Having a Treat: Hammersmith (seventeen)
Having a Treat
A sofa—with a blanket draped along the seat, trailing the scant carpet; a pillow on the seat, and one on the floor—was taking the wall under the windows, leaving clearance for only this rug and a little chest. Jane’s sewing table filled the angled space that made the corner porch bow from its moorings. The door came open about a foot and a half.
While Aimee wedged through, Jane was telling on, and the face called for was a sympathetic, not a grimacing, one.
“…if I tried, it would be just having to make myself more sorry and pathetic to him. I thought about it a lot, ma’am. Well, if I can’t get up and work, what else can I do? Just think. Is there a way of knowing what makes people stick to their obligations? Or what makes a thing an obligation at all?”
Uninvited, but unable to avoid it, Aimee fell sitting onto the sofa, her knees giving way in abrupt collision, as her bag popped free. She looked up into Jane’s eyes, and saw there the rheumy aspect of one who’d cried, for pain of heart and body, many days running.
Mostly, in answer to this quandary of her niece, other people’s judgment, Aimee thought. The life Carey led didn’t allot much sway to the censorious eye of an elder. There were no elders here, only Mrs. Krabill.
“You know, Jane dear, I am going to confide in you. I think that will be for the best.”
“Now if she wasn’t puny like that, I’d take her on. Might. I don’t keep enough eye on Rita, having all this other to do. I tell you, Mr. Hogben.” His hostess cut herself short, to shoot a blaming stare at the open kitchen door, this standing in for the passage that led to the lower porch, where someone had rattled the shutter for a second time. Mrs. Krabill stood, pulling her skirts along past the table’s unoccupied chair, and passed Hogben with a significant eye.
“If Jane Littler could sweep a floor, I’d know how long it takes to get a floor swept. What wrong with you, Curach?” She shouted this, having confided the other. “You get on in…don’t make me come wait on you!”
The rattle, Hogben shrugged to himself, was a sort of signal between these two, where visitors would ring the bell. Curach was getting in, dropping a walking stick, perhaps, into the umbrella stand, doffing a hat, if the muffled plunk on the coat-tree so indicated, and denying to Mrs. Krabill, who’d gone to him anyway, that he had anything at all to be collecting for.
“Then who do you know wants a room? I’m a week behind…but Mr. Hogben says Mrs. Bard’s come to pay up.”
The salesman in Hogben liked this gift of the lodging-house keeper—that she’d got right past introductions and into the thick of the story. He hadn’t yet laid eyes on Curach, but the moment fast approached.
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)