This is part 2 of a fiction piece, unnamed as of now. I’m looking for an interesting title. Leave your suggestions in the comment section. Enjoy!
Two children passed by with their mother, backpacks dragging. Gertrude’s eyes lit up. She clapped her hands together and almost squealed.
“I can tell you are a lover of books,” she called out to the boy, in a sing-song salesman voice. This caught the trio off guard. They slowed their walk and turned back to look at Gertrude with a mix of suspicion and interest.
“Let me show you this first edition collection of the Hardy Boys,” she said, already over by a shelf on the other side of the dim garage.
With her back turned to them, the boy whispered to his Mom, “How did she know?”
“Maybe she just guessed,” his Mom said.
Gertrude shambled back toward the boy. She wiped the layers of dust off the cloth bound set of books with her shaky fingers and set them in front of the boy, with a look of anticipation on her face. “Here they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as Edward did.” Then she returned to her chair.
The boy held the heavy collection in his hands, turning it over, eyes large. A small “Wow,” escaped his lips. He closed them quick, as though something else might come out.
“Excuse me,” called out the boy’s mother. “I’m afraid I cannot buy these books from you. I don’t have my wallet with me. I just stepped out to pick up the children from school.”
“It’s a gift for the boy. I’ve been waiting many years to find a good home for these. Someone who loves to read as much as my Edward did.” Gertrude said, not leaving her place in the sagging plastic lawn chair.
The boy’s mother smiled and placed her hand on her son’s shoulder, giving them a squeeze. The boy then stepped forward and said in a small whisper, “Thank you so much. I love to read more than anything else in the world.”
The mother took a step toward Gertrude and said, “Thank you for your surprising generosity. I’ll send my son Will, over to pay for the books. How much do we owe you and how long will you be here?”
“There’s no need for that,” Gertrude told her, while looking off into the distance. “As long as the books have a good home.”
After they left, the rest of the day was lethargic. Window shoppers passed by. A few bought some of the items that belonged to Judith. No one else was worthy of Gertrude’s treasures.
The dinner hour swooped down with fury and left hunger pangs in it’s wake. Judith appeared, offering generic lemon-lime soda, saltines and string cheese. Gertrude waved her away with a look of irritation. She was thinking about Korean tacos. The wonderful fusion of beef marinated in soy sauce and garlic with moist corn tortillas. All topped with fresh cilantro-onion relish, sliced cabbage and a spicy chili sauce. Gertrude was inches close to salivating. But she pushed the sensations out of her mind and made a last desperate effort to reach out. She felt the clock ticking behind her, even though it hadn’t worked in years.
As Friday commuters passed by, she could be heard calling out, “Hey lady, I have something just for you.” or “Did you know that this hockey stick used to belong to Stan Mikita, when he played for the Blackhawks?” Some people were not used to this type of unsolicited pushiness. They would hurry on with a shake of their heads and a polite “No, thank you” as though Gertrude was a Streetwise vendor.
Gertrude shrugged and hefted herself up from the chair. Her bones had sat for longer than usual and moaned in silence. She began to organize the space, then looked around. She grabbed a garbage bag, selected seven or eight items from around the garage and dropped them into the black depths. A tinkling of glass muffled inside. She muttered something about junk and Judith, as if the two were one. Gertrude glanced around again before creeping to the alley with the bag in hand. As she lifted the lid to deposit it into the trash receptacle that belonged to her neighbor, she spotted the book boy, from earlier in the day. It was too late to pretend that she hadn’t seen him. She put a smile on her face, to match the one on his.
She stood there in her snug polyester pants, arms dangling at her side.
“Th, this …” the boy, Will began, tripping over his tongue. “Here is the money for the books,” he said in his quiet voice. He stretched out his hand and waited , but Gertrude didn’t move.
The air stopped moving between them, remaining in place like their bodies. Will knew he was supposed to be polite to older people. He waited for her to take the money or say something, but her eyes were vacant and the smile unwavering, as if she were one of the old dolls in her garage, instead of an old woman in an alley.
Gertrude noticed the sun glinting off of his hair, and the tiny freckles around his nose. A tiny gasp escaped her as she fluttered her hand towards her chest. For a moment he looked like Edward and Gertrude wondered what they were doing by the garbage cans. She realized it was someone else and that he wanted something from her.