The reminder, written in red sharpie on the back of his hand, told him to get
milk on the way home. It was her simple, lazy scribble on his skin. He looked at
it all day and that made the back of his neck prickle and skin tingle with
thoughts of her; he recalled the feel of the felt tip moving in her fingers and
the mischievous smile on her face.
On the way home he stared at the back of his hand on the steering wheel. The
words, slightly faded from washing his hands, were pastel pink. He just kept
thinking of her. It was nice.
He stopped at the florist and picked up a handful of red roses in a long
white box. That was his only purchase on the way home.
He stood in the foyer holding Diane when he remembered the milk. He offered
to go back to the store to get it but she shook her head and told him not to
She kissed the pink stain on his hand.
Diane was determined to remember her grandmother's hands. She was afraid that
a day would come when there would be no more photos, no more memory of them.
The fear hit her the day the ring came back from the jeweler's. Diane inherited Gran's wedding ring
and had the ring resized to fit her size four finger. It broke her heart to
modify it, but she was more afraid of carelessly losing it.
With the ring had come Gran's wedding photos, large, black and white photos
with thick tattered edges on dark crumpled paper. She looked at it for the first
time while wearing her inheritance.
The front page was a photo of Gran, newly married and nineteen. Beside her Pops smiled, young and handsome,
with thinning dark hair (even then). They smiled, delirious in their happiness -
rich in love.
Gran's ring gleamed on her long, thin finger. Her hands were identical to
Diane smiled at the photo. It was good to know that she would see those hands again
Richie hadn't learned from the depression. Or, more to the point, hadn't
learned what others had learned from it. Growing up poor only taught him to
appreciate the moment more than anything. 25 cents in his pocket was a bowl of
soup or a sandwich or a gift. His money was best spent than scrimped and saved for some
unknown world that might end with a communist invasion or atomic cloud.
He didn't mind being poor, he minded feeling poor. So he spent his life
feeling rich and generous and simply ignored the fact that he had to work so
hard for his money. He spent his trust in people and was rewarded with love and
friendship and support when he needed it.
When he spent his life savings on her wedding ring Muriel refused to take it.
"Richie, this could be a down payment on a house." She held it cupped in her
hand while its facets threw sparkles in her eyes. "You can't give this to me."
Richie wouldn't hear of it. "We'll get a house someday." He closed her
fingers and kissed the tops of her thin, perfect fingers. "I want you to keep
it. Keep it for me."
She didn't argue any further.
They were never rich in money.
He turned the shiny Kentucky quarter in the sunlight and slipped it in his
pocket with a smile. Silly things like generous people and lost change made him
Somehow he felt a sudden, deep affection for the smiling old man who had
waved off his attempts to return it when it fell from his coat pocket. "Keep it
kid." He said to Chris with a crinkled smile and a gleam off his thin hair. "It
probably likes you better."
Chris smiled and deposited it in his own coat pocket with his cold hand and
burned out turn-signal light. He trotted into Wal-Mart to return the brake
lights he'd bought by mistake.
In automotive, when he pulled out the bulb to compare the sizes the coin fell
out and bounced across the floor. He stopped to pick it up and replaced it in
his pocket. It fell out almost immediately and he stooped again, this time
shoving it into his pants pocket with his receipt.
Back at the counter he stood behind a tall black man and his toddler son who
grinned up at him from the floor.
"What is that?" The boy pointed to Chris' hand.
"A light bulb for my car, see?" He held the bulb in his fingers to show that
it was ruddy and dark. "I bought some new ones, but the wrong kind- 'cause I'm a
big dummy- so I had to come back to get the right ones." He remembered the
receipt and shoved his hand into his pocket. The quarter came out and danced on
the floor with bouncing clinks. He ignored it this time but the child waddled
over to it and presented it to Chris in the palm of his up stretched hand.
"You dropped this." The boy smiled. The quarter was a shiny eye in his
Chris shrugged. "Nah, I just let it go." He smiled. "You keep it. It might
like you better."
The gumball was almost too big for Robbie's tiny mouth, and the sweet berry
flavor made him drool strings of bright color down his chin onto his Oshkosh's.
The flavor made little impact on the sleepy kid and it dropped from his mouth
shortly after Frank started the Astro van.
When he got back to the house, he snuck inside to get his camera, and
took a photo of his sleeping son, a small Sponge Bob toy in one hand, and his
mouth and face pink from the gumball. He leaned forward and kissed the pink stain on his son's cheek.
He kept the photo on his desk at work until Robbie graduated high school. He needed to remember that moment.