryway; she wanted to document the timeliness of the paper delivery for her next subscription renewal negotiation, and recognized that unwavering honesty and verisimilitude in her final findings would go a long way towards securing an appropriate price point.
She opened the door and let the cold air in. Her back ached when she bent down to pick up the paper. It made her think that maybe she should put a place for the paper itself, for the paperboy to put it so she wouldn’t have to bend down; she knew that that ne’er-do-well would never use it. It would be a waste of her considerable time and energy. She decided to note this in her notepad under “other considerations”; she wasn’t happy, but it wasn’t a terrible affront.
She cut the too-tight knot at the top of the orange bag with the steel scissors, black paint flecking off to reveal the rusted metal underneath. The boy did this just to rile her, she knew it; another notebook-bound offense. But she loved her scissors.
She sat at the table and opened to the important section: the obituaries. None of her friends this week, though she thought she may stop by a funeral on her way home from the beauty parlor. Sports: no one was doing that well, but that was ok. She finally turned to the front page:
COMIC BOOK SAVES FAMILY
A waitress was suffocating under the weight of debt, but a superhero has changed her fortunes forever.
Mrs. Adams scanned the article, at the name: Lena Dodd. She looked out the kitchen window: that sign was gone. She had seen those nice-looking people in suits shake the woman’s hand and take away the sign the other day. What luck! Her property value wouldn’t go down and some ne’er do-well wouldn’t move in and steal her figurines. She had worried about that from the minute that sign went up, the very minute. Why, if a funny book could be worth that much, imagine the value of her figurines. Priceless! She had always liked that woman and her little girl. Maybe she would go visit them and offer her congratulations. After the beauty parlor, of course.
In a note left by a deceased patron at The Parlor Grille restaurant and addressed directly to her, waitress Lena Dodd, 29, was directed to a lock box in Mooreston. Inside, she found a copy of Whiz!Bam!Pow! Comics Issue Seven, August 1938. Featuring the first appearance of “The Sentinel,” widely considered the first superhero, the comic book is highly prized as one of rarest in the world, with only four copies known to exist.
The Parlor Grille opened for breakfast in twenty minutes, chairs were still up on tables and Piero stood behind the empty pastry case, the newspaper in his hands. He knew, just knew, that business was going to go through the roof. Such good fortune, in his restaurant, no less! He knew he would get his shot on Food Network, and though he hoped for Giada, he knew that he would get the strange man with spiky hair that would call his special specials “money.” But that was a-ok in his book. His restaurant! He beamed with pride for the success of his favorite employee and knew that soon, very soon, she would pay him back for the stamps she had stolen. The nerve. In that very moment, he decided: he would re-hire her. Yes. He would re-hire her and show her the power of forgiveness. The business would be amazing. Come see her, one and all. Come wish her congratulations. Come have the special specials, the million-dollar special specials amidst the display of forgiveness.
The deceased, one Tess Parker, was known throughout the small hamlet of Fredrickstown as an eccentric. She had no children. She was active in the local arts community and encouraged young artists in their craft. The only other donation she left was to the local art museum.
Junior cut around the article, the ink smudged and mixed with grease and butter and borscht, with his butcher knife, the same one he had watched his father use when he was a kid, sitting in that far booth with the string around his fingers and waiting on Tess to pass judgement on his progress. He made careful slices along each side of the newsprint, perfect and pristine. Beady leaned over the counter, and watched; while Beady was always quick to critique the cooking at ene’s iner for even a granule of over-or-under-salting, an honor that he felt his six-decades-plus of ertswhile patronage had earned him, he never critiqued the generation-spanning knife skills of the Genes; he was both intelligent and smart.
With a rusted metal thumbtack, Junior hung the clipping above the far booth in the back, right next to his favorite picture of his dad. Junior sat in the booth and leaned back; he admired the new addition, a homecoming, a testament:
“She came into the restaurant every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and ordered the same thing every time,” Ms. Dodd said. “We talked, but she mostly listened. I never learned much about her, but she ended up saving me–saving us. I still don’t know why.”
The bell dinged. Ava rushed to Junior, her fingers entwined in string.
To be concluded.