Mrs. Todd sat looking around the Mall. Down at one end, she could see straight into home furnishings at J. C. Penny’s. In her day, sheets were never anything but white, but try to find a white sheet now days. If she turned around, she could see the Sears way down at the other end. Her eyesight wasn’t that good, but she knew the home improvement section was right inside the doorway. She didn’t know why people wanted such fancy bathrooms. Of course, now people had two and three bathrooms. Not like when she was a girl.
Mrs. Todd had been coming to the Mall every day for the past 6 months – since Oliver died. He had been such a dear little dog. And smart too! She could never come to the Mall when he was alive. They didn’t allow dogs.
The senior pass for the bus was good between 9:00 am and 4:00 p.m. She waited each morning for the 9:17 and returned home each afternoon on the 3:54. She never wanted to have another dog. It had hurt too much when Oliver died. His leash was still hanging on the kitchen doorknob, and his squeaky toy was lying behind the refrigerator, covered with dust. Her and Oliver used to take a walk every morning, but sometimes it was too raw, and they’d get no further than the front sidewalk. The Mall was nicer. She wished she could have brought Oliver – just once.
No one ever bothered you at the Mall. People went about their business. She could sit on a bench by the fountain all day if she wanted. Last Christmas, there had been a different school chorus every day. Coffee was every expensive though — $1.00 for a small container. But she didn’t drink it much any more. It kept her up nights.
Bernice had been such a nuisance. Mother always made her look after Bernice, especially after the boys were born. But who had anything during the depression? People now days don’t know the value of a dollar. Seven dollars a week she had made, and she was lucky to get that. Her and Bernice got up every morning at 5:00 sharp. Sometimes they didn’t have the trolley fare, and they had to walk the three miles across town. If they were so much as a minute late, Old Mrs. Haycock would dock their pay. A hundred dollar gift certificate. That’s what they gave her when she retired. Forty-five years she worked for them and a $100 dollar gift certificate! They were always cheap. When Bernice had died that winter; she got one day off for the funeral. She had always told Bernice that she ate too many sweets, but she never listened. If she had married things might have been different, but sometimes the good Lord knows best. Her cousin Alice married such a handsome man and then he got the pneumonia and left her with six children to raise.
When their parents died, her and Bernice stayed in the old house. Each of them carefully marked off her own space. In the kitchen there were two loafs of bread, two separate stacks of Campbell soup, two boxes of corn flakes.
An old lady nods off to sleep. The 3:54 departs on schedule, and the 4:54 and the 5:54. Such a nice place, no one ever bothers you at the Mall.
[written c. 1994]