Sunday, July 13, 2008

Found Money

Mary Lou’s feet ached and she could feel her back trying to cramp. It had been a long time since she’d had to work on her feet all day. It had taken a while for her to come to terms with being a single mom since Jack died. Even the money from selling the house had not lasted very long. Now, here she was, three years later working at Tom Peele’s Dry Cleaners. She didn’t even get a lunch hour, but had to eat her sandwich on a fifteen-minute break.

Her task today was checking through the drop-off to make sure the pockets were empty, mark stains, and take off any safety pins or jewelry. She was always surprised at things she’d find in pockets. You’d think it would occur to folks to empty them before dropping them off at the cleaners.

Dirty tissues, candy, cigarettes, lipsticks, ballpoint pins, baby pacifiers, and once she found a thong in a man’s suit jacket pocket. That’s one of many reasons she wore latex gloves to do this distasteful job. Most of what she found went into the trash bin, on occasion an item of jewelry was put into an envelope and saved to be returned with the cleaned clothes to the owner.

It was a hot and solitary job. She worked alone, passing the clothes on to the next station to go through the cleaning process. Most of the time she didn’t even bother to stop and eat her ham and cheese sandwich.

It was thirty minutes to closing time. Her feet screamed to go home and be propped up on the recliner footrest. As soon as she picked up the gray, pinstriped suit coat she felt the weight of something in the breast pocket. She slipped her hand in and pulled out an envelope, it was about half an inch thick. Mary Lou’s heart picked up a rapid cadence. Before she even opened the envelope she knew what was inside. She just didn’t know how much. Mary Lou glanced around quickly to see if anyone was looking her way. No. She was, as usual, alone. She turned her back to the floor, opened it and nearly gasped out loud. It was all one hundred dollar bills. It had to be thousands of dollars. Mary Lou though of the three weeks unpaid rent, the gas bill, Johnny needed braces and she didn’t know how long before her old car was going to die.

She slipped the envelop into her jeans pocket. Why would anyone have this much money in their pocket, and forget and leave it there, and then send their suit to the dry cleaners? Reality raised its annoying head. Of course the owner of the suit would realize what he’s done and come to claim his cash. She had to turn it in to Mr. Peele. Ha, she laughed. Would he give the money back? Not likely, and if the owner came looking for his money, which of course he would, would Mr Peele accuse her of stealing it? Maybe she should keep it and look to see who brought in the suit. She could call him and tell him to come pick it up. Mary Lou cleaned her area and took the trash bin out back and emptied it in the dumpster.

Or, she could claim ignorance and tell them maybe it got put out with the trash. But, that would be stealing. She couldn’t live with herself. On the other hand, what if it was drug money, or worse yet, hit money. She could be saving a life by keeping it. Or lose her own.

Mary Lou signed her time sheet and mumbled good night to Mr. Peele. She would have to sleep on it.