What Goes Around Comes Around
A heavy set woman of indeterminate age with blue silvery hair stepped around the table filled with boxes of old postcards. Her dress, a shimmering tent of pastel colors and shapes, moved with her, folding and unfolding with every motion. The other woman, older, but much slimmer and very tall, had long grey hair pinned up in a bun. Clad in a burgundy jumpsuit, she paid the heavy set woman no attention, but thumbed through the old postcards, her head bobbing up and down like a puppet.
At the front of the store, the proprietor glanced their way every few seconds. Pilfering had become a plague which he feared might do him in. Antiques shops were not gold mines. He knew that age, sex or style of dress were all inaccurate methods of judging a shoplifter. At the same time he didn't want to make the women uncomfortable.
"Do you think Harold would like this one?" asked the heavy set woman, holding up an bedraggled sepia picture of New York City.
"Oh for god's sake, Lucy, he's got so many damn cards now. What's he going to do with another one?" replied the slim woman, peevishly.
"I didn't ask you to pass judgement, Mildred! You're so judgmental! Your brother's always loved New York."
"Buy it then. What do I care?"
"Maybe you're just hungry. There's a cafe across the street."
"That's your solution for everything, isn't it? Eat, eat, eat!"
Lucy shook her head in resignation. She tried so hard with Mildred. They'd been friends for 35 years but what a pain she was! Too thin, probably. Creaky and weak bones. Most likely hurts to walk. She needs to add a little padding.
Mildred rounded the corner of the table, grabbed the sepia picture out of Lucy's hand and stomped up to the proprietor's old wooden desk, strewn with papers, pencils, tools, toys and other antique junk. She waved the photo in the man's face. "Can you tell me when this was taken?" she asked.
Startled by her belligerence, Roger Beacon, former Army intelligence officer, a stocky 60 something, stood up - all 5 feet 2 inches of him, his crew-cut bristling in the sunlight dappling across the front of the store. His face contorted into what he considered his most shopper-friendly smile. He held out his hand and Lucy slapped down the postcard.
She said brusquely, "And do know where there's a decent restroom in this godforsaken town?"
Beacon did not reply, but pretended to study the postcard. He'd priced it at $1.50. It was from 1932 and was a photo of 5th Avenue looking south from Central Park. Solemnly he handed it back to her. Then he sat in his old, rickety chair.
"How would I know anything about that?" he asked dismissively, picking up the newspaper he'd been reading when the two women entered the store.
Beacon thought about Lucy and Mildred a few weeks later when he read they'd been hit by a tourist bus while jaywalking in a larger town a few miles north. The paper said they were taken to St. Mary's Hospital, and while in critical condition, they were expected to survive.
For a second Beacon smiled, then said a solemn, silent prayer for the doctors and nurses at St. Mary's.