“Danny, I’ll be fine. Don’t go worrying about me like I’m some child.”
“It’s just the layover in Dallas. What will you do for two hours?”
“I’ll get a cup of tea and read a magazine. I’ll ride one of those little carts. I haven’t lived for 67 years and not learned something.”
“It’s just your heart, Mom. I don’t want you to get too tired.”
“I won’t. Now it’s time to get on this plane. Give me a kiss.”
“Call when you get home.”
Mrs. Pal hugged her purse close to her body and moved down the hall to the plane. She shook her head. How boys do worry, she thought to herself.
She sat next to a nice young girl. She showed her the pictures of Dan’s boys. They had a nice chat. The child was in school and had books to study. Dorothy took a little nap until it was time for the plane to land.
When she got into the airport, she went to the phones. Her best friend Alice had lived in Dallas for years. They did not talk often. It cost too much. She had looked forward to a chance for a nice long talk. She hadn’t told Dan that. It wasn’t his business what she did while she waited for the plane.
She took the coin out of her wallet. It took a minute, but she got it out of the zipper pocket on the side. She dialed the number. She was worried. Alice might not answer. But she did. They talked about the children. Alice talked a long time about her Sally Sue’s dance program at school. Dorothy told about Dan’s new job. It was fun. Dorothy hated to hang up.
When they finished, Dorothy looked at the clock on the wall above her. She still had time to drink a cup of tea. She moved slowly along the hall looking for a coffee shop. She found one a little way from the phone. It was near to the desk where she would go for her next flight.
She saw the young girl from the plane. Dorothy waved. The girl smiled and called for her to sit at the table with her. Dorothy was having a wonderful time. Dan should not have worried. She could take care of herself.
She ordered just a cup of tea. She was too excited to be hungry. She and the girl talked as they sipped the drinks. Dorothy remembered her name. It was Nan. It’s a nice name, she thought.
“Mrs. Pal, what time will you get home?” The girl smiled a pretty smile.
“Oh, about five or six. It will depend on the traffic. My son will start to worry about 5. I wish he wouldn’t.”
“I know. My mom’s the same way. I didn’t tell her I was leaving town. That way she can’t worry.”
Dorothy looked at her watch. She had plenty of time, but she didn’t want to be late. It would be so awful to miss the plane. Then Dan would have a reason to worry. She gathered up her purse. She took a last sip of the tea. She reached into her big blue bag. It was full. She had put her magazine in it. It also had lemon drops and gum.
She reached deep into it. She pushed around the lemon drops. She pulled out the Kleenex. Her heart began to beat harder.
“It’s not here.” She just whispered the words. She was afraid to say them aloud.
She turned the purse over and shook it. She looked again. It still wasn’t there.
“What’s wrong.” Nan could see the panic on Dorothy’s face.
“It’s not here. I can’t find it. I must have left it.”
As she said the words, Dorothy knew. Her wallet was still on the ledge with the phones. She started up to run back.
She stopped. She must pay for the tea. How would she pay for the tea? Once again she clawed through her purse. Maybe there were some coins at the bottom.
There was nothing. Her brain was starting to scramble. What will I do? How will I pay? What will I do? How can this happen?
“Mrs. Pal. It’s O.K. I’ll pay for the tea. Really, it will be fine.” The child had already started to take money out.
“Oh, I can’t let you do that. My, no. That’s not right.” She wanted to cry. But that would only prove that Dan was right. That she couldn’t take care of herself. Suddenly, she knew. “Yes, would you please pay. I hate to ask but that is the only thing I can do. I am so sorry.” She pulled out a small piece of paper and a pencil. “Just write your address here. I’ll return the money to you.”
“Really, that’s O.K. It’s not necessary. It’s not that much.”
“But that is what I want to do. I need your help.”
Nan smiled with a look that said she understood. She took the pencil and wrote in big block letters her name and her address. Mrs. Pal carefully folded it and placed it inside a zipper pocket in her bag.
“Now, let us pay for this.” She picked up the ticket. My how proud they are of a little cup of tea. 78¢ seems a lot for such a small thing. She shook her head and reminded herself that she had more important worries.
With a smile and a look of determination, she reached for Nan’s hand. She squeezed it with gratitude. “Thank you so much for this kindness. Now I must go look for my wallet. The plane will leave soon.”
“Are you sure you will be all right? Can I help?”
“No, you have done enough. Do not worry. I will manage.” Mrs. Pal gathered her purse close to her body and waved as she got to the door.
She went back to the phones. But as she feared, the little purse was not there. She looked at all the shelves with all the phones. She thought maybe she had forgotten which she used. It was not there. She stood a little straighter and looked around. There was a lady at a desk. She didn’t seem busy. “Excuse me miss. Is there a lost and found?”
The lady was dressed in a blue uniform and looked very helpful. She was surprised at the question. “Well, yes. It is in the luggage claim area. It is for people whose luggage doesn’t arrive on time.”
“You see miss, I have lost my wallet. I left it right over there.” She pointed toward the phones. “I was hoping someone might have turned it in. Is it far to the lost and found? My plane will leave soon.”
“It’s through those doors and will take you a while.” The lady in blue bit on her lip a moment. “I’ll tell you what. Let me make a call.” She reached for the phone and was soon talking to someone. “Harry, I have a woman here who has lost her wallet. Has anyone turned one in?”
The lady covered the phone with her hand and turned to Mrs. Pal. “What color was it?”
“It’s a small grey imitation leather one. My granddaughter gave it to me last year on Mother’s Day. It has my money and my driver’s license in it. Let’s see there’s also my social security card and . . .”
The woman at the desk stopped her. She uncovered the phone. “Nothing huh. O.K. I’ll get the information. Thanks.” She hung up the phone and took a piece of paper from a drawer. “Ma’am, please write down your name and a description. I’ll turn in a complaint for you.”
“Oh, I’m not complaining. It wasn’t your fault. It was mine. You have been lovely.”
“That’s sweet of you to say. All I meant was that I would turn in your loss.”
Mrs. Pal carefully wrote down the information. She didn’t have any hope that she would ever see that purse again. She was already trying to decide what to do next. “Thank you so much for your help. You have been very kind.”
She gathered her big blue bag close to her body and moved toward the place where her plane would leave. At least I haven’t lost my ticket. I can get home. I’ll figure out what to tell Dan when I call tonight.
It was soon time to get on the plane. It wasn’t until she settled into her seat that she thought of her real problem. How was she going to get home? She had no money for the taxi. She had no money to call one of her friends. Besides most of them didn’t drive at night.
She couldn’t even take a nap with the worry. She told the young lady who asked that she didn’t want anything to drink. It would only remind her of her problem. I’ve got myself in quite a pickle. That’s what I have. Now how am I going to get out? she thought.
When the plane landed, she still didn’t know what she was going to do. Mrs. Pal waited quietly for her luggage. Her brown suitcase finally appeared on the chute. It was one that Dan had given her. He had been going to throw it away. It was still perfectly good.
She walked to the doors leading to the outside. She held her blue bag close to her and carried the suitcase with some trouble. She was beginning to get tired. The strain showed on her face. A piece of hair hung down beside her ear. It had been tucked neatly away for most of the day. Now it had escaped.
She finally reached outside. She had stopped several times to put the bag down. Now she looked around hoping she might see someone she knew. There was a taxi, but no friend. It was going to be dark soon. She wanted to be home soon. Suddenly, she straightened up and pushed the piece of hair back behind her ear. She picked up the suitcase and marched toward the cab. She opened the door and got in. “Where to, Lady?”
“Sir, I have a problem. Perhaps you will help. If you cannot, I will understand.”
The cab driver looked at her with a lowered eyebrow. “Yeah, what kind of problem?”
“I have lost my wallet. I have no cash with me. I must get home as it is getting late.”
“O.K. lady. So when we get there, you can get someone to pay. That’s fine.” The driver did not look very friendly.
“But, sir, that is part of the problem. I have no one at home waiting to do that. I have no cash there either. I will go to the bank tomorrow. But that is not a help today. Do you have any suggestions?”
She thought he might suggest that she get out. If he did, she would find another way. “I could leave my suitcase with you. Then when I return your money, you can return it to me.”
The cabby looked down at the brown case scratched from many trips. He looked at her again. The eyebrow went back into place. “Where’s your family? Why aren’t they here to help?”
Mrs. Pal laughed a little embarrassed chuckle. “I’ve just left my son. I was visiting there. He’s going to be so angry with me. He didn’t think I could manage. Maybe he was right. But I’m not a careless person. These things just happen. By the way, my name is Mrs. Pal.”
“Well, Mrs. Pal, you’re right. These things do happen.” He looked like he was beginning to understand. “What’s the address?”
“Oh, you will take me?”
“Look, I’ve got a mother. She’s always locking herself out of her car. The neighbors finally just kept a key. They’re always having to go to the mall or the beauty shop to unlock it. She lives in Cleveland. I’ve offered to pay them. They just say that they don’t mind. I feel terrible that they have to take care of her for me.”
“Oh, I know they understand and so does your mother. I’ll bet she would rather ask them anyway. At least they’re not family.”
The cab driver looked at her with another smile. “Maybe you’re right. I remember once when I was a kid. . . So what’s that address?”
He moved the taxi smoothly out into the traffic lane. Mrs. Pal sat back in the seat. The cover was rather dirty and torn in places. But it was a nice place to be. She’d call Dan as soon as she got home. Tomorrow she would get a new drivers license.
“So Mrs. Pal, how long did you visit your son?”