Mrs. Stepford called on Tuesday morning.
“Can we go up to the Women In Need (WIN) thrift store and the Sally Ann this morning? I’ve been housebound too long. I just have to get out!”
“Sure,” said Kay. “It’s senior’s discount day! The only thing I have to do is pick up milk and mail these letters. But I’ve got to be back by one thirty. Elizabeth is coming for her art lesson. We could have lunch at Zellers, too. Then I wouldn’t have to think about making lunch when I get home.” And so it was arranged.
At ten in the morning, Mrs. Stepford climbed the front steps and rang Kay’s doorbell. Kay, as usual, was not ready. She was still trying to find her keys, her camera, her out-going mail, bumbling about for shoes and generally still in wake-up mode.
After ten minutes of wool and key gathering, Kay commanded, “Stay still while I set the alarm, ” and Mrs. Stepford did. They went forth into the pouring rain to see what treasures they could acquire at the local thrifts.
At the WIN store, Kay found a sweet pottery vase at fifty percent off the thrift store price. She would add that to her growing collection. Mrs. Stepford found three scarves for her Furushiki gift wrapping projects. They had not yet spent five dollars between them.
“Look! Look! For only a dollar each, and they are made of silk!” she crowed.
Quitting the WIN store, they drove to the pharmacy to post letters and pick up milk and mail Kay’s letters.
At the Salvation Army thrift, the pickings were more interesting. Kay found two hand made pottery dishes – a serving bowl and a plate, and a gold-leafed wooden frame.
After she had paid for it and was waiting for Mrs. Stepford to complete her browsing, she lit upon the jewellry case and found some necklaces that she could take apart for her beading projects. One of them had gold links and black flat and round jet beads encircled in gold. Certainly not real gold, Kay reflected , but it appeared never to have been worn, it was in such good shape. One necklace she would take apart for its real turquoise beads to fashion a more modern style piece. A third one would match perfectly earrings that Lizbet had recently purchased in New Mexico. A fourth was a perfect stocking stuffer for Alison at Christmas.
Ca-ching. Ca-ching. Kay, now bereft of her allowance for this sort of thing, returned with her plastic credit card to the till and purchased her new treasures.
On their way out, they met one of Mrs. Stepford’s friends who agreed to share lunch with them at the appointed place, and the morning had disappeared. Just at one o’clock, Kay reminded all that it was time to go, each for their separate appointments. They settled the bill and went.
Now this may sound like a total non sequitur, but please just be patient with my telling.
“Auntie!!!!” he called, early morning on Tuesday. “It’s Hugh.”
“What’s the matter Hugh?” asked Kay. He never phoned in the morning and his voice sounded frightened. Different, anyway.
“I’m sorry it’s so early. I know you don’t get up early. But I’m so excited! I had to tell someone. ” He could barely get his words out.
“I’m going to Vienna!”
“Vienna?” replied Kay, perplexed.
Hugh, her nephew, who was studying for his Masters in Ottawa, had been given an extraordinary opportunity. His boss was unable to attend a conference and since Hugh’s studies were precisely on the topic of the conference, his supervisor asked him to attend in his stead. He was going to represent the University!
“That’s all wonderful!” replied Kay, and she got him to tell her all the details.
“There’s only one thing….” he hesitated. Kay was awake enough now. She knew.
“How are you going to manage it?” she asked. “Will they pay your way?” Hugh is not a starving student, but he lives like a monk for the most part with his single room in a shared house and his most frivilous expenditure outside his schooling, his bus pass and his food is keeping his computer equipment up to date.
“I’ll have to go begging this afternoon to see if I can drum up some grants,” he replied. I’m pretty sure that I can get some. They know I’m a starving student. But I had to tell my boss that I needed money up front for the ticket and the hotel. The university can only reimburse after the event when tickets and receipts are produced. So I was just wondering…..”
And Kay, who has a soft spot for Hugh, filled in the rest of the sentence.
“We’ll make it work. We can do this. This is an opportunity not to be missed. How wonderful!”
“It’ll just be a loan, but it has to be quick. With two weeks before me, I can get an economical fare, but if I leave it, the prices go up exponentially, the shorter the time between purchase and flight, ” said Hugh. “I can reimburse you when I get my expenses back.”
Hugh’s voice, had come down from the Gods a little. It was altitude that had made his voice funny. And Kay was now walking in the clouds.
He returned to his soliciting venture and she proceeded to arrange her day.
The trials and tribulations of working with major banks is not worthy of story telling. Suffice it to say that Kay ran into a roadblock with telephone banking. Telephone banking had set up a meeting for Monday with the loans manager but it wasn’t soon enough for Kay. She decided Saturday if she would meet face to face with the bank branch manager.
To do this, Kay needed to feel her best. She dressed in a crisp bourgeoise blouse with tailored collar, just as she had previously done when she was a manager herself. She looked through her jewellry for an impressive piece to enhance her appearance.
There on her dresser, still not put away, were the four lovely necklaces that she had purchased on Tuesday. She tried the blue glass beads and they looked a bit Hippie. It would not inspire confidence. She tried the turquoise and coral that would match Lizbet’s new earrings but the strand was too short and didn’t fit about her neck. She tried the more modern necklace with the silver beads and hearts but it was too complicated and a bit flighty, she thought. The gold chain with the flat, jet beads was just perfect.
She admired herself in the mirror.
“Awesome!” she said to her reflection. “Very business like. ”
With confidence, she entered the bank and stated her mission. She implied it was urgent. The receptionist put her off, but Kay knew how to stand her ground and lo and behold, she was granted an appointment with the Branch Manager, a smartly dressed youngster of thirty or so.
Everything went according to plan and the business was transacted. Hugh had money in his account in Ottawa and all was well.
Kay practically chirrupped when she left the bank, quite proud of herself. There was more to be done on Monday, but Hugh would have his ticket and a bit to spare for expenses. The rest could wait.
Kay only had one other task before going home. She drove to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription.
As always, the pharmacist declared that it would take twenty minutes to transfer her pills from one bottle to a personal vial with Kay’s name on it. It implied that Kay should spend the time shopping until it was done. In fact, with all the problems of H1N1 virus, Kay wanted to get some hand sanitizer.
There was virtually nobody in the store. She had to go searching for a clerk to help her find her product. She found her in the beauty department – perfumes, lipsticks, mascara and the like.
The store had hired a perfect person for the job. Late twenties, early thirties, the young lady was smartly dressed, her maquillage done to perfection, her sales manner helpful and solicitous. She led Kay to her purchase and then, a bit nervously, she said, “I’ll be right back. I’ll be right back,” and tripped away lightly to her beauty counter.
It puzzled Kay. Kay had not asked for anything more; and she watched after the young lady dashing away and back. She held in her hand a small pair of scissors.
“I’m just going to cut your tag away.” she almost apologized.
Kay was dazed. She didn’t get it.
“Your tag on your necklace,” the fashionable young lady insisted, nodding her head, her scissors brandishing close to Kay.
Kay blanched then blushed.
“You’ll think I’ve been shoplifting?” she blurted out.
“Oh, no! It’s just that you can’t go wandering around with a price tag on your necklace.” And she reached out and snipped the white strings of the offending tag.
“May I have that?” said Kay.
“You want the tag? I can throw it away,” said the clerk, astounded.
“Please.” beseeched Kay. And the tag was transferred from hand to hand.
As if it would do any good, Kay reflected, stuffing the tag into her pocket after thanking the clerk.
Six ninety five. Salvation Army, it read.
Had it showed at the bank? Had the Branch Manager gleefully, politely ignored this gaffe. Was this Kay’s managerial image?