Alopecia & Old Lace
Too many dreams not realized make a person bitter and full of contempt, Alice murmured to herself and handed the clerk a five. I’m doing the right thing.
“What?” The freckle-faced clerk asked.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“I’m sorry. I thought you said something, ma’am.” The kid’s said in a mortified way.
“It’s alright, son. No harm done.” She said with a warm, grandmotherly smile and patted his hand.
The kid smiled in return and handed her change from the five dollar bill.
It was perfect, Alice thought as she put the change in her purse, picked up the items and turned on her corrective black orthopedic shoes, opened the shop door as the little bell jingled and shuffled off to the bus stop in the bitter cold.
It was too close for comfort, she thought. She had told the friendly clerk when she had arrived at the hardware store that her house was in desperate need of repair and somehow a mouse or a rat must have gotten into the attic. She went on to say not only was she finding droppings near her sick husband Henry’s belongings, but their incessant scurrying was keeping both of them dreadfully awake at night.
She smiled as she sat down on the bus and thought about how the young kid must have felt compassion for such a sweet old lady. She had really poured on the charm with him. He wasn’t supposed to, but snuck her an extra packet of rat poison, telling her to use the stuff sparingly. He told her that a lot would go a long way in getting rid of her problem. She sweetly smiled and thanked the young man, telling the dope that he reminded her of the grandson she never had.
The same kid didn’t bat an eye when she returned two weeks later requesting more, fretting how the rat seemed to eat the stuff up while her husband’s situation seemed to have deteriorated even further. It rocked the small 1950’s town when the sweet old lady was arrested for her husband’s death but was let go when tests proved inconclusive, citing a lack of evidence.
While it was true that the elderly woman was sold a mass quantity of arsenic, she did have a rodent problem to which the droppings attested, but her husband also suffered from a severe case of alopecia universalis, rendering him completely hairless and thereby incapable of providing any samples to be tested for arsenic poisoning.
As a Pushcart Prize nominee, Joseph Grant’s short stories have been published in over 230 literary reviews such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Underground Voices, Midwest Literary Magazine, Inwood Indiana Literary Review, Hack Writers, Six Sentences, Literary Mary, NexGenPulp, Is This Reality Zine , Darkest Before Dawn, strangeroad.com, FarAway Journal, Full of Crow, Heroin Love Songs, Bewildering Stories, Writing Raw, Unheard Magazine, Absent Willow Literary Review