Donna pulled into the parking lot just as the song finished on the radio. Getting the kids to daycare fed, clothed, lunches packed and on time seldom left her time enough to see to herself. When Sam had been around, it wasn’t much different, but he did, on occasion, help dress them or at least feed Rebecca, the youngest. He would demand excessive praise for doing something that she managed without acknowledgement. The little grievances, like vines against concrete that sucked the moisture from their marriage. Then, the hurricane of Amy Dennis had come and blown it away.
Still, three kids hadn’t left her with time to mourn, she was too pragmatic for that.
She liked the noodles here. In the microwave at work, two minutes and then mouthfuls grabbed between calls. If she had time to absorb the metaphor, she would have agreed.
She kicked something with her left foot, solid and soft at the same time. Looking down at her feet, she saw a fat leather wallet. She picked it up.
Sam had a nylon black billfold with a chain through it. She’d had to persuade him to put photos of the kids and,in hindsight, his reluctance to have any of her should have been a red flag. She opened it up. A thick stack of bills greeted her and there were multiple credit cards. A black Amex. Diners Club. She was torn between curiosity, temptation and the steely, kind voice of her father reminding her that stealing is wrong. She counted the cash, six hundred in fifty dollar bills. Crisp and new, like they’d been drawn out from the bank.
She found the business card, six in total.
A cell and land line number
She dialled the cell.
‘Who’s this? ‘
The voice was soft, playful and it made the corners of her mouth twitch upwards in a smile.
‘Hi, I found your wallet in the lot at the Circle K. The one just off Foster Street. ‘
‘No you didn’t.’
She sighed, her temples beginning to throb with the tension. Oh, all she needed was another asshole today.
‘Yes I did, because how else would I dialling this number?’
‘Maybe I get a lot of women call me that I don’t remember? You have a nice voice, what’s your name?’
She rolled her eyes and closed the wallet.
‘There’s six hundred dollars cash in here.’
A pause. He whistled under his breath.
‘Still? You ain’t one of those religious types are ya?’
She shook her head and began to impatiently stride to the entrance.
‘Mister, I’m going to leave this at the cashier for you. I wouldn’t take your money if you said I could. It’s not how I’m raised. Now I’d love to jaw with you all day, but I’m late for work and you cannot even muster a goddamn thank you.’
He clicked off. She was tempted to throw it to the ground but she’d given her word. It still mattered to her, after everything. She would read to her children at night, sometimes falling asleep on the bed with them but she told them stories about heroes who did the right thing. She didn’t think of herself as one, just trying to get through the day but she tried, in her own small way.
She didn’t leave her number with the cashier. She ended up being fifteen minutes late, which was a record for her, and the noodles tasted pretty good. Life put it’s dukes up, sounded the bell for round two and she forgot all about the wallet and the owner.
The envelope was in the mailbox when she got home. Crisp and white, and inside the entire stack of bills. A single piece of paper folded in two and she looked around, waiting for the prank to be revealed to her. No one jumped out at her, and she read the note.
Money is something that you can always make but kindness is in short supply. I shouldn’t have questioned you like that. I deal in futures, Donna, and it’s a harsh business at times. Here is a possible one for you.
He will wear a wedding ring but he’s widowed. He pees sitting down and his favourite book is Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. He saw you at your son’s ball game but because he was coaching the opposing team that season. His name is Jason. The money, spend it how you like, but don’t waste the opportunity. He eats at Applebees on Wednesdays around eight. Take the kids, say hi. See what happens.
She looked at the clock on the wall.
There was still time.