Only Five Dollars, by MZ Fairtlough

I can tell she has taken it.

Her cheery “Good morning Granny, did you sleep well?” has a forced note, like the singer at our last meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution, not quite sharp, not pure either. Her eyes offer other clues: too steady blue, a fraction too open to be sincere.

There’s no cheer in my voice. “I always sleep well, Anna. And you, did you sleep well?”

In response, her gaze falters and drops to the side. Even without these signs, I’d know. Aside from us, no one else has been here this weekend. And she had the opportunity while I slept, even if the motive remains unclear.

It was only five dollars, but that’s not the point. It was here last night in my blue purse. I left it open, I know, but that’s not an invitation. This is my house, after all, and I should be able to leave my purse open in my house, I should be able to trust that my granddaughter wouldn’t steal from me. Shouldn’t I?

It was only five dollars, withdrawn specifically for the church collection basket. Over the years, I’ve found that when I offer this rather than coins, then others are more likely to part with the same, sometimes more. I think it’s important, don’t you, to show leadership even in these small actions, because many small things together matter more than a few large. Anyone can make the heroic gesture, but it is in the constancy of the small, honest, everyday deeds that a decent life is made, don’t you agree?

“Before I go home, what can I do for you Granny? Any weeding, any tidying up?” Anna is pretending not to watch me as she pulls back the curtains, busying her twitchy hands. She seems nonchalant but perhaps it has occurred to her that I know, or at least that I suspect.

It was only five dollars, so why did she even bother? Five dollars doesn’t buy anything any more. Did she want me to find her out? Children these days are so complicated. Her shoulders hunched, her cheeriness evaporating as she awaits my reaction, she is at least  offering reparation.

Snapping my handbag shut, I wonder what would be best. Should I call her up on this or would that cost us more than her petty theft? I play for time.“Yes, darling. I’d love some help. I’m off to the church now, but it would be marvellous if you could weed the vegetable patch.” Since her hands are already dirty, this seems a fitting penance.

Her lovely smile breaks out, her father’s smile, my son’s. I’d never have let him get away with anything like this.

I ought to have left for church some time ago but I’ve chosen to sit at the window and watch her work, digging and pulling and hoeing as though her life depended on it. Truly, she’s done an excellent job of it and there’s a decent pile of weeds on the compost heap.

She scrapes the wellies clean and leaves them at the back door. She jumps when she sees me, sitting here on the chair next to the telephone table. You should see her expression when I ask her, “So, tell me, Anna, why do you need those five dollars?”

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One Response to Only Five Dollars, by MZ Fairtlough

  1. Pingback: New Nine Mile Writing | Welcome to Nine Mile Writers

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