Short Story 12 of …

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The 12th in this series of those not accepted by journals for publication is a fabrication. This story also has its first line from The First Line Literary Journal.

Mrs. Lady

I spent years tracking David Addley, and it never occurred to me that he didn’t exist. My hunt started when my neighbor lady cried on her porch. She’d always been nice to me when I mowed her lawn. I was concerned for her wellbeing even at an early age because she seemed to be too poor to pay for my labor.

I came home on spring break from college and noticed her lawn needed a first cut of the spring. I knew the woman was watching from her front window as I mowed. The curtain was separated about an inch from the window frame as it was when I was a kid. In those days, she leaned out of the door when I was finished and her thank you was followed with, “You’ll have to catch me later when my check comes and I get it cashed, but I’ll have to get groceries first.”

She didn’t close the door as she had nearly always done when I was young but came out and sat on the bench next to the window from where she’d watched. “Young man,” she said, “would you mind sitting with me a minute?”

The woman should have known my name, but she always called me Young Man. And I’d stopped reminding her after the first few mowings and started calling her Mrs. Lady. I learned the definition of senility in school and just assumed it applied. That knowledge helped me accept her not paying me too. What I didn’t understand was that she didn’t look nearly as old as my grandmother did when dementia started in her.

she said as tears ran down her face, “You’re in college so I know you can read,” She handed me a type-written note.

The body of the note said, “Mrs. Armstrong Linter: This is to acknowledge that you have loaned me, David Addley, $5,000 and have accepted my promise to repay it in-full along with 10% annual interest on the third anniversary of the date on this note. ($1,500) The note was sloppily signed with what appeared to be D Addley.

I responded to what I’d read, “The due time on this is last year. Has he contacted you?”

She told me no and I asked, “Do you think you’ve been defrauded.”

Her response was a muttered no.

I asked if he was a relative?

“No,” she said, “just a dear friend from childhood, but I don’t know how to find himThe money wasn’t actually mine. My sister and I had a joint account. She died recently and her children are asking for an accounting. I’d be happy to get just the $5,000, so they don’t see that anything is missing.”

Without hesitation I naïvely volunteered to help find the man telling her, “I can use the internet and my college research password to make a deep search.”

There was some indication of relief in her expression and posture, then her demeanor went to slump, and she said, “I hope you can find him quickly and he has the money. My niece, executor of my sister’s estate, will be here to meet the banker in two days. I have bonds in a safety deposit box but cashing them requires a two-week notice, so I won’t be able to replace the money in the joint account before she gets an accounting.”

My naïve mind didn’t realize that if she had a bank account and bonds, she wasn’t really poor. I blurted, “I can loan you what you need. I saved all through school and my tuition isn’t due until next fall. When I find him, I’ll just get it from him. All we have to do is have you amend the note giving me the money you loaned him, and have it notarized.”

“Oh, Young Man that is so kind of you,” she said. “If you don’t find him, I’ll have the money from my bonds to pay you back when you come home for summer. You can return the note and we’ll be all even. If you do find him, I know he’s trustworthy enough to pay you. And we’ll still be even.”

I withdrew the cash, gave it to her and got the note with her notarized amendments. When I left for the spring quarter that evening, I expected that she would deposit the cash before her niece arrived.

I spent much of my slack time during spring quarter doing the search for David Addley and as many variations as I could conceive. Then I prepared myself for telling her that I’d found nothing and that I’d need to be repaid so I could get an early-pay discount on tuition for the next year.

The morning after getting home for the summer I cut her grass that was unkempt since my earlier mowing. I didn’t see her peering out the window. After two days of knocking on both her front and back door, I asked the police to do a welfare check. The house was empty, and her landlord said she had left with no forwarding address and a month remaining on her lease.

I knew I’d been had, but each time tuition was due, I read the note I’d kept and put in a few hours searching. I’d thought about it before, but what happened finalized my decision to apply for law school after getting my BA. I still used what resources I could to search for David Addley and I added Mrs. Linder.

My search resources became greater when I was hired as a public defender. I knew the statute of limitations was expired for me to file a case against Linder, but I continued my search during my first months of being employed.

My supervisor handed me a file saying “The woman you’ll defend isn’t cooperative with the ADA or us even with her name. She claimed several but has no ID, so she’s being evasive, or perhaps she doesn’t know.

“What’s the charge?”

“Defrauding an innkeeper – three counts from just yesterday bundled with three counts of failure to appear for priors of the same.”

I opened the door to the room to see the disheveled back of a woman facing away from the door. “Ma’am,” I said, and she started to stand.

“Please stay seated. I’m…” She twisted in the chair to face me. Nearly losing my composure, I hesitated, recovered, and said, “Mrs. Lady, I’ve been appointed to represent you.” The look on her face was almost worth the $5,000.

I knew I’d be recused, but I had to say, “I looked for David Addley?”

Her reply was, “Who is that?”


As my octogenarianism continues, my mind wanders as I wonder.
Or could it be that my mind wonders as I wander?