The Mutual Friend: Inimical (episode fifteen)
“When I got home…now, I mean in reality when I got home, I knew Al had something on his mind. I found out what, the first time I did the shopping. Because, you see, I always put a dollar in my hairpin jar every week to save up. Al was fidgeting behind me…so I just gave a nudge to that empty jar. And he admitted it. He’d given my money to his friend Scrapper.”
“Is that his real name?” asked Doris.
Mrs. Branstadt considered. “I believe it is, yes…anyways, sort of a professional name. Since Al retired, he likes to fish most days. He says Scrapper knows where the fish are biting.” Mrs. Branstadt allowed them to appreciate this fact, and went on: “Anyways, Al spent two days dithering around instead of telling me. He promised he could get the money back. Well, I don’t care about the money!”
“So how come you’re in a stew?” asked Greta.
“Because Al doesn’t know about my pin money.”
“Um…didn’t he have to?”
“No, dear, I’m saying, that’s my stash…I keep that by, so I don’t run out. You hide money too, don’t you?” Doris nodded; Greta, who spent everything she earned, did not. “I’ve never had a conversation with Al about it. Of course, we live under the same roof…he might have known. But he couldn’t make any claim to knowing. He had no business, getting into my private things as if we’d ever talked about it.”
“But then,” Greta said, thinking about the implications, “your pin money could be a hidden treasure…but it’s not exactly a pearl of great price, is it?”
“It stands to reason that if you receive a message from Scripture, there is a way to interpret it. The message I see is that Al got himself sorted. The angels shall come forth,” Mrs. Branstadt quoted, “and sever the wicked from among the just.”
Mrs. Veidt, who had listened, eyes on each speaker in turn, laid down the cards she’d collected. She drew one more. “Old Maid!”
“What you want to do, ma’am,” Mrs. Branstadt told her, “is pass that card off to someone else.”
Mrs. Veidt said, “I don’t know about this game…but I will tell you about my dream. We lived in a big house, one of the best, I think…but how would I know? I never left that house, I never saw anything. I think it was because when visitors came they said ‘How lovely it all is! How much they must spend!’ My mother cooked for this family and we lived in a room next to the kitchen…my mother, my sister Maria, and I. We girls were told, ‘Stay here in the kitchen, make no noise’—although we could play in the little garden. It was not a nice garden. You could see the chimneys, I mean the big factory chimneys, away over the wall. You could hear dogs barking. Frau Francke, the woman who owned the house, was sick, she was dying…but not fast enough.”
(2014, 2018, Stephanie Foster)