Friday, March 27, 2009

Three Cents Short

The front door opened behind Conrad, and Lily's heels clacked along. There was the rustle of paper bags landing on tablecloth, and then he could practically hear the groan pull out of her back as she straightened up. This made him feel even worse.

"Heya, hon," she called, from the kitchen. "What you watching there?"

He breathed in slowly, deeply, and then let it out, angry and disenfranchised. "I have been sitting here since three o'clock in the afternoon watching this damn variety show that some hillbillies are streaming on the net from their damn basement or something!" he growled. His eyes suddenly bulged. "My god -- they're getting their post-pubescent son to strap on his guitar and play his freakin' rock songs on the show, now. It's ... horrible." He clutched his chest, feeling a stiffening in the heart.

She was stocking the fridge, and spoke from somewhere in the crisper. She sounded tired from the shopping. "Why do you do this to yourself? You could have come with me, you know."

He sank in the couch, knees reaching the coffee table and rocking his cold cup of tea gently. He looked miserably into his chest. "It's for charity. A fundraiser they're doing to raise money for autism."

"Oh?" she said. Now her heels clacked, somehow excitedly it seemed, from the kitchen into their living room. He felt her hands reach around him from behind, warming him despite their winter chill. He could smell the Walmart on her. "Charity? How much did you donate?" She sounded proud, somehow. Surprised, but proud.

"Me? I didn't donate anything. I'm just watching it. Other people are donating. They tell you now and again how much money has been collected so far."

There was a sigh, and her clasp loosened around him, but he took her hands and held them. "No, stay. Stay with me here."

"I'm going upstairs," said Lily, turning. "Want a nice hot bath."

"I'm miserable," he complained. "Why did you have to leave, and leave me all alone here?"

"Someone has to do the shopping," she said, and pulled herself up the stairs. She stopped halfway. "Anyway, how much are they asking for? The donations -- what's the minimum?"

"Fifteen dollars," he said, settling back into the couch.

She walked back down and threw their check book onto the coffee table. "Send them a check."

"What?" he said, turning around to see who this crazy stranger was.

"Write them a check, and I'll mail it tomorrow. Go on, do it. It will make you feel better, I promise."

With that she ascended, leaving him alone in the dim yellow room, autumn evening waning in the windows. He watched the 'show' for some time, and then looked at the check book. Then his eyes turned to his cold cup of tea. After several minutes, he leaned over and picked the check book up.

Pen in hand, he waited for them to mention who this check must be made out to. When they said it, or rather, jingled it, he carefully wrote who the payee would be. "Fifteen dollars," he muttered, as though the amount meant some great deal to him, knowing full well it did not. His hand, then, was just about to write the amount when he stopped. A smile came upon his face, and now he set the pen upon paper once again, to write.


"Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm," he cackled gleefully to himself, expressing the amount again upon the check, this time in lettering. He could have sent them a thousand, of course, but here he was sending them $14.97. Three cents short! What were they going to do -- turn it away? Anyway, this was not about them, it was about him.

When he was done, he signed his name, tore it out and placed it upon the table. He heard Lily's bath run quietly upstairs. She had been right. It had made him feel better.

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