To State the Matter Frankly: Hammersmith (nine)
Aimee Bard, having that in common with the settled object of her campaign, began the morning wondering if she could get a moment to herself. She’d gathered Mrs. Frieslander’s bundles, an errand she never did for mere kindness—“Please don’t thank me! You know I’m always in town for one thing or another”—so much as to make the next thing possible. She would collect a few dollars, and because her tenant expected her to extract the rent, she could pay on last month’s tab, allowing for this week’s extra groceries.
Minnie, who seemed a born shoulderer of responsibility, and willing (to her own implied criticism of Hogben, Aimee shot back at herself, well, you don’t want a man who takes things over…that is exactly the point, dear), had cut her short when she’d begun:
“Minnie, I’ve got some marketing to do…”
“Oh, good! Come get me when you decide to walk down.”
They had all three walked down, Minnie beside Aimee, Nico trailing.
“I’ll just go round the shops with you, if you don’t mind. I want to know what sort of place it is.”
“Of course,” Nico’s voice rose to them, “you know what sort of place it is. You have here a great capitalist who employs at his factory the many. And here, you will see, along this Main street, all these shops you would like to go round, as you say…these men who sell to the workers and take their wages, are fewer. Their concentration of wealth will be more. They, then, can increase their wealth by forming a cooperative. They invest together…in this opera house, this hotel. See what a lie it all is, that they hate the workers for hoping to cooperate, to make their own wealth the more!”
“Nico!” Aimee, brightly, hoped to change the subject. When Minnie had brought him to the supper table the other day, he’d shown this same single-mindedness, that defied all topics. They’d been informed, after an interval of broader discourse, that on principle Nico did not patronize hotels, but would return that evening, rather, to the underside of the bridge, where Hogben had discovered him. This declarative silence, coming when the others could by that time be caught with surreptitious forks in their mouths, had allowed a clap of thunder to intrude.
“Foolish!” Mrs. Frieslander said.
“Nonsense!” Aimee said herself. What choice did she have? “Mr. Shaw won’t mind…”
“No, ma’am. I’ll even take the armchair. I’ve been having a touch of sciatica since the floodwaters.”
He was quick. He might even mean this, without rancor. She’d made to step on Shaw’s toes in an almost instinctive veering from Hogben’s. Hogben sat serving himself another slice of meat loaf.
“Well, then, that settles that.” She’d said this to Minnie.
She said now, to Nico, fingers crossed, “What, dear, do you like to eat?”
Copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster