Peas in a Pod: part two
“I can read and write,” he’d told Mrs. Purfoy.
Richard’s father had paid her ten dollars cash, extra, for two weeks lodging. She had been unwilling, when she’d accepted the money, to sign a piece of paper. His father would in ordinary circumstances have found her practices underhand and untenable, but they hadn’t come to Paducah for a leisurely visit―they were in straits, bound to these arrangements. The genteel boarding houses wanted single lodgers, or childless couples. The tenements were lower than they had sunk, thus far.
Mrs. Purfoy dealt with tenants through an agent, and it had been by an exchange of letters mailed to a postal box, without knowing Mrs. Purfoy’s own address, and before they had seen the rooms, that Richard’s father had secured these.
“Madam.” His father had a way of handling crooked dealers. He began by stating plainly the facts of the case. “I have sent a deposit payment to your representative Mr. Dyer, in the sum of twenty-five dollars. Do I now understand that the twenty-five dollars represents a fee for service, and that you require the rent money in advance; and that Mr. Dyer will concur with this when I speak to him?”
“Mr. Everard, them’s a lotta words.” Mrs. Purfoy thrust up her chin, stretching the ropes of her neck, pulling her mouth down at the corners…and she’d taken her time before answering. “Well, sir, would Mr. Dyer concur? I tell you. He ain’t down to his office on a Saturday, but you wait ’til Monday, and ask him. I won’t hold the rooms.”
She kept her apartment locked against her tenants. She would not open to Richard’s knock. The foyer of her house was lit by a fanlight high above the entry door; the gas was in working order, but she would not use it. Daylight flooded the staircase in the shape of an elongated, broken arch, merging with the light from the landing’s window. Up to the third story, and the attic story above, where there was no window to light the staircase, Richard and Lawrence had carried their mother.
Mrs. Purfoy’s rooms were on the first floor, on the left, going through the foyer; or the right, coming down the stairs. And each morning, for three days since they’d arrived, Richard had pounded at his landlady’s door.
“You cut that out.”
And speechless, regarded the man who’d told him this.
“She don’t deal with none a the tenants. She put her head out the window and ask me to come round and tell you. And I’m tellin you. You been knockin at that door ever’day now. Mrs. Purfoy wants you to cut it out.”
Peas in a Pod
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)