TIMES BEING WHAT THEY ARE
By Beth Deitchman
Raymond put off telling his employees about the impending branch closure for three weeks. At first he held onto the hope that the bank’s prospects would change, and he wouldn’t have to bear the bad news. But the numbers from the head office continued their grim decline. On the morning that he decided he could avoid it no longer, he walked to work, hoping the exercise would bolster his confidence. Halfway to the bank, Raymond stopped and checked his pockets. His keys were still there, heavy in his coat. He turned onto Vine and headed for the bank, his breath making little clouds in the early morning air. A man in grimy jeans and a torn pea coat sat a few feet away on the sidewalk. He tracked Raymond’s progress. Raymond tried to ignore him.
“Spare some change?”
Raymond balked before shaking his head and hurrying forward, eyes on the sidewalk. A few more steps brought him to the bank. He grabbed his keys, but then dropped them onto the pavement. Grimacing, he bent to pick them up.
Inside the bank Raymond’s glasses fogged. He pulled them off and wiped them with his handkerchief. Light from the streetlamps bled through the windows, casting shadows into the corners. They disappeared when he flipped on the rows of florescent lights. He crossed the marble floor to his office in a few ringing steps.
The carpet in his office muffled his footsteps. Raymond removed his hat and hung it on the top hook of the coat rack. Then he unwound his scarf and took off his coat, placing them in their spots beneath his hat. The simple routine smoothed the edges of his dread.
He took a stack of papers from his briefcase and set them on his desk before settling into his leather chair. He looked at the clock. Half past seven. Plenty of time to practice what he would say.
At eight o’clock the door to his office opened with a little creak. Raymond stopped speaking and dropped both hands to his desk. He still hadn’t worked out how to tell them.
“Mr. Stephens?” Miss Andrews always whispered in the morning. She stepped into his office. “You’re early today.”
“Lots of work to do!” The brittle gaiety of Raymond’s reply embarrassed him, but Miss Andrews didn’t seem to notice. He couldn’t meet her eyes.
“Of course. Would you like a cup of coffee?”
“Please, Miss Andrews.”
With quick, little steps Miss Andrews clacked across the marble floor to the break room. Raymond looked back at the papers spread on his desk. The bank president’s insincerely apologetic letter, dated three weeks earlier, sat in front of him. He turned it over and pushed it away. Outside the bank a car horn sounded, sharp and loud. Raymond winced.
“Here you go.” Miss Andrews set a mug of coffee on his desk. “And I brought you a doughnut.” She smiled.
“Thank you, Miss Andrews. That—that was very thoughtful of you.”
“Well,” said Miss Andrews, a faint pink coloring her cheeks, “if you don’t mind my saying so, Mr. Stephens, you are looking a little thin.”
“Yes. So I thought maybe you could do with a treat.”
“Well.” His voice cracked. Raymond cleared his throat. “Thank you, Miss Andrews.”
“My pleasure. Let me know if you need anything else.”
Raymond watched her leave. When he was alone, he examined the doughnut. It was an elaborate affair of powder and sprinkles. He wasn’t sure how to eat it without making a mess. He reached out a tentative hand and poked the doughnut, dislodging a few sprinkles. Carefully he lifted it to his mouth and took a bite. A few sprinkles fell onto his desk. Raymond ignored them and devoured the rest of the doughnut. Licking his lips for the last traces of sugar, he wondered when he had last eaten.
With his first few sips of coffee, the dread that had reasserted itself upon Miss Andrew’s appearance receded. He could do this. He could tell them. He gathered the papers on his desk into a pile and reached for the phone. Someone knocked on his office door. Bob from Loans stood outside, his round outline visible through the smoky glass.
Raymond dropped the pile of papers into his bottom drawer and shut it with a bang.
Bob dropped into the chair opposite Raymond. He smiled and touched the corner of his mouth.
Raymond stared at him.
“Powdered sugar,” Bob said.
Raymond wiped it away. “Miss Andrews brought me a doughnut.”
“She’s a nice one, that Miss Andrews.” Bob patted his stomach. “Perhaps a little too nice.” His voice trailed off, and he looked away from Raymond.
“Yes, I suppose so.” When the man opposite turned a hurt face back to him, Raymond placed both hands on top of his desk and leaned forward. “Um—” he started, but he couldn’t remember the man’s name. His hand trembled as the silence hung, heavy in the air between them.
“You’re right.” The man shrugged and gave a half-hearted laugh. “You know, I think I have a little crush on Miss Andrews. It’s those blue eyes. And, well, her amazing a—”
“Not very professional of me, I know.”
What was his name? Raymond tasted the panic in the back of his throat. It started with a B. Was a verb of some sort. Bake? Bank? Bid? Bob! That was it. “So, Bob, what brings you into my office this morning?”
“Ah, right. Sorry, you must have a lot of work to do. Have there been any more reports from the main branch?”
Raymond leaned back in his chair and glanced at the bottom drawer of his desk. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, I’ve heard some rumors about branch closings.”
Raymond’s stomach lurched. He could get it over with now. Maybe after telling Bob it would be easier to tell the others. He read the hope and anxiety in Bob’s eyes and his resolve melted. “Let me make a few calls. Check the numbers. I’ll sort this out, Bob.”
Bob cocked his head. “Is everything okay, Ray?”
Raymond gripped his armrests. “Of course! Why wouldn’t it be?”
“You just don’t seem like yourself lately.”
“Ah, well. You know how it is. Times being what they are.”
“Don’t I know it! I suppose we’re lucky that we still have jobs.”
Raymond blinked again; his throat tightened. He nodded. “I guess we are.”
“I’ll leave you to it, then.” Bob pushed the chair back and stood. “And Ray, have another doughnut. You’re way too thin.”
Raymond forced a laugh. “I might just do that.”
When Bob closed the door, Raymond opened the bottom drawer and stared at the stack of papers. He sat frozen in that attitude while the clock on the wall behind him ticked away the seconds. He closed the drawer.
Raymond looked at his phone, but he couldn’t remember what number to dial to get Miss Andrews to his office. Sweat beaded his forehead as he rifled through his desk, searching for the number. Nothing. He went to his door, opened it a crack and said, “Miss Andrews.” Nothing happened. Raymond cleared his throat and raised his voice: “Miss Andrews.”
Everyone in the lobby turned toward him, accusation burning in their eyes. Raymond stepped back, breathing heavily. How did they know? He rubbed his eyes and blinked a few times before returning to his door. An older woman in the line smiled at him. The soft murmur of customers’ voices echoed off the marble.
“What is it, Mr. Stephens?” Miss Andrews wore a familiar expression. Raymond thought it might be concern.
“Miss Andrews, would you—would it be too much trouble to ask you to bring me another doughnut?”
“None at all,” she replied.
“Of course, Mr. Stephens.”
He watched her go, noting the swing of her hips. When she disappeared into the break room, he closed the door and returned to his desk.
“Here you are!”
“Thank you, Miss Andrews.”
“Is your phone broken, Mr. Stephens?”
“Is that why you called for me instead of buzzing?”
“Oh, no. I—I needed to stretch my legs. Too much sitting isn’t good for anyone.” He cringed at his forced cheer.
“That’s probably true,” Miss Andrews said. “Well, if you need anything else, you can buzz, or you can stretch your legs.”
Raymond inhaled the second doughnut as quickly as the first. The sugar rush gave him a burst of energy and purpose. He licked the sprinkles off his fingers and took the papers from his bottom drawer, thumping them onto his desk. The black marks swam into shape on their white background, and Raymond read the report.
As he flipped through the pages, his energy waned. He still could find no solution, no way to forestall the inevitable laid out in black and white. Raymond crumpled the letter from the bank president and dropped it into his wastebasket. Then he looked at his watch, wondering how much longer he should wait.
“Later,” he whispered.
He took a sip of coffee. It was cold. Raymond’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh for God’s sake,” he muttered, reaching into his pocket for his handkerchief. He wiped his eyes. Then he grabbed his coffee cup and stalked across his office. He whipped open the door and started toward the employee break room.
Raymond stopped, aware that his employees watched him. The customers had all left. “I didn’t want to bother you again, Miss Andrews.”
“Oh, it’s no bother, Mr. Stephens.”
“It does me good to get out of the office once in a while, see how everyone is doing.” He waved Miss Andrews back to her work and headed into the break room.
Bob stood next to the table that held the coffee maker. “Need some more joe, huh, Ray?” His voice boomed.
“That I do, Bob.” Raymond poured his cold coffee into the sink.
“I put on a fresh pot. Should be ready soon.” Bob wiped his mouth and gestured toward the empty pink bakery box. “I figured I might as well remove the temptation.”
“Ah,” Raymond said.
The two men stared at the coffee maker. It sputtered as the final drops of coffee came through.
“So, how’s your morning going, Ray?” Bob reached for Raymond’s cup.
Ray clutched it to himself, startled by Bob’s gesture.
“Coffee?” Bob said.
“Oh, right.” Raymond watched the coffee fill the cup.
“How do you take it?”
“Take what?” Raymond replied.
Bob raised his eyebrows. “Your coffee.”
“Oh, yes.” He paused, not sure what to say. Bob watched him. “Two sugars and some cream.”
“So, how’s your morning been?” Bob didn’t look at Raymond while he stirred the coffee.
“Well, you know. Busy. Busybusybusy.”
“Right.” Bob handed Raymond the cup. “But did you have time to, you know, make those calls?”
“Calls? Yes, calls. No, Bob, but I will. In fact, I’m going to take this cup of coffee back to my office and drink it while I make my calls.” He lifted the cup in a salute.
“All right, then,” Bob said. “Thanks, Ray.”
When Raymond returned to his office, he slumped in his chair. He took a sip of coffee. Too sweet. Maybe Miss Andrews didn’t put so much sugar in it. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d made his own coffee. What was he going to do without Miss Andrews? He took another sip and stared at his phone.
I used to know how to do this. I pick up the phone, I press those buttons, and I talk, with authority, to someone on the other end of the line. He could not move. I used to know how to do this. I used to know…I used to…I….
His hands shook. He set his coffee cup down gingerly. I—but what it was about himself he didn’t know. Sweat dripped into his eyes. His heart raced in his tightening chest. My name is Raymond Stephens, he thought. I know that much. I work in a bank. He looked at his desk. This is a desk. He looked at the window. That is a—that is a…he couldn’t find the word. But I can look at it and see outside the bank. I know that much. I am Raymond Stephens. “Raymond Stephens,” he whispered. “Raymond Stephens. Raymond Stephens! RAYMOND STEPHENS!”
His door flew open. Miss Andrews entered, followed by Bob. The new teller—a small woman with long red curls and large green eyes—stood in the doorway.
Miss Andrews rushed toward him. “Mr. Stephens? Are you okay?”
He looked at her, his eyes blurring. Her shape wavered, moving in and out of focus. Her voice sounded as though it came from another room. “Miss Andrews?” he whispered, clutching her arm.
“Yes, Mr. Stephens. It’s me. It’s Sophie. Sophie Andrews.” She didn’t pull away from his grasp, but she turned her head to the new teller.
“Molly, could you get some water for Mr. Stephens?” Miss Andrew’s voice was calm, controlled.
“Of course,” Molly said. “Should I call—?”
“No, that’s not necessary. Just a glass of water.”
Raymond watched her go, Mollymollymollymollymollymollymollymolly echoing in his mind.
“Mr. Stephens? Can you breathe?” Miss Andrews said.
“Let’s get him to the couch,” Bob suggested. “Loosen his tie.”
Raymond allowed them to help him across the office and settle him on the couch. Miss Andrews sat next to him, and Bob leaned against the desk.
“Maybe you should go home early,” Miss Andrews suggested.
Raymond shook his head. He couldn’t leave. He still had to tell them. When Molly got back with the water, he would do it.
“Here you are, Mr. Stephens.” Molly handed him a glass of water.
Raymond took a sip. “Thank you, Molly. I feel better.” He paused.
“I think you should have some more water and then lie down for a little while, Mr. Stephens. We can take care of everything,” Miss Andrews said. “Maybe you could join us for lunch?”
Raymond looked at the floor. There was a tiny brown stain on the carpet in front of his couch. He could feel their eyes on him. He could do it now. Instead he nodded. “Okay.” He looked at Miss Andrews. Her eyes were so blue. “That sounds nice.”
Miss Andrews smiled.
“Great!” Bob said. “We should order something in. Something good.”
“I’ll take care of that Mr. Pierce,” Miss Andrews said. “I can check on you in a little while, Mr. Stephens. If you’d like.”
“I would, Miss Andrews, thank you.”
Raymond waited for everyone to leave before stretching out on the couch. He lay still, watching the patterns on the ceiling made by the shadows of leaves. “Coward,” he whispered.
He drifted between sleep and waking, listening to the muffled sounds of the occasional bank customer, the click of women’s heels across the main floor, the whoosh of a car passing outside. At one point someone opened the door, but Raymond pretended to be asleep.
Some time later, Bob whispered, “Hey, Ray?”
“We ordered some pizza. You want to come join us?”
Raymond swung his legs over the edge of the couch. Bob came into focus. “Sure. I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Great.” Bob closed the door with a gentle click.
Raymond crossed to his desk and pulled the crumpled letter out of the wastebasket. Laughter pealed from the lobby, and he tucked the letter back under the other papers. “After lunch,” he vowed.
Miss Andrews had put the “closed for lunch” sign in the window, something they rarely did anymore. “It just seemed like we could use a real lunch time,” she explained.
“Good idea,” Raymond said.
Bob and Molly carried the table from the break room out to the main floor and then brought chairs over from the desks. Miss Andrews brought out some paper plates, napkins, and coffee mugs. Bob set the pizza in the middle of the table.
“We got some soda, too. Would you like some?” Bob asked.
Raymond nodded. “It all looks wonderful.”
“Tony’s has the best pizza in town. And I oughta know.” Everyone laughed as Bob smacked his belly.
Raymond allowed Miss Andrews to place two slices onto his plate. “Be careful, they’re a little hot,” she said.
Next to him Molly blew on a slice of pizza before taking a bite. “It’s not too bad. I mean hot. It’s actually delicious.”
At first they ate in silence, except for a remark here and there about the quality of the pizza. Raymond could not remember when he last felt so calm. Not since the letter had arrived and each day he’d broken his vow to tell his employees. He couldn’t think about that now. Not when he could see Miss Andrews’s beautiful blue eyes so full of light. She had a lovely smile, too.
“Are you feeling better, Mr. Stephens?” Miss Andrews asked.
“Much. I must have needed a little rest and something more substantial to eat.” The weight from his chest lifted. He drew a full breath. “I’ll have some more soda, Bob, if you don’t mind.”
“Coming right up, Ray!” Bob took Raymond’s cup and filled it with soda. “Here you go.”
“Have another piece of pizza, Mr. Stephens.”
“Oh, no thank you, Miss Andrews. I couldn’t eat another bite.”
He sat back in his chair and looked at the others. “It’s hard to believe we’ve never done this before.” His voice caught.
“You haven’t?” Molly said. “In my last job we ate lunch together at least once a week. Mr. Daniels said it made us a better team.”
“Did it?” Raymond struggled to keep his voice even.
“I think so. But then Mr. Daniels retired and the new manager didn’t think we should take so much time for lunch.” Molly shrugged. “It wasn’t so nice to work there anymore.”
“How do you feel about working here?”
“Oh, I like it, Mr. Stephens. The people are nice, and the bank is warm. And it’s interesting work.”
Raymond shifted in his chair. His vow nagged at him. No. I’ll think about it later.
“Miss Andrews, how long have you been working here?” Molly asked.
“Five years as of yesterday.”
“Has it really been that long?” Raymond said.
Miss Andrews smiled. “Yes, it has. Five years.”
“Well, this calls for some sort of toast, wouldn’t you say, Ray?”
“Yes, yes I think it does.” Raymond stood and held up his cup, the others joined him. “To Miss Andrews. Thank you for five years of wonderful work. To—to many more.” Raymond’s voice faltered.
“I—I just got a little dizzy, stood up too quickly. That’s all.” He sat heavily.
“Put your head between your knees, Mr. Stephens,” Miss Andrews said.
Raymond did as she told him. A few deep breaths made him feel better.
“You know what we need?” Bob said when Raymond sat upright and took a sip of soda. “We need a little champagne.”
Miss Andrews and Molly exchanged glances. Miss Andrews put her hand over her mouth, stifling a giggle.
Raymond stared at Bob for a little while. “Why not? Do you have some?”
“No, but I could run out to get some. The shop across the street will have champagne.”
“We’ll clean up while you go. Mr. Stephens, you rest,” Miss Andrews said, jumping up to clear the table. “We should hurry, though, so we can reopen soon.”
Raymond waved his hand. “Let’s not worry about that. It’s a special occasion. Let’s just enjoy it.”
“Best idea of the day,” Bob said. He grabbed his coat and hat and left. Raymond watched him striding across the street, his steps full of purpose.
A song began to play—a real song, not the inoffensive music that usually piped softly through the bank. It sounded like jazz. Miss Andrews and Molly swayed as they tidied up, dancing the chairs back to their places, doing a little box step as they carried the table back to the break room.
“Do you need help?” Raymond asked.
“Oh no, Mr. Stephens. It’s not very heavy. You just relax.”
Bob came bursting back into the bank. He carried a bottle and some plastic champagne glasses. “All right. Should I do the honors?”
Everyone agreed that he should.
“Stand back!” Bob made a production of opening the champagne, sending Molly and Miss Andrews into another wave of giggles.
Bob filled four glasses and handed them around. Then he raised his glass toward Miss Andrews. “To Miss Andrews. What would we do without you?”
“Here, here!” agreed Raymond.
They clinked glasses and drank.
Then Bob patted his stomach. “I suppose without your generosity and all the sweet treats, I might not have this belly.” Miss Andrews blushed. “Oh, who am I kidding? I’d just bring them in myself!”
Bob set down his glass and bowed to Miss Andrews. “May I have this dance?”
Miss Andrews smiled and took Bob’s hand. “Of course.”
The two set off across the bank floor. Bob moved surprisingly well for such a large man. Raymond watched, a little jealous. Molly sighed next to him. Raymond hesitated for only a moment.
“Molly, would you—would you like to dance?”
Molly beamed at him. “I would, Mr. Stephens.”
Raymond held out his hand; she took it. He wrapped his other arm around her. Molly felt warm and solid. Raymond inhaled her sweet scent—lilacs or roses, he wasn’t sure which. They started with small steps, tentative. But soon Raymond found he could swing her around the wide marble floor, and she would follow his lead.
“You’re a wonderful dancer, Mr. Stephens.”
“Thank you, Molly. I have a wonderful partner.” Raymond felt years falling from him. If he could just keep swinging and swaying with this lovely young woman in his arms, then he might not feel that panic ever again. He looked down at Molly. Her eyes were very green.
A knock on the door jolted them all from the dance.
“Oh my,” said Miss Andrews, pulling away from Bob.
Raymond, still holding Molly, looked toward the entrance. A middle-aged woman stood outside. She peered into the bank, caught Miss Andrews’s eye, and then pointed from the doors to her purse.
Miss Andrews hurried across the bank to open the door.
Raymond looked down at Molly.
“Oh, right. Sorry.” He let her go. “It’s back to work, I suppose.”
Molly smiled. “It was a lovely dance.”
“It was, wasn’t it? Well, thank you, Molly.” He gave her a little bow. She giggled and returned to her station behind the counter to help the customer.
Miss Andrews cleared away the champagne bottle and glasses while Bob went to change the music. The efficient bustle of his employees inspired Raymond. Cheered by the champagne and the dancing, he returned to his office. He settled himself at his desk and before he could think anymore about it, he picked up the phone.
“Yes, Mr. Stephens?” Miss Andrews sounded a little breathless.
“Could you get Mr. Wheeler on the phone, please, Miss Andrews?”
“Of course. Just hold for a moment.”
Raymond hummed a little tune while he waited. He would tell Mr. Wheeler that the plan to close this branch was unacceptable—that his employees had families to support. Mr. Wheeler would listen to reason.
“Mr. Stephens? I have Mr. Wheeler for you.”
“Thank you, Miss Andrews.”
“Hello, Mr. Wheeler,” Raymond said, ignoring the sweat prickling his back.
“What can I do for you, Ray? You know we’re really busy over here.”
“Well, Mr. Wheeler.” Raymond faltered. He glanced toward the door, but he couldn’t see through the frosted glass. If only he could see Miss Andrews or Molly. “It’s just that—”
“Ray, have you told your employees about the branch closing?” Mr. Wheeler’s voice sounded tinny. It faded in and out. “Ray? Are you there?”
“Oh, yes, yes I’m here, Mr. Wheeler. It’s just that—”
Raymond held his breath.
“Look, Stephens, I don’t have time for bullshit. Have you told them or not?”
Raymond scrunched his eyes shut. “Oh, yes, Mr. Wheeler. Of course I have.”
“Good. Is there anything else you’d like to say?”
Raymond sank into his chair, his stomach beginning to ache. “No, no, Mr. Wheeler.”
“Good.” Mr. Wheeler hung up.
Raymond sat for several minutes, listening to the dial tone. Then slowly, he returned the phone to its cradle. He stood and walked to the window. The sun had moved to the other side of the bank and grey shadows covered the sidewalk outside. Raymond leaned his head against the glass. It felt cool against his hot forehead.
The knock at the door made Raymond jump.
“Ray?” The door muffled Bob’s voice.
Raymond slid back into his chair. “Come on in, Bob,” he said.
Bob stood just inside the door. “So, any news?”
Raymond stared at Bob, willing himself to tell the truth. He swallowed hard, pushing the champagne and pizza back down.
“Well—it’s—nothing just yet, Bob. But don’t worry. I’m on top of it.” Raymond looked at his watch. “It’s getting late, probably won’t hear anything today. Mr. Wheeler’s secretary told me he was in a meeting all day.” Raymond was surprised by how easily the words came. “But he’ll call me first thing tomorrow. I’m sure everything is going to be all right.”
“That sounds promising. Thanks, Ray. I really appreciate it. I just—well, I just don’t know what I’d do if—you know.”
“I know, Bob. I know.” Raymond nodded slowly. “How are things out there? Has it slowed down?”
Bob shrugged. “It never really sped up. But Mondays are like that, aren’t they?” The eagerness in Bob’s voice broke Raymond’s heart.
“That they are. You know, maybe you should take off early. I’m sure Miss Andrews can handle anyone who might come in. And Molly can keep an eye on the counter.”
“You sure, Ray? I don’t mind staying, you know.”
“Oh, I do know, Bob, and I appreciate it. But consider it a little gift. Go catch a movie or something.”
Bob smiled. “Well, all right, then.” He opened the door. “Thank you, Ray.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Bob closed the door with a gentle click. Raymond’s face fell. He rubbed his jaws until his arms grew too heavy to hold up. He let his hands fall into his lap. He sank further into his chair, burdened by the weight of his body. Shadows crawled across his office floor.
At five o’clock Raymond roused himself, gathered the papers on his desk, and chucked them into the bottom drawer. He pushed himself to his feet and forced himself to cross his office.
“Miss Andrews, Molly, I can lock up. If you’ve finished with your counting, you are free to go.”
Miss Andrews looked at Molly then at Raymond. “We finished a little while ago.”
“Then what are you waiting for?” Raymond’s voice felt thick in his mouth. “Be sure to bundle up. I think it’s gotten colder outside.” He swayed a little, but no one noticed.
He slipped back inside his office and collapsed onto his couch, putting his head between his knees.
“One, two, three, four, five, six…”
A soft knock interrupted him. He sat up slowly. “Yes?”
Miss Andrews peeked around the door. “I just wanted to say good night. And thank you, Mr. Stephens. It was a lovely thing you did for me.”
Raymond forced himself to stand, clenching his fists against the nausea. “It was my pleasure, Miss Andrews. And well-deserved.”
Miss Andrews smiled. “Perhaps we should make a point of having lunch together more often? Everyone enjoyed it.”
“That’s a lovely idea, Miss Andrews.”
“Well, good night, Mr. Stephens. See you in the morning.”
“Good night, Miss Andrews.”
“Good night, Mr. Stephens!” Molly said from behind Miss Andrews.
“And good night to you, Molly. Be careful out there.”
The women headed out together. Miss Andrews stopped by the door to flip the switch. The lights went out. A tear rolled down Raymond’s cheek. He stood, staring into the dark of the bank for several minutes. Then he wrapped his scarf around his neck, pulled on his coat, and put on his hat. He turned off his office light and crossed the marble floor, his footsteps echoing in the emptiness.
Outside he pulled out his keys and with a trembling hand, fitted the key into the lock. “I’ll do it tomorrow,” he whispered. “I promise.” The lock clicked and Raymond let his keys fall back into his coat pocket with a heavy clunk.
The man he had passed in the morning was still on the sidewalk, wrapped in a ragged blanket. He watched Raymond, but said nothing. Raymond passed him. Then stopped. He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and took out a dollar.
“Here,” he said to the man.
The man stared at him and then at the dollar.
“It’s for you.”
Without a word the man reached out a red hand and snatched the dollar from Raymond.
Raymond turned and headed home.
About the Author
Beth Deitchman has been a dancer, a university lecturer, and an actor. Her short story, “La Voshnikaya,” appears in the September 2016 issue of SQ Mag. Beth lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Dave and dog, Ralphie. In her spare time, she volunteers at the Oregon Humane Society.