Leo noted the last of the bills from the antique cash register and checked his pencil markings on the balance sheet again. He nodded, then looked toward the ceiling and offered up a silent prayer. Never a religious man he wondered at this new habit. Must be a relic from childhood, he thought. Do we all come full circle?
He moved past the bookcases to the front door where he flipped the WELCOME sign to CLOSED – BACK AT 7:00 AM, the hands of the little plastic clock hovering at the twelve and seven. He looked out onto the street now glistening with a light rain and drew the roller shades against the glare of the flickering street lamps. He unlaced his hand tooled brogues and sighed stepping into the clouds of his sheepskin slippers. He surveyed the front room. In addition to the books, the board games and puzzles, painted cards and heavy stock writing paper, brush and fountain pens, graphite and colored pencils were all selling steadily despite the bank’s dire forecast. He switched off the burners that had warmed pots of coffee and tea for the day’s browsing customers and made his way to the back room.
“Hey Mr. Cawley,” Mingan nodded. He was in his late 20s now but Leo would always be kindly Mr. Cawley to him. Mingan’s new reflective jacket and hardhat hung on ornate brass hooks by the back door. He’d lit the old Rumford range and was selecting half a dozen eggs from the icebox.
“How was traffic today?” Leo asked. Mingan had spent the last week waving motorists and pedestrians around construction sites. “They think I’m Chinese,” Mingan shrugged. His name meant grey wolf but he’d given up explaining to the crews.
Trudy burst through the door and tossed a loaf of fresh sourdough from Ginette’s bakery onto the heavy wooden counter. “Stop slamming the world around.” Mingan waved a knife in protest then began slicing away the bread’s crust. “Try being peaceful,” he said, though he knew it was like telling the wind to stop howling. He sighed and spooned coconut oil that hit the cast iron pan with a sizzle. “Eggs in the basket?” He asked, turning up the flame.
It was one of their favorite dishes. Trudy set the walnut table inlaid with mother of pearl, straightening the placemats depicting old European scenes. She was named for her great-grandmother who’d been raised in a stone house not unlike these images.
“Back at the brothel tonight?” Mingan asked gleefully.
“Fulfillment center!” Trudy snapped.
“A brothel name if I ever heard one.”
“That new warehouse had over 10,000 applicants.” Leo said. “We’re proud of you.”
They sat down to the warmth of eggs in sourdough toast, locally farmed sausage and grilled vegetables. Mingan and Trudy chatted and bickered with an ease that Leo hadn’t imagined possible. He handed them each an envelope containing a portion of the week’s profits. Mingan was making payments on a used truck so he’d be mobile and able to work at any job site. Trudy had bought a refurbished computer and was saving for software. Leo marveled. These two were hardly recognizable as the street kids he’d encountered a few years ago.
Ginette would be calling soon from the bakery to arrange bread delivery to the shelter. He made a mental note to line up a volunteer for these deliveries when his antiquities dealings took him to Andorra next month. He looked toward the ceiling again and offered up silent thanks. This must be my full circle, he thought.
“Practice kindness…and you will realize you’re already in heaven.”
See next installment of this story here.